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Don’t Let the Narcissist Define You

24 Feb

One of the most damaging things that happens to ACoNs is when the narcissistic parent tries to define them. The narc will try to define you to yourself, friends and other family members. This is part of the gaslighting treatment and we must diligently refuse to allow such lies to influence us. Let fools and flying monkeys listen to those lies, but never allow the narc to define you.

I once wrote a poem about how other people in my family told me how to spend my money and what music to listen to and how to dress and what foods to eat. I wrote how it bothered me to be controlled. This was not a saga of teenage rebellion against parental authority––I actually wrote this poem when I was thirty-four years old. It was a vague and shaky beginning to my awakening, but it would take me another ten years to fully wake up.

What was so weird about this poem is that I shared it with one of my sisters who told me it was a very selfish poem. She said it was all about me—

Me wanting to listen to whatever music I liked,

Me choosing to spend my own money,

Me eating whatever I liked,

Me dressing or wearing my hair however I liked,

And me worshipping God the way I felt led.

What’s really lame is I actually believed her. I felt ashamed for being so selfish that I tore up the poem and threw it away. I don’t blame my sister, she was only repeating the narcissistic things told to us growing up. This is the way we were raised–-to give up all of ourselves to please our family members. Well, I don’t buy into that game anymore. It was all part of the game I could never win.

When my sister called me selfish for wanting to live my own life, she was only being a flying monkey and repeating what our parents  had called her on multiple occasions. We were taught what we wanted was selfish, but complimented and told we were “thoughtful” if we did what they wanted.

Part of the problem is whenever I did things the narc didn’t approve of, they tried to define me as selfish or rebellious. Maybe this has happened to you. Have you found yourself feeling ashamed for being human and having human needs like desiring respect, fun and love? Don’t let the narcissist lie to you.

Any intelligent and mature person knows we all have choices and God himself gave us these choices. He doesn’t stop people from making even harmful decisions. Any form of control over another’s life choices by one adult toward another adult reveals a lack of God’s Spirit.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

The heart of the problem in every dysfunctional family is someone trying to define someone else and trying to box them into their expectations. And it doesn’t go away when we grow up.

When we care about social causes, they call us liberals.
When we tell the truth and it exposes their lies, they accuse us of lying.
When we refuse to let them walk all over our boundaries, they peg us as controlling.
When we stop allowing them to use us, they call us stingy and selfish.
When we find a grace-filled picture of God, they call us heretics.

The bottom line is even if we did everything they wanted and sold our souls to please them, they wouldn’t appreciate it and they would still be looking for some way to judge and criticize. That’s because narcissistic people merely want to use people until they drain them dry.

Many of us have been pushed into a corner by a narcissist who wants to control us. When we spoke the truth, they lied and tried to make us look bad so no one will listen our stories or want to hang out with us. They want to scapegoat us so we can feel banished from the camp and left alone to die. If this has happened to you, there is still hope.

Remember it’s the family scapegoat who gets away. Others continue this group fantasy because they want to feel better about themselves and they can only do this by thinking of someone they deem worse than them. Of course this slows down their own journey of healing and makes them unsafe to be around, but we can’t control what they do, they will have to wake up on their own someday.

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We are now in a time that people are calling “post-truth.” This is certainly a sad development when we consider that Jesus said it’s the truth which will set us free. Jesus had no room for alternative facts. He called out the lies and said those who lie are from their father the devil. It is now time for many of us to stand even taller in our truth.

In this post-truth age, we might need to call out truth like Jesus did when he exposed the Pharisees. It’s true there could be danger in this. Remember Jesus was accused of being a law breaker for healing people on the Sabbath. True other-centered love often trumps the laws of the land. Jesus was accused of touching the unclean and eating with sinners and outcasts. Because of this, some called him a false prophet—others even suggested he was filled with the devil.

Jesus said when his disciples danced they were judged for being happy and when they didn’t, they were told they were too sad. Jesus knows what it’s like to play a game you can never win, but he refused to let others define him. He stood for truth and he is the ultimate Truth about God. So no matter what label people, pastors, politicians and activists wear, if they don’t look and act like Jesus, there is no truth in them.

My message to you is don’t let the narc define you. You are not the sum of whatever the selfish narc wants to make you look like. I love this quote that Mother Teresa put on her wall,

“In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”

Not only is this the truth, but we can’t allow other people to make our choices and we cannot allow other people–especially narcissistic people, to define us.

You are not selfish to make your own choices. God gave you those choices.

You are not a grudge holder for asking the narc to make things right if they want to have a relationship.

You are not being petty to ask them to be honest with you and about you.

You are definitely not a liar for telling the truth to refute the narcissist’s lies.

You are not unloving to ask for what you need.

Let the narcissist deal with their own bad choices, you are not responsible for their choices.

And you are not selfish to go no contact when people treat you with disrespect and animosity.

If you are a Christian, allow Jesus to define who you are–but please don’t let the narc define you.

Celebrate Only in Freedom

20 Nov

This is the time of year we hear lots of quotes and comments about being grateful. Sometimes we even read or hear admonitions to be grateful for what we have and for those of us who have fractured families, it can feel like a slap in the face.

Such messages usually come from superficial friends or people totally in denial and of course the flying monkeys. They come in a mixed bag of word salad disguised as compliments and good advice when in reality these people are completely ignorant about narcissistic abuse or devoid of brains.

This week someone complained how the main narc in their family keeps doing rude things. I wonder how long they will keep going back for more punishment. I mentioned there’s no way around the fact this person is a narc. If it walks, talks and squawks like a narc, what more proof do you need?

Some people might mean well, but we can’t take advice from them because all their nice platitudes don’t apply to narcissistic abuse. I’m sure you’ve heard these remarks:

“Well we’re family and family sticks together.”

Yeah, like super glue between your finger and your thumb? With some people you can’t get anything done.

“Be grateful for who is still alive–we never know who won’t be with us next year.”

Very sad! And you know what is even sadder? People who are still alive being lied to and lied about and treated with no respect. What kind of life is that? No thank you!

“We need to forgive and forget.”

This is often said by the abuser. When the abuser says it, it’s because he/she doesn’t want to remember their abusive behavior and they certainly don’t want to apologize for it. They just want you to forget the knife they put into your back so they can have the thrill of doing it again. Narcs are not normal people. They do not have empathy for their victims and some get a high from hurting others. When the flying monkeys say this, they are just channeling the narc, because they can’t think for themselves.

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

Because we can’t give up honesty and freedom to get along. When the family peacemaker says this, whether they are aware of it or not, they are acting as a flying monkey and taking sides with the abuser. Or they self-righteously feel good about themselves because they are not the ones in the drama. They might feel good about saying, get along, but getting along is what kept slaves in their place. Getting along is what sold many Jewish people into the hands of Nazis. Getting along is what keeps people in gangs. Just sayin’.

If you have family members or friends spouting these platitudes and asking you to come to the big family dinner, here is a litmus test to see if it is worth your time. Ask yourself these two questions–

1. Are they honest?
2. Do they treat me with respect?

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I don’t think this is asking too much, because without honor and respect, we’ve got nothing.

So back to being grateful. I am grateful! I am grateful every. single. day. for my freedom filled life!
I am grateful for so many things, but the height of my gratitude is to know that God is not like a narcissist and gives me freedom to make my own choices. I am grateful for the knowledge I have about narcissism so I can quit trying to play a game I could never win. I am grateful for freedom.

A few years ago after the Worst Thanksgiving Ever, I wrote a poem and shared it with one of my family members. It was about other people telling me what to eat and how to worship and how to spend my money. I was thirty-five at the time and trying to find my voice and trying cut the control strings from my family of origin.

My poem basically said I was reclaiming my own right to these things. My family member listened to my poem, then said, “Wow! That’s a very selfish poem–it’s all about you.” I was stunned. The words of this family member echoed what my parents had taught me and I didn’t know how to separate myself from the lies, so I ripped up the poem and asked Jesus to forgive me for being so selfish. It would take me another ten years to wake up.

So every holiday I am very grateful to be awake, I am grateful to no longer be brainwashed to live my life to please other people. I am grateful to discern lies from truth. To know myself and know my God.

So if you are feeling sad about all the mind twists and gaslighting and being ostracized this holiday season, remember to look for the silver lining. Here is the sad truth: narcissistic people bring us joy only in their absence. If they weren’t narcs, they would use honesty and respect to bring us back home, but by their very nature, narcs find truth, love and freedom impossible.

So here’s to a narc-free life–with truth, love and freedom! I can drink to that!

How to Know When It’s NOT Your Fault

18 Aug

When I was five years old, I was standing outside the swimming pool when my mother asked me to watch my one year old brother while she went inside to get my new born sister who was crying. I watched my brother faithfully. I watched him flip over on his little paddle board. I watched his feet kicking in the air. I watched him just like she told me to until she ran back out the back door and thrust my baby sister into my arms and flipped him right side up. Like a good baby, he was holding his breathe. My Mom was naturally upset, but then she accused me of trying to drown my brother. For the most of my life, she has referred to this as “the time you tried to drown your brother.”

My dad came home and gave me a pep talk on how since I am the oldest, I need to watch out for the younger ones. This led to a lifetime of me serving my family long after my siblings were adults. By birth order, I felt responsible to make other people happy.

After studying child development in college, I discovered something about this incident. Children under the age of eight process words literally because they can’t think in abstract. I was a normal child who had no intentions of harming anyone. To be labeled as someone who tried to harm a sibling was unfair, but my mom probably didn’t realize this at the time. Plus I was standing outside the pool. I had no training for lifesaving. We had just put up the pool for my sister’s birthday and she took to it like a fish, while I was afraid of the water.

My mother gave me an impossible task and I was asked to play a game I could never win. What was even more unfair was the responsibility put on me by my father to serve my family at such an early age. This included cleaning house and childcare at that age, but later turned into giving them my babysitting money and later providing for my relatives and paying their bills while I often neglected my own. I was taught to put everyone else first because that is what Jesus required of me. Like Carol Cannon says in her book, Never Good Enough, “I learned to give myself away before I even had a self.” While the Circle of Giving requires us to give, such giving can only come from the heart.

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Fast forward a few years and this concept of being responsible for others was extended when I was high school aged and wanted to go to school. My mom said not to mention my depression about not going to school because it might cause my dad to have a heart attack. She was asking me to choose between having a high school education and supposedly killing my father. There are names for this kind of gaslighting. My mother in law calls it a mind-F_, but to be nice for the internets, I will call it a mind-warp. It’s the same thing.

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, chances are you have been given impossible mind-warps. Perhaps you felt responsible for the rest of your family.  Maybe you’ve even been told you will be responsible if you go no contact because someone was abusive to you. I have a friend who was accused of giving his mother cancer because he didn’t allow her to continue verbally and emotionally abusing him. These accusations are not only cruel and unfair, they are just plain wrong.

I had a friend who was suicidal a few years ago and I spent hours–no weeks listening to this person talk for hours on end. I tried to do everything they taught me as a volunteer at helpline. I did my best and yet this person lied about me and later told others I made it all up. That’s the day I walked away from the role of hero I accepted when I was five. Today, relationships have to pass three criteria if someone wants to stay in my life—respect, honesty and taking responsibility for their own choices.

  1. Respect

Many narcissistic people have very little respect for others. They would like to use your time and money and anything you are willing to give them to meet their needs. This is called narcissistic supply or narcissistic feed. It could be money or it could be ego stokes. In either way, the narc wants to use you. When you realize someone merely wants to use you, it’s time to move on, because there is no relationship without respect—anything less is simply a transaction. I say let them get a job and go to their own bank.

  1. Honesty

Very similar to respect, there is nothing to base a relationship on without honesty. Otherwise people are just pretending to be someone they are not. This is what happens when someone falls in love with a narc. Or even the fantasy of a trauma bond that some people cling to when their parents are proven incapable of loving them unconditionally. Even if you could believe their lies and ignore reality, you still wouldn’t have a real relationship. Don’t let people lie to you.

If someone uses you and then they lie about how they used you, it’s time to realize you are not their kind of people. You’re not the one making the choices here, the person who uses you and lies to you and about you is responsible for their behavior and lying and pretending to be someone they are not has consequences. Which brings us to number three—taking responsibility for self.

  1. Each Person is Responsible for Their Choices and Behavior

We are always responsible for self before we can be responsible to others. And there is a big difference between being responsible for others and being responsible TO others. When you have a job, you are responsible to do whatever you have agreed to do, but you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to what you do.

When you fly, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This is not selfish, but the only way to help others. To say putting on the mask will kill someone else who refuses to put on their own mask is unfair. They might never say that on a plane, but people use similar distortions in real life all based on the false idea we are responsible to please others while they abuse us and lie about us. I don’t buy it.

When people blame us because this person might die or will never be the same because we asserted our right to live drama free without manipulation, those blaming us are simply shifting the responsibility around. This is often the heart of dysfunction and codependency–refusing to be responsible for self and while blaming others for our choices. Yes, there was a time when I bought things for people instead of paying for my own bills, but it was my choice and when we know better, we do better. I can own that responsibility and I own the responsibility today to allow only true relationships in my life.

There are still warped people who will blame you for the choices others make because you supposedly failed to cover (lie) for them. It’s not you, it’s the narc. There will always be ignorant people who accuse you of not honoring your parents because you stood up for truth and respect. You won’t be able to help the blind, but remember this for yourself–honesty is always, always married to honor. You can’t have honor without honesty and you can’t honor someone who lies to you and about you.

Most of these mind-warps would be hilarious if they weren’t true and just in a movie. But sadly, mind-warps are the symptom of broken relationships with self. Before the narc had a broken relationship with you, they had a broken relationship with their own self. They refused to be honest with self and failed to give themselves respect and in turn, stopped being responsible for their own choices and looked for a scapegoat to continue their fantasy.

I’ve rarely met someone who is estranged from their parents or child who doesn’t still love them. It’s true there is a difference between narc shunning and no contact, but most people who go no contact only did it as a last resort because continuing to have contact was too much for their own health and sanity.

When people break any relationship by acting in dishonorable and disrespectful ways, you can still love them and pray for them from a distance even when they won’t say sorry, but you are not responsible for their choices and you are not obligated by scripture to meet their needs or hang out with them. Allow me to repeat, you are not responsible for the choices of others. God created us to live in freedom and it is not right to allow others to take it from us.

So How are We Responsible to God and Others?

God has asked us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), but how does this play out with those who are abusive to us? To do justly means once again to be honest and fair. This means we don’t pretend hitting children is okay. We don’t lie to protect the family secrets. We do justly because God does justly and God never changes or denies who He is to soothe the minds of warped human beings.

To love mercy, means we will be open to letters of apology and treat even those who have harmed us in a kind manner. Our God is a God of second chances and when someone sincerely asks us for a second chance, we can offer hope to them. But—(and when dealing with narcs there is a big but)–the person who has been abusive in the past will need to show sincerity and ask with honesty or it’s not real.

To walk humbly with God reminds us of the proverb, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We are not better than others. We do not esteem even our abusers as less human or less made in the image of God than ourselves. We have simply learned there can be no relationship without these three—respect, honesty and responsibility. For those sincerely willing to try living an authentic life with these three criteria, we can always open the door, because with God, all things are possible.

Congratulations, It’s a Narc

3 Jun

Think of that moment in a movie or real life when a laboring mother is panting and pushing, while the father is offering her words of encouragement, then finally the moment comes when they hear a cry and the doctor announces those magical words, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Or “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” Everyone cries happy tears in this very emotional moment. Well let’s consider this moment from the baby’s point of view:

He’s being ushered into a harshly bright and scary world where he will soon be asked to live up to his mother’s expectations and bear his father’s judgment and criticism. He might even be beaten or starved or isolated from society–all because his parents’ needs will come before his. If only he were able to understand this at birth, the doctor might greet him by saying, “Congratulations, it’s a narc!”

And if the baby has siblings, the doctor could just as well say, “Congratulations, you’ve got flying monkeys!” What a family lottery to win! If only we knew what we were dealing with from birth. It might not hurt so much when they fail to love and respect us. Some people think babies should come with instructions, but I think narc parents should too. “Congratulations, it’s a narc! Go ahead and crush the eggshells, because when all is said and done, it won’t make any difference.”

Most children of narcissistic parents grow up wondering what’s wrong with them. Why do I feel so sad or angry? Why do I feel shame to be sick or have needs or share how I’m feeling? Why can’t I be like normal people? All of these questions and so much pain could be avoided if only we could recognize narcissism by scabs like we do chicken pox.

A man once told me to stop calling my parents names and encouraging other people to call their parents names. By names, he was referring to the noun narcissist. He simply didn’t have empathy for those who were raised differently than him. He was apathetic. I am not close to this person so I was able to see through him and walk away. Lack of empathy is another sign of narcissism, but I really don’t like calling people names.

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So why do we refer to our abusive parents as narcs? And how do we know this is not a lack of empathy? Because most ACoNs have spent their entire lives empathizing with the narcissist. As a matter of fact some studies have shown narcissistic people often target empathetic people. So if you were the most empathetic child in a family, chances are you were targeted by your narc parent to provide their narcissistic feed. For more information on this check out the Empathy Trap book.

We use the term narcissist loosely because we have to name it to claim it–otherwise we might never realize what we are dealing with. How is this helpful? Because for most of our lives we had no name for what was happening in our homes and lives. We were yelled at, beaten, shut out, belittled, scorned, made fun of and told we were the problem. As children, many of us going through such physical and emotional abuse blamed ourselves.

We thought we were responsible to make our parents happy, but the truth is children–young or old, are not responsible for their parent’s feelings. If you are not trying to hurt people, you can’t be held responsible for their moods and tempers and dark thoughts. Each person is responsible for themselves, but children of narcissists don’t realize this while growing up because narcissistic families don’t have proper boundaries.

Many ACoNs spent years believing we were the problem because we were told to “get over it,” “forget the past” and “stop causing trouble.” How little did we know these phrases might be the very symptoms of narcissism.

It was only by learning the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and hearing the stories of other victims, that many of us realized we are not responsible for the insanity in our families. Having a name and recognizing the symptoms of narcissism brings peace.

If you’re in doubt, and question if by some chance your parent is not actually a narc, then just watch and wait. See if they contact you. Listen for loving words that say, “I am sorry for your pain, I am sorry I hurt you.” My friend Mary Lou showed me what unconditional love from a loving parent looks like. I highly recommend you get to know people who are great parents of all ages and watch them and learn from them. Then, learn to give the little child inside of you this same unconditional love.

So how do we move on from being victims to survivors? The moment we say, “Thus far and no more.” We have stepped through the threshold into another possibility. It’s not enough to say, “I survived beatings and lies and mind warps and gaslighting.” It’s not enough to say, “My parents didn’t love me.” It’s not even enough to say, “My parents are still mad at me for making my own choices.”

Until you understand narcissistic personality disorder and realize it’s not you, it’s the narc, you can’t walk through this threshold of healing. If you’re still blaming yourself or hanging out with people who blame you, then you remain a victim, but if you can name it and move on, you will become a survivor. And if you can name and claim what you want without allowing the narc’s interference, if you have learned to go where you are celebrated, if you can suck the marrow out of life, then you have begun to thrive!

Every woman that finally figured out her worth,
has picked up her suitcases of pride
and boarded a flight to freedom,
which landed in the valley of change.
-Shannon L. Alder 

 

The Double Bind on the ACoN Soul

27 May

Alisa was the scapegoat while her sister was the golden child. She grew up feeling like she didn’t belong and often wondered if she was adopted. It was hard to grow up feeling like she was on the outside of her family’s inner circle.

A few years ago her father asked her to come to work for him. Alisa was shocked he considered her. She and her father had never been close, but Alisa saw this as a chance to do such a good job her father might finally be proud of her. The new job went well for a couple weeks–until her father asked her to lie and cheat on some financial forms. Alisa didn’t know what to do.

For the first time in her life, her father had praised Alisa for her hard work and she felt their relationship was better than ever. On the other hand, Alisa felt rotten to go along with the sham. Alisa was caught in a double bind–her desire to maintain her integrity was at odds with her desire to win her father’s love. Alisa is not alone. Double binds are a very common problem for the ACoN soul.

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You’ve probably been in a bind yourself. Have you felt the pull to gossip or triangulate with others so you can be part of the inner crowd and keep the narcissist from talking about you? Have you wanted your parents love so much you were willing to say things you didn’t mean or do things you resented to win their love? Have you tried to speak your truth only to discover it will drastically change your family dynamics? Have you struggled with going along with all the family drama to avoid getting shunned? If so, you’ve been in a double bind and been asked to play a game you can never win.

So how do we live in a world full of double binds and maintain our integrity? How do we share our stories authentically and remain in relationship with the people we love?

  1. Keep Options Open
    People might act like the family reunion is the most important even of the summer, but if the only reason you are willing to go is because you are afraid the narc and flying monkeys will be talking about you, is it worth it? Do you really want to spend a weekend babysitting people from backstabbing and lying about you? What kind of life is this?The double bind might not be your only option. Perhaps there are people you would like to see, but just not in these circumstances. Maybe you can invite them to meet up with you on a different occasion without the narc and flying monkeys around.
  2. Realize You Are Not the Only One With Choices
    The fallacy of the double bind happens when you imagine you are the only one responsible for the results. You might feel you are damed if you do and damed if you don’t, but perhaps it is not you who is damed. Maybe the narc is damed if you do and damed if you don’t.If Alisa could see the bigger picture, she might realize her father should be the one in the double bind. On one hand he has a devoted daughter doing a great job, who is unwilling to compromise her values even for her father’s love. He might feel upset because she won’t go along with him, but he also loses if she submits to his plans. If this happens, he has not only chosen to do a criminal act, but he’s raised a daughter following in his slimy footsteps. If he has any conscience left at all, he could be glad for her stand to be honest and follow after her.
  3. To Thine Own Self be True
    Shakespeare wasn’t kidding when he wrote this advice. It’s probably the most important advice ever written. If we fail to be true to ourselves, we will have nothing left to serve others or God. No matter how much we want to go along with the narc, we can’t. Call it karma or the natural law of sowing and reaping, but life rewards our actions. The narc won’t care because most narcs have little to no conscience. It could be your health at stake or your sleep lost because you did something you knew was against everything you stood for.

It seems like one of the most common double binds for ACoNs is speaking their truth and losing the love of their parents. For those of us who grew up in enmeshed families or with emotional incest, it feels like a death. And it is a death of sorts. The double bind comes between choosing your own life or the life of your parents. I had a sibling once tell me that we could never live until our parents were dead. I cried because I didn’t want them to die, but I wanted to live.

Are you willing to kill your own character and personality to please your parents? Or are you willing to let them be unhappy with your choices so you can live? The answer should be logical and obvious. Don’t let mixed emotions steal your power. If you have conflicted feelings, follow the logic of truth and love. If you give up who you are to please others, you will lose yourself and you will never be happy and alive.

If you want to be true to yourself, then F the double bind and speak the truth–even when your voice shakes.

 

 

 

Maybe He Doesn’t Hit You, But It’s Still Abuse

13 May

The new domestic violence hashtag trending on twitter this week #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou
has been informing the world that emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse. No one knows this more than survivors of narcissistic abuse. As a matter of fact, I’ve run into lots of ignorant people who don’t recognize narcissistic abuse because they haven’t been educated about it. So in an effort to increase awareness here are six steps in the cycle of narcissistic abuse:

Step One–Control
The narcissist has a need to control the victim. Juliana’s boyfriend liked to control how much she ate and he often expected her to eat off of his plate at restaurants without ordering her own food. Control can be about anything in the relationship. It could be about money or sex or deciding who you can talk to on the phone. This need for control is the bedrock of narcissism.

Step Two–Manipulation
When Juliana decided to order her own plate and took back control, the narc sought other ways to gain control by first manipulating her with gifts and when that didn’t work, he tried threats. The issue was never about food, if she wanted to get her own plate, he had five loads of laundry for her to do before bedtime. Or maybe no sex that night. If there was something that Juliana wanted, the narc found a way to spoil it. Beware anyone who does not take your word at face value, but tries to sweet talk and/or push you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Step Three–Revenge
Once Juliana had enough of the manipulation and control, she decided to leave the narc, but she discovered narcs don’t get mad, they get even. Revenge came in many ways from talking about her to all her friends and to stealing some art she had in storage. Juliana learned the hard way the narc sees everything she owned including her body and money as though it belonged to the narc.

Wolf Story, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/18139482-wolf-story?c=317903-little-red-wisdom

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Step Four–Victimhood
After Juliana left the narc, he played the victim and acted like Juliana was the abusive person in the relationship.  Appearances are very important to most narcs. They want everyone to know what a nice person they were and how terrible the other person was for breaking up with them. Juliana’s ex infiltrated all her social circles and moped around soliciting pity from all her so-called friends who were now his friends. This allowed the narc to groom some flying monkeys.

Step Five–Flying Monkeys
Juliana’s true friends did not believe the narc, but among her acquaintances there were lots of potential flying monkeys. Flying Monkeys are people who listen to the narc and carry shame and guilt messages back to the victim from the narc. Flying monkeys questioned Juliana’s judgment for leaving the narc because they thought he seems like such a nice guy. Others questioned her manner of leaving the narc–could she have possibly stayed longer and paid another month’s rent so he was not left in a lurch?

Obviously these flying monkeys had no clue what Juliana was dealing with. Some of the more pride-filled flying monkeys judged Juliana for being with the narc in the first place. One of the most difficult parts of narcissistic abuse is dealing with flying monkeys, but if you, like Juliana, can remain calm and ignore the flying monkeys they will eventually burn out and go away.

Step Six—Shunning
When Juliana and her true friends no longer paid any attention to the flying monkeys or the narc, she finally got some peace because the narc in a last ditch attempt to manipulate her, shut her out completely and refused to speak to her.

Juliana was now dead to the narc. Ah peace—except this entire cycle will repeat itself all over again if Juliana in any way responds to the narc. Being involved with a narc is like being stuck on the spin cycle with all of the narc’s mood swings and drama.

If you are going through any stage of this cycle, take your cues from Juliana and leave, because this may be your chance for freedom. You are not alone. There are helpers and true people everywhere so look for them.

And I not only have the right to stand up for myself,
but I have the responsibility.
I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me
if I won’t stand up for myself.
And once you stand up for yourself,
you’d be surprised that people say,
“Can I be of help?”
-Maya Angelou

Five Myths About Motherhood

5 May

If you had a loving mom, it’s a beautiful thing to acknowledge her for whatever she’s done for you, but it’s also important to understand not everyone has such a mother. Here are five myths about motherhood that might make Mother’s Day easier to get through if you are struggling with a broken relationship with your mom.

Myth #1 Giving Birth Makes a Mother

Giving birth doesn’t actually make a mother. It might, but it’s not a guarantee. What makes a mother is a loving relationship manifested through nurturing and empathy.

God’s intentions for mothers (and fathers) was for them to represent him by procreating in their own image and serving their offspring with other-centered love, teaching them to do the same for the next generation.

Narcissistic mothers give birth and serve self. In this case, birth creates a sort of queen mum to be waited on hand and foot—a so called mother who demands her children meet her every need. Sometimes this includes dictating who her children should marry or even if they can marry. If this is the fruit of her so-called motherhood, then giving birth didn’t create a mother, it just provided more narcissistic feed for a narcissist.

That said, we can still honor egg donors. We can thank them for life–without allowing them to control our lives.

Myth #2 Adopting Makes a Mother

Just as with giving birth, adoption is another opportunity to be a mother–but only if a woman chooses to become a mother through giving other-centered love. There are many adoptive mothers who tenderly love a child as much as any who gave birth. But then there are narcissistic mothers who merely wanted to acquire more children as if they were possessions and when the newness wears off they get bored of motherhood. Motherhood is more than the acquisition of a child, it is a relationship for life.

Narcissistic mothers often fail to nurture because they lack empathy. Empathy is the part of love that allows us to see life through the eyes of another. It’s sad how many mothers both through adoption and birth choose to shun their children because they have no empathy for them and resent their adult children who didn’t turn out the way they wanted them too.

Survivor Girl God Took Me In, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/14231063-god-took-me-in?c=541752-inner-child

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If you had such a mother, you probably already know you can’t live out her expectations for you. It’s important to determine where your mother ends and you begin. Such boundaries will separate your mother from yourself and allow you to become yourself.

Myth #3 God Decides Who Gets to Have Children

While I was growing up, some people used to say “There’s a reason God doesn’t give some people children.” Hmmn… If we believe God has withdrawn his blessing from every infertile couple, then we would have to follow this idea through to its logical conclusion and assume God is purposely giving children to every mother who gives birth. Why would God bless crack addicts and abusers with children, while he withholds babies from honest, loving parents?

I have a friend who is a counselor for an adoption agency. She once said, “I think God stepped back from actively deciding who gets to have children a long time ago and left the choices to us. I think the determining factors as to who can give birth is more likely the result of genetics and health from living in a damaged world.”

That said, every child who comes into this world is still a gift from God. God designed the human family to receive love and a give love and a helpless baby offers us one of the most rewarding opportunities to experience love.

Myth #4 You Can’t Understand Parenting Unless You’re a Parent

To be a mother is to love and nurture. Some of us were mothers at an early age. I changed diapers and bottles and dressed my baby siblings since I was four or five. I never actually thought I was their mother and I had no plans to usurp my mother’s place. I knew we all had the same mother, but I still mothered them.

Chances are if you care about children at all, you have mothered in some sense even if you are not called mother. Mothering is the art of giving in a nurturing way. Mothering is planning a birthday party, soothing a wounded knee and sharing encouragement when a friend is discouraged.

When we think of mothering as a verb, it’s obvious anyone can use empathy and love to nurture others. Mothering can describe the behavior of older siblings, grandmothers, aunts, teachers and really anyone who takes the time to invest in the life of a child. Mother Teresa is a grand example of a true mother heart.

Myth #5 God is Our Father, But Not Our Mother

Some people freak out over references to Mother God, but where do they think mothers came from in the first place? The Godhead said, “Let us create humankind in our image.” Male and female were created in God’s image.

God therefore is as much mother as as a father. Those who are invested in patriarchy, might cling to whatever they’ve been told and struggle to see it, but those with open minds, willing to seek truth in all things, can’t deny God is both masculine and feminine. There are verses throughout the Bible describing the feminine face of God.

The kind of mother we find in God, is the opposite of a narcissistic mother.

When the narc mom demands we jump through arbitrary hoops to please her, our Mother God sets us free to be ourselves.

When the narc mom demands control of the relationship, our Mother God leaves us free to choose if we want a relationship.

When a narc mom makes fun of us and demeans us, our Mother God has designed us to be unique and beautiful and she celebrates who we are.

This mother God is not some false concept, nor is she in disagreement with our Father God–they are one and the same God.

To recap, anybody can give birth or adopt a child, but it takes an empathetic, loving person to be a mother. Anyone can answer to mother, but those who empower a child to grow into her true self instead of controlling who she might become, is mothering. To mother is to be like God. God is the ultimate mother of us all. Let’s honor both our heavenly mother and our earthly mothers and let’s release the narcs to take care of themselves.

F the Trauma Bond

17 Apr

While she was growing up, Macy’s parents used her as their slave and beat her whenever she didn’t do what they wanted. Her three brothers lived like kings compared to her.

When Macy became an adult, her parents wanted her to be an accountant and even though she wanted to be a nurse, she took accounting to please her parents. Even after Macy was married, she was expected to come to her parents’ home and do some of their house work.

When Macy had a daughter of her own, she realized her parents had not loved her the way she loved her little girl. She couldn’t treat her child like a slave. She decided to be a different kind of parent who doted on her daughter instead of using her, but whenever she went to her parents’ house, she still endured their put downs. One day she had a big argument with them over how she was raising her daughter.

Courage Throw PIllow, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21561899-courage-dear-heart?c=317903-little-red-wisdom&p=throw-pillow&rel=carousel

Pillow Available Here

That was the day Macy realized if she continued seeing them, they would keep treating her daughter like they had treated her. She wanted her daughter to grow up in freedom without beltings and expectations. For the sake of her daughter, Macy felt she had no choice but to go no contact with her parents.

This would seem to give Macy’s story a happy ending where she could close the book on past abuse, but Macy isn’t happy. Her husband is very supportive and her little girl is having the childhood Macy never had, but Macy is deeply depressed and misses her parents.

Macy feels a nostalgia for her family that her husband and friends can’t understand. Some days just an ad or mention of the word mother or father makes her cry and binge on chocolate. Sometimes she can barely get out of bed. Macy misses her abusers so much she even makes self-depreciating jokes to put herself down.

Macy has a trauma bond with her parents. A trauma bond is where a person keeps going back to be used and abused because of an emotional connection. Macy has tried for years to fix the relationship with her parents, but they have zero interest in fixing the relationship.

My Own Person Mug, CherilynClough.com, www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

Travel Mug Available Here

Can you relate to Macy’s situation? If so, you might be locked into a dysfunctional cycle. Here are five clues you might be dealing with a trauma bond:

1. You Feel Emotionally Connected
to Someone Who Keeps Hurting You
Healthy relationships are always a two-way street. If you’re the only one working on it or you find yourself pining away for the good ol’ days when you were used as a slave, belted or given just a ration of food, you probably have a trauma bond with your abuser.

If the person who keeps hurting you makes no attempt to apologize, you might want to analyze why you keep going back. What are you getting out of this relationship besides pain? Do you like pain? What will it take for you to value yourself enough to take care of yourself?

2. You Keep Explaining Yourself
If you’re in the position of proving yourself all the time, and you keep going back to argue and suggest how to fix what you believe is broken in this relationship, but the other party ignores your pain and expects you to carry on life as usual, you probably have a trauma bond.

Any time you need to grovel for love, you surely must know it’s not love you will be receiving. Love cannot be earned. Real love can only grow if it is free and unconditional. If you grew up trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations, you might have a trauma bond that keeps you going back like a dog to his vomit.

3. You Spend Hours Analyzing
What You Might Have Done Wrong

Perhaps you didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe you have been asked to play a game you can never win. Perhaps you are a peach trying to win someone who only likes bananas. (Or maybe the other person is totally bananas and you are the only sane one in the relationship). Go gentle on yourself. Forgive yourself for allowing yourself to be abused. Look for a true peach lover. Once you meet up with someone who loves who you for who you are, you will have a much better chance at a good relationship.

4. You Keep Forgiving Someone
Who Never Apologizes
The commandment states we should honor our parents, but this simple rule leaves room for a wide misunderstanding of the fifth commandment and allows abuse to continue. When betrayal happens–even by a parent, there’s no way for the relationship to continue without an apology and a complete renegotiation. In Religious Narcia, we find abusers wielding the Bible to justify their abusive behavior.

5. You Feel Sorry For Your Abuser
If you’ve gone no contact with your abuser, and you feel depressed to the point you can’t enjoy your own life because you miss them and worry about them regardless of what they have done, you very likely have a trauma bond.

This trauma bond allows people to use you. Unless people are wearing diapers and unable to speak, you are not responsible for them. We all sow what we reap. Do you believe God wants you to sow so another can reap? That goes against the natural order of life on this planet. Understanding this might be the first step to accepting the apology you never had so you can move on with your life.

It takes courage to let go of the trauma bonded relationship, but it’s worth it. Even if this relationship is with a parent and you can’t imagine your life without them. You might not realize the toll this twisted and dysfunctional bond is taking on your health and other relationships.

When someone lies about you and to you,
When someone has not apologized,
When you explain yourself all the time,
When someone doesn’t respect you.
When you feel the feelings of your abuser
before you feel your own feelings,
When you have continued to be abused,
When the relationship is one-sided,
When you struggle to sleep or eat
or get out of bed in the morning
because you feel sorry for your abuser,
you most definitely have a trauma bond.

A trauma bond is a relationship fallacy.
It’s NOT a real relationship,
but for some reason the bond makes it seem real.
All the judgmental Christians can leave now–
pardon my french,
but FUCK the trauma bond!

A man who views the world
the same at fifty 
as he did at twenty
has wasted thirty years of his life.

-Muhammad Ali

A Game You Can Never Win

6 Apr

Have you ever been asked to play a game you can never win? If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you already know what I’m talking about. For the malignant narcissist, relationships are not about love, affection or mutual interests because the narc views human relationships as if they were a game.

A game where whoever shouts the loudest wins. A game where the narc has to outsmart and outrun the competition. A game where whoever collects the most of whatever the narc values—whether it’s money, property or people, wins. A game where the narc feels no obligation to play fairly by anyone’s rules but his own and every play is a means to an end.

It’s a game where the rules can change at any time, but there are three fairly consistent rules to the narc’s game.  If you can spot how the narc plays out these moves, it might help you see it coming so you can avoid playing such a game. So here are the narc’s general rules which may or may not change at any given time.


Narc Rule #1: Get More Narcissistic Feed

Every narc has their own currency. Some narcs are concerned primarily with politics and climbing a social ladder. Some narcs are all about collecting people to do their dirty work. Some crave people who flatter them and others just want to make money. Narcissism might appear differently with different personalities, but there is one thing they all have in common, they use people for narcissistic feed.

She-Was-Asked to Play a Game, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/17551238-game-she-could-never-win-chess?c=540504-survivor-girls

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Chances are if you are dealing with a narcissist, you might already sense what they want. This narc rule states as long as you give up your money, your time, your needs, your blood—whatever it is the narc craves, then your relationship with the narc will appear to be fine. However, if you start to claim your own boundaries, he will feel threatened and up the ante because you just moved up to a more difficult level in the game.

Narc Rule #2: Be the King or Queen of Right

Narcs make a game out of being right. If you know someone who stays up late online arguing with strangers, this person probably rates on the high end of the narcissistic scale. Proving she is right and others are dead wrong is always a game to the narcissist–whether it’s about politics or religion or which kind of car to buy.

Arguing with the narc is no fun no matter how delusional they are and as you might have discovered by now, it’s not much fun to play games of any sort with the narc. But here’s the thing, you might end up arguing with the narc over real life issues if you are living in the same house. And these might be issues that really matter to you like which school your child should attend or if you can run to the store to buy medicine for a sick child while the narc wants sex. These are the kind of games most people never dream of playing, but welcome to narc world!

Narc Rule #3: Whoever Gets the Most People Wins

We all know this is a lame childish game, but watch out if you are breaking up with a narc. He will call up every one you know to make sure they realize how terrible you are. Although the narc wants to collect all these people, he offers them no substance in relationship because the only thing he has to offer them is talking about you. The narc wants to get all your mutual friends to take their side so they can win them as pawns and flying monkeys. And most of these pawns and flying monkeys have no clue what’s happening or that they are even entered into the narc’s game. While it might seem the narc is winning  for a while, your true friends will eventually see through the narc’s lame game.

Now that you realize what kind of game you are playing, the only way to win is to stop playing by the narc’s rules. If only it were as easy as leaving the circus, but first you will need to take some action to protect your interests and redeem your own points in this game.

Healthy Rule #1: Realize Your Own Worth

Without self-worth, you might continue to play the game hoping to get the carrot the narc keeps dangling in front of your nose. Narcs are notorious for promising to do better or pay their debts next time. And if you have no sense of how to get your own healthy needs met, you will be relying on a tyrant to supply whatever you need. If you are struggling with self-worth, this is a great time to find a counselor or have a long talk with a good friend you can trust.

Healthy Rule #2: Stop Feeding the Narc

You will need to decide if you can allow yourself to compromise any longer. Of course this depends on what’s at stake. If there are small children involved, you might have to play your cards very carefully until they are securely out of harm’s way. Once you realize what kind of feed the narc is using you for, you will need to protect yourself from the narc’s games. You might want to talk to professional counsel before you make any big moves depending on your situation.

Healthy Rule #3: Secure Your Boundaries

It’s time to identify and reinforce your boundaries. If the narc is taking your time or money, reclaim it. If the narc is abusing your body, protect it. If the narc is messing with your mind through gaslighting, stop giving him access to what you think.

Setting and maintaining strong boundaries is hard work–especially if you grew up in an enmeshed family without boundaries. That old family saying “whatever is mine, is yours” has been twisted by the narc to give him a license to steal your life. Don’t let him.

Even though you’ve been asked to play a game you can never win, winning is still possible. Your best option is to leave the narc to play his game with someone else. While the world is full of narcs, there are also many loving people who will love and give love in return.

When you put the narc and all his rules back into the box he came from, you automatically win because the narc will lose all power in your life. When you find real friends who care about you with no strings attached, you will win this game.

You will experience a delicious feeling when you quit playing the narc’s game. It’s like having a pocket full of sunshine. Oh yeah!

Re-Framing Our Relationships

3 Mar

Renate fell in love with Tony, but no one else in her family liked him. At first she thought they would embrace Tony like she did. What was not to like about him? He was a handsome, professional and went to the same church as Renate. He managed his money well and was good with children–and oh, her dog even loved him. Renate was shocked from the coldness of her narc mom when she introduced Tony to the family. Her mother had been divorced from Renate’s dad for two decades and showed no interest in marrying again. She thought her mother would love to have a man in the family again, but Renate’s mom and sisters all started talking about Tony the minute he left the room.

It took three visits before Renate discovered what her mother hated about Tony. He was not a yes man. He had a mind of his own and was not planning to live up to her narc mother’s expectations. Renate found herself in an awkward position. She had to choose between her future husband and her mother. After spending a few weeks with her counselor, Renate chose Tony. This caused many phone calls from her two sisters and lots of drama. She began to realize her mother did not have her best interest at heart and her sisters were flying monkeys. It was time for Renate to re-frame her relationships.

In a situation like Renate’s, many of us were taught to stick with family because “blood is thicker than water,” but what about the times when dysfunctional family members show us anything but love? How long should we stick it out? Most of us stick it out far too long because we are hoping for what we wish we had. Many of us consider re-framing our relationships as the last resort before crazy, but we could save ourselves a lot of stress if we did it logically before we reached an emotional crisis.

Reframe Butterfly, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21112144-butterfly-reframe

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Here are Five Reasons to Re-Frame Our Relationships:

1. We Need to Stop Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Despite tense family gatherings and humiliating abuse, most of us crave the love we dreamed of having with our parents and siblings at one time. This fantasy keeps us going back again and again for more punishment. Just as we will never be able to get a can of pop out of a bubble gum machine, we will never get the love we want from a narc. The idea is ludicrous. Everyone knows it’s impossible no matter how many quarters you put in, but when it comes to family dynamics we seem to have lost our sense of logic. Trying to get love from people who are void of it is like trying to get pop from a bubble gum machine.

Our childhood biases often keep us from seeing through the fake smiles and lying facades of relatives who manipulate us into picking up the tab or goad us into voting for their candidate. Sometimes they even ask us to help them scapegoat another family member. If we fail to re-frame our relationships, we might be in danger of becoming a flying monkey ourselves–unless we can stay alert to the behavior of others.

When people show you who they are—believe them the first time.
–Maya Angelou

2. Narcissism Forces Us to Analyze Our Relationships

For Christians who wonder if it’s okay to re-frame our families, remember Jesus taught us how to re-frame our family relationships when he asked,

“Who are my mother and brothers? He who does the will of my father in heaven.”

What would happen if we took an unbiased view of our relatives? What if we screened them like we do strangers? One way to do this is to draw three concentric circles. In the middle circle write out the names of people who have proven to their trustworthiness to you. In the next circle outside of that one, add the people you believe you can trust, but are not proven. Then in the outer circle, write the names of people who have broken your trust.

Keep these circles in mind with every family gathering, phone call and visit. Adjust when it becomes obvious someone needs to be moved into a new category. On days when you feel vulnerable, choose to only spend time with your inner circle. If someone is in your outer circle, try to keep them at a distance or go no contact if necessary.

3. Forgiveness is NOT an Issue of Forgetting

Abusers always want us to forget so they can continue abusing us. When we not only re-frame our relationships, but when we re-frame our understanding of forgiveness, we see how the narcs use the false concepts of forgiveness to hurt us again.

The narc might accuse you of not forgiving and blame you for the family splitting up because you refused to attend a family dinner, but the narc is responsible for the rift. The narc is the one who tore the family apart with their manipulation, lies and scapegoating. Your reaction to this abuse is simply another symptom of the narc’s inability to have functional relationships.  Think of all the people the narc can’t stand or get along with and lucky you, you are now on that list—but this is a good thing.

We can forgive and even accept the apology we never got, but we can’t reconcile and meet with our abusers and pretend like nothing happened. When family members abuse us and refuse to do their part to restore what they broke, we have no choice but to re-frame and move these relationships to our outer circle.

4. We Can’t Glue Our Families Back Together

If your family has been torn apart by narcissism, there’s not much you can do to fix the family except be a beacon of hope for anyone who wants to wake up, but don’t count on that being the narc. The narc won’t change. I didn’t say he can’t change—all things are possible with God, but most narcs won’t change because they don’t think they are doing anything wrong. After all in the narc’s book, it is your own fault he had to lie about you. You and I know better, but the narc is caught up in self-deception.

If we could see each other’s motives, narc-led families would completely disintegrate. Many families are held together by cobwebs of lies and it’s only a matter of time before the wind blows it apart. Disintegration is the opposite of integration. The reason we fail to integrate our family conflicts is because narcs lack integrity. Integrity is the glue of honesty and reliability for which there is no substitute.

When someone is backstabbing and two faced, you can’t count on which way they will act tomorrow. The only safe course is to block all liars and cheaters from your feed and not give them access to your life. When you re-frame your relationships, make sure people pass the integrity test.

5. We Can Re-Frame Good Relationships Too

Re-framing relationships takes time. Your sister will always be your sister, but is she safe enough to be your go to confident if she’s broken your trust? Your mother will always be your mom and you might have many great childhood memories, but unless she’s willing to accept you as yourself, you can’t hang out with her and pretend to be someone you’re not.

The truth about such relatives and their lack of integrity is a painful discovery, but unless we can re-frame the level of importance these people have in our lives, we will continue to suffer. The good news is these concentric circles can go both ways. You can fill up your inner circle with trustworthy individuals. Chances are you might know someone right now who can be moved to the center, but if not don’t despair, just keep your eyes open to fill those spaces. One way to do this is to be a trustworthy person who is there for others like you would like people to be for you.

Re-framing our toxic relationships is painful process, but re-framing our worthy friends can be comforting and inspiring. It takes time to build up a friendship, but when we find the rare soul who accepts us just as we are and treats us with respect, we can re-frame these wonderful people to our most inner circle and the status of family.