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Persistence and Resistance

14 Feb

We will not be silent
We won’t turn away
We won’t believe lies
We’ll check what they say

When people hate others
We’ll take on the risk
And refuse to be silent
And with love, we’ll resist

 

She Persisted, cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/512296747/nevertheless-she-persisted-11x14?ref=shop_home_feat_1

She Persisted, Original Art Available in Etsy Shop

We’ll march with Lady Liberty
As she fights the insanity
Of misogyny and bigotry
We’ll rise up with humanity.

Rise up patriots
Protect the laws of the land
Rise up Christians
And lend a helping hand

Do justly, love mercy
Walk humbly with God
With love and truth, we can win
Let’s make America kind again!

Love–not hate, is what makes America great!

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

Print Available Here

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.

Re-Framing Our Pain

22 Mar

Mariah survived a violent childhood, but she’s still dealing with the aftermath of abuse today. Sometimes people tell her to just get over it and move on with her life. These same people wouldn’t think of telling her to get over a broken leg. We all carry our childhood wounds with us–either in denial or in awareness until we find our healing.

I am all the ages I have ever been.
-Anne Lamott

These wounds might fester for decades before we wake up and realize our lives are not working. The only way to open these wounds is to re-frame the pain. To be able to do re-frame, we must find safe people who are non-judgmental to walk with us on this journey. Perhaps it would help if our friends understood the statistics of childhood trauma.

As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for the following health problems in adulthood increases: depression; alcoholism; drug abuse; suicide attempts; heart and liver diseases; pregnancy problems; high stress; uncontrollable anger; and family, financial, and job problems. (1)

People who have experienced trauma are:

  • 15 times more likely to attempt suicide
  • 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic
  • 4 times more likely to develop a sexually transmitted disease
  • 4 times more likely to inject drugs
  • 3 times more likely to use antidepressant medication
  • 3 times more likely to be absent from work
  • 3 times more likely to experience depression
  • 3 times more likely to have serious job problems
  • 2.5 times more likely to smoke
  • 2 times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • 2 times more likely to have a serious financial problem

These statistics came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They confirm what happens in childhood, never stays in childhood.  Yet whenever someone tells a sad story, someone is sure to say “She is stuck in the past.” Perhaps she is not stuck in the past as much as the past is stuck in her. Perhaps her pain occurred at such an early age that it effects everything in her life today. If she is an Adult Child of a Narcissist, chances are the person who abused her in childhood might still be in her life today causing even more trauma.

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

Print Available Here

Emotional wounds are just as painful as physical wounds, but the problem with emotional wounds is we can’t see them. If someone has a piece of nail in their body and the wound is festering, we clean it out. We don’t say, “That old nail wound is twenty years old, so why can’t you get over it?”

We have empathy for someone with an gaping wound because we get a visceral reaction, but we should have empathy for emotional wounds too. Pain is pain. So I think it is time we re-frame emotional pain to stop the stigma that people who talk about their childhoods are mentally ill or in some way unhealthy. As a matter of fact most families are dysfunctional in some way. Some families just hide their sins so well the members are not aware of why they feel bad.

People who join recovery groups, share their stories, observe their pain and are working on their junk are actually healthier than those who accuse them of living in the past. We are all only as sick as our secrets. Apathy kills. Denial kills. Our past relationships and especially childhood affects our health every day so we owe it to ourselves to get to the bottom of why we struggle with good self-care, why we have no family to celebrate with on holidays or why we feel sick when we enter a church.  This doesn’t mean there is no hope for healing, but the pain we have must be addressed and re-framed if we are to heal and move on.

Whether you are a believer or not, I have found comfort knowing Jesus was a man of sorrows. He knew what it was to endure pain. He entered into our human misery to bear it with and for us, so no matter what you are going through, consider that you are not alone. Jesus came so we can re-frame our pain and find our healing.

God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction,

so that we may be able to comfort
those who are in any affliction,
with the comfort with which
we ourselves are comforted by God.
-2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Want to read more about how childhood might be affecting you today?

(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.samhsa.gov/children/social_media_apr2011.asp)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somatic-psychology/201104/the-lingering-trauma-child-abuse

http://www.asca.org.au/WHAT-WE-DO/For-Survivors/Resources-for-Survivors/How-can-abuse-affect-me

http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/dr-laura-berman-childhood-abuse-and-adult-relationships.aspx

https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-deleterious-effects-of-child-abuse/

 

Peace Through the Storms 2

21 Nov

In my last post, it seems some people got the impression that I support partisan politics which is NOT true. I am sorry for giving this impression because I have no political affiliations and as a Christian, I firmly believe Jesus when he said his followers did not fight in the political arena of his day because his kingdom is not of this world. And yet he also said the kingdom of God is within us. My quest is to understand how Jesus wants us to live today to bring his kingdom closer to others with his Spirit.

How this plays out in the lives of Christ’s followers today is complicated. Many of us are invested in the security of our nation and also in the traditions of the Christian church. I believe we should challenge our thinking because Jesus and his early church lived a radically different lifestyle than the lives we live today.

Peace Pillow, www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt, cherilynclough.com

Pillow and Prints Available Here

Yes, I do believe countries should protect their borders. I also believe Jesus is the author of boundaries. We should and do protect our borders. I was reading in Facebook from a lawyer who has worked in immigration for years who explains how we already have a very thorough vetting process since 911. He says that it is much easier for a terrorist to get on an airplane than to pass immigration.

We have a much higher threat from young white male Americans who do mass shootings, yet we are not vetting gun owners. While this may seem political and sounds like a left wing rationale, one only needs to read the news headlines to realize this is true no matter who states it.

So no, I am not saying be careless with our borders, I am just saying let’s not let our fears keep us from helping the innocent which are mostly women and children.

I also started following on Facebook a young humanitarian physician and others who are working in Lesvos, Greece to help the boatloads of refugees as they arrive. Reading his stories has really brought this crisis home to me. These people are not terrorists any more than our neighbors. All these people (many who are children) want is a meal and dry clothes and a safe place to avoid being bombed out or shot. I have to literally ask myself “what would Jesus do?”

As for judging others who see differently, I have not judged anyone personally, but put the facts out there that God’s kingdom is different. Jesus is a radical. He gave up his life to save others and told us to take up our crosses and follow after him. This looks different to different people and I can’t determine where individuals stand in relation to God–nor was that my aim by posting the spiritual differences between fear and love. Sadly, we are in some ways repeating the history of what happened during the holocaust. Anne Frank and her family were refused immigration. A ship was turned away from Florida only to return to Europe and two thirds of the passengers went to concentration camps. These stories are repeating today.

Here are a couple books I have read that have formed my ideas:

This first one is about how fear and our ideas about God affect our minds and health. I have met Dr. Jennings and have dialogued with him on occasion.

The God Shaped Brain by Timothy Jennings

This second book seems more political, but it’s not supporting any partisan politics–as a matter of fact, I gave up politics eight years ago when I read it. Boyd suggests a radical following of Jesus. As an American who can trace my family ancestry back to Plymouth Rock and had eight great great grandfathers in the revolutionary war, I have always been proud to be an American and I still am–however I realize now that my loyalty must first be to Jesus. Jesus is political, but has no affiliation with any party—his ways are political only because following him threatens our comfortable way of life in the first world.

The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd

As for being Spirit-filled vs fear filled, we see the natural results of this in choices played out every day. Fear kills us and others. When we choose to live with the survival of the fittest mentality we are saying “I better kill you before you kill me.” This never brings healing or peace. Jesus says He who lays down his life will find it again.

One of my heroes is Corrie Ten Boom who helped the Jews escape Nazi Germany and ended up in a concentration camp herself. Corrie’s story is not about left or right politics, but the radical lifestyle of Jesus that we are each called to live out. And none of us can tell another how to do this–it is a deeply personal decision.

What I do know is this:

“God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Tim. 1:7

“And there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

I will admit to you that I am not without fear–it is a constant work in progress we can only achieve through God’s grace. For me to find the peace Jesus offers, is to submit radically to his compassionate Spirit and to refuse to be biased against people because of race.

I hope this explains my process to those who are concerned. And no, I have no desire to turn my blog into a political one despite the confusion over my post yesterday.

Thank you for listening,

May God bless each of you!

Cherilyn

Inside Out Movie Review for ACONs

2 Jul

*SPOILER ALERT*

Have you ever wondered what’s going inside your head? Pixar has given us a new tool for this. “Inside Out,” their newest release, is a drama on the inside of a girl’s head named Riley.

Elephant Girl, CherilynClough.com, LittleRedSurvivor.com

Print Available Here

The main characters are a panel of creatures who stand in for Riley’s emotions. Anyone who’s been to counseling might be familiar with them. Joy is the most active and she often tries to help Riley by monitoring all the other emotions who are aptly named Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust.

The story begins at Riley’s birth where Joy is the first to appear. As Riley grows up with Joy, Sadness, Anger and Fear take their turns leading her thoughts. Fear occasionally pops in to teach Riley how to remain safe. Anger finds a way to inspire Riley into action and Disgust (an alternative emotion made up for the movie) works to repel Riley from obnoxious situations. But the one emotion that seems to be shoved to the back seat is Sadness—this happens especially when Joy is in the driver’s seat.

Have you ever seen those memes on social media that tell you to forget the past and be happy? While there is truth to not wallowing in the misery of the past, this story explains why we need to remember the past and allow our sadness to touch us so we can move forward to joy.

While Joy tries to keep Sadness from touching Riley’s core memories, the internal plot going on in Riley’s head is both inspired and complicated by her real life. When Riley is eleven her family moves from Minnesota to California—setting off a chain of events that is scary and painful for Riley.

When the family’s moving van gets lost, Riley is left sleeping on the floor with only a few of her familiar things. Then her father is having stress with his new job. Meanwhile everything is different out west. Wherever Riley turns in her new neighborhood, things are different than what she is used to and she eventually discovers that even pizza is not always what she thinks it should be.

At school, the teacher asks her to tell about Minnesota where she came from and suddenly she becomes very sad when she realizes she will not be seeing her old friends back home anymore. Inside her head, Joy freaks out when Sadness touches one of Riley’s core memories and tells Sadness not to touch any of them.

One of Riley stress factors is because she has no core memories of her new home to get her through these rough times. If you were an ACON who moved constantly, this is what might have happened inside your head too. When we face stressful times, we rely on familiar patterns of friends and places, but moving disrupts this.

The family crisis outside of Riley’s head causes lots of confusion for her panel of emotions inside. Riley’s is stressed about her new school and leaving all her old friends, but when her mother comes in to tell her good night, she says “Where is my happy girl? Daddy needs us to be happy.”

Riley wants to please her parents so she blocks out her own confusion and pain to smile on the outside, but this causes an inner turmoil among the panel of emotions inside her head. Fear pushes the panic button a few times, while Sadness starts touching all of Riley’s core memories. Joy feels this will ruin Riley’s memories so she tries to keep Sadness from touching them. Joy and Sadness fight it out and the result is that neither of them are available for Riley because they get lost in her long term memory vault.

While Joy and Sadness are trying to find their way back to Riley’s thinking center, Anger and Fear take over the controls. Riley decides to steal money from her mom’s purse to jump on a bus and go back where she came from. Riley is now not only in an emotional crisis, but she is possibly in physical danger because Anger has over ruled Fear.

Joy and Sadness are still lost, but they start to talk about their favorite memories of Riley. What Joy remembers as a wonderful Joy-filled experience, Sadness only remembers as a Sadness orchestrated experience. It turns out they are both right—that Joy and Sadness are flip sides to the same core memory and that’s when Joy realizes that Riley needs Sadness to be able to experience Joy.

This goes along with Brené Brown’s research that we cannot selectively numb our emotions. We can’t ignore our sadness and still experience joy. This is where we ACONs cannot listen to our narcissistic parents or our flying monkey relatives, we can only be responsible for our own healing and that includes honoring the sad moments in our lives. This is the only path to joy.

It is only when Riley finally experiences sadness that she decides to turn back to home and safety. That includes more sadness as she finally tells her parents what has been going on inside her head and how she is sad over the move. Once she does this, she is free to experience joy again. Lucky for Riley, her parents are not narcs and they listen to her sadness.

For a healthy family dynamic, the sadness of a child must connect with empathy. As the writers of the Empathy Trap have explained narcissists lack empathy and we need all empathy to heal. When we were told to ignore our pain, it only increased our fear and anger, but we need sadness to honor our losses so we can experience joy.

I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I was taught that sadness is bad. That Jesus loves happy girls. This is also where many Christians have failed to love others. When they tell us that Jesus needs happy witnesses or likes happy Christians, they are failing to allow us to process our pain. The most healing thing a Christian can do is show empathy for those who are hurting.

This attitude if judging someone as though they have no right to their emotions is not reflective of Jesus. Jesus was a man of sorrows. He wept because of He empathized with the pain of the people He created.

This might seem like a silly story, but it has a lot of truth in it. It illustrates the emotional struggles going on in all of our minds and explains why some people are so angry and scared. They have simply shut down and are making their decisions from the fear center of the brain.

I would recommend this movie to everyone who had a hard childhood. It’s well worth the price of admission. But even more important, I hope that all ACONs can realize we have the right to remember our past—even our sad memories because without honoring our pain, we might struggle for years to find joy.

Understanding Narcissism 3—The Mistake of Downplaying the Mistakes

10 May

The third part of my friend’s comment that caused me to think we need better communication about narcissism are these comments downplaying mistakes—which often turns into downplaying the pain of the survivor to protect the abuser.

“The one area that you may have a harder time understanding when it comes to motherhood, Cheri, is that when your children are grown or almost (like mine) a mother looks back and thinks of the things she would like to redo. She wishes so badly she could do things better for her children in whatever way.”

“Well, there are not redos, so the next best thing is that her children forgive her for the things she has done wrong. She hopes they will love her despite her mistakes.”

Such comments are often given to allow abusive parents a free pass. I don’t have to be a birth donor to have regrets. I’ve certainly made mistakes I regret with my nephews and nieces, but when I hurt someone, I apologize and try to make things right—I don’t see it as they owe me forgiveness.

Since it’s only human to make mistakes, why do we even need to talk about them? Because it may take years for some people to find their healing and those who haven’t experienced their pain can’t tell them when or how to heal. It’s a lifetime process.

Tagore Healing Print, Cherilyn Clough, LittleRedSurvivor.com

Prints Available Here

A wound can’t heal unless it is cleaned out first and one of the fastest ways to clean it is for the abuser to apologize. The problem here is that a narcissistic parent will never apologize. They will only rationalize their mistakes and make it out to be the child’s fault. This is why so many are still hurting and trying to deal with the aftermath of an abusive childhood decades later. Those who do not have narcissistic parents just don’t get it.

When a parent is abusive and never owns their junk, their child grows up with the feeling they are at fault. Sometimes it takes decades to realize we are acting out of this broken place because our parents abused us and went to church and spoke about God in glowing terms leaving us with this cognitive disconnect between their actions and their preaching.

Because we thought our Christian parents were close to God, so we reasoned it must be our fault they yelled and beat us. This has caused many ACONS to walk away from God completely because they believe God is just like their parents. For some people, realizing their parents’ mistakes is a matter of eternal life or death. If they can’t discover the contrast between their parent’s abuse and lack of love and God’s unconditional love, they may lose their eternal life altogether.

The bottom line is that Christian or not, no wound can be healed unless it is acknowledged. If Christians insist survivors over look the mistakes of their abusers, they are merely adding to the abuse. The only solution is for the parent to do what Jesus taught in Matthew 18, if you know your child has something against you, don’t go to church and act like nothing happened, go to your child and make it right.

This is a part of a series I am posting in response to a friend’s comment on my blog about Mother’s Day being painful. I know my friend’s mother is NOT a narcissist. From what I know of her mom, she is very loving and interested in her children’s lives. One reason why some people seem apathetic to the pain of ACONs* could be they have either not experienced narcissistic abuse or they are still in denial about their own wounds. I hope this series will help people like my friend to better understand narcissism.

*ACON—Adult Children of Narcissists

Understanding Narcissism 2—Understanding the Gratefully Grateful

10 May

The second part of my friend’s comment that caused me to think we need better communication about narcissism is this comment which we often hear at church or family holiday dinners where people want everyone to act happy and look good:

“It has worked well for me to focus on the good!”

Yes, focusing on the good is always a virtue. The Bible even tells us to focus on the good in Philippians 4:8, but it also tells us a number of other things like confessing our faults to one another and that pesky verse in Matthew 18 where Jesus says if your brother has something against you to not even bring Him an offering until you go and make it right with your brother. This is why we want to read widely and take a balanced approach to biblical advice.

Breathe Gratitude, Cherilyn Clough, LittleRedSurvivor.com

Prints Available Here

Most of my family and friends will tell you that I am an optimistic person, but after focusing on the good for 45 years, I realized I was in denial and more than a hundred pounds overweight from stuffing all my feelings for decades so I could be happy and not worry. If you talk to any number of ACONs you will hear a similar story. They will tell you it took them decades to wake up and sometimes even more to speak up. Most ACONs were not encouraged to seek the truth or speak the truth in our families.

Whenever a victim or survivor of narcissism speaks out, their pain often seems ignored when well-wishers tell them to focus on the good, but many of us focused on the good because we were in denial. Focusing on the good was an escape to ignore reality and some of us are still paying for it.

This could also be an ASSumption on the part of the well-wisher because not all who speak out are ungrateful—as a matter of fact many ACONs are more grateful than the average person because they have escaped slavery and both emotional and physical abuse. Most likely focusing on the good is how they survived to this point, but sometimes we need to go back and clean out the wounds before we can have our healing.

In the past, we’ve paid for focusing on the good through our addictions, weight gain and poor health due to CPTSD. That was in our survival mode, but in order to thrive we now can focus on a different set of good—good empathetic friends, good honest truths and the goodness of letting our stories be heard.

While it might seem like a nice Christian thing to say, telling someone to focus on the good is to not only ignore the rest of the advice in the Bible, but it seems apathetic to the pain of injured and hurting people. If you still think this is what should be said, you have fallen into the lack of empathy trap and it might help you to read the Empathy Trap book. It helps to describe the way narcissistic people use those who are empathetic to meet their needs.

This is a part of a series I am posting in response to a friend’s comment on my blog about Mother’s Day being painful. I know my friend’s mother is NOT a narcissist. From what I know of her mom, she is very loving and interested in her children’s lives. One reason why some people seem apathetic to the pain of ACONs* could be they have either not experienced narcissistic abuse or they are still in denial about their own wounds. I hope this series will help people like my friend to better understand narcissism.

*ACON—Adult Children of Narcissists

Understanding Narcissism 1—Empathizing With the Need for Empathy

10 May

For those who are enjoying Mother’s Day, I wish you a wonderful day! The blogs I am posting today are for my ACON* Friends who need comfort or help explaining their pain and hopefully it will help some who are apathetic to the damage of narcissism.

This is a part of a series I am posting in response to a friend’s comment on my blog about Mother’s Day being painful. I know my friend’s mother is NOT a narcissist. From what I know of her mom, she is very loving and interested in her children’s lives. One reason why some people seem apathetic to the pain of ACONs* could be they have either not experienced narcissistic abuse or they are still in denial about their own wounds. I hope this series will help people like my friend to better understand narcissism.

Oh the joys of explaining narcissism— sometimes it feels like putting your head into a vise!

Don't Shut Up, Cherilyn Clough, LittleRedSurvivor.com

Prints Available Here

If a friend of yours was in a car accident and sustained a broken leg because another driver hit them, would you lecture them on forgiveness and positive thinking? You would probably ask about their injuries and wish them a speedy healing. It’s different with an emotional injury for two reasons—emotional trauma can be invisible and it often takes years for the injured to discover their festering wounds.

Perhaps one reason people have a midlife crisis is because they don’t recognize their emotional wounds sustained in childhood until they realize they aren’t going to live forever and start to question why they have made bad choices and in the process they realize that everything shapes us—and that the addictions and ineffective coping methods they used to survive in childhood are no longer serving them today.

Those who have no wounds or have not processed their own trauma often have a need to quiet those who are finally finding their voices. They are apathetic because they aren’t dealing with the pain and really just want everyone to smile and be happy, but those who are processing pain can’t fake happiness any more than the friend with the broken leg can get up and walk out of the hospital without a cast or pain meds. In the case of narcissistic abuse empathy acts like one of the “meds.”

The opposite of empathy is apathy. Many people feel apathetic because they are ignorant about narcissism. I can hardly blame them because just a couple years ago if you had asked me to define narcissism, I would have told you it’s someone who is vain about their looks. Now, after some counseling and reading several books on it, I realize narcissism is on a scale. We all have a little narc in us, but toxic or malignant narcissism allows parents and spouses to abuse others without regrets. Dealing with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse is a very complex and complicated situation and if you are going through this I recommend you find a good therapist to help you sort it out because many of your friends will be apathetic—they don’t mean to be, but they are just ignorant.

Here is part of the recent blog comment that inspired me to write this series because it seemed to be lacking in empathy:

“I am sorry you are having a hard time as Mother’s day approaches. I praise God for such a wonderful mother and father too!”

Whenever anyone has pain, it might sound empathetic to say, “I am sorry you are having a hard time,” but what people say next usually shows what they are actually thinking. It’s sort of like saying, “I’m sorry, but…” Can you imagine meeting someone who has a broken leg and saying, “I’m so sorry you’re in pain, but I sure praise God that both of my legs are working fine?”

The problem with downplaying an ACON’s pain is equivalent to seeing your friend with a broken leg and telling them to get up and walk on. The leg needs casting and possibly surgery and then there will be a time to take pain meds before rehab and complete healing can take place. Emotional wounds can be even more painful than physical wounds. Studies have shown the brain processes both in a similar way. The difference is when we meet someone with emotional wounds we can’t see them, so we have no idea at first glance what stage of healing they are at.

This is why the best response when you meet an ACON or anyone who has lived through a traumatic event, is to show empathy. Empathy needs to be our first reaction because we can’t help people unless we empathize with them first. This is especially true for ACONs because the first clue and hallmark of narcissism is the narcissist’s inability to have empathy for their victim. Because of this, ACONs are very sensitive to those who lack empathy—we can smell them coming from a mile away.

So if you have a friend who had a rough childhood, please show some empathy by taking some time to listen to their story and find out where they are in their healing process. Your kindness and empathy might even be a catalyst for their healing.

*ACONs—Adult Children of Narcissists