If My Wounds Were Visible

For narcissistic abuse awareness,
survivors have been asked to use the words,
“If my wounds were visible…”
to tell how our lives might have been different.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When I was seven years old and all the letters had finally come together, I was reading my paper in church when my father took my stories away. He told me to be quiet, but since I had a short attention span, I forgot and whispered to my younger sister. Strong arms pulled me to the other end of the church.

In the children’s room where I got the stories, in the very place I met with Jesus, he took off his belt and holding it by the middle, he belted my legs, hitting me with the buckle end as well as the other. I cried out in pain, but no one came to my rescue–not even Jesus. He told me to be quiet or he would give me something more to cry about. Then we went back to the sanctuary while my white fuzzy tights hid the 27 bruises forming on my legs that I would later count in my bedroom.

No one saw those bruises but my mom and me. If her wounds had been visible, I might have seen the sadness on her face when she brought my lunch to my room and allowed me to eat my dessert first. If my father’s wounds were visible, perhaps someone would have offered him some help. Maybe they would have told him. “Your kids don’t have to have perfectly quiet in church for you to be a good dad.” I know he loved me back then and I don’t think he planned to harm me. He thought he was doing his religious duty to be a good father and discipline his children to be quiet in church.

My physical wounds faded like bruises often do, but the hidden wounds on my heart in relation to God and using power-over me would fester for another thirty years. And that was in part because I hid my spiritual wounds.

Oh, how many wounds have been hidden in church? How many people hide their pain, addictions, envy, lust, and revenge behind the façade of being a good Christian? At the heart of the most damage often lies a term that is loosely used and often misunderstood–narcissism.

Have you ever heard someone jokingly say, “My work is so secret, I don’t even know what I’m doing?” Well, the narcissist’s pain is so obscure they don’t always know what they are feeling. Sure, some do, but for many, their wounds have been hidden so long they can’t even access the ability to clean them out. Many narcissistic people have buried their own shame so deep that they try to diffuse it by shaming and harming others. This is why invisible wounds are so damaging. Those once damaged often hide their wounds and inflict more pain on others.

For narcissistic abuse awareness, survivors have been asked to use the words, “If my wounds were visible…” to tell how our lives might have been different.

If my wounds were visible, I wouldn’t have had to lie to cover up for my abuser.

If my wounds were visible, relatives, teachers and church members might’ve noticed my pain and stood up for me.

If my wounds were visible, someone might have told me it’s OK to say no and that I don’t have to people please or apologize until I feel sick.

If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve taken me away and allowed me to go to high school.

If my wounds were visible, my advisers in college might’ve realized that I only had a sixth-grade education, was sheltered and naive and had no clue how to act around other people.

If my wounds were visible, someone might’ve helped me figure out how to use food for strength instead of medicating with it like a drug to numb the pain.

If my wounds were visible, people probably wouldn’t ask me why it’s taken so long for me to find healing.

If my wounds were visible, I might’ve remembered every time I looked in the mirror instead of going back for more abuse.

If my wounds were visible, the teller at the bank might have put a hold on my account, so I would stop giving all my money away to buy self-worth from my abuser.

If my wounds were visible, I might have been sent to a counselor years ago instead of waiting until I felt no hope for my life.

If my wounds were visible, people wouldn’t mistake me for a victim; they would recognize that I am a survivor and they would admire my wounds because they reveal the strength it took to get through the battles I’ve endured to learn to thrive and enjoy life today.

If my wounds were visible, I would open up and show you my worst scar because it would reveal just how strong I had to be to get this far.

If my wounds were visible, you would see them and know that I am safe for you to show your own wounds to me. Kindred spirits, we would be.

If your wounds were visible, I’d gently caress them and tell you to remember that you are stronger than you think, then I’d whisper, “Be strong and carry on warrior. You are worthy of revealing and healing your wounds.”


Narcissistic Feed

Since she was a little girl,
Hazel was taught give everything she had to others.
If she didn’t do this, she was called selfish
and she felt ashamed to be selfish,
so she gave everything away until
she was broke in heart,
broken in spirit
and broke at the bank.

Photo by Corey Motta on Unsplash
Photo by Corey Motta on Unsplash

What Hazel didn’t realize was her narcissistic parents had targeted her because she was an empath. Decades later, she began to wonder why she was the only one in the family who ever gave anything to anyone else. Had Jesus singled her out or did Jesus even have anything to do with it? When she decided to reassess the voice of Jesus she began to realize Jesus had never asked her to give everything to the narcissist. She had been used.

Narcissistic feed is the currency of the narcissist. Every narcissist is different. For some, it might be protecting the family’s reputation. For others, it is money or material supply. Others feed off of ego strokes. No two people are the same, but a common trait of many narcissists is using others without giving back.

The ego-driven narcissist wants to be fed with praise and compliments. The religious narcissist wants you to agree with them and they like to show you what to think. The opportunist narcissist sees every material thing you have and wants it for himself.

Narcissistic feed is the relationship between a person with toxic narcissistic tendencies and the person they wish to use. They might act friendly when they think you have money but have nothing to say when you do not feed them. The narcissist sees your resources as theirs.

We’ve all been given resources. We all have a responsibility for what we do with our time, money and energy. The narcissist doesn’t see your resources as God’s, they see your resources as potential supply for themselves. This is because they have never grown up. They want to be fed like a baby without working for it.

Christians with narcissistic tendencies will try to shame us into giving up our resources. They say things like “Jesus gave all and so should we.” This “we” is like a royal we because the narcissist sees you as an extension of their self. What they are forgetting is Jesus taught personal responsibility through his parables. And the Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver. Don’t let other people manipulate you into giving up the things you need to so they can spend it. Each of us is responsible for our own resources and no one has the right to tell you how to spend your money.

The bottom line about giving feed to the narcissist is they will never be satisfied, they will always want more of whatever type of feed they crave. The narcissist’s dream is to sit back and rely on others for money, work, compliments or manipulation of other people. They see you as a drone and a pawn. When you realize this, the truth will set you free.


Remembering the Good, Even When it’s Bad

Not gonna lie, Mother’s Day was hard.
You see, I don’t hate my parents.
They aren’t monsters, but they broke our bond
when they lied about me.

My parents haven’t treated me like a friend for most of a decade now. I wish it wasn’t true. I wish I could go visit them on every holiday and bring gifts and bake food and stay for a while and visit and laugh with them like I used to—before I woke up, but knowledge is painful.

They not only have never owned the stuff they did to me in childhood (which I easily forgave them for decades ago) but they play the victims and continue to talk about me to everyone in the family to the point I can hear their exact words in my sisters’ accusations last summer.

So no, my split with my family isn’t the result of my strange childhood—it’s their dishonesty and scapegoating in my adulthood. Some might wonder why would I want to write a memoir about people who have brought me so much pain? Because there was a time they brought me joy too.

It’s the split between who they started out to be and who they became. It’s the good memories as well as the crazy times that made me who I am too. It’s mostly my story, but they are players in the background. They certainly had influence in both negative and positive ways, but the more I examine my family stories, the more I find grace and compassion for my parents and other family members.

I just wish my family was safe to be around. Of course, they will say it is me that is the problem. They reason that everyone else has a problem with me, so, therefore, I must be the problem. They don’t even realize saying such a thing is proof that they have scapegoated me. Healthy people don’t have a problem with everything another person does. It’s the narcissistic mind and the flying monkeys who follow it who think in binary terms of all good or all bad.

Part of the difference between a narcissist and the rest of us is the ability to allow the negative to coexist with the positive. No one is all bad and no one is all good. The narcissistic mind thinks in terms of us vs. them. I have tried to look for some traits of good in those who seem bad. This doesn’t mean we need to hang out with those who are abusing us–we need to remember not everyone is safe. And there are some people who are much safer than others. We need to find our kindred spirits to survive in this world.  So, for now, I will hold onto my good memories and pour them into my book.

If you’re writing a memoir, how have you found peace with your past?


Narcissistic Mothers vs. Loving Mothers

It’s hard to know what to do.
Even when our mothers hurt us,
many of us still love them,
but sometimes it’s not safe
to hang out with them.

Photo by Seb Hamel on Unsplash
Photo by Seb Hamel on Unsplash

The cutting remarks and putdowns of a narcissistic mother wouldn’t look very pretty on a card and yet, toxic mothers expect their children to make a pretty thing out of something evil—a relationship filled with manipulation and shame. If you send a card out of guilt to a woman who gossips about you and tries to shame you into doing her will, that’s not honoring—that’s obligation.

Giving birth also does not make one a mother. We all know women who nurture and love others who never gave birth. At the same time, it’s not hard to find those who bore children only to use and abuse them.

There needs to be some accountability. A narcissistic mother doesn’t deserve a free pass and access to her child’s life if she can’t treat them with respect. To keep your sanity on holidays, it’s important to remember the difference between a narcissistic mother and a loving mother.

A narcissistic mother criticizes her child, but a loving mother doesn’t sit like a queen in the judgment of her child, she cheers them on in support.

A narcissistic mother demands that her children serve her, but a loving mother will serve her child without obligation.

A narcissistic mother attacks her own children, but a loving mother protects them.

A narcissistic mother puts herself first, but a loving mother will sacrifice her own needs to take care of her child.

A narcissistic mother doesn’t have time for special details because she’s focused on her own needs, but a loving mother uses her creative energy to make life more comfortable for her child.

A narcissistic mother needs to be right all the time, but a loving mother knows it’s okay to be human and admits it when she makes mistakes.

A narcissistic mother rips apart her child’s heart and destroys their relationship, but a loving mother will do everything she can to restore the fractured relationship with her child.

A loving mother, despite her own struggles and imperfections, offers her child unconditional love, which is the reason we choose to honor and remember our true mothers and grandmothers.

Celebrate those who are kind to you and be a loving mother and nurture yourself!


Narc Family Drama

Angela’s mother hates her husband.
She hates the way Angela dresses too.
And oh, she also hates Angela’s friends.
Angela can’t remember when her mother liked anything she did.
And Angela gets sick every time the holidays come around
because she knows all the stress it will bring up
between her mom and her husband.

narcissism, narcissist, relationship, gray rock,

This situation is always made worse by the constant phone calls from her flying monkey sister detailing all the drama of their engulfing Narc mother. Whenever her mother wants to send a message to Angela, she triangulates with Angela’s sister and then Angela’s sister passes on their mother’s expectations to her. Every year feels like the worst Thanksgiving Ever!

Angela’s husband says he’s had enough of the stress and drama. He’d rather spend the holiday alone–except for one problem–everyone is coming to their house this year and Angela’s counting on his help with their young children. The fight between Angela and her husband began when she asked him to wash all the windows in the house to help their house pass her mother’s idealistic housekeeping expectations. Not only did he not want to stand in the wind and cold to wash the windows, but he felt they looked clean enough as they were.

Angela just wanted to get through the weekend without any judgment from her Narc mom. Her husband said they shouldn’t have to change who they are just so they can have dinner with her family. Plus he hates how stressed out his wife gets every holiday. He wants to start their own traditions and make the holidays enjoyable again.

Finally, Angela and her husband decided to visit a counselor. Angela felt like she was playing a game she could never win. The counselor explained how her mother saw her as a “mirror.” They discovered they had options. Even better they realized Angela’s Narc mom has options too. Mom can join them for a meal and accept Angela and family for who they are and how they eat and live or she can have dinner somewhere else.

Once they agreed, the hardest part was telling Angela’s Narc mom. Angela was tempted to follow the family pattern of triangulation and communicate with her sister, but she decided to start a new tradition and set an example for her children and others to follow. She called everyone to say she is no longer taking phone calls to hear what someone else has to say. If people want to talk to her, they need to call her and speak to her directly and she will do the same with them.

Then Angela told her mom that she was cooking her family’s favorites and she should be prepared because they have small children and the house might be a little messy. She offered no apologies or further explanations. She welcomed her mother to bring whatever food she wanted to contribute.

Her mother took the news as we can all imagine an engulfing Narc would and immediately called Angela’s sister. By the time her sister called, Angela was prepared. She asked her sister to stop relaying messages between her and other family members. Her sister felt Angela was hurting their mother, but Angela knew her sister had just bought into her Narc mom’s victimhood.

The dinner went quite well under the circumstances. Her mother griped about a few things, but Angela’s husband helped her stay focused on their own family. The secret to Angela’s peace of mind was realizing she and her husband were creating healthier traditions for their own children. Once she understood her mom is a Narc and there is nothing she can do to please her, Angela was set free to set her own boundaries and enjoy dinner with her family.



Why Going No Contact With a Narcissist is Necessary

Talia had enough.
Her abuser wasn’t sorry for the past
and continued to verbally abuse her.
It didn’t matter that he was a relative. 
For her own peace of mind,
she had to go “No Contact.”

Photo by María Victoria Heredia Reyes on Unsplash

Talia had was getting migraines. Her headaches started when she decided to confront her abuser. When she realized he had no remorse for what he had done, she tried to tell him how much he had hurt her. It was apparent her feelings didn’t matter to him. He wasn’t sorry, and he was never going to offer an apology. He even denied it had happened. That’s when Taila began to go crazy. The worst part of her situation was that her abuser was a relative and her parents love him. They invited him to every family gathering. Her mother tried to get her to forget about the past, but she couldn’t. Her mother began to take the abuser’s side, and eventually, Talia refused to come to any family dinners when her abuser was present. Of course, this upset the narcissist and all the flying monkeys, but it was her health, and for peace of mind, she had to go “no contact” with her abuser.

No Contact is a measure of last resort. It doesn’t happen because we’ve argued with a lover. It doesn’t happen because a sibling voted for a different candidate. “No Contact” comes about because the narcissist has been such a jerk to you they don’t deserve to be in your life anymore. When it comes to going no contact, it seems oxymoronic or plain moronic to say, “How can you be so cruel as to shut someone out of your life who has lied to you and about you and used you?”

It’s not cruel; sometimes it’s the only sane option. No Contact has nothing to do with lack of forgiveness. It’s cruel that some Christians are quick to tell victims to forgive and forget. No Contact is NOT about revenge or absence of a forgiving spirit–it’s about protection for those who are in pain. There’s no reason to put up with repeated abuse. We can forgive people from a distance, but we can’t let them continue to use and abuse us.

The only relationship worth having is one based on mutual respect. If your narcissistic parent or narc ex can’t accept you as an equal or treat you with respect, you have no choice but to go no contact. Going no contact is not a lack of forgiveness on your part; it’s merely the state of the union between you.

Most narcissists won’t change and to further engage with them only brings more damage to yourself. If toxic relationships are sabotaging your health, go no contact until further notice–a notice that only the narcissist can give and a signal that says at least one of the following and preferably all of them–

I accept you as you are and will stop trying to mold you into my image.

I am sorry for the way my choices have influenced and affected your life.

I am sorry for the lies I told to you and about you.

I promise to be honest in the future.

Chances are if you’re dealing with a true narcissist, none of the above will happen. You deserve honesty and respect in your relationships. If any person–your parents, old boss, ex-spouse or siblings can’t respect you, going no contact is necessary—unless or until the narcissist shows signs of remorse and gives you an apology. But don’t leave the car running, you’ll probably run out of gas waiting, so you might as well leave town and get on with your own life.

To go no contact, you need to lose the narcissist’s number and block them from all your accounts. You also need to find social support to deal with this loss in your life if the narcissist is a parent or sibling or ex-partner.

Talia never did get the apology she deserved, but she had fewer headaches and found peace of mind.


Five Ways the Narcissist Might Confuse You About Love

Emy grew up with a narcissistic parent, 
and feels there is a love deficit in her heart.
No matter how many people love her,
she still feels unloved.

Love, narcissist, narcissism, fake love, abuse, valentine,
Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash

Her best friend Mary keeps saying she should practice self-love so she can open her spirit up to the love that’s already around her. In theory, Emy knows she deserves more love than her narent offered while she was growing up, but down inside, she still feels unworthy. Maybe that’s because she also married a narcissist.

It’s the time of year when everyone wants to think cozy and romantic thoughts about love, but there is a much darker side to relationships if you grew up as the child of a narcissist or are married to one. If you stay focused on the narc’s needs, you might find it’s a struggle to love yourself. You might wonder if the narc has stolen your chance for love and it could be true. Here are five ways the narcissist might steal your ability to love:

1. The Narcissist has Screwed Up Your Basic Concept of Love

Whether you dated a narcissist or grew up with one, chances are your relationships are influenced by narcissism. This is not your fault, but if you choose to become more aware you can gain a better life. If you are a people-pleaser or codependent or lone star isolating yourself from messy relationships, you probably need to study up on what real love looks like. If the narc has messed with your mind, you might be so used to being abused that you find it hard to recognize real love.

2. The Narcissist Offers a False Substitute for Love

A relationship (if you can even call it that) with a narcissist is one-sided. You might love them and you might do a lot of nice things for them, but a narc will only use you and give nothing in return. Even if he is giving something to you, there are probably strings attached. True love doesn’t try to fix you, form you or force you into another’s mold.

3. The Narcissist Tries to Block You From the Love of Others

The narcissist likes to interfere with your relationships by talking about you or putting you down and trying to get others to exclude you. This process of shunning or isolation your from others is obviously not a loving move, but it is meant to keep you from having other relationships. The narc wouldn’t want you to have warm and fuzzy feelings with anyone else now, would he?

When a narcissist is through using you, he’ll try to run you out of town. Whether it’s because you told the truth, married someone he doesn’t like, or voted for the opposite party, you have failed to meet his expectations and now you are the big bad villain. The narc will scapegoat you and try to separate you from the rest of your family and friends. This might leave you alone and hurting and wondering where is the love? Even more isolating, he will try to turn all your relatives and friends into flying monkeys who will do the narc’s dirty work for him.

4. The Narcissist Wants You to Feel Like a Failure at Love

Whether you’re in a romantic relationship with a narcissist or were raised by one, chances are you’ve received more criticism than love. A narcissist will treat you like you’re inadequate because you haven’t loved him/her the way they wanted. After all, if you can’t love your own mother the way she wants, you must be devoid of love. This isn’t loving, but manipulation. Love is not jumping through hoops to please someone.

The narcissist probably knows you are better at love than he is and in order to keep you to himself, he wants you to feel inadequate. If you are still trying to please someone who constantly criticizes you, perhaps they are not worthy of a relationship with you. You might actually be very good at love. Perhaps you should try it with someone capable of giving love back to you.

5. The Narcissist Wants to Rob You of Self-Love

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, you might feel guilty for loving yourself. That’s probably because the narc’s emotions and needs took precedence in your childhood. You might even sense your narent’s feelings before you feel your own. If you were taught that self-love is selfish, then you might not know how to love yourself. If any of these things ring true for you, it might be wise to find a good counselor and explore this further. You have the right to love and care for yourself. If you don’t love yourself, you won’t have any love to give to others.

Real love is kind. Rarely can you find true kindness and empathy from the narcissist. Even if you’re in a relationship right now that’s painful and you know you need to leave it, remember the world is full of empathetic people who actually have the capacity to care. Not everyone wants to use you. Despite what the narcissist has told you, you are still worthy of love and freedom.

The sooner you recognize the ways the narcissist has interfered with your relationships, the sooner you can get him/her out of your life and move on to real people who have the ability to love you. When you let go of the twisted versions of love imposed on you by the narcissist, you will be free to love yourself and in turn, you will be able to give and receive love with others.


Got Respect?

Tessa was an accomplished chef and wonderful hostess,
but her sisters in law and mother in law did not appreciate her.
They simply believed her husband
should have married someone else.

No matter how beautifully she set the table
or how delicious the food,
the conversation with her in-laws was always strained.

respect, self-love, relationships, narcissism, narcissist, narcissistic abuse,

No one complimented Tessa unless it was backhanded. At the end of family gatherings she could barely fight back the tears and as soon as the door was shut, she cried. Her husband’s family treated her like she was worthless for over ten years, then one day she went out to coffee with a friend who asked her a question. She asked if Tessa felt worthy of respect.

Tessa was surprised by the question. It seemed like the answer should be yes, but if she was totally honest, the answer might actually be no. What does it mean to be worthy? Tessa even found it hard to say the word. It seemed easier to imagine she was unworthy, than admit she actually deserved respect.

Tessa began to think a lot about respect. Some of her friends had different political and religious views, but this didn’t stop her from showing them respect. She realized her favorite people always showed her respect regardless of their differences. Tessa made a list of reasons why she should be respected by her in-laws before the next family dinner.

A few weeks later, they had barely begun to eat when her sister-in-law made an off-the-wall snarky comment about Tessa’s roast. Tessa took a deep breath and asked her how she would feel if someone did the same thing to her. The sister-in-law seemed caught off guard by Tessa’s question and had nothing to say until they were clearing the dishes from the table, then she asked if Tessa would like some help in the kitchen. Tessa said yes, but her hands were shaking so bad the china in her hand rattled. What would happen in the kitchen? Would she get a tongue lashing?

As soon as they entered the kitchen, her sister-in-law apologized for her rude behavior. She realized she’d been following the cues of her mother and sister for years without thinking for herself. That was the beginning of a deep friendship between them. Tessa realized later that her sister-in-law might never have thought twice about her behavior if she hadn’t have called it out, but first Tessa had to find respect for herself and realize shew aw worthy of respect.

Disrespect lies at the heart of most dysfunctional family conflicts. It shows up at the family party by excluding someone, arriving very late or making demands on the hostess. Disrespect gossips, triangulates and ridicules whoever is not in the room because it likes to scapegoat whoever is not present to defend themselves.

At the heart of disrespect for each other, often lies a lack of self-respect. People who bully others and tear them down do this to make themselves look better. Those who lack self-worth, allow others to abuse them because they don’t respect themselves enough to stand up for themselves. If every person could realize their own worth and recognize the value of others, respect might go a long way toward healing many dysfunctional families.

Disrespect is a toxic family legacy. Like a dark cloud hanging over the room it poisons every person it touches. Without respect for ourselves and each other, we’ve got nothing to build a healthy relationship on.

While a deficit of disrespect has sickened our families, respect is the vitamin to restore us back to health. Regardless of the past, regardless of the pain, if the members of a family can learn to treat each other with mutual respect, they will lay a foundation and build a bridge for better relationships in the future.

When your family doesn’t respect you, the best thing you can do is face your family and stand up for yourself. If you are dealing with a malignant narcissist, such a friendly resolution might never happen, but taking a stand for your own dignity is always worth it regardless of how others might respond.

Respect is the foundation for every relationship and even if others treat you with disrespect, you can always respect yourself. The best way to do this is to face your family and let them know you respect yourself even when they don’t. And sometimes having self-respect means walking away from those who continue to disrespect us.

I am worthy of love and respect

Permission Slip:
You have permission to call people out when they treat you with disrespect. You always have the right to stand up for yourself even if it means conflict. This probably won’t change the narcissistic family members, but those capable of understanding will respect you more because you have shown respect for yourself and them.

Prayer: Thank you for the respect and freedom to make my own choices. Empower me to respect myself and give other people respect and dignity regardless of their behavior.

What Others Are Saying:

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

You may be no better than anyone else,
but no one is better than you.
-Irish Proverb

Respect yourself
and others will respect you.

They cannot take away our self-respect
if we do not give it to them.
-Mahatma Gandhi

When you realize how much you are worth,
you’ll stop giving people discounts.



How to Plan a Narcissist Free Holiday

Beth wants the impossible. She wants a nice family dinner with sharks. No, I’m not talking about a shark diving expedition, I’m referring to the feeding frenzy of triangulation and gossip that surrounds every family gathering in her family of origin.

Last year’s dinner was ruined by the narcissist grilling her about her engagement to someone they didn’t want her to marry. This year she wants to bring her newly married beloved to dinner. All the family brouhaha that inspired her to elope has been forgotten in her dream for a perfect family holiday, but this will be the first time they all share a meal together since the invisible, yet big event of her life.

On one hand, Beth would like to go, but on the other, she isn’t sure she should go because she’s still hurt that no one threw a reception for them. At the same time, she thinks if they will  just get to know her special person, they will see how wonderful they are together and approve of her choice. Her new spouse says,”Forget your family, let’s just go skiing by ourselves this year.” If you were Beth what would you do?

This is the time of year when we look forward to the holidays, but for people who come from narcissistic family systems, it can bring on mixed emotions. Of course you want a warm family gathering. You long to see the people you love and would like to have a pleasant meal where you can be yourself—-dissonant record break here—being yourself just cancelled out the first part of this dream for most of us, because narcissistic people can’t accept people who don’t go along with their rules.

Even when our siblings and parents are rude to us, we still love them. We dream of the intimacy we once had as children and we would like to sit around and share memories with the only people who know what it was like while we were growing up. It’s fun to get together when others are warm, generous and kind, but you and I know there’s always a catch at a narcissistic family dinner which is one of my least favorite things.

It’s important to note that whatever you do on this holiday, it might have repercussions for years to come. The narc and flying monkeys will bring fear warnings of separating from your family. What if someone dies? Well, what is even worse than death? Living with people who treat you with contempt? There’s a saying that says to treat people in such a way that when you are gone they will miss you.  Most narcs and flying monkeys never consider this option. They also want you to feel alone and shut out, but what about being alone at the table and feeling shut out? What if all you do is attend and end up going gray rock? How much fun is that?

The family gathering sounds so nice until you realize you might have to sacrifice your heart and soul to have that dinner and you know going home you will have heartburn for weeks. That’s why it’s important to think about your options now before you come up to the last minute. Otherwise you might end up with one foot at Grandma’s and one foot out on the street. It is very possible to sit with those you love and feel alone much like a stranger staring in from the outside.

A few years ago, I got up at four in the morning and baked Christmas cookies to take to my nephews. My husband and I had not done anything with my family for several months due to what we called the Great Divorce in our family, but hey, it was Christmas and I loved the dark dancing eyes of my nephews and couldn’t wait to take them some gift cards and cookies.

We invited family members to meet us at the Spaghetti Factory. Not everyone was happy with us and my parents were still holding a grudge so the meal was tense. As we went out the door, my mom tried to put me on guilt trip for following my own conscience and my dad backed her up. It was gaslighting at its worst and in the parking lot of one of my favorite restaurants.

I decided to walk away from the argument and head to my car. My dad yelled that I always walk away. Then he said what he had said whenever he couldn’t control me since I was a teenager—that I was mentally ill. I turned around and said, “That doesn’t work on me anymore. I know I’m not mentally ill and I think you’re being emotionally abusive, so I am going to leave now.”

It took me an hour and a half to drive home. When I got home my parents had sent an email telling me  to “read 1 Corinthians 13, because you don’t even know how to love.” This was after I gave them my money for years and did everything I could to be a good daughter. It broke my heart, but I was not torn to shreds because of another holiday three years before when I made the choice NOT to see them.

That year, instead of having dinner with my family, we’d decided to invite a group of church friends for Thanksgiving dinner at our house. A woman around my parents’ age named Debbie was always complaining because she had all kinds of dietary restrictions. Other women in our church rolled their eyes at her when she complained, but I knew she lived alone and I wanted to find a way to warm her heart so I invited her over for dinner.

When Debbie arrived at our house she said she didn’t want to inconvenience us with her food allergies–that she was just thrilled for the company, so she decided not to mention her dietary restrictions and brought one thing she could eat which was cottage cheese. I showed her what I’d cooked and she shook her head at each dish. She wasn’t demanding like my family had been that Worst Thanksgiving Ever, she just had a lot of health problems. She couldn’t eat gluten, couldn’t tolerate tofu and vegetables wreaked havoc on her intestines. She said she could subsist on cottage cheese and be fine. I asked what else she would eat if she could eat anything. She said pickles and cheese. Believe it or not, I had none in the house, but since a nearby store was still open, my kind husband ran out and bought her some pickles and cheese. She was so thrilled that we went out of our way for her that she never forgot it.

A few months later when we moved away, our friends threw a party for us and Debbie asked if she could give a speech. She read the meaning of our names. When she got to me, she explained how my name meant love and how she thought I was appropriately named because she’d seen me live out love in action over and over for the last few years. She said she loved the way l loved people.

Debbie made me cry then, but she also made me cry again three years later when I read my parents’ email. I realized this woman Debbie had given me a beautiful gift years before I would need it to protect my heart from their future abuse. I would never have received such a gift if I’d gone to my parents’ house every year instead of holding my own dinner and inviting whoever needed a place to eat.

So back to Beth and all who are on the dividing line between spending the holiday with family and choosing another route, ask yourself these questions, “If these people really love me, why is it so hard for them to show me respect? What will be best for my emotional health in the long term?”

It’s also worth thinking about the ways loving people show love for others? Do they remember birthdays? Send a note saying I thought about you? Call to say, “Hey, how are you doing?” Respect each other’s boundaries and social media walls? Do they resolve conflicts by talking to the person they’re upset with instead of triangulating with another family members?

What is love? Is it not being true and honest in our relationships? Is it not doing to others as we would like to be treated? Is it not apologizing when we’ve used someone or lied about them? If we can apologize for our mistakes, why do we make so many excuses for the narcissist? Remember we can’t reconcile with people who won’t say sorry.

When someone says they love you, but they talk about you to others and never speak to you, do they really love you? And if they write accusations in public on social media and call you a liar when they have access to your private email and phone number, what does that say about them? Doesn’t it say they are more concerned about being right and looking good than about having a relationship with you? If they can’t even pick up the phone and call you what business do they have being on your social media in the first place? With such cruel manifestations of love, who needs enemies?

No matter how wonderful your own intentions this holiday season, you have zero control over what others will do. You can’t make people accept you. You can’t stop their triangulation and gossip. You can’t stop people from making snarky comments and giving backhand compliments. You can’t control any of these things any more than you can stop them from putting their elbow on the table and talking with their mouths full. Obnoxious people are going to be obnoxious, thoughtful people will be thoughtful. By now you might be able to tell who is which.

Since the only person you have control over is yourself, you get to decide where to invest this holiday season. You control the wheel. It’s up to you if you pull over to a restaurant, a friend’s house or your dysfunctional family’s crap fest. Choose carefully, because once you’ve made the choice, it can’t be undone. You’ll never get a do over. Life only gets to be lived once. Like a famous TV psychologist often says, “The only thing worse than ten years in a  bad relationship, is spending one more day in it.” And I might add the only thing worse than a miserable family dinner is the heartburn that follows it for weeks afterward. Look, if you really want a holiday to remember, choose freedom.


Walking Away from Narcissism

May those that love us, love us.
And those that don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts,
If He can’t turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles
So we’ll know them by their limping.
-An Old Irish Curse

Many of us started on this journey of understanding narcissism when we noticed something wrong in our family.  For some it was family secrets covered up by lies or the scapegoating of another family member. Others suffered anxiety and PTSD and wondered why we always felt alone until a therapist pointed out the physical and emotional beatings and control. Whatever it was, one day we woke up and knew it was time to walk away.

Ursula Le Guin wrote a description about the first day of summer in Omelas, “a shimmering city of unbelievable happiness and beauty where children race on horseback and everything seems to be a delight every day.” This utopian land has no kings, soldiers, priests, or slaves, but there is one dirty little secret– hidden away in a dark basement lives a child whose happiness and well-being are sacrificed for the good of all the rest.

By the time the citizens grow old enough to realize this atrocity, many are shocked or sickened, but eventually they turn a blind eye because for them and the rest of Omelas, the end justifies the means.

This reminds me of a saying from another work of fiction–The Handmaid’s Tale:

Better, never means better for everyone.
It always means worse for some.
-Margaret Atwood

Some people believe as long as they stay on the inside of the dysfunctional circle, they’ll be safe. While those who stay in Omelas rely on the scapegoat for their happiness, they really aren’t any safer than the scapegoat–they just imagine they are. In their quest to stay secure, some flying monkeys might even go out of their way to separate themselves from the scapegoat and in the process become abusers themselves.

The so-called fair city of Omelas could easily represent Religious Narcia or the narcissistic family because both rely on scapegoating to maintain the hierarchy of abuse. It’s only a matter of time before the Narcissist picks the next scapegoat. Thus most churches and families see a progression of scapegoats over time with several members playing the roles.

You know it’s a sad situation in a society or group when what unites them is their hate for another. The good news is not everyone enjoys this evil behavior. Occasionally there is a rare individual of good character who feels sick when they look in the mirror and remember how the person they’ve all just trashed is a sibling or friend who actually loves them and has only wished them well.

It wasn’t easy to walk. We didn’t leave because we didn’t love those we left behind, we left because we finally realized it was impossible to change anyone else, so we left to change ourselves.

One of the surest ways to become a scapegoat is to walk away. In the walking, we were shamed, attacked and lied about because we not only began to see the truth, but we began to speak the truth and no one else wanted to hear it.

Much like the king in the Little Prince who can’t force anyone to stay, but wishes to have the illusion of control, the narcissist commands us to go. He/She does this through verbal abuse, lies and gossip. And often religion is used as a weapon. We are accused of breaking up a family or not showing honor to our abusers when they have failed to dishonor to God himself.

Even Jesus warned us about this:

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?
No, I tell you, but division.

From now on there will be five in one family
divided against each other,
three against two and two against three.

They will be divided,
father against son and son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and
daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. 

So where are you? Are you enjoying the family festival at the expense of someone else? Are you the scapegoat locked away and feeling powerless? Or are you one of the rare breed of people who sense injustice and at the expense of personal loss become willing to walk away?

“The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”

Perhaps Le Guin didn’t give us enough of the story. I believe there is more. I think we are not only walking away from narcissism, but we are walking toward something much better. Something brighter than Omelas, because there has to be more than this. I’d like to explore this in the future, but for today, whether you walked away years ago, are contemplating walking away or even afraid to walk away,  you are not alone. There will be guides and friends along the journey so keep your eyes wide open.

Here’s to those willing to walk away.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried

But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
-Mary Oliver