Archive | Relationship RSS feed for this section

Don’t Let the Narc Mess With Your Heart

14 Feb

Think about all the lies, the put downs and the gaslighting.

All the times you tried to explain your heart
to someone who was committed to misunderstanding it.

All the times your empathetic heart was used by the Narcissist,
who said it was your own fault.

All the times the Narcissist stepped on your heart,
then said you were too sensitive.

All the times you were told to ignore your heart,
and sit down and shut up and put up.

Think about the beatings your heart has gone through.
Think about all the times you ignored your heart—
because of the Narcissist.

There was a time when your heart said, “Speak the truth,”
but the Narcissist said, “Shut up.”

There was a time when your heart said, “Watch out,”
but the Narcissist said, “Don’t worry.”

There was a time when your heart said, “This is a lie,”
but the Narcissist said, “Trust me.”

Listen to Your Heart, cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/505157007/listen-to-your-heart-print-valentine?ref=shop_home_feat_3

There was a time when your heart said, “Remember,”
but the Narcissist said, “Forget.”

There was a time when your heart said, “I’m worth it,”
but the Narcissist said, “You’re not worth it.”

The truth is you ARE worth it–

You are worth speaking your truth,
You are worth explaining your fears,
You are worth remembering your pain,
You are worth sharing your heart
And you are worth having a relationship with someone
who treats you with respect and honesty.

It’s way past time friend, to listen to your heart.

Don’t Be Afraid

2 Dec

One of the worst forms of religious abuse is manipulation that scares people to be afraid of God. Fear has caused generations of people to be afraid of Jesus coming. Yet the message of Christmas is “Don’t be afraid.” This is what the angel told Mary and and what the angel told Joseph and later this is what the angel said to the shepherds when the angels came to sing.

It seems heaven’s mantra is, “Don’t be afraid.”

I believe Jesus came as a baby so we won’t be afraid of God.

Think about it.

Are you afraid of a God who gives up all of his power and lives in a womb for nine months?

Are you afraid of a God who was born in a cave with the animals?

Are you afraid of a God who comes as a helpless baby relying on us humans to diaper and feed him?

Are you afraid of this baby God who had to be hidden so a wicked king couldn’t kill him?

Are you afraid of a God who came–not to condemn but to love the world back to trust in God?

Are you afraid of a God who worked for most of his life in a carpenter shop?

Are you afraid of a God who owned no home or bed to lay his head?

Peace Angel, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/24136406-peace-angel

Prints and Accessories Available Here

Are you afraid of a God who made time for little children?

Are you afraid of a God who gently touches the blind eyes and makes them see?

Are you afraid of a God who makes lame limbs walk again?

Are you afraid of a God who feeds thousands with five loaves and two fish?

Are you afraid of a God who wrote in the dust to set a woman free?

Are you afraid of a God who forgave Mary seven times?

Are you afraid of the God who taught us to forgive seventy times seven?

Are you afraid of a God who walks on water and shows Peter how to do it too?

Are you afraid of a God who washes the dirty feet of his friends?

Are you afraid of a God who allows himself to be captured and beaten?

Are you afraid of a God who allows people to nail him to a piece of wood and kill him?

Are you afraid of a God who dies for you and rises again so you can live for eternity?

Are you afraid of Jesus coming back to remake the earth so you can live in peace forever?

They were looking intently into the sky as He was going,
when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.
“Men of Galilee, they said,
“Why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This SAME Jesus,
who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way
you have seen Him go into heaven.”
-Acts 1:11

Listen to the angels.

Don’t. Be. Afraid.

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.

My Own Person, cherilynclough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15253730-my-own-person-sunflower?asc=u&c=540742-survive-to-thrive

Prints and Pillows Available Here

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.

Independence Day Again

7 Jul

Do you have an independence day? No, I’m not talking about a national holiday, but the day you were set free because you realized a relationship with someone you loved was not going to work any more? It seems we have many independence days along this journey from narcissism. Sometimes we have to get up and declare our independence just to get out of bed in the morning, but several years ago I claimed July seventh for my personal independence day. It started because seven is my favorite number.

My Grandma used to tell me I was lucky to be born on the seventh day of the month and the seventh day of the week. By lucky she meant blessed. She believed seven is God’s special number and in her Grandmotherly way she wanted me to know I was God’s special child. So I took joy in the number seven and adopted it for my own, but the good things God provides can sometimes be misused by his enemy.

Seven years ago my family went through what I call the great divorce. Two of my siblings divorced that summer. When I stood up for a child to have access to both parents in a nasty divorce, my parents tried to discredit the truth I spoke by writing a letter to a judge proclaiming me to be a liar and religious fanatic. They said I make stuff up just to hurt people. Of course those who really know me would realize this letter was a lie, but the fact my own parents lied about me and dated it on 7/7 was crushing. Even the date on their letter seemed to taunt me.

If it weren’t for God, my loving husband, my sweet friend Mary Lou who adopted me and a father and mother in law who gave me reassuring love, I’m not sure what I would have done. Since then, I’ve seen my parents twice in seven years. The first was when I asked them to join me at the Spaghetti Factory. It ended with my mom trying to shame me for telling the truth and my dad yelling at me in the parking lot and calling me mentally ill.

A year later on a bright blue sky New Year’s Day, I was sitting in church and felt it was a good time to let bygones be bygones so I asked my husband if we could leave in the middle of church service and I called my parents and we drove to their house. I felt they loved me and wanted us to have a relationship, but sadly the relationship could only be on their terms and part of their terms was for me to stop writing about my peripatetic childhood and most importantly the use of the belt and my being refused a high school education. They believed my only goal in writing about my pain was to cause them pain.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey to emotional freedom from narcissistic abuse. Back then I had no name for my distress. I would never think of my parents as narcissistic because they’ve never been vain about how they look. I had no clue narcissism is often manifested by the fear of what other people think. And this fear propels narcissistic people to control and belittle those who don’t do what they want.

When I confronted my father about the letter to the judge, he laughed at me and challenged me to tell him what it said. Then he said he didn’t remember what he said because he just wrote it to discredit me. I’ll spare you the details of our three hour long conversation. Most of it was about my theology.

Wherever I’ve lived, I never really felt I needed new friends because my main friends were always my family, but after the great divorce everything changed. It felt like most of my family died in a bus wreck—except they were still alive—just not speaking to me. I think the death of cherished relationship before someone dies might even be worse than physical death. How I wish there was some magic cure for all of our misunderstandings about God, self-protection and narcissism.

As I was working on my memoir today, I noticed the date with great sorrow. It’s been seven years since they wrote the letter and over five since I’ve seen my parents. I’ve never been a grudge holder, but I’ve discovered without honesty and respect, it’s pretty hard to keep a relationship going.

I still love my parents–both of them. But the question is do they love me enough to be honest and treat me with respect? We can’t keep calling people who have very little to say to us and we can’t make people appreciate having us in their lives. Even God lets people go to their own choices. Fundamentally these lies have broken our relationship.

I’ve even had family members say you never know how long they will live, but then do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow? I used to be the one who called everyone in my family to stay in touch, but after the great divorce, I realized relationships are a two-way street. I still wish I could be near my parents and do things for them, but I can no longer do it at the cost of my emotional, physical and spiritual health. Even Jesus said we have to shake dust off of our feet rather than stay and fight with people who can’t support us. If we are to reunite it will be up to their choices and Jesus.

Sophia Owl, cherliynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/22403369-sophia-owl?c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and Accessories Available Here

Every year on July 7, I celebrate my independence day, because without that letter and the subsequent conversations, I might never have used the knife that stabbed in me in the back to cut the apron strings. Discovering the truth about narcissism a couple years ago, filled in another piece of my healing puzzle. Today I realize it’s not mean to tell my own story. As a matter of fact a good memoirist tells on herself as much as she does anyone else. This book I’m writing has been prayed over with many tears because I don’t want to hurt the people I love. At the same time, truth brings healing to all who embrace it.

So now it’s been seven years since that sad day on 7/7, seven years of mostly silence from my family, but I’m still celebrating my freedom from the control and expectations of others. I celebrate that I have a husband who has stood by my side and loves me for over twenty six years. I have now officially been with him longer than without him. I celebrate that I am loved by a loving father in heaven. I celebrate all the wonderful people who have loved me and befriended me in the last seven years.

And through my celebration I will continue to release and let go and of my own pain and expectations.  I will release art. I will release stories and books and I will release my gifts and love for God and people who are worthy of hearing my story.

So this is a little insight into my memoir writing and why I am doing less art and writing less blogs while I am focusing on my book.  I hope this encourages you if you are struggling to stand up to tell your story. Memoirs have been called modern fairy tales. We can never have too many stories because all of our stories matter.

Peace and freedom to all!

Why Spanking is Bad for YOU

1 Jul

This post was inspired by the way a neighbor treated his little girl this week. 

Hey Struggling Parent,

It doesn’t matter what they did or didn’t do, this is about you. For whatever reason, your blood pressure is up, your blood is boiling and you want the release of making your child feel pain so they will do exactly as you tell them in the future. But hold on a minute, lay your weapon down and consider the long term impact of what you are about to do. This violence you are about to commit will not only affect your child, but it will affect you too.

Maybe no one ever told you, but spanking is not good for your health. Hitting your child in anger–whether with your hand, a wooden spoon or a belt is going to affect you both for the rest of your life. Take a moment to breathe and count the cost.

When you punish in anger, you release an inflammatory cascade in your child and in your own body. Science has shown how anger brings out dangerous hormones that could make you sick. When you hurt your child in this rage, you are hurting yourself as well.

Your child is connected to you through a bond of trust, but what you are about to do will break that trust. Do you really believe you can afford to lose their faith in you just because you want to feel the release of your anger?

If your child is not adopted, your child carries your genes. When you beat your child, you are in a way beating a part of yourself. Do you feel you deserve this?

Have you ever been bullied by someone bigger than you? What are your feelings toward that bully today?  Do you want your child to have those same feelings toward you for the rest of their life? Your child will never forget the way you made them feel.

Have you thought about the impact your violence will have on this impressionistic soul? Do you realize if you pursue this course both of you will be change forever? Once you do this, the person God created your child to be will be forever altered and your relationship will never be what it could’ve been.

Let me repeat this just so you understand, the child you hit will be forever changed and you will never know who they might have become if you had chosen to discipline them in love instead of violence. The world and your family will suffer the loss of some of your child’s potential because you had a need to punish them instead of disciple them.

Yes, that’s the truth–discipline is to make a disciple out of someone. If you use violence to do this, you will make your child twice the child of hell that you are now. Do you want to disciple your child to bully and harm others? Statistics show children who are hit, will hit others and the cycle will continue to the third and fourth generations. Have you thought about how insane it is to hit your child for hitting others? Children grow up to do what you do–not what you say.

And the ultimate price for you might be the loss of relationship with your adult child. Because when your child reaches middle age and wakes up to all their pain and addictions and traces the root of their lifetime of fear and never feeling good enough to the way you made them feel, you will find yourself shut out.

Precious Child, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21360855-you-are-precious-affirmations-from-abba?c=317908-affirmations-from-abba

Prints and Accessories Here

If in your anger and passion you think you can just take the easy way out and slap them around until they jump when you say jump, think again. You will simply be teaching your child to be afraid of you. And ultimately afraid of God. Do you want to ruin the precious faith of your own child? Can you really risk losing them in this life and for all eternity?

In the future, you might wonder why your child can’t get over it or why they won’t forget. You might feel they are blaming you for all their problems or playing the victim. Let’s get this straight. A child you choose to hit, who is smaller than you IS a victim. They might choose to overcome this evil done to them and become a survivor. They may even thrive, but once you’ve made them a victim of your violence, that damaged little child might live on inside of them for the rest of their life.

Perhaps you too were once a victim. Do you really want to continue this pattern? If your child is young, it’s not too late. Right now, you can take them by the hand and teach them a better way in love.

You have all the power because right now you are much bigger than them. You have all the power and you can stop it now before this violence damages both of you.

Just. Lay. Your. Weapon. Down.

And hug your child with unconditional love.

Thank you.

PS If it is already too late and your child has been damaged and grown up and has now shut you out, there is one way that might open the door to a relationship again. It involves humility, honesty and empathy. If you can offer these three things to your adult child and treat them with the respect you wish for yourself, you might be able to reconcile. It won’t be easy, but it could be healing for both of you.

On the other hand, if you only care about being right, then you are a selfish narc and don’t deserve a relationship with your child.

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

Prints Available Here

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

To Spank or Not to Spank?

29 Apr

One of the biggest reasons I struggle with my parents is because they still feel they have the right to tell me what to do–what kind of music to listen to, how to vote, how to spend my money and how to worship God. For the first twenty years of my life, their will was imposed on me through what they called “The Persuader”—my father’s belt. I received my first spanking when I was one week old and my last on the day I left home at nearly twenty.

No one thought of my parents as mean. They didn’t look like evil parents, but they believed breaking my will was needed for my salvation. No one who knew us realized I was belted because I was isolated from society by not going to school and having visitors to our home was a rare occasion.

I would love to say the spankings I received were because I lied or stole or hit someone, but no, my list of crimes included everything from listening to John Denver and Amy Grant, to wearing tinted chapstick, to rocking back and forth to music. Sometimes I was belted for not moving fast enough when we were moving. And oh yeah, my worst belting occurred when I was seven for whispering to my sister in church.

Don't Shut Up, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13999494-dont-shut-up?c=540504-survivor-girls

Prints and Accessories Available Here

My mother told me her father spanked her only two or three times and he very gently spoke to her about what he was about to do and why. She told me several times in my childhood that she hated when Daddy punished me out of anger, but that was the situation most of the times I was belted.

Despite all of this, I didn’t grow up bitter or hateful toward my parents—I hated myself. I was bad. I was the loser who didn’t live up to their expectations. I spent the first twenty five years of my adulthood, buying groceries and paying power bills and doing whatever I could to help them. The truth was I loved my parents then and I still love them today, but I don’t agree with their methods and I refuse to let them tell me how to live my life any more. If they want to have a relationship with me, they will have to accept me as I am because I am through trying to play a game I could never win.

One day when I was forty-five, I was still telling a lie they taught me—that I was home schooled. It wasn’t a conscious lie, it came so naturally to say it, I said without thinking and then I screamed. I told someone I had been home schooled because this is what I had been taught to say. As a teenager, I had to say it or I would be belted. As an adult I had to say to protect their reputation and stay in good rapport with them.

That day I went home and screamed at myself in the mirror. I realized I had been trying to please them for over 45 years and a lot of was because I was taught to submit to their will. Even my issues with God came from these beltings. If the biggest person can bully others to do what they want, then why would I trust God who has all power in the universe?

The last time I saw my parents, I tried to explain how much these beltings have affected my life. My words fell on deaf ears because they believe they are right and I am wrong and they back it up with scripture because according to Christian tradition, the Bible says we should spank children. I know I’m not the only one who has childhood post traumatic shock because of beltings. People write me every week to tell me their stories and most of them include being beaten into submission in the name of God. One reader says she ended up in a fetal position on the floor with family members yelling at her. All of this was done in the name of religion and love.

Recently a landmark study about spanking has shown spankings are not as effective as people once thought. This study covered fifty years and 160,000 people. The term spanking in the article was not referring to beatings, but a swat on the butt.

This study has incited arguments all over social media with lots of people who didn’t even bother to read the study saying, “I was spanked and I turned out just fine.” The truth is if they said this without reading the study, they didn’t turn out fine. They are mere sheep following the crowd because the spankings they had in their formative years, taught them not to question and think for themselves.

One guy said he was spanked and he turned out just fine. I didn’t say anything because I’ve known him for years. I have seen him punish his little children in an anger fit and yell that they deserve a spanking. I also know his temper and anger are part of the reason his wife left him. He thinks he turned out all right, but why is he still trying to control his adult son? It’s a sad thing to see the damage done to this father son relationship because this man feels he still needs to wield power over his children.

There are two groups of people who will argue for spankings–narcissistic parents and religious parents and heaven forbid they meet up in Religious Narcia. The first narcissistic group of parents have to be right. They used physical violence over their children to bully and control them. Narcs feel justified in hitting their kids into submission because the world revolves around them and they feel they shouldn’t be bothered to take time to patiently discipline their children.

The second group are religious people who were spanked and taught to spank and feel it is God’s requirement to spank their child. Despite the fact it’s a misunderstood quote, despite the fact that Jesus never modeled spanking children, many of us have been spanked in God’s name. Even angry and abusive parents have justified beating their children supposedly for their children’s salvation. So what is this misquoted verse?

Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children
is careful to discipline them.
-Proverbs 12:24

This verse definitely supports discipline but there is a marked difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline teaches and corrects, while punishment gets even for a behavior. If all the parents who used spanking to discipline thought about it, they might realize there are much better ways to train and get a point across than hitting their child. But it’s easier to hit them than reason with them. Being a parent is hard work and many feel they don’t have time to reason to they hit their children into submission.

The most important thing to note about this bible verse is to realize what a rod actually is–it’s not a switch it a belt. It’s a shepherd’s rod. To fully understand the meaning if this verse we need to consider how a shepherd guides his sheep. He leads and prods them and rescues them with the rod, but he doesn’t hit them with it. If he started hitting every wayward sheep, he would have chaos. Sheep are followers and not very smart. They need rescuing and guidance, but beatings won’t help with either of those goals.

This rod is NOT used for spanking.

What is used for? To guide, to prod, to rescue and lead. The fact that so many parents defend spanking with this verse and ignore the non-violent words and lifestyle of Jesus, reveals their Christianity is not about Christ, but human tradition. Using power over small children to hurt them because they don’t do what the parent wants is not only cruel, but it’s unchristian–as in unChrist-like.

There is another well quoted verse which mentions the rod from the 23rd Psalm:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Apparently this comforting rod of the great shepherd is not to beat us when we are in fear of death. It’s very obvious this rod is not used for spanking. There is no comfort in a beating or a spanking.

Probably one of the worst arguments for spanking is the one that we can reason with older kids, but the youngest and most fragile in our families should be spanked. This argument takes the stance that babies who can’t talk or reason need spankings to communicate to them. Intelligent parents must surely contemplate what they communicating to their helpless baby by hitting them. They are saying, “I am the boss. Your needs are to be put on hold for my comfort. You are to conform to my request for quiet or whatever the spanking has provoked.

Someone shared a story with me from Astrid Lingren who wrote Pippi Longstocking. It was about a pastor’s wife who felt her little boy needed a switching. She told him to go out and pick a switch for her to use. He was gone a long time, then he came back crying with a rock. He said he couldn’t find any good switches, but she could throw this rock at him.

I cried when I read that story because it doesn’t matter if you hit with a stick or a rock, it hurts and it hurts deep inside the child’s psyche. Please don’t say that hitting is okay as long as you don’t beat them, you never know what is happening to their heart. And it only takes anger to go from a gentle spanking to a horrible beating. It does damage to children to realize their parent who they trust and adore intends to hurt them. That is the part of many of us that is broken. As the child grows up and leaves home, it will come out in all forms of violence against self through addictions.

Jesus is very fond of young children. He says to let them come to him–not so he can hit them, but so he can bless them. Jesus also has very strong words for anyone who harms a little child.

While he was dying on the cross, Jesus spoke of his abusers and said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” but he has much harsher words for those who harm children. Jesus said it would be better for them to have a millstone hung around their neck.

This millstone is not retributive justice as some might mistakenly think–this is Jesus describing the terrible condition and lack of conscience it takes to harm a child. Jesus is basically saying if you stoop this low, there is very little hope for your salvation–not because God wants to kill you, but because the act of harming others changes you and it could make you contemplate suicide and/or lose your salvation.

We can’t take these words of Jesus lightly. They’ve been used against all kinds of evil, but perhaps our Christian tradition of justifying hitting God’s most vulnerable and precious children has seared the consciences of many to imagine they are doing the work of God–when in fact they are doing the work of the enemy and harming their children.

If you are still reading this, you must surely understand by now that the rod is not used for hitting. That God does not ask us to spank children. That Jesus wants us to discipline and teach children to live non-violent lives, but that won’t happen unless it starts at home. We now have a very large, long term study which shows the long term effects of hitting children is not a viable option. It doesn’t work. It only damages them far into their adult lives. We now have no more excuses for ignorance and continued spanking of children.

One thing most ACoNs know for sure is what happens in childhood, never stays in childhood, but according to Jesus, what happens on earth never stays on earth. Jesus says the angels of all little children look into the Father’s face in heaven–which means that all of heaven is watching and fully aware of those who choose to hurt children. If the Father sees a sparrow fall, then how much more does he see a child spanked?

Jesus also said whatever we do to the least of these, we’ve done to him.

Love and Logic has great ideas on non-violent parenting

Here is information about that Spanking Study

Why the Narc Can’t Steal Your Courage

15 Apr

According to her mother, Heidi is the black sheep of the family, but she wasn’t always the black sheep. She used to be her narc mother’s extension. If her mother wanted the rest of family to do something, Heidi was the flying monkey golden child who passed on her messages when her mother was upset. If her mother despised anyone, Heidi was expected to hate them too.

One day her mother had a big blowout with her sister. Heidi loved her aunt and refused to take sides–plus she knew her mom was the narc who was only thinking about herself. And that’s how Heidi became the black sheep because she decided to walk away from all the drama.

Courage Survivor Girl Print, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21561899-courage-dear-heart?c=317903-little-red-wisdom

Prints and Pillows Available Here

One of the biggest misconceptions about Adult Children of Narcissists is that they lack the courage to move on in life. Just because we are still affected by the events of our childhood, it doesn’t mean we haven’t moved on.

The truth is most ACONs* accepted their childhood for what it was–after all most of us knew of nothing else at the time. We thought our family life (strange as it was) was normal. No, it was the events in adulthood which finally woke most of us up.

It was only after we discovered how aftermath of narcissistic abuse has taken its toll on our health, finances and relationships.

Whatever we might think about ACONs, we can’t call them cowards. If you are reading this because of your past or current situation, just pause here and give yourself a hand for getting this far.

You are a survivor–whether the narcissistic abuse was physical, mental, emotional, sexual or spiritual–just the fact you are reading this means you are seeking awareness.

It takes courage to wake up and discover things are not right, but it takes greater courage to speak of this truth and alienate our family members.

It takes courage to get off the superficial merry-go-round and throw the mask away, but it takes greater courage to forge a new path where no one in the family has gone before.

It takes courage to decipher our childhood mysteries and try to make sense of it and it takes greater courage to forgive ourselves for sleep walking through life and not seeing it before.

It takes courage to discover the people we love are unhealthy for us, but it takes greater courage to walk away from codependency and have tough love.

It takes courage to stand up for the truth against the onslaught of flying monkeys, but it takes greater courage to forgive them for they know not what they do.

It takes courage to do self-care when our parents raised us to put them first in everything, but it takes greater courage to get up in the morning and go out into the world and take control of our own destiny.

It takes courage to walk away from dead and false religion because it sucked the life out of our souls, but it takes greater courage to continue seeking truth in all things.

It takes courage to carry love in our hearts for parents who never put us first in childhood and now treat us with contempt, but it takes even greater courage to admit the fact they will never change.

It takes courage to go no contact and separate from our abusers, but it takes greater courage to reach out and form new family.

It takes courage to walk away from the hate and expectations of the narcissist, but it takes greater courage to find our own value and values and choose to fly.

It takes courage to say no to to the things that steal life, but greater courage to say yes to the possibilities that might bring a better life.

So don’t let the narc and the flying monkeys get you down. They can’t steal your courage–you are a courageous soul!

The paradox of having a courageous heart
is that it requires you to name things
that are not kind, not loving and not restored.
We need honesty.
-Dan Allender

Courage, dear heart!
-C.S. Lewis

*ACON – Adult Children of Narcissists

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

Print and Accessories Available Here

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 Shame

18 Mar

In Nola’s childhood, no one acknowledged what her father did to her. Not her mother who rationalized his abuse. Not her grandmother who looked the other way. Not her teacher who saw some of her bruises. Not even her flying monkey siblings who joined the denial bandwagon despite their own abuse.

Because Nola was the only person in her family refusing to ignore the abuser’s sins, her family made fun of her for remembering. She was scapegoated and left alone to deal with the emotional pain. If she mentioned it to anyone, she was accused of living in the past. In Nola’s family, the accusation of living in the past was said with great contempt—contempt which should’ve been reserved for the evil done to her.

Nola left home and found a counselor and began to heal. Years later, she realizes how the damage is still affecting the lives of her siblings and their children to this day.

Many of us felt shame before we even have a chance to make our own choices. It’s important to determine if this is congenital shame as the result of being human and born into a dysfunctional family, or this shame is our own. If someone beat you or molested you that shame is theirs and you need to find a way to get rid of it immediately before it does any more damage to your soul. The sins of parents affect their children and grandchildren.

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

Print Available Here

Evil covered up, only creates more toxic people and destroys entire families. This is what the commandment means when it says the sins of the fathers will affect their children to the third and fourth generations. Many misinterpret this to mean God is punishing children for their father’s sins, but the Bible refutes that idea.

The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins…
-Ezekiel 18:20

Consider the case of an alcoholic who beats his child. That child grows up to drink and beat their own child and so it continues for generations unless someone stops the pattern.

Often evil is portrayed as spooky and bloody faces with demonic laughter or murderous affairs. Many books and movies misrepresent evil with a broad stroke. Even the devil is treated like a caricature with red skin and horns and pitchfork, but according to the Bible, the devil actually appears as an angel of light. True evil often appears benign.

M. Scott Peck in his book, The People of the Lie, describes parents who ignore their children’s physical and emotional needs. These parents are model citizens who dress in the best clothes to go to church and work in competent careers, yet they have no empathy for their own children.

God intended parents to represent God to their children. Parents were to provide and support and encourage and act like Jesus to their children.  The narcissistic parent is far from a Christ-like example to their children.

The chaotic family led by a shame-filled narcissist creates an environment where lack of parental love robs us of self-worth and identity, this in turn creates shame and thus shame perpetuates more shame while the cycle continues. This is part of the generational curse which comes with narcissism. A golden child might grow up to be a narc like their parent. Of course not every golden child grows into a narc—it’s just one possibility due to disordered parenting. The scapegoat might suffer in different ways and abuse their own children in new patterns.

It is natural to self-protect, but the desire for self-protection to the point of avoiding vulnerability is actually toxic. At the heart of malignant narcissism is the desire to protect self. This survival of the fittest mentality is what causes the narc to be unsafe. There are times we need to self-protect because we were naive and vulnerable to the point of being door mats. The type of self-protection that is toxic is when it harms others and protects our self to the point we over look our own sins and mistakes because we want to look good. Narcs always want to look good so in the process, they damage other people in order to protect themselves.

We all mistakes, the issue of re-framing shame is to first get rid of toxic shame that someone else thrust on us before we allow God heal our broken parts through healthy community and sharing of our stories.

If a true princess has done wrong,
she is always uneasy until
she has had an opportunity
of throwing the wrongness
away from her by saying:
“I did it; and I wish I had not;
and I am sorry for having done it.”
-George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Often those who are the most shame-filled become narcs. They feel so low about themselves they will do all they can to save face and look good. Such people can’t take off their masks because they can’t bear to face the truth about themselves and they’ll do everything to destroy anyone who exposes them. This survival of the fittest mentality of power over is evil.

Narcissism gives us a front row seat to what evil looks like. Ask any ACoN who has tried to have a relationship with their parents. We all know the cold shoulder given when the narc no longer uses us. We know the exclusion and ostracizing that happens when we don’t go along with lies. We know what it is like to be shunned and shunted away from the family and left to suffer alone. Unfortunately society winks at evil and many turn their heads the other way.

When ACONs* re-frame the shame we once lived with and call evil by its right name, we can changed the landscape of our families. It might take years for others to wake up, but at least we have taken a stand and declared, “This far and no more.” When we choose the light of honest living, we can no longer accept the darkness. The truth has set us free from the family curse.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
-Isaiah 5:20

 

*ACoN-Adult Children of Narcissists