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Be a One Woman Riot

25 Feb

When I was a kid, if my siblings and I argued or made too much noise, we were put on silence. Silence meant we were not allowed to speak or make any noise. If we found a way to communicate through spelling letters through sign language or motioning, we might even be put on frozen statue. Frozen statue meant you were not to move at all. No touching or laughing or smiling because a smile meant you might be up to something. If you did not obey the rules of silence and frozen statues, then you could be beaten with the Persuader. Such was the “fascist regime” of my childhood. And while I loved my parents, I hoped to leave such control behind by the time I reached adulthood.

Of course I didn’t realize when people can no longer control you with the belt, they will guilt and shame and shun to push you into doing what they want. Even as a young adult, I rarely spoke to my siblings about what happened in our childhood because to do so was considered breaking the ultimate rule of family togetherness. Family togetherness means you never speak of the past—not even to each other–all must be forgiven and forgotten.

Family togetherness also means you never, ever speak about the family to outsiders. And in case you are wondering, I’m doing that right now. I’ve been doing it for seven years and I have had less phone calls from my parents than you can count on one hand. Every year, I get an email from my mom acknowledging that I was born on my birthday, but my attempts to have a real relationship with them is very limited—not because I don’t want to have one, but because they feel I have broken the rules of family togetherness and they basically have no interest in my life.

Simply speaking about things that happened over thirty years ago makes me a monster to them, but I am writing a memoir—not out of anger toward them (actually I hope to portray them with love and compassion) but because my childhood was unique and strange and it was very hard for me to grow up when I got out into the real world.

Speak the Truth Healing Fowers, Cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/509653965/speak-the-truth-giclee-print-8x10-or?ref=shop_home_active_1

Prints Available in Etsy Shop, Accessories at Red Bubble

So why can’t I keep quiet? Because if I don’t speak up, no one will ever have known that I was alive or what happened in my life. No one will know what it is like to have Mt. St. Helens blow up your life and be isolated from other teenagers and denied an education while you wait for Jesus to come. I have to speak it because it was not just their lives that were affected by their choices, it was my life. These are my stories, not so much theirs, but they do play a major part.

I’ve mentioned how the current US administration brings on my childhood PTSD. It’s the authoritarian rule. In the past no matter which party was in office, it was not a huge deal because presidents from both sides respected the U. S. constitution and at least made an effort to treat all people as equal. But my PTSD was most recently triggered this last week by the treatment of the press by the White House.

I took some journalism classes in college and the first thing we were taught is the press is the watchdog on the White House steps and to imagine it being muzzled reminds me of many fascist regimes throughout history and the losses of freedom including religion. The worst part about this is that so many, even within my religious community, seem unable to see this.

My sweet grandma always kept a diary. I call her sweet because whenever I walked into the room, she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And she wasn’t playing favorites, I’ve seen her greet my male cousins and brother and my sisters in the same way. I think it could be fair to say she was kind to even her son in laws who really never seemed to respect her very much. There was a lot of eye rolling because she didn’t cook much and she did CPR on cats at least twice to save their lives. It’s true she talked to cats and raccoons and skunks and birds. She was like a Grandma Doolittle and many people were nervous about the skunks she fed on her back porch. It could be said about Grandma that she walked with skunks and angels.

Grandma talked to Jesus and about Jesus every day. And for decades, she kept a diary. The contents were often mundane about the weather or her pets, but sometimes they told stories of her faith in God and how he came through for her. She lived through her parents’ divorce which mortified her and separated her from her siblings and she endured the great depression and worked as Rosie the Riveter during WWII and endured many sad events such as losing her first born child at birth. Grandma lived a life of faith despite her pain.

When Grandma hurt her hip and ended up in elder care, my parents took all those decades of diaries and burned them in a big bonfire. They took away her voice before she was even dead. My siblings and I were appalled when they told us but no one confronted them because we knew it would make things harder in our family to get along.

Silence. Silence from one party can mean sadness, anger, disconnection, or even death. But forced silence is another thing altogether. Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.

During the Women’s March I saw a video of a group of women singing a song by MILCK. My husband played it for me because he thought I would like it and when I heard it, my eyes immediately filled with tears. This is why I must write on. I can’t stop my blog or my memoir as hard as it is when I have no family to support me in telling my story, I will press on because Jesus cares.

Jesus never asks us to keep quiet about our pain or to ignore injustice. Jesus comes to each of us with love and forgiveness, but he always, always leans in to listen to our pain. I have a friend who had an abortion decades ago and she is still feeling ashamed about it. I asked her if her little boy ran over his pet turtle on his bike and was feeling horrible about it, would she care about the turtle who was not in any more pain now, or for her child? She said her child of course.

Jesus is like that. He knows we have all messed up big time at some point in our lives, but he cares more about our hearts than anything we have done wrong. This is true for parents as well as children.  But the one thing Jesus doesn’t ask us to do is be silent when we have been hurt. We are free under God’s government to share our stories and to tell our stories because this is how we overcome (Rev. 12:11).

So I don’t know about you, but I am nervous about this changing of the guard from a land of freedom of speech and diversity to a land where we are threatened to be quiet if we have a different opinion or color of skin from the powers that be, this is not how God runs his government. Jesus runs his government on freedom for all and he says we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

If you have been shamed and abused, don’t worry if someone scapegoats you and calls you a monster. Don’t let them shut you up. You are not alone. You are one of many. Tell your story. Embrace the messy truth, speak the honest truth and cherish the value of your own voice. I’m doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence. Let’s not be quiet. We can each become a one woman riot! Viva la resistance!

Put on your face,
Know your place,
Shut up and smile,
Don’t spread your legs,
I could do that

But no one knows me, no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, if I just lie still.
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let them hear what I have to say?

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone
Anymore

Cuz no one knows me no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
They may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this, do it anyway

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh I can’t keep quiet

Let it out let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
Must be someone who’ll understand

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone,
No, not any more.

-Written by Connie Lim and Adrianne Gonzalez

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.”

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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.

Giving Women Wings

17 Nov

Girlfriends we are in a war. Not the kind you read about in the news feed, but a private and personal war. It’s an attack on woman-kind. And the enemy is not cut and dried like one sports team against the other where the color of the uniform informs. It’s a war of men against woman–but not all men. It’s hidden abuse behind closed doors with men who view women as less than themselves. The battle is real for a mother who can’t sleep at night because the man she married and the father of her child is an abusive narcissist.

In a world where people are fighting over whether it’s PC to wear safety pins, God calls Women and there are true Ezer Kenegdos who are rising and making a difference with their hands and feet. I’d like to introduce you to a ministry called, “Give Her Wings.” Their goal is to help women get on their feet and find their wings.

Many times women are shamed by the church and accused of being codependent, but the truth is many victims of narcissistic abuse are stuck in a trauma bond. This means they have been abused to the point they can’t find themselves anymore. These women are in a fight for survival and any little crumb of kindness thrown at them by the narcissist–while it might seem like nourishment to to them—is actually a part of the poison. These lies are part of the abuse cycle to reel women in with kindness and then berate them with abuse. Such treatment could wear down the strongest of women if she is gas-lighted on a daily basis.

Give Her Wings is making a difference one woman, one family at a time. We know narcs rarely change. When these women wait for their abusers to change, it erodes their self-worth and damages their children who are growing up with fighting in the home. The only solution to such horrible abuse is to go no contact, but because so many Christians are ignorant about narcissistic abuse, these women often fall through the cracks because they feel ashamed to ask for help.

This is where Give Her Wings not only offers financial support, but spiritual and emotional support to help women remember who they were created to be in order to regain their wings of independence. Here is some of their philosophy in their own words:

“We do not encourage our mamas to look back at their old life with their abusive ex-husbands; we do not link them to those men. That is over and done with. We encourage them to move forward and press on to the new life Jesus is giving them. And we do everything we can to help with that.” -David

“We love our mamas, we do not try to help anyone “reconcile” with an abuser, knowing that this is impossible. We meet vulnerability with even more dignity and we give mercy right where they are and where we are.” –Megan

I was recently honored when Give Her Wings purchased some of my art and I decided to look into their platform and I was amazed what a small group of people can do when they serve one woman at a time. It literally brought tears to my eyes.

Ezer Angel, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23882013-ezer-kenegdo-angel

Prints and Pillows Available Here

I’ve thought a lot about women–how God created us as Ezer Kenegdos to reflect Herself–the feminine side of God. That God Herself also is called Ezer several times when the crisis is great and people need a lifesaver. The women (and men) at Give Her Wings are acting as true lifesavers, true Ezer Kenegdos helping God restore women by helping them rediscover their original Ezer glory and freedom in their Creator. This is the way to healing—to know who created us and who we were meant to be–I believe this is the only way any of us can find our true healing.

So I was just playing around with my paper and glue and this angel showed up to remind me we can all be Ezer Kenegdos–we can all be lifesavers who come alongside–this is who we were designed to be. When I am painting, I never know how the art will emerge. As I prayed for this ministry called Give Her Wings, I was reminded of so many ways we can all be angels to give other women wings and I added a few ideas at the bottom.

As Christmas approaches Give Her Wings has raised gifts for twenty two mothers and over forty children this Christmas. That’s amazing, but they continue to work all year round to free women from the chains of abuse. Their website and facebook page offer articles to help women support others and realize what narcissism is so they can get on with their lives and fly.

Bravo to Give Her Wings! I can’t imagine a more powerful work! Let’s follow the example of Give Her Wings and look for opportunities to serve the women and children around us.

PS If you are looking for a worthy cause to donate to before the end of the year, I highly recommend Give Her Wings.

Don’t forget to check out their links:

About Give Her Wings

Give Her Wings Website

Give Her Wings on Facebook

A Great Article About Trauma Bonds

Why You Need to Talk with Your Younger Self

25 Aug

Have you ever met a stranger who reminds you of your Grandma? Or reminds you of a mean aunt who verbally abused you? When we react to other people and various stimuli, we are often reacting to our past experiences. These clues might seem like nothing at first, but consider how the triggers of the past influence the decisions and relationships we have today. This is why you need to have a talk with your younger self.

Do you love the smell of crayons and hate the smell of dodge ball rubber? This could be your seven year old self sending you messages about how fun it is to make art and how dangerous it is to get hit with an ugly red ball. Do you love certain songs and hate others? Perhaps this is your teenage self feeling nostalgic or remembering a sad episode of your younger life.

There is meme circulating through social media telling us to stop looking in the rear-view mirror. It reasons looking back is wrong because that’s not where we’re headed. It seems like sound advice until we remember there’s a very important reason for the rear-view mirror–to protect us from backing up into places we don’t want to go.

The rear-view mirror could even save your life by avoiding an accident. If we ignore the rear-view mirror we might crash, but a smart driver understands when to look in forward and when to look in the mirror. It’s the same way with remembering the past and planning the future.

Your body and character might have changed, but deep in your mind, there is still a place where that little child resides in fear or joy and longs for love. You can’t ignore that voice because it influences your life today.

I’m all the ages I’ve ever been.
-Anne Lamott

Life is mostly going forward, but sometimes we run into situations that require looking in the rear-view mirror. To refuse to listen to your younger self is like backing up without looking in the mirror.

Elephant Girl, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518803-elephant-girl-inner-child?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

Prints and Accessories Available Here

One reason we need to remember our past is to make wrongs right. If you have a narc parent, they won’t help you do this. As a matter of fact they will do everything they can to discourage you from remembering the past. Their behavior is not about you, but about them because they aren’t proud of the way they treated you. They will say why can’t you forgive and forget? Why do you have to live in the past? They will talk about you to other people because they would rather lie about you than hear the truth about themselves. They will send in the flying monkeys to shame you for remembering the past.

(I’ve been accused of living in the past but I am a seven on the enneagram.  If anybody knows anything about an enneagram seven, they realize we love to think about the future and care very little about the past.) It doesn’t really matter what others say, remembering the past is a gift we can give ourselves.

For one thing it’s impossible to completely forget the past, because the body remembers what the mind forgets. There is a place in the brain that stores our memories and sometimes without even trying, a memory comes back and slaps us in the face. This is body memory.

Those of us who were belted can feel it all over again whenever we see or hear a belt slapping against something. My body has never forgotten the stinging on the back of my legs or the bruises as they formed. To even see the belt section on a department store as a middle aged woman has freaked me out.

One conversation I’ve had with my younger self is to explain how the belt was wrong. I didn’t deserve to be belted over and over in anger. This was not based on a true understanding of scripture. When the twenty-third Psalm states “Thy rod comforts me,” it’s not talking about a beating. Shepherds don’t beat their sheep.

It’s important for you to remind your little girl or boy inside they are no longer in danger and no one can harm them now. It’s okay to speak your truth and it’s okay to tell your stories. People who are angry or shun you because you choose truth don’t deserve to be in your life.

As I am writing a childhood memoir, I’ve enjoyed connecting with my younger self. I’ve learned I can love this little girl inside and protect her. I’ve had to teach her a few things like the fact she can’t eat all the junk food she wants. I’ve had to teach her to exercise more and that self-care is not selfish. I’ve had to teach her it’s totally okay to say no to projects she’s not interested in and it’s always right to avoid unsafe people.

I’m also teaching her it’s okay to put on nice perfume and get your hair done and dance with your husband and go on a road trip and take time to smell the flowers. The lessons I’m teaching my little girl are endless. I care for her like I would a real child because I’m giving her the love and freedom she didn’t get years ago.

What about you? How are you talking to your hidden child?

Here are some ideas you might want to try:

Have you reminded her how Jesus cares about her heart?

Have you helped her accept the apology she never got?

Have you discovered how she was asked to play a game she could never win?

Did one of her parents or both use her as a mirror?

What are the rules she grew up with that need to be rewritten?

Remember to make this fun, give your child the freedom to dance, rock out, make art, vote as she likes, dress to express herself and tell her stories.

It is never too late to give yourself the childhood you’ve always wanted.

F the Trauma Bond

17 Apr

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

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

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

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

Pillow Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Mug Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Muhammad Ali

Got Respect?

22 Dec

Tessa was an accomplished chef and wonderful hostess, but her sisters in law and mother in law did not appreciate her talents. They simply thought 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.

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 if she felt worthy of respect.

Tessa wanted to be worthy, but she found it hard to say the word. It seemed easier to believe she was unworthy, than admit she actually deserved respect. She made a list of reasons why she should be respected by her in-laws before the next family dinner.

They barely began to eat before her sister-in-law made a snarky remark about her roast. Tessa took a deep breath and asked her how she would feel if a guest did the same thing at her house. Her sister in law was stunned. She had no more to say until they were clearing the dishes, then she asked if she would like some help in the kitchen. Tessa said yes, but her hands were shaking so bad the china rattled.

 

In the kitchen, instead of a tongue lashing, her sister in law apologized for her rude behavior. She realized she’d been following the cues of her mother for years without thinking for herself.

If you are dealing with a malignant narcissist such a friendly resolution might not happen, but taking a stand for your own dignity is always worth it regardless of how others might respond.

Disrespect can be blamed for 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 pick on people who aren’t present to defend themselves.

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.

At the heart of disrespect for each other, often lies a lack of self-respect. People tear down others 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.

While a deficit of disrespect has sickened our families, respect is the vitamin to restore them 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. 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 if they don’t.

Mantra:
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.
-Confucius

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.
-Unknown

 

It’s Not You, It’s the Narc

16 Dec

When Allie met Josh, he told her she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. Allie thought he was sweet because he was always giving her compliments on her work, her home and her personality. For the first time in her life she felt appreciated. As an ACoN* growing up with a negligent Narc father who barely noticed her, she thought she’d finally met the man of her dreams.

Fast forward a year and Allie was hurt when Josh suggested she lose some weight and get a new haircut to look younger. Allie was also beginning to notice how rude Josh could act to other people. Sometimes she was shocked to hear him lie to his mother which made her wonder if he lied to her too.

A few months later when Allie discovered he was cheating on her, Josh blamed it on her inability to keep him happy. Allie thought of all things she did to please him. She remembered how Josh had said she was perfect in the beginning and now she tried to figure out where she’d gone wrong.

Allie called up her friends asking them what was wrong with her that Josh would treat her this way. Friend after friend said it was not Allie’s fault, but it was Josh who was the obnoxious one. Allie hadn’t seen it before and she struggled to comprehend how a man who once had so many nice things to say about her, could turn and trash her now.

Allie had believed these compliments represented Josh’s true feelings, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in their relationship had ever been about Allie. Josh’s compliments had merely been a way to win her affection so he could use her for narcissistic feed. Josh borrowed her money, expected her to cook and clean for him and wanted her to support his career, but he didn’t care about Allie’s needs at all. If she failed in any way to meet his expectations, Josh accused her of being selfish and trashed her accomplishments.

Josh’s goal was to manipulate Allie into trying harder to please him, while Allie’s goal was to restore what she thought was lost. But the truth was Allie was chasing something she’d never had in the first place. It was a painful lesson to learn, but Josh (like all Narcs) was a fake now and had been a fake all along.

When Josh left Allie, he blamed their break up on her. He called her a lazy nag because she didn’t like his cheating and didn’t meet his needs. He said if she really wanted it to work it out, she could’ve tried harder. After he left, Allie got sick and depressed. She missed work and isolated from her real friends because she felt used and thrown away by one person. Allie was just as beautiful and smart as she had been before, but her self-image had been twisted by a Narc.

One day a friend gave her the number of a good therapist and Allie decided to give counseling a try. Through counseling, Allie finally understood why her entire relationship with Josh had been a fraud. Nothing Josh said or did had never been about her–it had always been about Josh and his needs. Her lack of love from a negligent Narc father had allowed her to let a malignant Narc into her head and destroy her self-love.

Allie has learned to never allow a Narc to twist her mind and steal her joy with their petty insults. Josh never really knew her–Narcs don’t take time to care for others. She has decided she is worth having relationships with real people who are willing to invest in honest and loving ways.

After a few months Allie grew stronger and she was good to date again, but this time she had the boundaries in her head. Never again will she allow anyone else to approve or disapprove of her. Allie finally internalized the truth that whatever other people say and do is always about them—not her. If she allows herself to be flattered by the compliments of other people, she also sets herself up to be devastated by their insults.

This is an essential truth for all of us—whether it’s a parent, spouse or co-worker—whatever people say and do is never about you–it’s always about them. And it’s all the more relevant when dealing with a Narc.

*ACoNs —Adult Children of Narcissists