Tag Archives: ACON

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

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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 Narcissist Define You

24 Feb

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

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

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

Me wanting to listen to whatever music I liked,

Me choosing to spend my own money,

Me eating whatever I liked,

Me dressing or wearing my hair however I liked,

And me worshipping God the way I felt led.

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

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

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

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

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are not unloving to ask for what you need.

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

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

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

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.

Celebrate Only in Freedom

20 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We need to forgive and forget.”

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

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

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

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

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

Honest Elephant, Cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant-words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Elephant of Narcissism

9 Sep

There’s a phrase, the elephant in the living room,
which purports to describe what it’s like
to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser.
People outside such relationships will sometimes ask,
“How could you let such a business go on for so many years?
Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?”
And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation
to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth:
“I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in.
I didn’t know it was an elephant;
I thought it was part of the furniture.”
-Stephen King

The Persuader came after me twice when I was seventeen. Once was for not cleaning the kitchen fast enough and the second time for running away because my parents wouldn’t let me go to school.

I recently wrote a book review for a book by Shannon Thomas titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. I found her book compelling because she uses the term “hidden abuse.”  I hadn’t heard that term before but I really like it. I like it because for most of our lives those of us who grew up with narcissism in our families struggled with invisible bruises and scars. Like the elephant hiding in the room, we couldn’t always see it for what it was, but we felt it. And we aren’t alone.

The neighbors didn’t see it. The pastor didn’t see it. The teachers didn’t see it. The grandparents didn’t see it. Aunts and uncles didn’t see it. Because the abuse was hidden. It was hidden behind closed doors. Shame poured on like syrup on pancakes if we didn’t go along. It was hidden in the dark corner of the house and the darkest corner of our souls where so many times we couldn’t even see it ourselves. Sometimes it was hidden where nobody could see it except for God.

And the question for many of us is, “Where was God?” We can take comfort in the fact “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). And Jesus says, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all” (Luke 8:17).

I personally have no desire for vengeance or revenge. I believe such feelings are harmful, but I don’t blame people for having these feelings. It’s easier for me to release resentment because holding a grudge has never been my style. And part of the reason for this is I often didn’t realize how much I was affected by this hidden abuse. I justified my feelings. I rationalized my abusers’ behavior. It was so hidden sometimes I couldn’t even see it.

People have asked me why, thirty years after the fact, I feel a need to write this memoir. Because of hidden abuse. Because the abuse of thirty years ago has left welts on my soul that never seem to heal and it wasn’t until I read Shannon Thomas’s book that I understood why. It’s the secret. The cover up. The denial that I joined in to save my own mind at times. And it would be great to say it’s all water under the bridge, but it’s still not over. When your parents lie and talk about you and try to turn everyone away from you, you know it’s not over.

What bothers me the most, is the lack of honesty. When dealing with right talkers, they see every conversation as a game to win. It seems some want to win by a technicality where they don’t speak an actual lie, but they live one. Or they use that old trick of all politicians and say they don’t remember. They figure if they can just forget an incident I can too. And if we all forget it, it never happened. The problem comes because I am still reeling from the effects of the past and now dealing with the lies repeated to me.

Honest Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23109846-honest-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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Not every lie sounds like a lie. Sometimes lies are simply a piece or part of the truth. Sometimes lies are told in silence through facial expressions which fail to reveal the heart. Sometimes lies are told by telling a part of the truth and omitting significant details.

Sometimes lies are told with vague words and lack of commitment as some do when they say your outfit is weird or unique or interesting when they really mean it’s ugly. Or when they ignore the rest of the truth and speak only enough of the truth to entice the listener to accept their words as the end of the conversation when in reality so much more has happened and needs to be discussed.

I think the worst lies are those said to appease the conscience. When some says I love you, but they can’t stand you enough to call you once a year or share what is going on in their own life because they merely call you to say they called you or to get information to carry back to the narc.

This is how I was taught to be dishonest as a child. To prevaricate and rationalize our position to soothe conscience and say the least I could, so as to not to be caught in a lie. It might seem like a white lie, but such subtle techniques destroy relationships and families. And it helps us confuse God with our parents which is just another lie.

As I think about my life and where I long to be, it’s always, always in that place of honesty where faces are true and we can look into each other’s eyes and not hide a thing. I crave emotional honesty. I soak up spiritual honesty where our stories are messy, but we can tell the truth about our dirty secrets anyway.

A huge part of the pain of this hidden abuse continues because of the secrets we have had to endure and the fact we can’t mention the past long enough to heal because it might offend the narc. So yeah, thirty years later and we still don’t talk about it. I am reminded of an episode of the Judds where Ashley told her sister about her memoir. Wynonna was upset and said, “Why did you have to do that?” And Ashley replied, “Because you and mom wouldn’t listen any other way.”

My heart ached for Ashley. She gets it because she has lived through hidden abuse. Sometimes people don’t respect us and probably won’t respect us–even when we write the memoir, but we must respect ourselves because our stories matter and God himself does not ask us to hide in the dark.

Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
And memories–good and bad,
Can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.
-Cherilyn Clough

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

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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.

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.

Restoration from Narcissistic Abuse

29 Jul

When I was eleven, I had a tabby cat I loved dearly. When we moved, I had to start school late and to make it worse I had to take the fifth grade for a second time due to all of our moving. I was worried I’d never have any friends. But one thing cheered me, I had a little cat to sleep with me and sometimes she even put her paws up next to my cheek. I went to school for two months before we had to move again.

On this moving day, my cat couldn’t find her litter box because it was lost in the hurry of moving before the landlord got there. My dad hated cat messes and he went into a rage and rubbed the cat’s face in her poop. She scratched him so he threw her against the brick fireplace wall. The cat yowled in pain and ran out the open door. With tears streaming down my face and scared to say very much lest my father belt me, I went outside and called for my cat for the next two hours, but she never came back. My parents packed the car and left while I crooked my head out the back window to look for any signs of my precious kitty while we drove away, but I never saw her again.

For adults on the run, one cat was a just a small loss, but for an eleven year old girl who had very few friends, it was devastating. This happened in winter and a few flakes of snow fell while we left. I cried and cried because I was worried about my kitty, I knew she was hurt and I feared she might die or starve.

This was one of the most traumatic moments of my life, but when you live in a family that’s on the run and hiding, there’s no time to discuss how you feel, so you just stuff it—usually with food. I cried and cried and my mom gave me some peanut M and Ms (my future drug of abuse.) I was holding a large table lamp, but my body had to move so I started to rock back and forth in the car.  That’s when my mom turned around and said, “Stop that, what are you? Retarded?” I tried to sit still, but like much of my childhood, I couldn’t stop rocking due to the things that happened.

For almost forty years after I lost that tabby cat, I’ve always had a cat, but never a tabby. When we went to the humane society to get a cat three years ago, my husband insisted on a half Maine Coon tabby kitten. I didn’t want her. I thought she was ugly, but he really liked her, so I agreed to take the little sprite and figured it would be his cat since we already had a black cat I loved dearly.

Can you imagine? I thought she was ugly? But only for five minutes, because I am a cat lover after all. Oh my word! She has stolen my heart like no cat I’ve ever had before! She sticks with me all day and all night long. Sleeps beside me with her paws around my arm and her face next to mine. She is the only cat who has ever slept as close to me with her paws on my cheek like that little tabby forty years ago. She sits at my feet while I write or wash dishes or paint. She is the most affectionate, smart and crazy cat I’ve ever had.  Here is a painting I made of her.

Kitteh Coon, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13518170-kitteh-coon?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and cards available here

One day I said to my husband, “I wonder why I’ve never liked a tabby cat before, then all of the pain came back to me. Once again, I felt like that helpless eleven year old girl watching her father throw her pet and friend against the brick wall. Then I remembered all the shame that came when I was discouraged from talking or mourning about it. I literally started to rock back and forth just like I did as a child when I remembered this loss.

To be fair, my dad is an old man now who has been known to make a hot water bottle for a stray cat on a cold winter night. But this blog is not about him, it is about me and my healing from the past. If my parents were healthy, they would recognize it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize to your grown children so you can have an authentic relationship with them.

When we are traumatized we either remember it very well or we block it out. I have always remembered this happened, but I tried to forget the details. And one way I dealt with it was to never have another tabby cat. This way I could forget about my painful loss as a child. My plan to avoid dark tabbys was mostly subconscious, but deep down inside my heart I think I always knew. How can we make up such losses that seem to follow us like dark riders for the rest of our lives?

Today I was reading a new book titled Healing from Hidden Abuse. The author Shannon Thomas is a Christian therapist who has written the best book I have ever read on healing from narcissistic abuse. This emotional moment came up for me today because I was reading through the healing part of her book where Shannon explains how we can find ways to give ourselves some of what we’ve lost.

We’ll never get our missing childhoods back, but we can find some restoration in things that have meaning for us. For me, this started when I got this tabby cat. And even as I read Shannon’s book, I realized my Father in heaven was working to restore this broken piece of my heart. My husband picked out this kitten five months before I realized what narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve always felt like that knowledge was a gift from God and now I realize God was even leading in which cat my husband chose for me.

What sort of losses have you suffered?

How are you finding ways to bring restoration back into your life?

Congratulations, It’s a Narc

3 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

Go Where You Are Celebrated, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/20478311-go-where-you-are-celebrated-survive-andthrive?c=540742-survive-to-thrive

Prints and Accessories Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Double Bind on the ACoN Soul

27 May

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

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

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

Speak the Truth, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13762555-speak-the-truth-healing-flowers?c=540575-healing-flowers

Prints and Accessories Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

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