Tag Archives: Boundaries

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.

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?

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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!

How to Survive Spiritual Abuse

5 Nov

In my early twenties, I was part of a Christian music ministry and for nine months we sang at a different church every night. We were told to respect the authority of our leaders because they were set in place by God. One day at training camp, I was slapped in the face for leaving a three hour meeting to run to the bathroom. Some might wonder why I allowed someone to treat me this way, but I was conditioned to accept this spiritual and physical abuse because I was belted until the day I left home at nineteen.

As we traveled slowly across America singing cheerfully, the interpersonal relationships were fun and not so fun at times. Our leader turned out to be a control freak who got mad because we went to McDonald’s for breakfast, so he forced us sit in circle on the floor and demanded that every one of us say we respected him.

Knowing he was abusive and knowing we had done nothing wrong, I refused to say I respected him. This made him more angry so we sat for hours until it was time to leave for the next church. Since he couldn’t force me to say I respected him, he told me to sit in the audience that night instead of singing in the concert. As I sat among strangers trying to hold back the tears, I felt very alone, but God had already provided a gift to encourage me.

After the concert, my host family for the night was a middle aged couple who immediately noticed my red eyes and tear streaked face and threw their arms around me. They were a married couple who were both counselors. When we got to their home, they pulled out a delicious chocolate cake and said, “Let’s talk.”

There is a unique intimacy between strangers which allowed me to be free to tell my story because I knew I would never see them again. I stayed up half the night telling them about my childhood and what was going on in the group. The tools given to me that night have stayed with me through many encounters with abusive people.

1. Never Trust Any One Who Claims to be the Voice of God
The myth of a church leader speaking for God, has done untold damage to millions. Cult leaders often ask people to forgo their conscience to obey their rules as if God has spoken through them. No person is capable of looking inside human hearts and no one will ever be as gracious as God.

If God wanted a person to be his spokesman, Jesus would have told us, but like Brian Zahnd says, “Jesus is what God has to say.” Jesus and his life and teachings is our only safeguard. If someone claims to speak for God and they don’t match up to what Jesus taught, there is no light in them.

Spiritual abuse is the violation of our trust in God
by someone who claims to speak for Him.

2. Recognize the Limits of Their Power Over You
When an abusive leader discovers he/she can no longer control through manipulation and coercion, they will frame dissenters as the scapegoat so others will attack them too. This eventually breaks down relationships and causes schisms within the group.

You might gain some progress by breaking through barriers and befriending those who are trying to shut you out, but if this doesn’t work, look for new family and friends who are open to healthier ways of thinking and living.

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere…
Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground,
carrying it downriver to someplace better.
–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Humans can fire you or exclude you, but they have no real power over your life in the long run. Trust God, stay loyal to him and he will eventually come through for you. No matter what someone does to you, God will ultimately have the last say. It’s easy to feel alone, but greater is He who is within you, than he who is in the world.

3. Realize It’s Okay to be Angry
Beware the Pharisees and flying monkeys who will try to shame you for being angry. Anger in response to poor treatment simply means you have had to confront evil. Whether it’s because of rude behavior or lies or someone trying tarnish your good name, there will be times you feel angry when confronted with injustice and that is really okay as long as you don’t harm anyone with your anger.

God never condones the violation of a person’s freedom–whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual abuse. Jesus got angry when he overturned the tables in the temple to drive out those who stood between the people and God. But his anger was not vengeful or destructive. The Bible reminds us to not to sin in our anger and to not to go to bed angry. It’s important to vent and find a plan to deal with our anger in a constructive manner.

You should be angry. You must not be bitter.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host.
It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.
So use that anger. You write it. You paint it.
You dance it. You march it. You vote it.
You do everything about it. You talk it.
Never stop talking it.
–Maya Angelou

4. Give Yourself Time and Space Away From Toxic People to Heal
Sometimes you need space and distance from toxic people to restore your soul. If you find toxic people at church, take a break from your local church or go to a different class. If you feel sick when you walk through the door, find a safer church. This goes for social media too. If arguing with strangers makes you sick, stay away from those groups. Block toxic people from your page. Let your life be filled with opportunities to serve others, but don’t allow others to shame and control you.

The Twenty Third Psalm is a great comfort to many people. One of my favorite verses came to life during one of my darkest times. Some people in my family were angry because I didn’t join them in excluding someone. To this day we barely talk. During this time, God provided a smorgasbord of better understanding about His character. One day I was reading the twenty-third Psalm and I realized this reality in my spiritual life:

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
-Psalm 23:5

My soul was fed and my mind opened up to many good things and I experienced great peace despite a huge family split. I longed to share my new insights to all of them, but they were more interested in punishing me for not doing what they wanted, than learning anything new. During this time, I literally was given a spiritual banquet—one which any of them could also have experienced, but they refused to partake of it.

5. Stay Connected to God
I have heard from a lot of people who have put up with lots of crap in the name of God. When spiritually abusive leaders lead, it’s important to not let them rob our joy. A few years ago, my husband and I once again had to deal with an abusive leader. We were targeted by a pastor who didn’t like my skits for the youth or my husband’s music. To keep us from doing anything he didn’t agree with, he lied about us. When we found out and tried to speak the truth, he got even more angry and tried to disfellowship us without giving the members any reason. Before it was over, we became very discouraged.

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One day we were walking on the beach and I began to cry, I wondered what would happen if we were disfellowshipped. My husband took my hand and said, “They might take our names out of human books, but no one can take our names out of God’s book of life.”

Something shifted for me that day. Our membership was never taken because there were no grounds for it, but the weird thing was we no longer cared about positions in church or membership to the point it would control what we believe and how we serve.

When it comes to abusive leaders, church structure is irrelevant because they will twist the rules to meet their agendas, but let them play their games. We know where to place our faith and it’s not a denomination, but in Jesus himself.

This world is full of beautiful scenes, loving people and animals, intoxicating flowers and delicious fruit. God graces our views with warm sunshine and inspiring mountains and warm fires—all mere sentiments of his great love for each of us. Look at the reminders in nature all around you. Soak in God’s promises of unconditional love. Abusive leaders will come and go, but God’s government is not based on policies or control, but on freedom. His love is steadfast and will remain so forever.

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.

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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.

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.

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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 

 

Five Myths About Motherhood

5 May

If you had a loving mom, it’s a beautiful thing to acknowledge her for whatever she’s done for you, but it’s also important to understand not everyone has such a mother. Here are five myths about motherhood that might make Mother’s Day easier to get through if you are struggling with a broken relationship with your mom.

Myth #1 Giving Birth Makes a Mother

Giving birth doesn’t actually make a mother. It might, but it’s not a guarantee. What makes a mother is a loving relationship manifested through nurturing and empathy.

God’s intentions for mothers (and fathers) was for them to represent him by procreating in their own image and serving their offspring with other-centered love, teaching them to do the same for the next generation.

Narcissistic mothers give birth and serve self. In this case, birth creates a sort of queen mum to be waited on hand and foot—a so called mother who demands her children meet her every need. Sometimes this includes dictating who her children should marry or even if they can marry. If this is the fruit of her so-called motherhood, then giving birth didn’t create a mother, it just provided more narcissistic feed for a narcissist.

That said, we can still honor egg donors. We can thank them for life–without allowing them to control our lives.

Myth #2 Adopting Makes a Mother

Just as with giving birth, adoption is another opportunity to be a mother–but only if a woman chooses to become a mother through giving other-centered love. There are many adoptive mothers who tenderly love a child as much as any who gave birth. But then there are narcissistic mothers who merely wanted to acquire more children as if they were possessions and when the newness wears off they get bored of motherhood. Motherhood is more than the acquisition of a child, it is a relationship for life.

Narcissistic mothers often fail to nurture because they lack empathy. Empathy is the part of love that allows us to see life through the eyes of another. It’s sad how many mothers both through adoption and birth choose to shun their children because they have no empathy for them and resent their adult children who didn’t turn out the way they wanted them too.

Survivor Girl God Took Me In, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/14231063-god-took-me-in?c=541752-inner-child

Print Available Here

If you had such a mother, you probably already know you can’t live out her expectations for you. It’s important to determine where your mother ends and you begin. Such boundaries will separate your mother from yourself and allow you to become yourself.

Myth #3 God Decides Who Gets to Have Children

While I was growing up, some people used to say “There’s a reason God doesn’t give some people children.” Hmmn… If we believe God has withdrawn his blessing from every infertile couple, then we would have to follow this idea through to its logical conclusion and assume God is purposely giving children to every mother who gives birth. Why would God bless crack addicts and abusers with children, while he withholds babies from honest, loving parents?

I have a friend who is a counselor for an adoption agency. She once said, “I think God stepped back from actively deciding who gets to have children a long time ago and left the choices to us. I think the determining factors as to who can give birth is more likely the result of genetics and health from living in a damaged world.”

That said, every child who comes into this world is still a gift from God. God designed the human family to receive love and a give love and a helpless baby offers us one of the most rewarding opportunities to experience love.

Myth #4 You Can’t Understand Parenting Unless You’re a Parent

To be a mother is to love and nurture. Some of us were mothers at an early age. I changed diapers and bottles and dressed my baby siblings since I was four or five. I never actually thought I was their mother and I had no plans to usurp my mother’s place. I knew we all had the same mother, but I still mothered them.

Chances are if you care about children at all, you have mothered in some sense even if you are not called mother. Mothering is the art of giving in a nurturing way. Mothering is planning a birthday party, soothing a wounded knee and sharing encouragement when a friend is discouraged.

When we think of mothering as a verb, it’s obvious anyone can use empathy and love to nurture others. Mothering can describe the behavior of older siblings, grandmothers, aunts, teachers and really anyone who takes the time to invest in the life of a child. Mother Teresa is a grand example of a true mother heart.

Myth #5 God is Our Father, But Not Our Mother

Some people freak out over references to Mother God, but where do they think mothers came from in the first place? The Godhead said, “Let us create humankind in our image.” Male and female were created in God’s image.

God therefore is as much mother as as a father. Those who are invested in patriarchy, might cling to whatever they’ve been told and struggle to see it, but those with open minds, willing to seek truth in all things, can’t deny God is both masculine and feminine. There are verses throughout the Bible describing the feminine face of God.

The kind of mother we find in God, is the opposite of a narcissistic mother.

When the narc mom demands we jump through arbitrary hoops to please her, our Mother God sets us free to be ourselves.

When the narc mom demands control of the relationship, our Mother God leaves us free to choose if we want a relationship.

When a narc mom makes fun of us and demeans us, our Mother God has designed us to be unique and beautiful and she celebrates who we are.

This mother God is not some false concept, nor is she in disagreement with our Father God–they are one and the same God.

To recap, anybody can give birth or adopt a child, but it takes an empathetic, loving person to be a mother. Anyone can answer to mother, but those who empower a child to grow into her true self instead of controlling who she might become, is mothering. To mother is to be like God. God is the ultimate mother of us all. Let’s honor both our heavenly mother and our earthly mothers and let’s release the narcs to take care of themselves.

Why the Narc Can’t Steal Your Courage

15 Apr

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

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

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

Prints and Pillows Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courage, dear heart!
-C.S. Lewis

*ACON – Adult Children of Narcissists

You Might Have Been Raised by a Narcissist

10 Jan

You Might Have Been Raised by a Narcissist If:

  • You grew up with parents who put their needs above yours
  • You had to clean the house so your parents could come home to a clean one
  • You’ve been lying to bill collectors since you were five
  • You grew up without knowing your relatives because your parent didn’t like them
  • You grew up with flying monkeys and know how to read them
  • You were neglected by parents who ignored your needs
  • You have night terrors about moving again
  • You’ve worn out the carpet walking on eggshells
  • You were told to keep the family secrets from the church, cops and neighbors
  • You dreamed of having friends and not moving, but it never happened
  • You know how to pack up a kitchen in half an hour
  • You know what it means to be on silence and frozen statue
  • You have CPTSD whenever you walk near the belt section in a department store
  • You had to get up and make coffee for your parents before they got out of bed
  • You’ve incurred your parent’s wrath because the car wouldn’t start
  • You earned money, but your parents spent it
  • You grew up thinking white lies were “good” lies
  • You felt guilty and sorry for being born
  • You have a parent who never apologizes
  • You’ve been fired because you can’t stop apologizing
  • You still have a parent who lies about you
  • You are the black sheep—the one who got away
  • You got your self-worth from pleasing your parent
  • You have been called mentally ill because you don’t agree your parent
  • You were smothered by a controlling parent who treated you like a spouse
  • You’ve grown up acting like a doormat
  • You felt your parent’s pain before your own
  • You aren’t sure who you are because you’ve been focused on your parent’s needs
  • You’ve been scapegoated so many times people treat you like satan
  • You have a parent with no conscience
  • You were raised with one rule in your house–power by belt
  • You’ve been called selfish for spending your own money
  • You have a high level of empathy for your apathetic parent
  • You have a parent who takes no responsibility for their own mistakes, but blames you
  • You’ve worried you might be a narcissist
Game She Could Never Win, cherilynclough.com LittleRedSurvivor.com

Prints Available Here

If any of these are true, there is a cause for concern, but if more than half are true, you most definitely were raised by a narcissist. The truth is painful at first, but the truth will also set your free. The important thing to note is you are not alone. There are empathetic people all around you who understand what you went through because they went through it too.

When you discover the truth and reach out to other ACoNs*, you will begin to thrive. It’s okay to admit you were raised by a narc because this is not your identity–it’s the narc’s. You are an empathetic person who longs for integrity and healthy relationships. If you’ve already left home, you no longer need to be controlled by the narc.

Find ways to celebrate your freedom. You deserve peace and joy–acknowledge your stories, but in the words of a wise man:

Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.
-Will Rogers

 

What about you?
What made you realize you were raised by a narcissist?

*ACoN–Adult Children of Narcissists

The Narcissist’s Mirror

6 Jan

When many people hear the word narcissism, they think of the legend of Narcissus who was so vain he worshiped his image in a pond until he fell in and drowned. I once saw a cartoon of a father staring at his own reflection in a lake while his daughter kept calling out, “Daddy?!” The image suggested she was neglected while he adored himself. This cartoonist understood the neglect that comes from a narcissistic parent, but he only got it half right–because for many narcissistic parents, their child is the mirror.

Like many ACONs*, you may have been used like a mirror for your narcissistic parent. Such parents are not satisfied unless they can see their own values and choices displayed in their child. Narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, they use mind control to shape their children at a young age to become mini versions of themselves. If this is true, you may have been robbed of your ability to shine.

This mirroring pattern continues into adulthood and is manifested by parents quizzing their adult children on their religious beliefs, politics and spending habits. Appearances are everything to these narcissistic minds. They want all of their children to be in the church and vote as they would vote and eat what they would eat on holiday dinners. They want us to do as they would do so they can feel satisfied they have raised us to reflect them in the way they want to be portrayed in the world.

By refusing to acknowledge their child’s individuality, such parents are selfish to begin with and nothing you can do will fix this. As you pull away to become yourself, they will become more controlling, then disillusioned and bitter when you fail to live up to their expectations. As you begin to vote differently or leave the church or form your own holiday traditions, the war will intensify.

Listen to Your Heart , CherilynClough.com. www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

Print Available Here

The battles are subtle at first, a glance of disappointment, the suggestion you might be letting down the whole family because you have chosen differently. But as most ACONs know, the failure to reflect our parents–to vote, marry and worship as they would have us live our lives eventually brings on a cascade of narcissistic behavior from gaslighting and scapegoating to the silent treatment.

There is no better time to reclaim your individuality than now. There is no better way to reclaim your boundaries by listening to your heart and standing up to let your voice be heard, but beware the narc parent will accuse you of everything from ruining the party to being ungrateful or disloyal or not honoring your parents. They might use everything from scripture and flying monkeys to lawyers to straighten you out.

When this happens it’s important to ground yourself these truths–

1. No one–not even a parent owns the choices of another human being. Slavery is defined as controlling another person’s choices.

2. God created you to be yourself–not an extension of your parents. Look in the mirror and recognize your own face.

3. You will never feel at peace until you step into your own individuality and live authentically.

As you listen to your own voice and the voice of your Maker, you will begin to shine. It might seem a little scary at first, but you can forge a new path from your family of origin. When you reach that fork in the road where the sign reads narc parent vs. your own choices, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, step into your individuality and shine.

*ACoN – Adult Children of Narcissists

PS I’m sharing this reblog from a popular post–while I work on my book. Thank you for your understanding and support!

‘Twas the Night Before Freedom

19 Dec

‘Twas the night before Freedom, when all through the house,
Siblings were arriving each bringing their spouse.

Memos had been sent to the family with care
In hopes Flying Monkeys would become more aware.

The Golden child was gleeful, while others felt dread
‘Cause visions of inheritance spun in her head.

The Scapegoat with coffee, sat down with her cat
To review all her boundaries in case of a spat.

When out on the porch there arose such a clatter,
The family jumped up to see what was the matter.

Out in the kitchen, they saw a blue flash,
Then out went the power with one giant crash.

The headlights shone bright against the new fallen snow,
And lit up each sibling with an unnatural glow.

When, what to their worrying eyes should appear
But the form of the parent who had raised them in fear.

From the belt in his hand, to the disgruntled bark
They knew in an instant it must be the Narc.

More rapid than gunshots the judgments they came,
While his children once broken, were each called a name:

Now! Lazy, now! Stupid! Now Sloppy and Slacker!
Who’s gonna go get my wine, cheese and crackers?

The host stood embarrassed and hung his shamed head
The scapegoat seethed anger for all the Narc said

With years of resentment she let out a sigh
Family fighting and politics made her want to go cry.

Disgraced, her siblings said nary a word,
But the scapegoat decided to let her voice be heard.

She started off softly, but it grew to a shout
As she opened her throat and said, “Get the fuck out!”

The Narc turned to martyr and drove off in spite
While the family sat stunned as on came the light.

She yelled one more thing as the Narc made his flight
“Happy freedom to all–it’s our God-given right!”

-Cherilyn Clough

(With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)