Tag Archives: Resilience

Don’t Let the Narc Mess With Your Heart

14 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is you ARE worth it–

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

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

Things That Matter

13 Feb

My last blog seems to have struck a nerve. People keep writing to tell me that God has a plan and this new administration is okay because Ben Carson is helping the powers that be. And most important—I should be careful what I say about this because it might mislead other people. If I am misleading other people into loving their Muslim, gay or brown skinned neighbors, then my job is done and I can finally drop the mic, but it hasn’t happened yet.

When I hear people use the simplistic platitude, “God has a plan” and ascribe God to the reason for anyone being in power, I can’t agree. This sounds like Calvinistic thinking and I do not ascribe to predestination. When they say God sets up kings, how do they account for all the wars since the dawn of history? Has God just played a giant game of chess with all of us? The God I know is much more loving than to merely use people as his pawns. It’s true God allows kings, but I don’t believe He designates evil and corrupt rulers. Even Saul in the Bible was not God’s original plan, but God gave the people what they wanted. In this election, when we review the rise of authoritarianism, we can see how once again, God has given the people what they wanted.

While I believe God is ultimately in control of the outcome of this horrible sin experiment, there are millions of things that have happened and which are happening right now that I would hate to ascribe to God from Hitler’s murdering six million Jews, to millions of abortions, to millions of rapes, to millions of children starving and of course the millions killed in wars of every form.

Things That Matter, cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/492098856/mlk-quote-print-pink-green-home-decor?ref=shop_home_active_29

I mention Carson by name because I believe he is well-meaning–although possibly misguided. Ben was once a hero of mine. He has always seemed like a soft spoken, kind man and I have no reason to think he’s changed. What removed him from hero status in my eyes was his choice to run for president. After reading the Myth of the Christian Nation a few years ago, I began to realize no politician is going to be able to fix our nation’s problems. I’ve also read other inspired writings which discouraged me from focusing on any government of this world.

That said, I had literally no interest to write about politics until this current administration headed toward winning the election. I watched this video on the rise of Authoritarianism and later discovered how the marketing for this campaign was drawn from our social media posts—allowing different people to hear whatever they wanted from this candidate. This is not a conspiracy theory, it is our current reality and the very same technique swung the Brexit vote in Britain.

I am not under the impression that any US president has been spotless–however none has shown such contempt and disrespect across the board for people of color, women, other-abled people and the press. No one else has lied so blatantly and brought such obvious racists into their cabinet. And the separation of church and state is now becoming an issue. This administration is not bringing the nation together but dividing it and the rest of the educated world is watching in horror at what is happening while American Christians are high fiving each other and throwing parties.

Many seem to feel if Ben Carson approves of this administration, then it’s okay, but has God given Ben to do our thinking for us? I had forgotten Ben Carson is a member of this cabinet when I said they are filling the swamp with vipers. The truth is Ben did not come to mind, but despite his noble bearing and plans to do good (and who am I to say he can’t do some good?) it will take much more than one well intentioned man to alleviate the damage. My fear is Carson was the Trojan horse which made a lot of Christians imagine this is a Christian administration when in fact it goes against nearly everything Jesus lived and taught.

Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale University and the author of numerous books of European history. Allow me to repost from an interview with him:

“I can only say that Mr. Trump’s inaugural address was extremely ideological. During the campaign he used the slogan “America First” and then was informed that this was the name of a movement that tried to prevent the United States from fighting Nazi Germany and was associated with nativists and white supremacists. He claimed then not to have known that.  But in the inaugural address he made “America First” his central them, and now he can’t say that he doesn’t know what it means. And of course Bannon knows what it means. America First is precisely the conjuration of this alternative America of the 1930s where Charles Lindbergh is the hero. This inaugural address reeked of the 1930s.”

When Bannon calls himself a “Leninist”, do Americans know what is he talking about?

“No, they usually have no idea. It is a good question. Americans have this idea that comes from Jefferson and the American Revolution that you have to rebel every so often. And they sometimes don’t make the distinction between a rebellion against injustice and the extinction of the whole political system, which is what Bannon says that he is after. The American Revolution actually preserved ideas from Britain: the rule of law being the most important.  The whole justification of the American Revolution was that the British were not living up to their own principles, were not including Americans in their own system.  In a broad way that that was also the argument of the civil rights movement: the system fails itself when it does not extend equal rights to all citizens.  So there can be resistance and even revolution which is about meeting standards rather than about simple destruction. What Bannon says correctly about the Bolsheviks was that they aimed to completely destroy an old regime.  We can slip from one to the other very easily, from rebelliousness to a complete negation of the system.  Most Americans had a rule of law state for most of their lives, African Americans are an exception, and so most Americans think this will be there forever.  They don’t get that a “disruption” can actually destroy much of what they take for granted.  They have no notion what it means to destroy the state and how their lives would look like if the rule of law would no longer exist. I find it frightening that people who talk about the destruction of the American state are now in charge of the American state.”

On Facebook there are a lot of countdowns: 3 years, 11 months, 1 week until President Trump’s first term is over. How is your mood, do you see hope? 

“The marches were very encouraging. These were quite possibly the largest demonstrations in the history of the US, just in sheer numbers on one single day. That sort of initiative has to continue.  The constitution is worth saving, the rule of law is worth saving, democracy is worth saving, but these things can and will be lost if everyone waits around for someone else. If we want encouragement out of the Oval Office, we will not get it. We are not getting encouragement thus far from Republicans. They have good reasons to defend the republic but thus far they are not doing so, with a few exceptions.  You want to end on a positive note, I know; but I think things have tightened up very fast, we have at most a year to defend the Republic, perhaps less.  What happens in the next few weeks is very important.”

Not all Christians support the current administration. Many are appalled and looking for ways to stop this from happening. Someone just sent me this message:

“I think that if one can support a narcissist, misogynist, racist, bigot, sexist, controlling dictator like the current president, one has lost the overall goal of what the USA is all about, AND what God and Christianity is all about. I have never been into politics much–but this one is over the top disconcerting.”

The time has come for each of us to do our own thinking rather than follow any leader–unless they are aligned with the message and lifestyle of Jesus. The Religious Right has made Christianity a joke through their corrupt choices. Preserving life in the womb alone does not excuse the violations of freedom and dignity that are the inalienable rights of every citizen–we should have these rights over all other freedoms.

This current administration is doing all they can to tear down the United States as we know it. It’s time to join the resistance friends! It’s up to each of us to speak up and speak out. We are not speaking against the constitution, we are speaking against those who have designs to change it and our way of life forever. Be strong and of courage!

Don’t Shut Up, Your Voice Matters

11 Feb

Well Friends, I have been dumbfounded. I haven’t been sure what to write about lately because there is just so much sad news, I can hardly bear to write about it. When you grow up with oppression and live in fear of a belt and are refused an education, your hope turns to the government and church—people who try to make laws to protect you.  But when your church and government rise toward authoritarianism it can really bring on your CPTSD. These days we all need to keep a paper bag nearby to breathe into or puke into–depending on the news du jour.

It’s even sadder to realize our own social media feeds probably contributed to the election of the lowest life form to ever enter the White House. The more intelligent people who voted for him are now beginning to realize he is not keeping his promise to drain the swamp, but selling it off to vipers through the highest bidders.

So what can we do when women are bullied and belittled as sex toys and not allowed to speak of the truth of racism in congress? We will persist and make our voices heard.

What can we do when other-abled people are made fun of and bullied by the powers that be? We can educate and stand up against bullying–and I’m not talking about protecting one spoiled millionaire’s child, I am talking about the brown kids, the fat kids and the gay kids down the block and most women reporters.

What can we do when a mother is separated from her children by an invisible wall that ultimately threatens their very existence? We can educate and offer empathy to those who are worried this will happen to their own families.

What can we say when the government keeps lying and putting out alternative facts which are basically lies? We can pull out the videos of these lies and educate the public.

What can we do when racists and people who do not support the separation of church and state are able to buy their own seats in the cabinet of our land? We can pray and educate and write and call our congress men and women.

It’s hard to speak up and let our voices be heard when our Christian brothers and sisters disagree. I don’t have all the answers, but I recently came across a paper outlining the history of the Seventh day Adventist denomination in Nazi Germany. It was the most incriminating article I have ever read about the church I was born into and raised in. You can read it here. We cannot ignore our history, because history often repeats itself and there are many today who deny the holocaust ever happened. So here are a few  voices to remind us of history.

“I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.

“I remember: he asked his father: ‘Can this be true?’ This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?

“And now the boy is turning to me: ‘Tell me,’ he asks. ‘What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?’

“And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.

“And then I explained to him how naïve we were, that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must–at that moment–become the center of the universe.” -Elie Wiesel

Don't Shut Up, Cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/219719647/dont-shut-up-print-survivor-girl-print?ref=shop_home_active_47

Prints Available Here

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

“Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.

These words come from a Protestant pastor who spend the last seven years of the Nazi rule in a concentration camp:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–
And there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

What can we do when other Christians insist we should be quiet? We can point out how the religious right is not very spiritual and not very right. It’s not enough to have a flag on your profile and post KJV Bible quotes at random. These things do NOT make a Christian. This war we are fighting comes from the kingdom of darkness—

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is NOT a war where we should post inflammatory memes or spew hate toward those who think differently than we do. Save your breath for breathing and breathe out love. Only love can heal the world.

Love does not boast,
Love is not proud.

Love does not dishonor others,
Love is not self-seeking,
Love is not easily angered,
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil,
Love rejoices with the truth.

Love always protects,
Love always trusts,
Love always hopes,
Love always perseveres.
-1 Corinthians 13

By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.
-Jesus

Love speaks the truth—whether your friends understand or your pastor agrees or your teacher cares. Just ask Viktor Frankl, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Niemöller, Maya Angelou, and Jesus. If we have learned anything from the past, it’s that we all need each other and all of our stories matter.

maya-storm-quote

MLK and Advice for the ACoN Soul

15 Jan

Being a white girl, living in a white neighborhood and not knowing any people of color, Martin Luther King Jr. was never mentioned in my childhood home. His birthday was never celebrated as a holiday until I was twenty, but I actually never learned anything about him until I was in college and we had peanut soup on the cafeteria menu and someone explained it was in honor of him. By then I was interested in civil rights because I’d begun to have friends of color who explained to me just how hard it is to grow up with racism.

For years, I thought of King as a wonderful man of God who believed in non-violence and had great quotes, but it wasn’t until I discovered the level of narcissistic abuse in my own family that I really began to resonate with King’s sayings. Perhaps only those who have had to fight for their freedom can truly appreciate his statements.

It’s true, he was fighting for civil rights, but Martin Luther King Jr. brings wisdom to the collective human race and he especially speaks to all who have been oppressed. Today, I hold many of his sayings close to my heart because I have found his advice useful for any people who have been mistreated and Adult Children of Narcissists certainly fit into that category. Now, more than ever these words ring true across our nation.

Our lives begin to end
the day we become silent
about things that matter.
-MLK

Anyone who has been marginalized or abused knows this is only too true. When one of my siblings once told me, “We can never live until our parents are dead,” I cried because I didn’t want them to die, but I wanted to live.

There is something about the human soul that despises being silent about the things that matter and yet many of us were taught we had no voice. No matter what kind of abuse you have suffered, finding your voice is a vital step to your recovery.

 

mlk-1000

King, in few words, has undone a lifetime of silence because he gave us permission to say, It’s not okay for people to marginalized me or lie to me and lie about me. It’s not okay to triangulate behind my back and I don’t have to put up with rude behavior–whether it’s calling up my friends to talk about me or writing rude things on my social media wall.

Now, when we have people who are blatantly abusing others whether in private family gatherings or in the media, it’s time to let our voices be heard.

Injustice anywhere
is a threat to justice everywhere.
-MLK

King calls us to accountability for all members of the human race. It doesn’t matter if we share the same skin tone, or gender or social status, when any one is marginalized or harmed, we must take it personally, because the threat is real and we are each called to be our neighbor’s keeper.

Of course there is often opposition when we speak up. Our abusers will often say “Not right now–wait until after dinner or the holidays or until we get a better leader,” but King has given us permission to say how we feel and share what we think with no apologies especially when he said:

The time is always right
to do what is right.
–MLK

King even had some advice that could be used for Flying Monkeys:

He who passively accepts evil
is as much involved in it
as he who helps to perpetrate it.
He who accepts evil
without protesting against it
is really cooperating with it.
-MLK

The ultimate measure of a man
is not where he stands in moments
of comfort and convenience,
but where he stands at times
of challenge and controversy.
-MLK

I find courage in these quotes, because even now there are people bowing to the powers that be–both within the denomination I grew up in and in our nation, but I cannot and will not forsake the principles of Jesus to please any human no matter who they are. Such a reminder is all the more meaningful when I realize King once stood on such principles and paid dearly for them with his own life.

And this brings us to some of the best advice King ever gave:

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
-MLK

I’ve read about survivors who are bitter about their past abuse and are filled with contempt for their abusers. They have trouble forgiving in part because their abusers won’t say sorry, but they continue to carry the burden of their abusers with them everywhere. I can understand how they got there, but King offers us a higher path when he says:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
-MLK

This gives us permission to let go of the past and lean into the light. Somewhere on this planet there is a survivor playing beautiful music or painting an amazing work of art or writing a fantastic story of hope. Just knowing there are people who have survived much worse than I have endured and they are still carrying on to serve other people gives me hope and joy.

So in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., let us live our lives by speaking of what matters even when it is unpopular. Let us watch out for those who might not look like us, but who in character deserve and resonate with our own cries for freedom and justice for all.

Let us forgive and release those who have meant us harm and let us carry the light of love wherever we go–to work, to school, to church, to the boardroom, to the neighborhood–because we have a choice.

Every man must decide
whether he will walk in the light
of creative altruism or in the
darkness of destructive selfishness.
-MLK

Giving Women Wings

17 Nov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prints and Pillows Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t forget to check out their links:

About Give Her Wings

Give Her Wings Website

Give Her Wings on Facebook

A Great Article About Trauma Bonds

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.

Spirit of God is Liberty, CherilynClough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15989067-hummingbird-liberty?asc=u&c=541259-soul-sanctuary

Prints and Accessories Available Here

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 Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse

7 Sep

It’s been three years since a friend invited me to join a private group on Facebook. I didn’t believe the group was for me so I ignored the first request. After a second offer, I joined to be polite. Within an hour I found the answer to a puzzle that had been plaguing me for most of my life. I discovered the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, God gave me the great gift of understanding and peace.

I’d been writing a blog about God and my own questions and doubts, but this understanding of NPD healed my struggles on a new level because it helped me realize it wasn’t God who had abandoned me, it was my parents.

If you are new to understanding Narcissism, here are three tips that have saved my life:

  1. Find Community and Support for Your Dreams

No one can face life alone. We were created for community, but many of our narc parents didn’t stay in community. We were forced into isolation because we grew up moving a lot or had to avoid people to keep the family secrets behind closed doors.

Finding a good therapist and group of healthy friends is your most important job. No one can survive alone and by making you the scapegoat, the narcissist wants you to feel you have no one to turn to, but the good news is the world really is full of loving people.

  1. Don’t Let Others Define You

The Narc can try to put you in a box or send you out from the camp as the scapegoat, but this says more about the narc and flying monkeys than it does about you.

There is a line the Narc likes to use: “If everyone else has a problem with you, then you must be the problem.” This is a narc fantasy and only works for the narc in their limited world. Think about it. How many friends does the narc have? I’m not talking about Facebook connections which are mostly acquaintances. I’m talking about real friends who live in community with them for years. Most narcs don’t have many friends because they are judgmental and litigious. They either can’t stand people who don’t meet their needs or they sue them.

The Narc might think of you as the scapegoat, but what does this say about them? They are cowards who use group think to control others? They are so ashamed of their own choices they would rather lie about you than let you speak the truth about them?

What does it say about you that you have been used as their scapegoat? You must’ve been courageous enough to speak the truth or taken a stand that defied their plans. This means you stood out in the crowd by thinking for yourself.

  1. Re-Parent Your Child Inside

Every person will need to decide for themselves what they missed as a child and what they need today. I believe it’s possible to be re-parented by God. God showed me what Narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. It was a painful blessing, but this road led to peace because now I have a name for this hidden abuse.

Keep your eyes open and read the gospels because as time goes by, you will find little signs from Abba that you are his beloved! We are all his beloved, but only a few seem to grasp this concept.

As I began my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I began to paint and write about what I discovered. This has helped a lot of people and I really can’t take credit for it because I’m just passing on what has been given to me. I have dedicated this year to writing my memoir and writing my stories has brought a lot of healing and peace too.

Memoir Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23081518-memoir-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

Prints, Cards, Pillows and Accessories Available Here

I’ve had flying monkeys question me about my blog and upcoming book as though I am writing to hurt my parents. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love my parents no matter what they’ve done or not done for me. I simply wish to have an open and honest relationship with my family because the dysfunction and lies were making me sick and I was forced to take the road less traveled if I wanted to be true to myself and God.

After years of combing through my memories and writing about it, I want to paraphrase my own version of that famous quote by Eric Lidell: God gives me insights from my life and despite the pain, when I write, I feel his pleasure.

In writing this memoir, I have learned a secret:

Memoir is not about the mean things that happened–it’s finding meaning in the things that happened.

Why You Need to Talk with Your Younger Self

25 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prints and Accessories Available Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some ideas you might want to try:

Have you reminded her how Jesus cares about her heart?

Have you helped her accept the apology she never got?

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

Let Your Voice Be Heard

7 Aug

When people take the time to write out their stories, I am so honored. My goal in building this website was to help ACoNs* realize they are not alone. When you share your stories with me, you remind me that I am not alone either.

This week I received a letter from someone who wrote, “How do you feel comfortable writing your stories with what I am assuming is your real name and a real photo of yourself?”

It wasn’t easy at first. Seven years ago, my first website had a story about a little girl who was beaten for talking in church. I did NOT reveal that I was that girl or that it was my father who belted me. This led to me being accused of lying in that story. I confronted my parents and explained the very fact that if they knew who it was, it proved it was a true story. Otherwise it could have been one of many stories I told on that site.

After their gaslighting for hours, I almost doubted my memory— after all I was only seven. What helped me was my own clear memory of that event and the fact that my parents have always said I have an elephant’s memory. Since then I have learned from Dan Allender that such memories are seared into the mind of a person who is in trauma. If you are a little seven years old girl being beaten with a belt over and over by a 230 pound man, you are in trauma. It was probably not as traumatic for him, so he probably forgot about it.

Before I shared my actual picture or said my stories were about me, my parents spoke to nearly everyone in my family about me and called me a liar. They even wrote a letter to a judge to discredit me in a custody battle when I stood up for a child to have contact with both parents. Relatives stopped speaking to me. I have bent backwards over and over to reach out to my parents but as long as there are lies between us—not lies I told, but lies they either choose to believe or promote about me, we really can’t have much in common.

Don't Be Afraid, CherilynClough.com, LittleRedSurvivor.com

Print Available Here

My parents never did agree with me until several years later when I went to their house and tried to make amends. In this conversation, their denial was obvious. I said to my mom, “You allowed me to eat my dessert first that Sabbath. And I know you once told me you hated when Daddy punished me in anger, so what happened to you?”  Her reply was that Daddy had to hit me with both sides of the belt because I jerked around so much while he was beating me.

Yeah, so this is what many ACoNs are dealing with, but this incident helped me realize I am the only one who can speak for me. This really hit home when my Grandma hurt her hip and they immediately took her to the hospital and burned all her diaries. It felt like they took away her voice before she was even gone.

Another time, a church member had me over to his house and told me I should stop calling my parents’ names like narcissists, then maybe they would want to have a relationship with me.  This person meant well. He would never do to his daughters what my father has done to me. He can’t imagine how painful my reality has been. His children slept in beds and went to school. He doesn’t realize my parents’ behavior is what has caused me to call them narcs. Only another ACoN or therapist can understand such truth.

And although I cried for years, there comes a time when you realize life is too short and if our parents can’t respect us or treat us as friends, we need to move on. Despite all they have done to me or said about me, I still love and pray for my parents. I don’t hate them or blame them as some people might. I forgive them, but reconciliation would require honesty and fair treatment. I have come to the conclusion this may never happen this side of heaven. And yes, I pray for them to be there, because I love them more than just about anyone else in the world besides my husband and it breaks my heart that we can’t be close.

I could worry about judgmental church members or vengeful relatives, but then I wouldn’t be living my own life. I choose to not be a victim and the best way I know to stop being victimized is to stand up and let my voice be heard. In the Plot Whisperer Book, Martha Alderson says that the threshold— the time just after the crisis hits, is where the protagonist decides to roll over and die as a victim, or take the actions to never be a victim again. (I highly recommend this book for anyone wishing to tell their story.) We all have a crisis at different times in our lives and we get to make this choice over and over in our stories.

I have learned to embrace my story and all the messy details including my struggles with weight because of the love God has provided through some very loving adopted family members. These friends constantly validated my pain and told me to be myself. What a gift when true friends say, “Be yourself.” At the same time, we have to embrace our messy stories and that means the brutal honesty of telling about ourselves—our failures, struggles and hopes.

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process
is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
-Brené Brown

Here are few tips on writing your story:

1. If at all possible, have the hard conversations with your family. If they gaslight you or send in the flying monkeys and refuse to own their part in your pain and refuse to respect you, then you have no choice but to walk away. You might be blood related, but you are not their kind of people.

2. Remember narcissistic people always need a scapegoat. If might be the neighbor or your grandparent right now, but if you differ in opinion from them, it is only a matter of time before you become the new scapegoat.

3. When you write your stories, there is no need to assign motives to other people—not even the narcissistic ones. Remember they were once children too and probably suffered a form of abuse that brought them to where they are now. My goal in writing is never revenge. I simply hope the truth can heal others.

4. Witnesses at a traffic accident each have a different perspective and so do the members of a family. This means your parents and siblings can’t tell your story and may not know your story. Only you can tell your story. Don’t adjust your story to the perspective of others. Let them tell their own story.

5. If you are thinking of writing your story, you absolutely should. There is no person who has the right to take away your voice and you are the only one who can tell your story.

When our family members break the family bond by abusing us or lying about us to others, we have permission to walk away and tell our truth to whoever will listen. If they have tried to discredit us and silence our voices, the only way to NOT be a victim is to stand up and let our voices be heard.

*ACoNs–Adult Children of Narcissists