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Showing posts from August, 2017

Boundaries

Wouldn't it be nice if we all lived in harmony? Wouldn't it be great if everyone respected one another as human beings? Wouldn't it be wonderful if every interaction with others stirred up feelings of warmth and connectedness instead of fear and dread? But alas, some people suck.

I used to think it was my own failure. As someone who was trained from an early age to take on the responsibility of my abusers, I accepted their lie that it was my fault that we didn't get along. I thought there was something wrong with me that they behaved the way they did. If I was really a kind, peace-loving person, I would be able to handle them with all the love and concern they demanded, but never reciprocated. Worse still, was when my parents got religious. It was then my obligation as their daughter to "obey" them and turn the other cheek, no matter what. No matter what.

It's no wonder I had to learn about boundaries as an adult. My parents never respected even the most…

The Mysterious "They"

My mother was obsessed with them, but I never figured out who they were.

For a while, I thought maybe they were the neighbors, but that didn't make sense. Other than waving hello as we passed by, we weren't really friends with our neighbors. We didn't know each other any more than what was said over appetizers and small talk at the block party. Could their opinion of us matter that much to my mom? What would we miss out on if the neighbors knew? Patty's signature 9x13 dish of seven layer dip?

Then I thought, maybe they were our extended family. Most of them lived out of town, and it seemed my mom wasn't really in touch with them, save the annual Christmas letter. The ones nearby we saw two or three times a year on holidays. Like the neighbors, most of the gatherings involved small talk and dip. I would give each relative a hug hello and a hug goodbye, along with the obligatory reminder of what grade I'm in now. Other than that, I don't recall anyone in the…

What I Deserve

I have survived quite a bit, and on most days, my resilience and adaptability are strengths, not weaknesses. But there was something about my resilience that made me feel like a fraud. Even though I did survive terrible things, and even though I did turn as much of my life as possible into something positive and productive, something in the background was nagging at me. My accomplishments felt empty. Even though there was obvious fruit from decisions I made to shut abusers out of my life, I still felt on some level like I didn't deserve to enjoy a good life.

This nagging feeling was what eventually lead me down a deeper path of self-reflection and healing. Even though I knew all the facts of what emotional and narcissistic abuse was, I never felt comfortable fully embracing that I was, in fact, abused. I lived in a wasteland between the lie that I was somehow responsible for what happened to me and the horrible truth of what really happened.

Resilience felt like a mask. Even thou…

What My Friend, The Bigot, Taught Me

I used to think that my ability to get along and make peace with people who offered a multitude of varying viewpoints and perspectives was correct and admirable. I was wrong.

What changed it for me was going to intensive therapy for complex trauma stemming from childhood narcissistic, emotional, and sexual abuse. You see, rather than directly call out a bigoted friend, I thought I could try to win them over gently and influence them toward a more moderate viewpoint. Of course, that never happened.

As an abuse survivor, I often inadvertently put myself in the position I was most comfortable with: the mediator. Growing up, my method of survival was to be as non-reactionary as possible when crazy people shouted mean things at each other. My ability to see multiple perspectives and have empathy for others translated to being stuck, not wanting to inflame anyone who was out of control. When I became an adult, I tried to apply that same strategy in situations where verbally abusive peopl…

What Every American Needs to Know About Narcissistic Abuse Right Now

There is a narcissist in the White House, and we are all in grave danger.

From Dr. John Gardner's Duty to Warn to several Ivy League psychiatry professors' recent call to remove him from office, mental health professionals are speaking out. But is it too late?

As someone who was raised by abusive, narcissistic parents, the problem is obvious to me. But it breaks my heart to see so many "Good Americans" continue to enable and make excuses for this horrible man. Manipulation tactics and cognitive distortions are no stranger to politics, but with a narcissist in the white house, these toxic forms of control are magnified and elevated as the new normal.

Education is necessary to recognize and disarm narcissists, sociopaths, and other people with Cluster B personality disorders. They are, by definition, toxic and abusive people. It is common for their unsuspecting victims to walk right into their traps because they simply thought it was possible to reason with them. Per…

The Silent Complicit

They see themselves as good people. Conflict makes them uncomfortable. They don't want to get involved. They fear losing friends and family. They wish everyone would just get along.

They are the silent complicit, and they are as toxic as the overt abusers they enable.

In many ways, they are worse. They claim to be your friend. They claim to care. They are in every workplace, school, grocery store, and public place. When abuse happens right in front of their face, they fail to recognize it. They don't understand why you are upset. They make lame excuses, often in the form of platitudes. "There are two sides to every story." "Give him the benefit of the doubt." "Time heals all wounds." "Let's not jump to conclusions." "Prayer solves everything."

The silent complicit would much rather believe the lie that nothing is wrong than to admit the truth. Some choose to do this out of sheer laziness. Admitting something is wrong means…

Real Family

All my life, I've felt like an orphan. My parents and brother are technically still alive, but have never been real family to me. After enduring years of emotional, psychological, sexual, and spiritual abuse, I made a decision in my early 30's to go no contact with them. In order to do so, I absorbed much of the blame. I wasn't strong enough to have "grace" for them. I wasn't patient enough to put up with them. I wasn't saintly enough to forgive them of faults they never admitted. It took a while for me to realize how much of a lie all that really was. Looking back, I was the only one who cared enough to put any effort into a relationship. It was entirely one sided, and I was expected to simply bear all of their mess with no expectation of receiving love or understanding in return. Well, fuck that.

As far back as I can remember, I have been looking for a real family.  Family that I could love, and also family that could love me back. I was the kid who m…

Reclaiming the Good

I consider myself a positive person who tries to look for the good in every situation. I generally believe that focusing on what I am grateful for is a healthy perspective to have. Since coming to terms with the the childhood abuse I endured, I also have a newfound respect for admitting just how terrible it is when something really, really shitty happens.

Acknowledging how bad the abuse really was was a huge step for me. Previously, I had been minimizing it, and somewhat cooperating with the abuser's voice in my head that told me it didn't happen, and if it did, it wasn't that bad, and that I was being over-dramatic about it. Not wanting to sound negative to others stopped me from speaking up about abuse for too many years. So, I allowed myself to comment more about it. I brought up more details about my abuse in everyday conversation, even though many of the details were dark conversation killers. I decided that the people who love me most are the ones interested in hear…

Common Forms of Spiritual Abuse

I have a unique and diverse perspective on spirituality, religion, and faith due to my own eclectic spiritual background. For the record, I consider myself a devout Christian of the Roman Catholic tradition. I have been a "born again" Christian and experienced the worlds of protestant non-denominational churches, church plants, evangelical churches, and charismatic churches, among others. Prior to my Christian life, I was involved in many other "new age" type spiritual practices. I have also witnessed spiritual abuse in many forms, from every group I've belonged to. Here is yet another attempt to condense my thoughts on an impossibly large subject. The other title for this blog post could be "Clich├ęd Concepts about Faith and Healing That Sound Religious but Really Aren't."

I am involved in my church, and I believe in raising my children in the context of faith. However, as a survivor of abuse, quite often what I hear in the homily or in passing c…

They're Everywhere!

As someone in recovery from narcissistic abuse, it seems like everywhere I go, I see narcissistic people and their abusive tactics. I see the mom furious at her kids because they don't reflect her own image. I see the asshole boss blame his employees, never himself, for his failing company. I see the self-absorbed friend on social media demanding accolades and pats on the back for every little damn thing. Now that I see the patterns so clearly, I can't seem to escape it. Is everyone around me a narcissist?

Yes and no. People with full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder make up approximately 6% of the population, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It's likely that number is actually higher, because people with NPD generally don't believe anything is wrong with them and therefore rarely get formally diagnosed. Even so, with 6% of the population, it's likely there is a true narcissist within one degree of separation of most people at any given…