I don’t want to live like this anymore (upset, tearful, afraid).
I don’t want to keep beating myself up for my failures.
I was taught to mistrust my Self. I was taught to hate my Self.
I can see, though, that some of my problems have been caused by, from a book I had read called Trapped In the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists and their Struggle for Self.
The pressure from a narcissist to conform to expectations is like the water in which a fish swims, so relentless and uniform that the child is hardly aware of it. Struggles are infrequent while the process of shaping is going on. Of course, there are moments when the child feels mentally assaulted and may fight or cry, but even then she also feels bad, wrong, and confused. She feels what the parent indicates she should feel, since her shortcomings are a shameful disappointment to the parent. To be included under the parent’s umbrella of grandiosity, the child must exhibit pure excellence in whatever the parent deems important. Otherwise she is pushed out.
Proper teaching involves the concept of improving functioning, something external to the self, not improving the inner person, which must be seen as intrinsically acceptable. Identification of the inner child with the behavior or the product of her behavior damages her self-esteem. She comes to believe that even if she does succeed she is merely gold over shit, the facade of beauty over true ugliness. The “successful” child of a narcissist feels like a fake since the true self is identified with failure.
Children of narcissists emerge from this crucible with a common and most serious problem. They feel that they do not have the right to exist. Their selves have been twisted out of their natural shape since any movement toward independence is treated as a betrayal and something that can cause the parent irreparable harm.
I LIKE the Al-anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) literature. I don’t like the PEOPLE in my ACA group.
They have the Time Police and the Cross-Talk Police.
I usually have about 3 minutes to share during our group time, sometimes six if there isn’t a lot of people. Some people ‘go over’ the time limit but I don’t, so I can’t cram all I want to say in that time and I don’t “speed talk” like some of them do. After being in therapy, I’m used to having 50 minutes of time and I can talk as much as I need to.
I like the people in my Al-anon group. They are way more relaxed and laid back. They cross-talk sometimes and NEVER bust each others balls about it. They DON’T TIME our shares. If the meeting goes on an extra 1/2 hour, no one cares. We hold hands at the end.
I do not need the stress of a rigidly-controlled support group. It may work for others, but it doesn’t for me. I don’t like the rigidity they impose on me.
I wanted MY ACA experience to be a good one. And I’ve gotten scolded (indirectly), I’d gotten laughed at and judged (directly), and the people I want to be there regularly (the ones I like/feel safest with the most) can NOT be there regularly, only the ones that are NOT good for me are there all the time, and sometimes I’ve even been ignored after the meetings. This doesn’t surprise me as we all come from dysfunctional family homes. I don’t really feel safe there, though I keep trying. The motto goes “Keep coming back, it works if you work it”. And yet, I can’t help but feel it’s unnecessarily triggering for me to be with that particular set of people.
I LIKE the Big Red Book (now, after I skipped past the parts that were triggering and got to the good stuff). I REALLY LIKE Tony A’s book The Laundry List and his version of the The 12 Steps of Recovery.
Tony A’s 12 Steps of Recovery
The Laundry List
by Tony A with Dan F
Health Communications, Inc.,
1. We admitted that we were powerless over the effects of living with alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could bring us clarity.
3. We made a decision to practice self-love and to trust a Higher Power of our understanding.
4. We made a searching and blameless inventory of our parents because, in essence, we had become them.
5. We admitted to our Higher Power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our childhood abandonment.
6. We were entirely ready to begin the healing process with the aid of our Higher Power.
7. We humbly asked our Higher Power to help us with our healing process.
8. We became willing to open ourselves to receive the unconditional love of our Higher Power.
9. We became willing to accept our own unconditional love by understanding that our Higher Power loves us unconditionally.
10. We continued to take personal inventory and to love and approve of ourselves.
11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, praying only for knowledge of its will for us and the power to carry it out.
12. We have had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking these steps, and we continue to love ourselves and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
I LIKE the idea behind the ACA solution
As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.
The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect….
By attending these meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism or family dysfunction for what it is: a disease that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult. You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting…
I LIKE the supplemental reading materials (the affirmations for the Inner Child and the Courage to Change daily meditation books) I had bought to go along with it.
But I DON’T feel safe with my group.
I don’t find acceptance there. I don’t find freedom to move around and be who I am. I have to conform to strict social rules or be ‘reprimanded’. I’ve had ENOUGH of that in my life.
I shared these two lists on my blog before.
It’s from the Emotionally Absent Mother: A Guide To Self Healing and Getting the Love You Missed by Jasmin Lee Cori.
Ten Basic Good Mother Messages:
1. I am glad that you are here.
2. I see you.
3. You are special to me.
4. I respect you.
5. I love you.
6. Your needs are important to me. You can turn to me for help.
7. I’ll make time for you.
8. I’ll keep you safe.
9. You can rest in me.
10. I enjoy you, you brighten my heart.
And without these messages, children might be challenged with many difficulties.
Common Challenges of the Undermothered:
1. Holes in your sense of value and self-esteem.
2. Feeling as if you don’t have enough support.
3. Difficulty accepting and advocating for your needs.
4. Feeling undernourished and emotionally starved.
5. Difficulty taking in love and establishing intimate relationships.
6. Loneliness and feelings of not belonging.
7. Not knowing how to process feelings.
8 . A pervasive sense of scarcity.
9. Sense of struggle.
11. Addictive behaviors.
12. Feeling disempowered.
13. Not feeling safe.
14. Perfectionism and self criticism
15. Difficulty finding your authentic voice and following your passion.
I struggled with these in one way or another all my life. Many times as a child, I wished I was dead. I started feeling suicidal about the age of 13. I was bullied in school for my intelligence, and I was degraded at home by my mother, my stepfather and two of my sisters for my intelligence. Of the 10 Basic Good Mother Messages, I received none.
And do you know, that the failure I had to keep myself safe from my husband’s addiction and depression…and my failure to find healthy friends or at the very least to keep the less than healthy friends in my life has slowly eroded the limited sense of worthiness I fought hard to earn.
My friend’s sabbatical knocked me completely on my ass. I’m sure, if I were to look, he’d been warning me it was going to happen.
Not by him. By Life.
It could be that my life was meant to be this way.
That my Higher Power needs Life to come at me with a baseball bat and bust my kneecaps until I learn to be humble and surrender.
I told my ACA group that I was there because I was at the end of the line, I had NO hope left. That after years of therapy, I was still struggling with suicidal depression and PTSD responses.
And my ACA group has proven to be just another disappointment. Another strict, judging place I do not feel I belong.
I have whisperings that things are going to be okay…
But I do have some massive self-doubt, too.
I’m NOT very good at self-compassion. I was taught to only see what I was doing wrong, and NONE of what I was doing right.
A fellow blogger named Paul is one of the FEW people I look up to. He writes stunningly beautifully posts as he carries the message of his AA Recovery Program. In one of the comments of the most recent posts he wrote called Who Do You Think You Are he writes
“They say that we don’t have relationships – we take hostages”.
That may be a harsh assessment, but that’s EXACTLY what it felt like to deal with husband’s problem drinking coupled with his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde personality changes and self-loathing, depression and suicidal talk/gestures. I even wrote a poem called Hostage at the beginning of the year. I was held hostage by my husband’s suicidal gesture.
I have hope…and doubt…and hope…and doubt.
I keep telling myself its MY fault my friend can’t stand to talk to me (which may not be what he feels, but that’s how my hurting heart interprets it). If I would have just shut up…and trusted more…it would not have happened.
It’s hard not try grieve my failures.
I’ve tried so hard in my life.
And look at the mess I’ve made of everything.
And I ‘made’ my friend go away from me.
I have to kick the abusive roommate out of my mental apartment or I’m going to end up killing myself.
I can’t wallow in self-pity and grief.
I know this.
But I have the flimsiest of foundation on which to build. What my mother did, did that to me.
I have to start over…from infancy…and love and care for the child I was/am in ways I never knew was possible…and necessary.
There’s so much grief in me. So much loss of basic safety, security and love. Even as I write, the tears just stream down my face.
There’s so much negative programming that needs to be overwritten. I missed out on so much basic emotional nurturing. I didn’t even get PRETEND love. I got ZERO encouragement. ZERO praise. ZERO acceptance. I got attacked at every turn. Not just my mother, but my sisters and stepfather too. I was the family scapegoat. Though I managed to focus on my studies and thought I escaped the dysfunctional family system. I just re-created it in my own family.
I didn’t get this fundamental emotional nourishment, love and encouragement. And I was made to feel crazy for needing what I needed.
I UNDERSTAND I can’t get what I need from other people.
I don’t WANT to get this from OTHER people.
But I ALSO understand the SEVERE emotional deficits I have.
I catch glimpses of my goodness. I catch glimpses of my right to love myself. I want to fall in love with who I really am, my Authentic Self. I think I can.
Even in light of all my failure.
I want to get there.
I don’t need the people in my ACA group to accept me. I don’t need them to love me either. I don’t need to bond with them. No matter if I even wanted any of that. I don’t NEED any of that.
I need to bond with me. I need to love me. I need to accept me.
I KNOW I can do this.
I was feeling bereft at the loss of my online companion’s presence for the past 24 hours. I went to bed crying. I woke up when my middle daughter had a bad dream and climbed in between my husband and I.
I couldn’t go back to sleep and I started crying. I thought this thought:
How can I love myself when everyone I’ve ever loved wants to get away from me?
I don’t understand it. And I went to the living room and cried. And just sat there with the pain a while. And went back to bed and snuggled up next to my daughter.
This morning…I was still processing…trying to understand what I did wrong…what I could have done better.
I went to the library to pick up some books I had on hold. One in particular I’m looking forward to reading, called Adult Children Raising Children: Sparing Your Child from Codependency Without Being Perfect Yourself, by Randy Rolfe.
But when I was there…I found a set of books on the For Sale shelf that caught my eye. They were a set of three books from Orion Mountain Dreamer. Two of them were from her Invitation series (The Invitation and The Calling, the one I don’t have is called The Dance) and a third was a book called What We Ache For.
A few moments ago, I flipped through The Invitation and I read this passage under the chapter titled The Fire:
Sometimes we go out and seek the fire that will burn away what is dross in our lives. More often, we awaken suddenly to find ourselves encircled by flame. Intense experiences of the heart transform us. I want to know if you can stand with me, eyes wide open, when the fire – asked for or unbidden – consumes all that we think we know. I want to know if you will offer yourself as fuel for the flames and let the Mystery we seek, the Divine we long for, which comes in unpredictable ways, consume and transform you. Talking about the fire, we forget what it is really like. It is only in the stories of our burning and rising from the ashes that we remember the flame.
I can’t even begin to describe the story she tells afterward, mostly because I was in tears reading it. But I’m so grateful to have found these books at this time.
The thing of it is, I know the Universe speaks to me, even though I have massive Self doubt. I may not be able to trust PEOPLE to give me what I need, but I sure can trust the Universe to provide me with what I need.