I am not as preoccupied with narcissists and narcissism recently as I was for all of those confusing, painful years when I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on with my last romantic partner and my families responses to my own grief and emotional pain over years.
Learning about my own emotional neglect from childhood which I have shared about in other posts helped me to see how I was set up for this kind of relationship by an unmet and unfulfilled pit of emotional hunger and need. Finally finding myself a completely emotionally available therapist who is capable of 100 percent empathy has helped me enormously and without this I may still have been left alone starving in a lonely cold wilderness of confusion, repressed anger, thwarted longing and self blame, which is where a lot of us carrying these kinds of wounds end up.
In the past I have thought of this situation as being like a hungry dog starving for scraps and yesterday I read just such a description of the same thing on another blog. Reading about other people’s struggles to unhook, the utter pain and desolation of finally recognising that we are powerless to effect any change or get much in the way of recognition from those whose love, attention and respect we longed for I am filled with compassion, but a part of me also is anxious for them to unhook, knowing the back lash that comes when we try repeatedly to engage and point out what is happening to them. In the long run frustration and the bitter pain of repeated disappointment and outrage is the bitter medicine we must swallow in order to learn how essential it is for our emotional health and sanity to unhook.
In this quest it helps enormously to have somewhere we can go to vent the pain. The narcissists in our life won’t hear us, and in fact we will be blamed or made to feel ashamed for trying to point out how their lack of empathy is wounding us. This does not mean that we should not express how we feel to them. Their response to our attempts to do this may make some change, in some cases. In other cases we will be hurt again and our quest to be heard will fall on deaf ears. Painful as this is it will show us who and what we are really dealing with and help us in the boundary creating process which is our first line of defence against investing in further painful relationships where old patterns are repeated.
In her book on emotional neglect Running on Empty, therapist Jonice Webb helps us to learn to develop the skills of connecting with and learning to express our emotions. Tapping into our feelings is the most important tool we have to deal with the painful consequences of being raised in families and by people where true emotional expression of all the feelings of our true self were not permitted or blocked in some way.
Jonice recommends that when we have any painful emotional encounter we need to speak about it with someone and unpack the feelings. This is where I do believe sites and blogs which give us air time are so important, most especially if we are struggling in the wilderness alone and without close friends or a good therapist. We need someone as we cannot heal totally in isolation and there is a saying in recovery circles “we are only as sick as our secrets”.
I was helped in my own recovery online at a very critical time of pain when I found an wonderful blog by an adult child of narcissistic parents late in 2013 who was a long way along in her own healing process. She kindly published a poem I had written about the past most recent painful relationship with a narcissist on her own site and then recommended I start blogging myself.
I was deeply unsure how my writing would be received but I made a tentative beginning and when my oldest sister died I was so grateful to have a place I could pour out all of the grief. At that stage I was struggling to find a good consistent therapist. I was carrying a huge bag of unresolved trauma and rage, much of it turned in upon myself for feeling I had failed in not recognising how stuck I had been in unhealthy relationships and how poor my own inter personal boundaries were. I had a lot of work to do to learn to love and forgive myself for wounds that were compounded and were never my own fault in the beginning.
I feel so blessed now to know I am a long way along the road of healing. I can now recognise red flags. I am able to set boundaries. I have made several attempts to express and process my pain with family members. The first reactions were typical of narcissists but in the end when I held my boundaries my experience has been that there have been some changes. My only remaining sister actually apologised to me a year or so ago. Other attempts to address pain have not gone so well and I have been blamed, but by holding firm and refusing to engage in their ‘change back’ tactics I have been able to unhook. I can now even laugh at things that would have sent me into a rage just over a year ago. In short I feel I have reclaimed my life and my energy through the tough process of mourning, raging, being confused, spun about then reconnected at a deep level with my own emotional truth.
I am very proud of the fact that I have managed just over a month’s break now from my therapist. She has been sending me a little email every week, which is what I asked for when she left. I am getting very excited as we will be meeting tomorrow afternoon and there is so much to share with her.
I think this break has been important as I have had so much loss, there have been so many times others have walked away from me and there has been no way to process that pain or resolve things. Katina’s return after this break will be a reminder to my soul that leavings don’t always necessarily result in endings. Thought I know in time my therapy will end, I will always have the good Katina inside me, that fully loving consistent presence that my mother could not be due to her own wounds and history. I cannot fully express how this relationship has helped me. It is easier to unhook from what is unhealthy when we have a healthy place to go, that is what I have learned.
Family scapegoats who carry the rejected feelings get sent out into the wilderness, or we have to escape there to find some kind of safety and connection, even if it is only with ourselves and the terrible pain of our w0unded and torn about insides. In that wilderness a lot of healing can happen for us if we seek it in the right places (and we may have to go to a lot of wrong places on that journey too).
In that wilderness many of us come home to the starving child or ravenous hungry dog inside of us that needs so much succour, nurturing, feeding, empathy, self soothing and healing. And hopefully in that wilderness we find other scapegoats too, those who understand and mirror our wounds, those who help the wounded scapegoat to recognise they we not ugly ducklings but a beautiful swans still seeking that true family and place of belonging which is the true home of our soul and can only be found deep within and in fecund rather than desolate places.