Today`s prayer

Crossed Hands

Dear God

Please help me to quell the fears and anxieties in my heart

Please help me not to be paralysed by a negative view or perception

Or allow past loss to colour every new interaction

Painting it black

Let me remember

That the present is not always like the past

That the past comes into awareness

Only for me to see it

And bless it on its way

Taking the lesson at the heart

And leaving any fear behind

Help me to realise

That an acknowledged past

Has only the power over me

That I choose to give it

Help me every day

To choose love over fear

And belief over doubt

Courage over insecurity

As much as I can take.

I had to leave the hospital in the midst of the doctor being there trying to explain everything to my sister, brother and I.  I seem to get overwhelmed or triggered so often and this afternoon the doctor showed up an hour later than he said he would and I hadnt yet had lunch.  After one and a half hours I just had to grab my bag and leave, not able to explain as the doctor was in the middle of a long winded repetitive speech about my Mum’s condition.  Last night I had to watch her in agony as they stuck canula needles in her arm, and could not find a vein.   By the time I arrived it had been going on for over and hour and I had to say something.  The doctor didnt like it.

Even today I struggled seeing how doped up Mum is, how yellow and how weak.   At one point while I was trying to help her eat, I just could not stop crying, I took myself off to the little chapel they have at the hospital she is in and just wept.  I felt drug fog cover my eyes even though I havent taken any drugs.   I am just so sensitive and I am over tired as i only slept for four hours last night before waking and then got back to sleep for one hour.   I’m drained.

Knowing when my internal battery is on low is so important.  Last night my sister was in such a state I offered to cook her a meal, I held her as she was very down and struggling. My heart went out to her, when Mum dies she will lose her best friend.   The truth is my sister has relied a lot more on Mum emotionally in many ways, but this latest illness with Mum is seeing how much she has tried to give in later years and now its all too much.  She needs a gentle calm space where she can be cared for with love and she needs support, she cannot be pulled upon any more.   Its a wake up call for me, too, if I am honest.

I know so many others also struggle with elderly parents.   Its not easy to witness the vulnerability and decline.  It reminds us of our own mortality, of what we didnt get and what we did,  it reminds us the aging and decay is part of the larger life cycle, no one escapes it.  Today I saw in my mind’s eye my Mum’s long long journey of loss that leads to here.   I feel she is so utterly, devastatingly tired.  The doctor has hope as its seems she may have a kidney infection and her liver is toxic from all the pain killers she has been on.  I wish to God a few years ago when she had an appointment with a Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist she would have gone down that route but at the last minute she cancelled it.  I know what help the Chinese herbs and supplements I take give me in terms of cleansing and assisting chi flow and function in some of my organs.   My Mum needs to be in a facility where she is treated holistically, when she comes out of hospital one thing is for sure, she cannot be alone.

I cannot and will not abandon my Mum in her illness.   I was pleased my brother is delaying flying out of Australia for a while, I was shocked to hear it, but he was still wanting to know how long he had to hold off, yesterday it looked as though Mum may not be with us much longer.   I am prepared for that eventuality and I will care, but I also need to take care of myself.  I won’t be any use to anyone at all if I don’t.

The final 3 strategies for overcoming the effects of self absorbed or emotionally unavailable parents.

This is the final installment which follows on from two earlier posts on the header subject and contains exerpts that come from Chapter 6 of Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed : A Grown Up’s Guide to Getting Over Narcissistic Parents.

Change of Pace

(We can) become so stuck in one or more routines that (we) limit (ourselves) from expanding (our) horizons, meeting new people or challenges, learning and developing (our) resources and talents, and limiting our choices.  Thus, (we) place restraints on (ourselves) and limit (our) personal growth and development in some ways.  An occasional change of pace can energize (us) and (our) thoughts in many ways, enrich (our) inner self, and provide for wonder and beauty in (our) life.

This is not to say that (we) should disrupt (our) life and do away with (our) routines.  Such routines are beneficial.  For example, I do my writing in the morning, shortly after I wake up.  I first read the paper and have a cup of coffee.  After that I pick up my pad and pen and begin to write. You want to maintain your constructive routines.

A change of pace is not a major disruption, it is doing something different on a trial basis to see if it is right for you, energizing in some way, or has other positive outcomes.  It can be almost anything that is different from your usual routine.

Mindfulness

Becoming mindful teaches our valuable concentration that can help you stay focused on what is truly important in your life.  This  can be very helpful to you in interactions with your self absorbed parent, where your heightened emotional state can be distracting, even disabling.  Once you get distracted or lost, you’re left with the same old feelings.

Mindfulness is done with conscious thought and intention.   You expand your awareness in the moment and notice, appreciate, and even sometimes savour what you are experiencing.  This awareness allows you to notice things you didn’t notice before, being something into clearer focus, sort through confusing stimuli and zoom in on important aspects, reduce some anxiety, and help you feel more in control.  For example, lets suppose after by becoming more mindful you notice and experience the following with your self absorbed parent :

  • Your parent is saying the usual hurtful things, but you are not confused about why he is doing this and are able to see the fear your parent has of becoming old and no longer in control.
  • The words used by your parent seem meaningless and inaccurate and, although designed to hurt you, are bouncing off you like ball bearings bouncing off a wall.
  • You are able to discern your parent’s anxiety without taking it on or even feeling that you must fix it.
  • You are becoming aware that a role shift is in process, and that your parent is fighting but is also consciously unaware of it.
  • You leave the interaction less upset and stressed than usual.

Mindfulness allows you both to expand and contract.  You expand your awareness and contract your focus.  Practice the following exercise as many times as you possibly can throughout your day.  It doesn’t take long to do it, but you can do it as long as you wish.

Developing Mindfulness

Procedure:  This excercise can be done sitting, standing, reclining, walking and so on.  However it is best to be alone in a quiet place.

  1. Empty your mind.
  2. Don’t fight intrusive thoughts.
  3. Concentrate on your breathing and how this makes you feel.  Try to slow your breath.
  4. Become aware of your body, its tense spots, and its pleasurable spots.
  5. Focus on what you are experiencing, doing and feeling.  Stay with that and expand your awareness of sensations – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting.
  6. Notice colors, shapes, forms, sounds, and how your body feels.
  7. Continue your expansion as long as you wish.

Reduce your Self Absorption

This suggestion is the basis for entire books on narcissism, but we’ll only touch on the subject in his book  The major premise for this suggestion is that sef absorbed behavior and attitudes are not constructive or helpful.  It is important to remember that, just as your self absorbed parent cannot see his (or her) undeveloped narcissism, you are unaware of behaviors and attitudes you have that are reflective of undeveloped narcissism.  Your undeveloped narcissism can do the following:

  • Prevent you from detoxifying yourself.
  • Inhibit you from developing sufficient boundary strength.
  • Keep you in a position where you can be easily wounded.
  • Interfere with developing and maintaining meaningful and satisfying relationships.
  • Get in the way of your reaching out and connecting to others.
  • Keep you in a defensive state all of the time.

Be aware that (reducing self absorption) is a life long endeavour and that you are mostly unaware of your self absorbed behaviors and attitudes, but they do have a significant effect on your self and on your relationships.

End of direct quotes

Facing the fact that we too are self aborbed is difficult.  In one way we need self absorption for a time in order to delve into what is going on inside and understand how and why we are reacting as we do.  However it is now proven by research into mental health and happiness that happiness rests upon being able to sustain healthy mutual life giving, love filled connections with others.  This ability to connect is what is primarily wounded or undeveloped in narcissism and if we were raised with emotional neglect or by self absorbed wounded parents.  Learning to reach out and connect and show empathy and understanding to and of others is a life time work.  But it has great rewards.

Building and Fortifying the Self : Strategies for dealing with negative thoughts from being raised by self absorbed parents

This is a continuation of recent posts on narcissism, narcissistic injury and boundary building.  It contains information and extracts from Nina Brown’s book Children of the Self Absorbed.  This part of her book contains suggestions for dealing with the difficulties we face when we never got to develop high self esteem or healthy emotional boundaries.  It give techniques to cope when we may be faced with the difficult parent in order to self protect in a healthy way.

Building your self means that you develop empathy, creativity, inspiration, and relationships or connections.  Doing so will enable you to let go of old grudges and resentments, have sufficient psychological boundary strength to lessen emotional susceptibility and judge what feelings are yours alone, uncontaminated with other’s feelings; and better cope with your triggered feelings that are aroused in interactions with your self absorbed parent.

Block and Control Your Feelings

These are strategies that can allow you to be calm with being blamed or criticised, demeaned, devalued, and the like so that you can think and act more constructively.  The feelings are still there but can become less intense, which then makes them easier to put aside for the moment.

Blocking your emotions requires the following :

  • An awareness of what you are experiencing, including the intensity of the feelings.
  • A desire to avoid revealing or acting on these feelings (never a good idea with the narcissist.)
  • A personal strategy of momentarily dissociating from the feeling.  Complete dissociation is not recommended, as this can produce or increase cutting off or distancing yourself from your feelings in all parts of your life.  What could be helpful is a statement to yourself that you’ll get back to the feelings when you are in a safer place.
  • Using thoughts as expression rather than feelings.  Thoughts are cognitive and easier to handle that are feelings, and you want to be in control for the time being.

..suppose your prent has made a demeaning comment about your appearance, and you feel yourself becoming angry.  Instead of staying with the anger and firing back at the parent or letting the anger move you to shame for disappointing the parent, it is at this point where you can mentally say that you don’t want to act out of anger.  You’re going to choose to push the anger away and not let your parent know that the comment really angered you so you decide to make a noncommittal response, such as “Really?  I’ll need to pay better attention next time.  ” You can also ignore the comment, change the topic or make pleasant comment about the parent’s appearance.  Any of these can defuse the situation.

Use Self Affirmations

Instead of getting caught up in intense negative emotions triggered by your self absorbed parent, you can moderate and counteract these with self affirmations.  It can be important to remember that your triggered feelings are impacted when, on some level, you are buying into your parent’s perception of you and fear that these have some validity.   You may also find yourself in trouble with you are still engaged in the magical fantasy that your parent will change, or when you’re feeling powerless to get your needs met.  Self affirmations remind you of your strengths and positive characteristics so that you don’t get mired in thoughts and feelings about your real or imagined flaws.

On a sheet of paper list 10 to 12 things you consider to be your accomplishments, such as holding a job, overcoming an illness or condition, rearing children etc.  Next to each, list all the personality characteristics associated with it.  Review the list and compile another that incorporates personality characteristics that are repeated two or more times.  On top of an index card write “I am” followed by the list of characteristics.  Read this card once a week until you can effortlessly recall the items when you are experiencing intense negative emotions, such as triggered by your self absorbed parent.

Choose What to Feel 

You may find it difficult to accept, but you do have choices about what to feel  It may appear to you that your feelings just emerge and that you have no control but you do have the ability to decide what to feel, especially when you understand the roots of your feelings and have resolved some of your family of origin issues and past unfinished business.  The negative feelings that you did not choose are triggered because of old parental messages that continue to affect your thoughts about the adequacy and acceptability of yourself, thus setting off guilt and shame.  These messages also impact your perceptions of your competency, efficacy, and lovability; your unconscious fears of abandonment or destruction; and your needs for liking and approval of the parent that are still lacking.

Don’t get the idea that you should experience feelings like shame.  It can be growth enhancing to realise and accept your flaws, as long as there is also resolve and opportunity to address these.  What we’re talking about here is preventing your self absorbed parent from setting your agenda for what you will feel, especially in interactions with him (or her).

Interruput Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Another strategy is to interrupt your negative thoughts yourself.  These can included self criticism and blame, negative feelings such as shame and anger, and unrealistic ideas about yourself, such as the need for perfection.  This strategy works best when you not only interrupt negative thoughts, but also substitute more positive thoughts, feelings and ideas.  When you are able to avoid having these negatives and can insert more positives, you become better able to tolerate interactions with your self absorbed parent and will not be as vulnerable to getting mired in enduring and unpleasant thoughts and feelings about yourself.  Using the self affirmations about your good qualities (shared in an earlier post) can also help.

  • become aware of when you are experiencing negatives (eg feeling inadequate and flawed)
  • practice interruption and substitution
  • notice “should” or “ought” statements   (eg I should not let this get to me) These are unproductive and unhelpful
  • next substitute a positive self affirmation or self statement,

You may also want to remind yourself of the following :

  • Others will not change because I want them to change.
  • I do not have control over others’ feelings, thoughts, and ideas
  • I don’t have to fear being abandoned or destroyed, as I can take care of myself.
  • I am independent, and others are too.
  • When I think, feel, or imagine negatives about my self, that confirm my self absorbed parent’s perceptions.
  • I have flaws and faults, as everyone does, but I am working to correct them.
  • I have many positive attributes.

Practicing these when alone can pay off and slowly they will become more integrated.

Remember What’s Real

Use your self talk to remind yourself of what is real and what is fantasy.  The line between these can become blurred, especially when intense emotions are involved.  Your negative feelings are easier to control when you can introduce some realism and not get caught up in fantasy.  Try answering the following questions to get some idea of how fantasy interferes with reality.

  • Is it realistic to expect your parent to see your hurt and try to make amends?
  • Can your parent admit mistakes or accept his errors?  If not, how realistic is it to point these out or to try to correct his misperceptions?
  • Have you ever experienced empathy from your parent, and why do you expect it now?

All of these thoughts exhibit the yearning you have for the fantasised loving and empathic parent.  Your longings are keeping the fantasy alive, contributing to your distress, and preventing you from mobilising your resources to remain centred and grounded.  These untapped inner resources could prevent you from being hurt any further.

 

 

 

Decisions, boundaries and self care

It was a tough therapy appointment yesterday.  I am really regretting having my tooth out.  I don’t seem to feel any better at the moment and not being able to chew food well is really affecting me.  I am aware that I need to be patient as what I am going through is as huge adjustment but I just wish I had stuck with the crack in the tooth as I am not really sure it was giving me an infection, as my body is still full of phlegm and gunk.  I also felt very disappointed in my therapist and wanted to throw the whole therapy over yesterday but at the same time I was aware of the state of mind I am at and it was poisoning my right view of the value of what Katina does give to me.  So I just went to it and fully expressed all my feeling to her.

She was amazing, she sat there and empathised and then apologised for influencing me because she had said to me several times “if you do have an infection it is probably poisoning your entire body”.  I am not sure that is really what has been happening, the poison is the anger I sometimes feel that I don’t use effectively to assert boundaries at times.   Anyway we discussed it all and I left the session feeling a whole lot calmer basically because of the empathy Kat showed to me.  And I am adult enough to know no one has the answers always for me.  They may be able to understand or empathise but they may not know how things will turn out for me if I make a decision and they can advise but they don’t have to live with the consequences which is something my niece and I were discussing the other day.

Have you ever decided you wanted to do something that may be good for you, but when you mention it to others, they try to dissuade you or pour cold water over your decision?  I think it happens a lot and its something we were also discussing in therapy yesterday, how do we know who to truly trust with our decisions?  After all no one else has to live our lives.

I have been on the end of discouragement when I have asked for advice on doing what would have ultimately been good things for me.  I look back to those times and see I didn’t stay strong and own my own power.  And afterwards I felt resentment but also had to accept I was responsible for the decisions and choices I make.  As a people pleaser it is sometimes hard for me to say I wont do something that I think may bring joy to another person or to take care of me when you are hurting or in need.  As I shared the other day, when I have the energy to give to others, I will give it, naturally it is what I want to do as an empathic person.  But there are times I just need to take care of me.  And I guess that is where discrimination comes in as well as a good sense of connection to my inner energy levels, feelings and needs.   What I am talking about here are boundaries and on some level we can say that on the spiritual plane boundaries don’t fully exist as we all come from the source, that grander sphere where we are connected to each other beyond words and other human constructs and as our egos form we learn what is ours and what is not ours if we are lucky enough to have good help to build healthy egos but if not we can be in trouble.

And that is why empaths and highly sensitive people can struggle a lot.  We instinctively feel the feelings of others and want to reach out and to do so is natural and good most of the time.  When others have defences against us though we suffer.   I heard a saying a long while back and its a major lesson that I learned in my last intimate relationship that a person can never reject you, just a part of themselves they see in you that they have not befriended in themselves.   This is the defensive ego that may want to reject you if you are feeling sick or vulnerable.  This is the protective ego that doesn’t want to see that you may have hurt and a deep longing for love hidden beneath anger. For if you think about it if we get rejected for anger the person is not seeing that on some level we felt hurt and are trying to get that hurt addressed.  Then the hurt has no where to go,  and we are left holding it and then as someone asked me the other day “where do I put this anger?”.  I responded by suggesting prayer.  It seems to me the only thing I can do when my anger gets too much, I pray to my higher power for help with it.  And if someone won’t address it with me and I see that my anger is justified I have to beware of how I relate with that person in future.  I may need to forgive so I don’t keep holding onto the pain and hurt myself more, but I may be better off not having that much to do with them if they express no concern for how their actions affect me.

It can take a long time for some of us (like me) to see we have the right to set this kind of boundary if people have blown us off before for expressing how we feel.  And we also don’t have to take every hurt we feel to someone else, for in the end its really up to us to care for ourselves and protect ourselves and we all have the right to do this .

If we were sensitive and hurt a lot in childhood.  If we were teased, humiliated, made to feel small, gaslighted or invalidated developing the wisdom and power to develop and set boundaries may be a process fraught with peril.  If we were led to believe that emotional abuse was not emotional abuse we may be very confused as to our boundaries.  That is why we absolutely need an empathic person to go to, to express our truth with and get a reality check.  And we need power and strength to know we have the right to take care of ourselves and that we are not bad or wrong or selfish for doing so.   And some of us can keep chosing to love even when on the end of shitty behaviour from others once we have learned to practice self care, we can learn to positively detach not with hatred and anger but with love, a true honest love that comes out of respect, maturity and a deeper empathy for suffering.

To be content means I know my own boundaries

I am not so much of a fan of suffering any more.  I have had a wake up call over the past few days that has shown me all the times I should have really stepped back from family dysfunction and how much of a hard time I gave myself as the message was that I was selfish if I didn’t get caught up in the family disease, most especially when my second oldest sister decided to try to take her life in 2013.  I was the one at the hospital arguing with the nurses to take her off meds.  She was already on about 5 different psychiatric medications including one for epilepsy and she could not stop trembling.   When I googled some of them the side effects listed included, suicidal feelings and anxiety.  This was a year or so after watching helplessly as she underwent a long course of shock therapy and was almost reduced to a comatose wreck, frozen, broken, incapable of feeling or speech.  It made me SO FUCKING ANGRY, but all I could do was cry.

My sister is not in this space any more.  She doesn’t do any emotional healing work only a lot of exercise but she has regained more of herself and is now the primary one supporting my Mum, due to the fact that she realises how all that she went through impacted my mother who was never one to take any psychiatric medication.

I thank God for my, by then firm sobriety.  I was able to go to meetings of Al Anon and share about it and learn that I could only try my best to hand it all over and detach but some days that seemed impossible to do.  There were the times I had to stand up to both my mother and sister’s lack of empathy and subtle abuse, following this, but also times I gave back far too much because I still loved them.   My sister is not totally abusive and has mellowed in her approach to me over years and that is a result of me working my own programme but not always managing to detach as well as I would have liked.

Today I decided not to visit my Mum in hospital.  I firmly believe her compounded health problems are due to years of emotional stress and repressed emotions.  In the past few years ever since the death of my oldest sister my Mum is close to tears but only when I am around as she know that due to my own recovery and emotional work I am the one who ‘gets’ what the reality is and helps her to go there.  But on some days I just cannot be that container.  On some days I just have to take care of myself.

Today has been one of those days and I am so grateful that ‘just for today’ I have been able to practice detachment.  Detaching doesn’t mean I am not feeling for my Mum, it just means I am honouring the limits of my power to give on certain days when my own energy reserves are not high.