It never ceases to amaze me, but even years after coming out of a relationship with a narcissist I can still have times when the pull of that connection and all that happened during the time it lasted comes back to me. At these times I lose the sense that the narcissist was a narcissist and I think, perhaps it was me that got it wrong, and after all that is what I was conditioned to believe by them. I have just noticed a post on Kim Saeed’s site that caused me to think of an issue I often encountered with the narcissist. That is, he would tell me how difficult it was to love someone like me, a person with so many issues and irritating habits.
I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about depression, grief and sadness, but particularly about something I believe, that in our modern culture we often don’t differentiate all that well between the three. I have been no stranger to sadness, have had to carry my fair share and I also thing that some people are more temperamentally inclined to see into the so called “darker” side of human experience. Often early experiences predispose them to this. These kind of experiences lead us to distrust. If we have been subject to invalidation, hurt and humiliation, especially in our earliest source relationships it is likely we might attract this again and be very wary or hyper-vigilant to such mistreatment. These traumatic experiences incline us to carry a reservoir of pain and sadness or suspicion that is an apt response to what happened to us.
In this case in later life we can tend to believe that this is what we will encounter in the world, and in some situations we will, but not in all. Its about learning what we attract, what is valid, what is healing, what is hurtful, what needs to be taken on board and what needs to be ignored or let go. If we have been the subject, especially of covert aggression or emotional abuse it is essential that we can see it and name it for what it is.
Often the people who have “sinned” against us as covert aggressors have a desire for us not to see what they are doing, they are quick to deny it, denigrate us, call our perceptions into question, turn the tables on us or make a joke of us and our “over sensitivity”. Understanding how covert aggression can be directed at us is most important for us, in order to escape from the crazy making labyrinth of tangled meaning and projected blame which is a cover for their own lack of empathy that these people weave for us, and from which it can be so difficult to extricate ourselves.
“Sometimes the abuse narcissists inflict on their relationship partners can be quite subtle, especially at first. For example, because in their own eyes they can do no wrong, when something bad happens, it’s always their partner’s fault. As a result, the partner can become the target not only the object of blame but also the target of the narcissist’s ridicule, disdain, maltreatment. Gaslighting and even sadistic torment. Most folks who, for some reason, found themselves drawn to a narcissist early on begin really feeling regret at this point in the relationship. But this kind of abusive behavior often happens so subtly and incrementally that it takes a whole lot of being subjected to it before the victim finally sees the light.
Source : http://www.manipulative-people.com article : Narcissism-and-relational-abuse-both-active-and-passive
Certainly in my relationship with the narcissist, one big issue that caused problem was the sadness and grief I carried over my father’s death, the ending of my marriage, 16 years of alcoholism in which I surrendered myself and a host of hurtful incidents where I found myself to be alone and discarded. Showing any serious emotion would invite a tirade of abuse about how it affected the narcissist. Lacking emotional depth my narcissistic partner was not comfortable with displays of sadness and grief and most especially wanted me to be over the pain so that his life could run more smoothly. The law would be laid down over how I needed to change, so as to make him feel more at peace. I can certainly understand that it was distressing and yet the implications was that my grief and pain was damaging to him, just as my period pain was, after all it left him “so alone”.
At this stage in my life I was still in core trauma and still working to develop awareness. Finding a way to heal involved taking flight from nearly all toxic relationships and I ended up wounded by traumatic injuries which were my body’s way of expressing the violence that was done to me in earlier years. It is only recently in reading Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery that I have come to understand this. Judith writes that when people who have been emotionally or physically abused come into therapy they carry the violence of their perpetrators as a third entity in the healing relationship. I have certainly experienced this The hurt and anger that could never be felt, as it was denied by our abusers has to be felt, understood, expressed and released. Only in this way can we find relief from our symptoms. The difficult thing is that when such anger and rage comes out it can force others away from us , re-traumatising us further.
At the end of my relationship with the narcissist he told me “I deserved a commendation for sticking with you so long.” Ouch!!!! And Urrggghh? How even to reply to that? I think silence was the best response, but not one I was capable of at the times. I could not yet see nonsense as nonsense. I did not yet love myself enough to let it go.
The more powerful point was this : Did I believe it to be true? Finding a way out of believing it to be true has taken quite a number of years and still on some days, when I am feeling emotionally fragile and when the world has turned against me again for being in pain or feeling suicidal I can slip back into thinking it was, indeed all my fault. But was it my fault that I carried this emotional history and the bodily impact of it?
The most telling thing for me now and the thing which now determines the kinds of people I stay close to is this. How comfortable are they in allowing me to express the truth of what I feel inside, even when it is dark our uncomfortable for them.
Last Monday at my support group there was a movement to silence people sharing information of their abusive pasts that was “too confronting” for other members. One person there who this applied to was quick to say she would not be coming back, if that was to be the case. I’ve seen so many people walk away from this group due to this issue before. The point is, what if they have nowhere else to go to speak about what happened to them?
Several of us spoke to this issue at the meeting on Monday. The truth is I don’t believe that such things are depression, suicidal thoughts and feelings and murderous rage are illnesses or dis-eases. I believe they are valid responses to a traumatised and traumatising past, especially an emotionally invalidating or abusing one.
I was part of an AA recovery for six years from the age of 31. But over time I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of alcoholism as a disease. Reading more and undergoing my own recovery over years has shown me that it is in fact, a response to traumas or attachment problems conscious or unconscious. It is a way of self medicating pain that is too much too bear as well. That is not to say it works. But the greater issue is do we see it as a cause or a symptom of something else?
In my own case I do believe in recovering that empowerment has been the most important thing. Empowerment to know that what I have endured is true, that it has caused wounds but also a strength, that becomes available to me once I can identify those wounds and move toward awareness and healing. That strength can only be found to the degree that I am empowered to know the full truth of what I have experienced. In the finding of channels to express this truth where it will be validated I find my empowerment. Without this sense of empowerment I may remain a victim forever trapped in a limited idea of myself as an “alcoholic” when in fact I have not drunk in many years.
In the relationship that I started this blog talking about, in time my partner left as he was more comfortable and in tune with people who drank. I never foist my non drinking on anyone else. In fact my ex husband drank throughout the 11 years of our marriage. He didn’t have a problem with it and I never interfered with nor commented on his drinking. In the case of my ex narcissist partner, in the end what he valued in me, ie my abstinence from drugs and alcohol for him became a reason why I was flawed. Perhaps I was a bit at fault on those times when he did drink and was scared to reveal it to me as he feared my reaction, something I found it difficult to understand. I don’t think I would ever judge someone for drinking but perhaps having seen the damage it can do and the way it spins people off course from deeper emotional truths I lost tolerance for it at times. God knows I’m far from perfect. Life has just forced me to make certain choices for my own emotional health.
Since I’ve been thinking a lot about empowerment lately, I had a little inward smile andn ah ha!! moment when I checked the ephemeris the other night and saw that Pluto the planet of transformation, empowerment and healing is due to move forward in a few days. My interest in empowerment is a result of having felt so disempowered for years and looking to people, places and things that, at times stole my power. Rather I gave it away to those channels, not knowing better. Finding my power again has been about finding and connection to the deeper emotions and reactions I had to bury in order to be considered “nice” and amenable in my mixed up schooling, parenting and relationships.
Something I do know the darker Plutonian emotions such as shame, guilt, fear, anger, grief and sadness all have had so much to teach me about what it is to be human. At times I feel so sad that these are the very emotions denigrated by our society. It seems these days that if you have depression there is not a recognition of the powerful cocktail of mixed emotions that this can contain. Surely there is much gold there within the dark of pain and suffering that can be mined for meaning once we become aware of the deep causes that lead us to become disempowered and stuck in a victim or post traumatic freeze. When animals are traumatised they come out fighting and shaking. As Peter Levine has shown this is how they throw off the trauma. So it is with us. Contacting our disabused power might not look “pretty” but it is essential to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing. And is this not, the deeper way we begin to come in contact with our souls and become embodied as vital spirits alive and present on planet earth?
The poet John Keats said that we should call this world the vale of soul making. In that way would we come to know the purpose of the world. Certainly this isn’t a common view but it is one that attracts me. These days I feel drawn to soulful people, the ones who are willing to allow the pain time to percolate in order to transform into something richer.
This is the main reason I broke contact with my last therapist. The implication was that things needed to be fixed…. Maybe she took it as a reflection on her competence that this should occur. But where was the notion that it might take some time, some support, some containment, some holding. I thought that was what cranio sacral therapy was for. Obviously I was mistaken. Another dis-appointment, or reality check, rather. However as I have contained the experience over this past week I have come to a sense of peace about it. The most important thing for me is to understand and act on my own genuine feelings and truth. This is not to say validation is not necessary, especially when we have been confused by abusers and disempowered. I have been lucky to have friends who have validated me.
What I guess I am trying to say in this blog is this: believe in yourself, trust your emotional reality, even when people try to get you to distrust it or tell you it is wrong. Look for and surround yourself with those people who encourage you to express your truth.
In my last blog I shared an interpretation of co-dependency by John Lee where he said that co dependents repeatedly betray their values. This has stayed with me. I have natal Venus square to natal Neptune and this to me seems one description of what could happen under that kind of aspect. I look back to all the times I betrayed my own values. Now with Saturn’s passage maybe that is ending. Suffering has given me pause and has been the rich fertiliser that has given birth to insight. For this I am grateful, in and through this, I have found peace.
I’m beginning to feel a sense of lightness and joy that has been absent for so many years. Lately I have been dancing around my living room a lot, feeling the joy that comes from unrestricted, expressive movement, just as I did as a child before I became bound up and confined emotionally. On some level I am busting out of the prison that has kept me caged up for so many years.
Who knows? What the narcissist said about me, had nothing to do with me, but paradoxically it may even have been a projection of my own inner critical voice attracted by me so I could undergo this journey, this healing and this learning. What ever it was on some level I am grateful for that relationship. I know it was not an accident or a sign of something wrong and it appeared in my life when Saturn moved into my first house, awakening all my Saturn, Moon, Mars, Chiron, Pluto issues for healing. It was a sign of something to learn from and grow through. Seeing it in this light as Pluto slows to move forward in my 5th house of personal power brings me a comfort and peace that feels warm to me. I feel the inner fire and enfold myself within it. Often lately I hear the words. Tend the inner fire, stay close to your centre. It is here I feel joy, it is here I feel and find my inner peace.