Tag Archives: Healing

The Child and the Narcissistic Martyr

*Trigger warning*

I want to do a few posts on narcissism, but introducing the complex world of a manipulative narcissist is no easy task and certainly not within my usual 500 words. Realising my parents are textbook narcissists was a pivotal moment in my own therapeutic journey and I would like to share how I got there.

Narcissistic parent’s only ever have one agenda – their own. Everything has to be about them or they will brand you as selfish. If a child commits the biggest sin known to a narcissist by attempting to assert their own free will or opinions, they will meet with fierce opposition and even rejection.

A narcissistic parent who is also a martyr only visits additional heartache on theirthG5BL4TQA children. The martyr will portray the perfect doting parent, while professing to lay life and limb down for her offspring, “But, look how they repay me, after all I ever done.”

The perfect way to promote her martyrdom is by having a “bad child” who she bravely endures on a daily basis. “Oh what a terrible life I am having,” is her motto and she will go to great lengths to prove those hardships, often to the detriment of her own children.

It would never have crossed my mind as a child that my own mother had any kind of fault. In my innocent eyes, she was perfect in every way and the ‘poor me’ routines along with the beatings were only what we deserved. If a narcissistic mother boasts of her perfection on a daily basis, these self-absorbed messages become part of our early core beliefs, even when the evidence suggests that the perfection simply doesn’t exist.

Everyone would hear of her martyrdom and I was destined to be the problem child. From the difficult pregnancy and the long hours of excruciating labour to my audacity to express a free will as a three-year old. “Yous would break the patience of a saint,” she bemoaned after leathering her small children with a slipper for minor misdemeanours. “You fucking wee bastard, I wish I never had you.” In the community and our local church, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

Her resentment for my existence was proudly on display, as though my sole purpose in life was to be the scapegoat of our small and secretive family. I took the blame for the not-so-nice side of her character that would erupt whenever things didn’t quite go her way. Her depression and foul-mouthed temper were everyone else’s fault, and always mine.

“You were a great baby until you were three years old and then I don’t know what happened…”

This repetitive statement puzzled me for years until I realised the simple answer had more to do with her own selfishness. When I turned three, my sister was five years old and just starting school. The martyr’s daughter was no longer there to entertain the “troublesome toddler” while she had time to go back to bed or sit in miserable depression all day long.

I would feel furious when mum went back to bed as soon as my sister left for school. I delved into a lot of wonderful mischief but received harsh punishments for my selfishness and inconsideration for my “poor old mother,” who was only in her late 20’s. One morning, I spread a “full” jar of hand cream over the seat of her armchair. On another occasion, I ate a “full” box of chocolates and then was violently sick. “Yes, that’s God punishing you for eating your poor old mother’s sweets… ” The worst crime of all was decorating my sister’s dollies with biro pen.

Mum’s first task when she eventually got out of bed was to see what her ungrateful little bastard had been up to and there were always harsh punishments ahead. Years later while recalling these memorable events, she would proudly admit, “Yes, I leathered him up and down that living room.” Recalling the crime had only one purpose and that was to reinforce her terrible life and martyrdom. And we used to think this was “normal.”

Dad would come home and mum’s spiel still echoes through my mind today, “You think I don’t deserve a bloody rest… I’ve just made breakfast for everyone and then put my daughter out to school… I only have one lung… I’m not able ya know… and I do my best for this family and this is what I get… you won’t have me around for long… you should make the most of me while you can…I’m done with this life.”

Mum would cunningly recount these stories to friends, relatives, and even neighbours, but her deceitfulness was always careful to leave out the intimidation and violence. She needed people to view her as the long-suffering martyr who was having such a difficult life with her unruly child.

My father’s status as an Electrical Engineer was a world away from anything mum’s own dysfunctional family ever achieved in the history of their alcoholism. Dad spoiled her in every way and his unopened wage packet paid for her comfort and luxurious home, while my sister and I believed in our own poverty. You could say mum struck it lucky when she met a fellow-narcissist.

Our childhood endured statements that demanded the utmost appreciation and devotion and was contradictory to the reality we endured. “You should be grateful for such a lovely clean home” and “You’re lucky to have a good father who puts food on the table every day… And you don’t know how lucky you are to have a warm clean bed at night… You have the best… best parents.”

thPW2DWHOOMy sister seems to have bought into this drivel from a very early age, but I imagine that was her means of survival. The poor girl was always terrified to step out of line. Of course, I rebelled and continued to internalise the belief that I was bad, worthless, and flawed. Maybe this was all part of the narcissistic mother’s cunning plan for the ‘Golden Child –v- Scapegoat’ roles we each adopted, but that needs to be for another post.

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Escaping the Narcissistic Mother

*Trigger warning*

Yesterday was the first therapy session with Paul in almost two weeks. The last time we met, my rumination over family dynamics had reached saturation point and the narcissistic mother was at the helm. We had no idea she was already planning her next cunning move.

Paul was already on holiday by the time news filtered through about my mother and sister visiting my home city, London. The potential fiasco happened last weekend and I honestly thought refusing to meet might trigger an onslaught of self-recriminations and hours in the company of our old friend, Mr Rumination.

As soon as I finished writing my last post, I had an amazing sense of peace surrounding my decision. For the first time in my life, I had taken a stance against these people without battling with the usual self-doubt and guilt. When the martyr’s plane touches down at London’s Heathrow Airport, it can often feel like a tornado landing, but this time it was no more than a gentle breeze.

On Saturday morning, I received text number two from my sister, “We’re on our way to the Chelsea Flower Show,” which is only 20min from where I live. I had already stonewalled my mother a couple of weeks earlier, but it appears she conveniently forgot while manipulating my sister into organising the trip. This is an old trick of the martyr’s, but I’ve never been able to see through it.

I had two choices. Reply and risk our contact snowballing into anger or refrain from any involvement by simply not answering the text. I chose the latter. I waited all day for the guilt to creep in, I even searched in case it was hiding, but I could not find it anywhere.

I doubt anyone could resolve relationship problems within a predominantly narcissistic family because the narcissists only believe in the faults of other people. Nevertheless, I’m tired of pretending everything is okay. I can no longer make feeble excuses and, “Sorry, I’m too busy,” is only colluding with the dysfunction.

Realising mother is a textbook narcissist is liberating and this might be difficult for most people to understand. Narcissists are faultless and will always need a scapegoat to direct their blame and to boost their own histrionic ego. To feel free of this weight is a tremendous relief. I will write a couple of posts about it next week.

I know this is the end of our relationship because the only thing that chained us together was my guilt. I told Paul that I feel different, very different. I am feeling free of the childhood trauma and of the ‘Scapegoat’ title that came from within the same dysfunctional family that caused the trauma in the first place.

Paul said I look and sound different. I’m more confident and decisive, as though I can finally see clearly for the first time in my life. This is exactly how I feel and it was especially nice to hear Paul acknowledge this amazing transition.

A Painful sense of Exclusion

There are some weeks at group therapy when I’m calm and confident and participateth2X9CWT00 in the sessions as much as anyone will. On other occasions, I sink into this dissociative dark hole of silence.

I find this kind of experience incredibly difficult to understand. The two group leaders seldom recognise when I am struggling, or maybe their professional opinion doesn’t believe a rescue mission would help.

During last week’s group, I wanted to discuss losing faith in myself, but as the other members were talking back and forth, I started to feel that their issues were more important, more interesting, than mine were.

Whenever this type of experience unfolds, it feels as though my body transforms into a cold dark shell, with no feelings, no emotions, or a voice, almost like watching myself from behind. The inattentive nature of the Therapists only adds to that sense of exclusion and I feel worthless.

Maybe I need someone to connect with, ask questions about what I think and feel in that moment. I am either ashamed or too vulnerable to ask for help – again – because it sounds as though I’m being a selfish brat, demanding undivided attention, and expecting everything to ‘revolve around me’.

When we were growing up, my sister and I didn’t have an opinion or a free will. My mother used to bemoan, “You had a strong willpower that was difficult to break,” and, “It’s always got to be about you.”

Mum and Dad are both narcissistic type people and “perfect” in every sense of the word. Their way is the only way, which they enforced with violence and intimidation throughout our childhood and emotional blackmail into adulthood.

While my sister learned to comply early in life, I was always the rebel and ultimately became an easy target of all three of them. I suppose it was safer for my sister to join forces with the abusers, so I grew up with a strong sense of those three against me, and nothing much changed with time, other than their tactics for exerting expectations.

I talked to my Therapist Paul yesterday. It’s becoming quite clear that there’s a strong connection between the relationship I have with my narcissistic parents and the experiences of feeling excluded in groups.

I told Paul about my secret lifetime belief in my own heartless selfishness… “I am a selfish man who is inconsiderate of other people’s needs and `wants everything to revolve around me.” I have carried this distorted guilt around for too many years.

thCRZ1VW5DSo, how do I resolve this? This is what group therapy is all about. It represents our mini world where the problems we encounter are similar to the ones we experience in our personal lives. The theory encourages an open discussion about my feelings and as I begin to change within the group, so do my relationships with people on the outside. I only wish it were that easy.

Tomorrow morning is group therapy and for the first time in nine-months, I am dreading it. I don’t trust or connect with these group Therapists, so I cannot be certain of their support if I flounder. Nevertheless, if I want to challenge these demons, then I need to find my own voice to break down that painful sense of exclusion.

Secrets

It feels as though my emotions are bobbing up and down on a yo-yo string. Life wasth3JVIHS41 bright and positive in Thursday’s post, but now I’m struggling to drag my mood from the gutter.

It was difficult to answer the comments to my last post, everyone was happy and supportive of the “therapeutic breakthrough,” but I’ve been feeling like a nasty fraudster because I don’t feel happy at all.

I was at group therapy yesterday morning… urgh. We begin each session with “check-in,” a time when everyone says how they’re feeling and what they might like to explore during the hour and a half session.

I stopped raising topics for discussion because the two group leaders are not very attentive when it comes to remembering what members want to talk about and it’s quite hurtful to feel excluded, but that’s for another griping post … morons!

I initially shared how so many areas of my life are changing for the better, especially in terms of leaving the past behind and looking towards the future, but I must have been the happiest person there because the topic quickly turned to matters of a darker nature.

thJYB9F4NQAs the minutes ticked by, my mood sank deeper and deeper into a dark silent hole, and I had nothing to contribute. This kind of experience is nothing new, but it has taken years to understand why it happens, therapy is full of bittersweet moments.

This deterioration in mood and communication skills normally occurs whenever I don’t speak my mind. It will kick off with a familiar sense of suppression and the longer it continues, the more suffocated and self-conscious I become, but nothing can save me from the jaws of silence… all because I’m not telling the whole truth. This time, I wasn’t telling the truth about myself.

With the door to the past firmly closed, I have come face to face with who I am todaythC0RILPD8 and, frankly, I don’t like what I see. There is something in my life that should not be happening, it’s not conducive to my mental health or to my recovery, but it is one of my biggest kept secrets.

Do not let your imagination run riot here, it is nothing pervy, or anything like that, but the shame feels every bit as bad.

I am not quite ready to spill the beans on this one. Talking about it somehow acknowledges its presence and as soon as I do that, it will be time to do something about it, but I am not quite ready just yet. I’ve just remembered a quote on my ‘About me’ page…

“We are only as sick as our secrets”

Therapy – Moving Forward

I am not sure what I expected to happen when the childhood trauma finally faded into the past. Maybe I envisaged bright colourful healing lights with life changing eureka moments, but my own experience of “renewal” has crept up so slowly, I almost didn’t notice.

I was apprehensive about therapy with Paul yesterday, mainly because I couldn’t think17423085-3d-small-people--with-a-question-mark of anything to say. We’ve spent months analysing my experience of childhood trauma and the ambiguous family relationships, but these have finally run out of gas.

Turning up for a fifty-minute therapy session without any kind of agenda will run the risk of hitting a wall of painful silence, but I’ve learned in recent weeks that these are often the most powerful sessions.

The Psychiatrist – the wonderful Dr J – used to say, “Whenever you don’t feel like coming to therapy, those are the times when you need to attend the most.” She never did offer an explanation, but the glint in her eye said, ‘try it and see’.

I’m still not entirely sure what it achieves, other than to force someone to sit with the discomfort, and maybe this is the purpose of the exercise, so off I trundled to therapy yesterday afternoon.

thLPKB5TKTI told Paul that the door to my past has firmly closed behind me and now I only see this vast empty space, and this represents my life and the near future. It is my opportunity to build a new existence, but I am apprehensive about pottering around a strange environment.

Paul and I talked about the fear, which didn’t altogether make sense. I did the professional life once before. Of course, I couldn’t waltz back into the same jobs today and there is still the ‘little’ problem of PTSD and Agoraphobia to overcome, but retraining is not out of the question.

Of course, it would be an enormous challenge and I am not even sure if funding (at my age) would make this dream a reality. As we were exploring this, it felt as if there was something more than fear that was potentially holding me back.

And then it happened, a true eureka-therapy-moment, a very small and simple realisation with an enormous potential for healing. I heard my subconscious speak the words that accurately describe my fears for moving forwards. “I’ve completely lost faith in myself.” I bowed my head.

The enormity of those words hovered in the silent space between Paul and me. “How can I trust myself after all these years of running… hiding… and failing.”

Last night I realised the significance of our session. I can barely believe this is little-ol-broken-me, thinking and actually talking of a future. I remember an appointment with my Psychiatrist three years ago, “I no longer want to get better,” I confessed in despair, “Not if it means reconnecting with life or building relationships again.”

Only last year, it didn’t feel possible to get to where I am today, when the positivethNKAGMHVY thoughts start to outweigh the negative ones and suddenly there is a future waiting just ahead. As it happens, Yes, I do want to get better and, yes, I do want to connect with life again.

I think this is progress.

Castle & Moat

I didn’t attend therapy last week due to the hospital fiasco, I feel a little out of touchth532FIEZM already. Looking back through my blog, which is like a memory bank, I now remember talking about “The Void.” Maybe this is why everything feels so blank right now.

There is this metaphorical Castle and Moat that I built with my own bare hands over many years. It is my crusade for ridiculous isolation and keeps me safe from the world I perceived as dangerous. The only problem is that the original building plans never did include a drawbridge.

It feels as though I already have the materials to build a bridge, which will reconnect with life on the outside. I just need to figure out how to put it all together.

All of this sounds positive stuff, but excuse the absence of a royal fanfare. We need to really want something before we’re able to bring about the necessary changes to achieve it. I am not sure where my motivation is, or maybe I’m uncertain of which direction to take.

thDCBQB7FJ

None of this comes easy. I’ve been isolated for so many years, I’m too comfortable and protected from all the nasty things that might – WILL – happen in the big bad world, but this doesn’t mean I should avoid facing them.

Many of us take trust for granted, but it’s an essential ingredient for living together harmoniously and for going about our business with a certain degree of safety. Of thL8M3E5X1course, there are different levels of trust, but each of them begins with the most basic, trust in strangers.

Apart from family members, every person in your life was once a stranger who you needed to trust to reach a point where the relationship is today.

I used to pretend to trust people and would build my relationships on false foundations, which is probably why everyone came to mean very little. If I’ve never experienced trust as a child, how would I know what it is or how to experience it?

The only emotion I feel right now is a kind of blandness, not feeling or thinking much of anything. The territory feels strange, even a little disconcerting, but I’m going to stick with it and see what unfolds at Wednesday’s therapy with Paul.

Therapy – Light at the end of the Tunnel

I had my therapy with Paul today. In many ways, I didn’t want to go. I’m still in thisthJS0QQEXZ weird void like state, which I wrote about here and I wondered what to talk about during our session. I no longer feel the need to go over the same childhood issues, but I’ve spent so many years consumed by the trauma, it feels as though a part of my brain is missing.

Paul said last week’s session gave him a better understanding of what the dissociation is like for me. He wholeheartedly agreed with my interpretation of “The Void” and shared my idea of finally leaving the past behind. Of course, he’s very careful never to lead and always accepts whatever I say. It’s nice to feel so understood, my perspective is always right, but I can’t help but wonder whether he would ever say if I was wrong or mistaken.

We talked a little about the rumination and how this is an act of dissociation and an attempt to resolve disagreements in my mind (which comes from fellow-blogger, Ellen). My current ruminating takes the form of imaginary arguments with my mum and sister. It’s manic when loose and could easily swallow the entire day, leaving a trail of tense anxiety and resentments. Not only does it sabotage any chance of grounding in the present moment, it robs me of the opportunity to move forward.

th251A6SLTThe rumination is a difficult habit to break, but I have tackled it this week by using a basic mindfulness technique of being more aware of my surroundings, particularly sounds. Dog walking would normally be a time of intense rumination and I sometimes wondered if other walkers were able to see my mouth muttering away as I wandered around in a ruminating-trance.

This week was different. I walked and listened to the here and now. It sounded like everything was on loudspeaker, the birds, ducks, dogs, and children, AND, bloody heck, I do live in a noisy neighbourhood! It feels as though I’ve only been in a semi-conscious state for such a long time, or locked inside the prison of my own mind, childhood trauma.

Being with Paul today also had a different feel to it. He said I appeared more groundedthA2PSAOHE and at peace, with a clearer idea of where I am and which direction to take. I knew then I have definitely turned a corner and… Is that light I see at the end of the tunnel?

I need to focus my attention on two things. The first is the relationship problems I have with my mum and sister, which of course is also the source of rumination, so two for the price of one, things are already looking up. The second is to confront what it is about the present moment that frightens me the most, what do I avoid at all costs, but that’s something for my next post.