Hello gentle readers!
I have just written the following and realised as I went to publish it that it is one of the only positive posts I’ve put on for a long while. I wanted to apologise for the doom and gloom in my posts lately but it has been a very hard time for me. Today I feel very empowered. I wrote this because I finally get to see T tonight after 12 days and I wanted to figure out before seeing her exactly where I was. I needed to stand still for a while and take it all in and I am really glad I did. My brain feels like it’s had a bit of a tidy-up.
According to an article I read this morning, these are the phases in recovering from parental narc abuse:
- Developing self-compassion
- Eliminate inner critic and toxic shame
- Build self-trust
- Exercise self-care
I was mentally going over the list and seeing where I was in this process and I had the following thoughts.
I’ve actually surprised myself with this one. I think I do alright in the self-compassion stakes these days. I could certainly give myself much more of a hard time than I presently do. I’ve noticed that I understand WHY I have done things in the past where previously I would have beaten myself up for it. I am surprised that I haven’t turned on myself which is apparently very common. I do wonder how I’ve managed to develop self-compassion given that it was never modelled to me. Perhaps having a very kind and gentle boyfriend has helped with this? I do think that between him and T, they have helped to show me what it is to be empathetic to your `self`, and not just to others. T particularly has repeated certain things over and over to me which have started to stick in my brain. I can hear her words sometimes which can only be a good thing!
Eliminate inner critic and toxic shame
I guess this goes hand in hand with developing self-compassion really doesn’t it. You can’t really be compassionate towards yourself if you still have a vicious inner critic, can you? I am aware of my inner critic these days. I can listen to the things she says. I personally view my inner critic as my mother. I tell myself that the words are her words – not mine and that helps me to want to disagree with them – to go against them or to prove them wrong.
I think I still struggle with shame but at least I am more aware of it than I’ve ever been before. I can identify and acknowledge when I feel shame whereas before it was just part of who I was – not an emotion. I can also identify WHY I feel the shame and as before, I know it isn’t mine to own. Shame feels awful and when I am very caught up in it, it is definitely a child-state for me, I rarely feel shame when I am in my adult brain. Shame for me tends to be brought on by feelings of rejection, mainly from my mother and my father but I am starting to try to go against this pattern now. Slowly but surely there is progress.
Do I trust myself? That’s a weird question and not one I’ve ever thought about before. In terms of the inner child and learning to comfort her, I am certainly on my way to doing this well. Recently in light of new feelings towards my parents I’ve had a very strong image of little me – my inner child. That image makes me upset because the child looks so lonely and sad and vulnerable. To think that people could hurt her makes me very protective and angry. I am learning when I am upset or lonely or crying or triggered to talk to my inner child and try to comfort her. I try to understand and validate her rather than criticise or reject her (reject myself I suppose). So this is also a work in progress.
I whole-heartedly agree with the article that being a child of a narc means you are so focussed on meeting their needs and keeping them happy that what you want seems to fall by the wayside. I realised a year or so ago that I didn’t even know myself. I didn’t know what I did and didn’t want or what I did and didn’t like. I had no real opinion – I guess that was always given to me! BUT I am gradually starting to build up a sense of self. I am trying new things and dipping my toe in the water so to speak with various aspects of my life. It is sad sometimes to realise quite how much I’ve been held back. I often wonder what I could have done and could have been, but I am lucky that I am young enough to spend the rest of my life differently.
Yesterday that book I mentioned was delivered the “inner self listography”. I haven’t had chance to do it yet but I am looking forward to it. Getting to know yourself, starting again – changing the internal message.
Another article I read sets out the stages of grief in recovery from narc parents as below:
Acceptance: We have to accept first that the parent has limited love and empathy to give, or we cannot allow ourselves out of the denial and learn how to feel our feelings. Acceptance is the first step in recovery, after you realize the problem.
Denial: As children, we had to deny that our parents were incapable of love and empathy so we could survive. A child yearns for love above all else, and we needed the denial to keep growing and surviving.
Bargaining: We have been bargaining our whole life with the narcissistic parent, both internally and with them. We have been wishing and hoping that they will change, that they will be different the next time we need them. We have tried many things over the years to win their love and approval.
Anger: We feel intense anger and sometimes rage when we realize that our emotional needs were not met and that this neglect has affected our lives in severe, adverse ways. We feel angry with the parent and ourselves for allowing patterns to develop and for being stuck.
Depression: We feel intense sadness that we have to let go of the hope for and the vision of the kind of parent we wanted. We realize that they will never be as loving as we want them to be. We feel like orphans or un-parented children. We let go of all expectations. We grieve the loss of the vision of these expectations.
I was stuck in denial my entire life. I was still in denial for a large part of my therapy. Even after intellectually understanding the fact she was a narc. It took a very long time for the denial to lessen and eventually (now) pass. Bargaining was something that I did my entire life (as it correctly identifies). I think* I have finally given up that hope. Right now at least, I genuinely accept that she will never be what I want her to be. I accept that she is damaged and limited in ways it is hard to comprehend. I do not forgive her yet. I am nowhere remotely close to forgiveness, BUT the hope of her having an epiphany has gone. That has to be a big step, right?
For me personally I was in the “depression” phase as it is called here for a lot of the last…. Well, since about October last year I think. On and off. The sad feelings and enormity of them would hit now and again, like a tidal wave and floor me completely. Then I would recover a bit before the next wave. I have no doubt that this will continue. I think right now I am bouncing around in the anger and acceptance phase. Seeing the abuse clearly – seeing her clearly is a huge step in this recovery. The anger is new for me but has ramped up steadily over the last few weeks. I think I finally understand why T has said anger is healthy for so many years (anger that I had repressed and was not in touch with). I now understand that the reason it is healthy is because you can only really feel in touch with the anger when you love and respect yourself enough to care about what has happened to you. How could we not feel angry? I am currently caught somewhere between scared of – and embracing my anger. As another article says (and hits the nail on the head for me!) “Whatever glorified image a person had of their narcissistic parent is now completely shattered”.
I said this in my “letter” to my mother yesterday and I meant it – I must be resilient and I must be strong regardless of the false messages my mother gave me (does anyone else struggle to use the words mum or mummy when dealing with this stuff? I may have to think of a new word). I feel strong today and ready and capable and just very, very pleased (proud?) that I am learning the truth and that I will one day look back on all of this and it will be in the past. That I am turning my life around and that I’m doing it all for ME and not for someone else – not for her.
I feel empowered. I wish that would last!!
Articles referred to: