Hi all, happy Sunday. I’ve been having a lot of inner-dialogue today so thought I would take some time to sit and write and clear my brain out a bit.
I feel pretty good really although busy in my brain. The main thing occupying my brain space at the moment are thoughts about empaths and narcissists. I’ve been Googling a lot about the toxic and dysfunctional attachment they have with each other, or more accurately, myself as empath and the narcissists in my life.
I’ve been doing my usual Googling, looking at quotes on pintrest and reading books to help really cement things in my brain and I’ve learnt a lot of stuff. I have never really read much about empaths and what they are but I now see that I fit that label very well.
As an empath I pick up on other people’s emotions VERY quickly and easily. I can feel their emotions and I have clearly internalised growing up that it is my job to make those people feel better. To be some sort of healer or something. I am highly sensitive. I care what other people think about me to excess. I have some sort of antenna for mood changes, facial expressions and various other things that other people probably don’t notice. I now understand that the purpose of being so aware of these moods/emotions is basically that I have lived constantly hypervigilant. Always living in fight or flight mode – it was for my own protection! My unconscious plan was that if I stayed alert, I would be able to quickly eradicate any perceived danger from someone who was dangerous (someone who is angry or upset that could cause me harm) and that I could learn to “fix” whatever the problem was for them, I would then be safe again. Hence why I am such a people-pleaser. It was actually a clever defense mechanism but one that I now need to stop using.
All throughout my life I’ve been called “sensitive” and “needy”. My mother and my ex work friend (hereafter to be named “Tina”) always told me I was overly sensitive and made it clear that was a character flaw, however…… from what I now understand, that is exactly how they liked and needed me to be! If I wasn’t such an empath, if I wasn’t so “sensitive” then I wouldn’t have been able to provide such a wonderful source of narcissistic supply for them. Isn’t that ironic?
Moving on to them, the narcissists in my life – they are attracted to empathetic, people- pleasers like me because we provide them with everything they need to feel good about themselves. Narcissists are not empathetic people, they do not have the ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes, they are not kind and considerate and they need a lot of admiration. They crave everything that an empath happily provides. So unfortunately its a sick kind of win/win situation. Everyone’s happy.. right? Unfortunately yes, until the empath wises up to whats going on and gets some boundaries OR the narcissist decides to discard of the empath through boredom and moves on to a new source of supply.
Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes and the two I am writing about, my mother and Tina are very different types. My mother is your more stereotypical narcissist, she is loud, a know-it-all, she is always trying to be the centre of attention, she is fake, a chameleon, she thinks she is beautiful and cares VERY much about material possessions. She is selfish and bossy and she does not care what people think of her because in her eyes, she is the creme de la creme. Add to that the fact that she is my mother and she had a lot of control over me, plus she had all of my life to train me to please her properly.
The way that my mother controlled me was mainly by her never giving me her approval or love. She was emotionally (and physically) absent and unloving. I never felt good enough for her and so I would do and try literally anything. Every now and again, I would get a very tiny snippet of approval as a reward and I would then know what I needed to do more of .. except it was like she dangled a carrot that I would never reach. This “approval” made me invent a whole new “self” a fake personality that was much more like her. Luckily that didn’t last and the real self is still here and fighting to get back out. Unfortunately my sister is now at this stage and is clearly becomming more and more sucked in to narcissisim herself for the same reason… our mother’s approval. It’s sad.
Tina on the other hand is a more covert narcissist. She is not physically that interested in her appearance, in fact she is obese. Her narcissism comes from her ability to play the victim card very well. She makes you feel sorry for her. She makes you want to look after her or make her feel better about her miserable life but yet, confusingly at the same time, she makes it clear that she is above you, better than you somehow and much more knowledgeable and well put together than you are. She controlled me by playing on my people-pleasing need and used to guilt-trip me into keeping her happy. If I did not keep her happy then I would pay the price of her guilt-tripping me (look how sad I am already, are you really going to leave me like this?), making me feel I was being extremely selfish (after everything I have done for you?) or by being more passively aggressive by not talking to me for hours/days and sulking very obviously by slamming and banging things and muttering barely audible things under her breath. She did also outrightly tell me I was selfish and “rude”. Tina kept me in a down position. She kept me weak and vulnerable and needy. She kept me small.
And so I spent the last 8 or so years trying to keep her happy at my own expense – as an empath I had no boundaries and I didn’t know where I ended and someone else began. I genuinely didn’t realise that it wasn’t my sole purpose in life to make everyone else feel better! I didn’t even consciously know that I did this.
Its sad actually that I ever attracted Tina in the first place because what drew me to her was how different to my mother she was!! Little did I know she was actually going to be the same (in a different but toxic way). Tina was bundles more maternal than my mother was, she had children and she doted on them. She spoke about them all the time and she sold me this story of what a wonderful mother she was. It was everything I ever wanted and so I wanted in on that. She called me her “adopted daughter” and I called her “work mum”. Now I realise how sadly sick that was.
So, here I am now 29 years old, nearly 3 years into some pretty intense therapy for “insecurity in relationships” which actually turned into therapy for attachment based issues, having a narcissistic mother, childhood trauma of various types and other things that I am only just learning about… but I feel genuinely relieved, pleased and, dare I say it? proud that I am understanding all of this for the first time. I am seeing it through clear eyes for the first time in all its distorted, murky, twisted, sick dysfunction and it feels weirdly empowering.
This is what I’m thinking today. I am an empath – I accept that 100% and that being an empath doesn’t make you this sweet, innocent, perfectly nice girl it actually makes you give away your power. It makes you weak and vulnerable. It means you have no self-esteem and you rely on everyone else to tell you who you are. That is not good. Being an empath is a weakness, not a strength.
My mother, and Tina (and my old friend who I’ve previously written about that I walked away from last August) are all narcissists which yes, does make them all selfish and abusive to varying degrees BUT I allowed them to be that way. It is ME that let them have that power over me and ME that encouraged their control to continue. I accept that too, I own that. [I guess I have slightly more sympathy for myself where my mother is concerned because I was a baby and child who knew no different but hopefully you know what I mean.
So I now understand what part I play in all of this and in life generally I guess. I also understand what parts they play and that means I can change it. I’ve now ended two friendships with narcissists that were bad for me and bad to me. They are now out of my life and the guilt for friend 1 has totally and completely gone. The guilt for Tina is lessening every day, particularly this weekend since I’ve read and understood all of this stuff, it’s really helped to ground me. It is very hard to undo everything you’ve ever known, and it has clearly taken me nearly 3 years of therapy to get to this stage which sounds INCREDIBLY slow doesn’t it? but I think I needed that long to get my head around this, to fight through my defences and to really accept all of it enough to be able to look at it more objectively and change it.
My mother continues to be a hard case to crack, clearly she is never going to be as easy as friend 1 and Tina – there is a lot of deeper stuff involved with her, but one thing that is helping is to know it isn’t actually about me at all. It truly isn’t – I see that now and that takes the sting out of things so much.
On that note, I was with her last night at a gathering at my aunt’s house. I sensed as soon as I saw her some sort of aggression or anger or something. It’s very hard to describe, I can sense it on her. It may be in her eyes or something.. I can FEEL it (see, empath me!) and I acknowledged that to myself. During the course of the evening she got visibly worse, probably helped by alcohol. By the time we had left the gathering she:
- Completely ignored me when I told her me and my fiance were heading to a wedding show today. She literally went “umm” which in my mother’s language means “I couldn’t give two fucks”.
- She later called me by another girl’s name who she is friends with. That girl wasn’t even there.
- She clearly got jealous that I was having a good time and dancing to the music that my uncle was playing and so turned his music off and replaced it with what “everyone else wanted”. She then told me “it isn’t all about you!” which irritated me beyond belief at the time because I had nothing to do with my uncle’s choice of musi, but today I more clearly see the blatant projection of how it is actually “all about HER”.
- She then invited two people to my wedding in front of me! People we had only met once, a year or so ago who absolutely would not be invited to our wedding. I couldn’t believe the front of her. I am not sure whether it was done to get a reaction from me and enjoy my night, because she was visibly irritated by my enjoyment – or – whether she just invited them because she thinks she has the right.
- And lastly, on the way home she told me how at a party recently her and my cousin (who I dislike BECAUSE of my mother – long story) were talking together for hours and hours and how she wished my mum was her mum. She literally said “she loves me and said she just wishes I was her mother because we are so close“. It riled me up so much at the time but today it makes me laugh. What a pathetic attempt at making me jealous! That cousin gives her everything she needs. She showers her with admiration and affection and they are “close” yes, very.. I would go as far as to say dangerously enmeshed. Good luck to them, rather her than me!
So, watch this space. I am making changes and I am feeling good about them. A new me is in the making.
Some links that I found helpful: