Feeling alone is real. Yet ironically when I feel alone, I know I am good company. It is the feeling of separateness and isolation that drives anxiety. Yet so many of us are filled with feelings of isolation and feeling alone. Erich Seligmann Fromm (German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist and author wrote “The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his feeling alone. The absolute failure to achieve this aim means insanity, because the panic of complete isolation can be overcome only by such a radical withdrawal from the world outside the feeling of separation disappears-because the world outside, from which one is separated disappeared.” My unqualified, unprofessional take away from this writing and what I did to help myself change is as follows. I have come to realize that the real hard work of narcissistic abandonment recovery is a kind of retooling. If I am luck and work exceptionally hard, I may break free from the narcissistic entanglements. However, that means reestablishing inroads into “more normal” without a map! I now realize, breaking free from the narcissist is only the first step. Trying to simply replace one Mr. Narcissist with one Mr. Normal is not as easy as it sounds. I was drawn to my narcissist and him to me because of mutual kind of understanding of the world. Our understanding of the world is steeped in trauma. As a result of the same kind of trauma, he becomes a predator, filled with hatred and internal anger that rages against all who come too close to really see the “ugliness” that he feels defines him. I am his compliment, his prey. I am equally angry turned sad and to some measure self-loathing. These rhythmic backdrops created the music he and I need to continue our dark dance. So as a result, just separating myself from my narcissist did not in and of itself bring me joy. Finding a “normal” “replacement and hoping to slot him in the empty place was equally dissatisfying. I had to separate from my narcissist, but then I had to retool myself. This was an arduous task of letting go of all the known including; people I loved, notions that guided my behavior, practices that while familiar were counterproductive to my end game. Then kicking, screaming, pleading with myself and those left I had to find peace. Yes, finding peace is about internal connection and self-love, but also about learning to love outside myself in a healthy way in healthy place. Learning to love yourself does not mean simply to isolate or to be OK with a standard of alone. It does mean learning to love yourself and renegotiating with the world. Creating NEW circles of influence, friendship and companionship requires effort as well as the ability to handle disappointment and rejection.
Day 78 You Assignment
Make new friends, open up your friendship circle. Do not get discouraged in the process of making new friends, it is not always an easy process. Make goals, for me ( and this was not a good idea) I began with the large scale hoping to find Mr. Normal-Right to fill in the gaping empty space Mr. Narcissist left in his wake. I now think about my life in baby steps. This month I would like to make three new friends and see where it goes. Today, I will make it a point to talk to new people in my known circle of influence.
Deep inside the voices that speak to me are angry and mean. Chanting choruses fill the quiet in my head with maddening accusations. While I try to fight some of the charges, the voices in my weakest moments, claim their victory, and deeper I fall. The fall is not into a dark depression as one might think, rather a kind of agreement with the voices that I am bad. I am not deserving of love and happiness mock the taunting banter of my inner voices. As a result women, men, some good, mostly bad slipped in and out of my life easily. I was not conscious of the disharmony these people delivered, until neck deep in the wake of their aftermath. Most “good” people were fearful of me. In truth, I found much of their behaviors equally disconcerting, lack luster, or even boring. While I could have taken charge of my own emotional maturity, ushering the voices into adulthood, I instead detached. I busied myself and for the most part ignored the internal narratives echoing the nasty diatribe. It was after all what I knew best. It was my birthright. At peace, in the zombie-walk that comes from this kind of internal divorce, I managed the day to day details of what had become the chaotic rhythm of my life as I prepared to die. Not the kind of death that comes from some dramatic medical diagnosis or certainly not the taking of my life, just patiently, quietly waiting for that sweet release. It would be natural to assume I was sad or depressed however, I was not. I functioned and saw the world as good place, despite my aversion to it. This was my normal. In time, I learned this was not every ones normal. Intellectually aware that I am not deserving of such harsh internal criticism, I remained guarded against the self-loathing thoughts that creep into my consciousness. I fight against these negative thoughts regardless of how familiar. It is difficult to manifest self-love when the people who were supposed to love me the most were so rejecting and abandoning. Moreover, the innate ability to consciously or unconsciously recreate the known, no matter how good or bad was also part of the problem. Recreating scenarios of rejection and abandonment fuel the old narratives. It is here in the quiet of the internal narrative where change is forged. It is the place where God (the universe) speaks to each of us and what can they say to a person filled with such self-hatred and self-directed anger? As I tried to free myself of the relentless droning of the voices, I realized this is ground zero. This is the place, the inroad to freedom. This is the only thing I can control and change… Every day no matter how hard, I try to remind myself I am a good person deserving of love.
Day 77 Your Assignment
Try not to listen to old programmed thoughts about yourself. Try and tell yourself you are good, deserving, capable and competent. Make that your normal. You don’t need a narcissist to validate YOU!
I want to remind you again that what I have written are my observations and personal conclusions drawn from my own therapy and research… Narcissists create disharmony! That is there job! They create emotional chaos, but equally as interesting what about environmental chaos? In addition keep in mind, these twisted components; narcissist dehumanize people and humanize objects to fully understand what might drive the emotional chaos to extremes. So what does this all mean? It means that objects are very important to the narcissist, whereas people… not so much. So again what does this mean for you and your recovery? Well, it means the ability of identifying dysfunction is paramount to your recovery. If I imagine personalities traits on a kind of emotional number line, two types of organizational extremes exist. The compulsive organizer as well as the compulsive mess maker. Both extremes lend themselves to creating chaos and disharmony for the people living in these dark place. My narcissist was a compulsive organizer. He had notebooks from high school still filed away in the attic of his extremely organized home. While he tried to hide it at first, if there were any kind of mess within the house it was like scratching nails on a chalk board for him. However, like all narcissist there is inconsistency! There were moments he was messy, but it was under his control (he tried to appear normal), but this was a manipulative ploy to trap you into confrontation! The confrontation would evolve along the lines of after you were lulled into a relaxed/messy environment and let your guard down by being a little messy like him. He would begin to criticize me and quickly escalate to yelling at me for being so messy even when it was only a minor household object out of place or where he believed it needed to be?!? As I began dating other people, I discover the other type as well, more like my mom, the unorganized hoarder, the person who hangs on to everything just like my narcissist however they just simply cannot organize well. This type uses the MESS to control and keep people at a distance. No one can be perfect or know when it is OK to make a mess and equally no one NORMAL wants to live in the soul crushing mess of an unorganized hoarder. Both my narcissist boyfriend and my narcissist mother will argue that they are PERFECT in how they manage over their environment. I have learned to notice how people live as an indicator to their internal narrative.
Was your narcissist an environmental control freak? Was he or she compulsively organized or disorganized? Be mindful of extremes as you reenter the dating world. Look at the entire picture before you jump into a relationship. If someone does not want to show you their home be cautious. There are many ways people can manipulate and control you!
I try to think of my life as a process characterized by the notion of perfect and improving. Still there are defining moments. It is these crucial sobering moments that MOST define character. Who am I in the face of death, illness, bankruptcy, divorce, and accidents (i.e. the unplanned, unforeseen catastrophic)? Equally as important who am I in the face of self-reflection- when I MUST shoulder the blame of my own fate? There are many reason to blame my parents, my narcissist, my country, the world at large for the condition of my life, but this does not serve me well. It is owning the joy as well as the burden of my life that I believe will bring me joy. I write this in the future tense because this has been a recent discovery. Most of my adult life, I have operated with a profound measure of fear. I think when a person grows up with the kind of deficits that makes them vulnerable to narcissist (however those deficits manifest) the underpinning is fear. Fear of being alone, not good enough, abandoned and more which are all driving factors that made me vulnerable to a narcissist that promised to make that all better. That is why “self-love” as I see it – a kind of partnering with yourself is the only ticket out! There is no magic dust. No one single person can fill that void. It is a daily struggle and a daily celebration. For me recovering from my narcissist is a continual process of self-inventory. Making small goals that range from finally cleaning out the crawlspace to spending quality time with the people that mean something to me are all a daily reminder of my freedom! Knowing better means doing better- each day is an opportunity!
Day 75 Your Assignment
Start small, for the next three days and make goals in areas of your life that you typically ignore. Make yourself a play date to hang out with a friend, your children, or another family member. Make a decision and put forth the effort to clean out that closet, cupboard or drawer. Try something new and then decide if it makes your life better and if the answer is yes incorporate more of it into your daily life.
All relationships create an associative identity based on a shared history. There is a comfort in belonging, perhaps more so for people raised in families that are viewed as emotional “black holes”. I was lucky to have known the steadfast commitment to family that my grandparents provided for me. My grandparents, all four, were good people. What happened to their kids, who knows, I know they were nowhere near parental as my grandparents… the promise of a better future in a forging country may not always mean prosperity on all levels. Regardless, once my grandparents passed holidays, vacations and special occasions were challenging. My narcissist knew this was my weakest spot and used the promise of the “family” card in ways that were both manipulative and cruel. He somehow instinctively knew and understood the grief of living without my grandparents which caused a feeling of loss of family and he used it to hurt me. In truth, for me these “special” holiday days seem to have a lot more weight than they should, as they only really represent a handful of days out of a 365 day year, however small in number these are the times and days that we choose to represent the best of our lives. I know this because these are the photos-hanging on walls, sitting on desk, on the social media that I envy. I envy not in the way that I wish bad things on the people enjoying those moments, rather wishing I could have created more of those moments with my son. What to do? Part of letting go of my narcissist was coming to terms with my grief in other areas of my life. Once I was able to identify the “real” losses, I was also able to grieve those losses and from there move forward.
Day 74 Your Assignment
Try and identify underlying grief in your own life. While not an easy task, it is perhaps a way to free yourself from the narcissistic relationship grief- (that WILL NEVER BE RESOLVED) into resolvable grief. It is hard to remember that your narcissist has NO REAL investment in your life. YOU DO!!!
Many people comment on how they have decided to give up love after breaking off with a narcissist. They are too hurt- too overwhelmed- too afraid to start anew. I get it! However, while a self-imposed “time out,” is extremely important in healing after a narcissistic break up, to trust in ones self and to love anew is the only way to nullify the narcissist’s damage. What does this mean to me? It means getting to know myself, and believing in my own self-worth. It means having a standard of “normal” when choosing both romantic-platonic relationships. It means realizing that l may be alone UNTIL I find people who comes close to those standards. It means NOT sugar coating the truth about people who do not meet these standards simply not to be alone. Falling at the very least “in like” with me, and realistically evaluating the world around me, as I tried to understand the reasons why I keep recreating the same relationship black hole. Fear of being along and the ability to rationalize are NOT a good combination when looking for love. I have said all along, for me therapy was and still is imperative. It gave me the ability to integrate some parental upgrades based on not being their for my child while I was with my narcissist as well as giving myself permission to start my life anew. Still it has been a bumpy ride. While I celebrate the perfection of humanity, I have also come to realize that people for whatever their reasons come flawed and damaged – the divine dichotomy! It is not up to me to change the world or others, only to be a better more effective player in it! That means to be true and love myself first and with that I believe I have nullified the narcissist! Self-loathing, doubt, fear of abandonment, insecurities are the narcissist’s inroads! These are the real challenges…it is not finding people to love, but rather loving and trusting in myself in the process of living my life which I think will make the difference.
Day 73 Your Assignment
Can you be your own best friend?? Imagine that you are your own best friend, a true and loyal friend that embodies all the facets that you would want in a best friend. Essentially, think of yourself as the BEST version of your own best friend! Once you can imagine that, imagine how the idealized image of your best friend you would treat you… Try to be that best version of your own idealized best friend in everyday life such that you become that embodiment of the best you possible and do not give up on loving yourself anew!