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Archive for September, 2010

Handling Narcissistic Parents

Emotional injuries from a narcissistic parent may be the greatest “normal” wounds a child can suffer—especially for the first two children. In the wounds can be a special depth of despair and fury, for the first two children are as gifted at conscious empathy as their parents are not. Therefore, it is particularly agonizing to these children that their parent responds so cluelessly and even cruelly. (1) The pattern of self-expressive parents in general—not just narcissistic ones—is to insert critical, cutting, thoughtless, hurtful remarks into otherwise friendly, affectionate, engaging, even doting, conversation, utterly unaware that they have just “struck” their child. (2) What makes the narcissist’s “blows” especially toxic is that when the child tries to push back, there is no one surer on earth that they are right than a narcissist. Whereas a child might get through to other parents, or at least wobble them a bit, the fight is just too confusing and daunting with a narcissist. (3) Perhaps the most important key to setting narcissists straight is to recognize that they are in love with their ideas…not themselves. Narcissists often suffer extreme depression and covert low self-esteem because they alienate people with their behavior and not only don’t know why, but are likely to be aggressive and blaming in response to being rejected rather than feel simple pain at the loss or lack of response. (4) A second key is to confront them in a spirit of kindness and firm determination. If you back down, they will continue their love affair with their point of view. If you attack, they will counterattack immediately, because, of course, they’re right (but not really). If you can master this tricky mix, you can help school the most entrenched narcissist into the possibility that your ideas are just as important as theirs. (5) A third key is to feel free to say “shame on you” (and it helps to mentally or physically hunch shoulders to ears and duck face into hands, I think, to send a more congruent message since shame is such a tricky emotion http://www.surfyoursoul.com ). The narcissist is fired up by avoidance of shame—hence the “in love with being right” to avoid the shame of being wrong.

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Dizzy happy circles

Today I was carried away by happiness. And then worried. When I get too happy, I can go hypomanic—meaning get stuck in the emotion of hypomania. Now hypomania is a perfectly respectable emotion (excitement, aggressiveness, optimism…I think) but getting stuck in it is bad for me. Especially when I can’t stay asleep at night because of it. And worse, today, when I couldn’t even focus because I was so giddy with my successes and connections. Wondering how the heck to settle down, I went to the car to get some full bags I had left there (reusable ones with handles of course). On my way back into the house, after making sure no one was looking, I began spinning, bags balanced in each hand, for added centripetal force. Just felt like it, no prior experience with this spinning thing…at least, not as an adult. Except to know that it’s really important to physically express overwhelming emotion in order to move through it and allow its complex information to filter through. I changed directions often. Until the last spin when I almost fell over, so I quit. Joila!!! Hypomania resolved. Simple peace restored. I am focused enough to write this blog. 🙂

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