Narcissism

September 22, 2009
I started writing about Narcissism a while back as I was trying to learn and understand more about this personality disorder.  You can see my previous posts here and here and here and the first post I made about Narcissism here

Then the more I read, the more I thought about making Narcissism its own page.  This way if its something your interested in learning more about you can look here, and if not its not part of my main blog.

And so for today September 22, 2009 I did some more reading while waiting for my car to be repaired.  So many common sense ideas that help you realize its not you, its the narcissist....

Families who disown their members always have long histories of ambivalence and difficulty resolving their problems with each other.  Ultimately the feelings that occur after an estrangement are the very feelings that have been festering for years and even for decades. While there may have been a loving relationship of sorts, it was a relationship predicated on conditional love,  a love that precluded freedom of thought and choice.

Herein lies one of the paradoxes of family estrangements: they have decades of brewing and developing that seem to culminate, unpredictably, in a defining moment of the life-long relationship.  There is always the feeling in each family that  a single act or gesture "caused" the cutting off of the family member, but this is never the case.  In each case it is the culmination of years or even decades of disharmony and dysfunction, and some kind of rebellion against the Family Myth.  Yet within each triumphant grasping of independence or authenticity, there is some degree of shame and doubt about one's inability to negotiate a mutually satisfying manner of interacting with a loved one. Before the triumph of full autonomy can be celebrated, the same needs to be worked out and mourned.

Most cases of narcissistic behavior were a response to an uncontrollable feeling of narcissistic rage that caused the need for the estrangement. Most often instigators of the estrangement are individuals who demand compliance and submission, coupled with an underlying feeling that if a family member is not submissive, that person is being disrespectful.

October 6, 2009

The inability to tolerate mixed feelings

People with an impaired sense of self have difficulty mourning, feeling sad, and tolerating mixed feelings.  In order to harmoniously perpetuate any human relationship, we must learn how to balance our love and affection with our feelings of disappointment in the person we love.  

A healthy person who can tolerate mixed feelings will be able to let go of perceived insults and injustices, and let bygones be bygones.  A person with an impaired sense of self, however, is unable to forgive or forget and will remain angry.

While the person with the character disorder always sees the fault in others, healthier people tend to suffer with self-blame and an impulse to mend the rift.  That's what's brought you here: your ability to tolerate mixed feelings, your willingness to struggle with the dissolution of your myths and the changes in homeostasis of your family and you with to mend the rift.

November 7, 2009

 From the book- healing from family rifts

Resentments embody a basic choice to refuse to forgive, an unwillingness to let bygones be bygones.  When we hold on to resentments, we mentally relive all the injustices perpetrated upon us as if they happened yesterday.  We review and rehash our painful pasts, even as we profess to want to let go of them.  We do so because we have the illusion that by belaboring our resentments, we will finally somehow achieve the justice we believe we are due.  We cling to a futile need to be right, which overrides the capacity to be at peace.  We cling so hard to resentments usually because we don't know any other way of coming to grips with the painful feelings of hurt, rejection, and abandonment.

"Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to get sick"

Treat resentment like addiction

Resentment is like addiction in many ways, not the least of which is that both are physiologically as well as psychologically toxic to us.  Once we indulge in either, it's quite difficult to let them go.  Just as recovering alcoholics know that "one drink is too much and a thousand not enough," once we allow ourselves to indulge in resentment, we get lost in an insatiable hunger for revenge, endlessly reviewing the many incidents that we feel prove our enemies ill will and malevolence.

A wealth of  medical studies have shown that holding onto resentments and an incapacity to forgive will cause blood pressure to go up, weaken the immune system, and provoke cardiovascular degeneration.  Refusing to forgive, or at least forget, floods the body with stress hormones that cause symptoms ranging from headaches to colds and flu, impaired circulation, premenstrual tension, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, migraine, fibromyalgia, and other stress related afflictions. 

Like most addictions, indulging in resentments is also a solitary activity.  It precludes genuine connection to others and genuine interaction, and ultimately can crowd out all other relationships within a family.  When people speak to others of their resentments, it's rarely a mutual exchange of ideas ora dialogue; it's most often a diatribe, and one in which the resentor seeks complete agreement rather than dialogue or support or feedback.  When the focus of family gatherings becomes one of rehashing the various diatribes and accusations of the injustice collector, those diatribes and accusations are given that much more power.

April came to see me to find ways to reduce her dysfunctional connection with her family, which was currently in chaos because of an ongoing battle between her father and her brother.  April's brother Alan has a long list of grievances against their parents, particularly their father, Abe.  Abe has in fact acknowledged and affirmed the validity of some of his son's accusations, and has apologized in an attempt to make amends with Alan.  Alan, however, insists that his father has neither sufficiently apologized, nor expressed his apologies in a sincere enough manner.  He refuses to forgive his father, has held onto his resentments toward Abe, and will not speak to him or be in the same room as him.  He is also not speaking with April because she is not taking his side in the argument and has not complied with his demand that she stop speaking with their parents as well.

Choosing not to react to Alan's behavior anymore April has learned that Alan's behavior is out of her control, and she's tried to teach this to her parents.  She has also learned that an injustice collector who holds on to resentments and lives in a state of toxic rage can cause her to act the same way, and has decided she's no longer going to allow her brother to induce this kind of behavior in her.

April's role in the family had been that of the people please, always trying to appease and go along with Alan in order to avoid disharmony.  She's learned that for her to live in a state of serenity and feel healthy and whole, she's got to stay away from her own resentments - evoked by a person, Alan, who is clearly determined to live in a state of resentment.

(wow did that hit home!)

you can let go of resentments, whose only real function is to keep us in a state of poisonous, negative, angry, and rageful all consuming thoughts about a past we cannot change!

When we deal with the pain, and change our attitudes and behavior rather than attempting the impossible task of changing others, we can move on with grace, purpose, and serenity.  The rewards of doing this go far beyond dealing with the family rift; we become blessed with an enhanced inner life, greater wisdom, and strength to help us face every new challenge in life.

The family that cuts off is a family that doesn't allow for choice, and therefore tends to generate what is, at times, a crippling lack of autonomy - thwarting by ridicule and punitiveness any individual family member's attempt to make decisions.

Life is much easier when you can accept people for who they are.

Revisiting Narcissism on June 12, 2010 here

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