Tag Archive | narcissist

Thoughts on tolerance and boundaries

In the last two days, the hot topic amidst my gaggle of female friends has been boundaries, and tolerance, as an offshoot of the boundaries discussion.  One friend asked, “Why are boundaries so hard?”  For those of us who have abuse backgrounds the answer is easy—we never learned boundaries as children, or if we did, abuse in adult relationships made us doubt and question our boundaries at time and again.  We got told we were in the wrong at every turn and we began to believe it, sacrificing our own boundaries, wants,  needs, and beliefs, to try to make the abuser happy, or simply to keep the peace.  While our boundaries were being dismantled most of us grew extremely tolerant of what was purely bad, toxic, unhealthy behavior on the part of others.

Because so many women who are abuse survivors go on to have issues with alcohol and drug abuse, boundaries are further blurred and lost.  We begin to do things that do not mesh with our own values and beliefs. We develop a great deal of guilt and shame because we are betraying ourselves, and those people that we love the most, so our tolerance for poor treatment goes up even higher, while our boundaries become even more fuzzy.  We are miserable and needy and unhappy and we attract people who are miserable, needy, unhappy, or outright personality disordered.  Women with abuse backgrounds, or substance abuse issues, are the perfect targets for those predatory people of the narcissist and sociopath varieties.  Who better and easier to manipulate than someone who has no set boundaries?  Of course, we want to be needed, so these toxic people who attach to us help us to feel better about ourselves, even if they are using us, or do not really love or care about us.

But a funny thing happens when a woman from an abuse background starts to heal. It really begins to upset the apple cart in our unhealthy relationships.  The same thing happens when an alcoholic or addict gets clean and sober.  As we get better, our boundaries begin to return, and we grow stronger, and more self-assured.  We begin to ask for what we need and set firm limits for what we will not tolerate.  Guilt and shame starts to drop away, and surviving begins to head towards thriving.  The unhealthy people in our lives hate that.  It threatens them, and so they revolt, usually in the most unpleasant of ways.  They lash out, they accuse us of having “a twisted sense of boundaries,” they blame us for their shortcomings, they get jealous, they undermine, they get mean, they set out to hurt us, demean us—anything in their bag of trick to try to get us to fall back into old behavior—seeking their forgiveness, accepting the blame that isn’t yours to own, and going back, once again, to tolerating bad behavior.  When that does not work, these folks tend to get madder and meaner in their desperation to regain control.

It sounds awful, doesn’t it?  It certainly feels awful when one is in the midst of if, but it is such a good and positive sign that you are moving in the right direction!  It is a sure sign that you are moving towards health and wholeness and the unhealthy relationships that you have been enmeshed in are dropping away.  It is unfortunate that the dropping away process is not more gentle, but the fact is that toxic and disordered people are not known for gentleness, or quietly disappearing into the sunset.  The relationship will end with them kicking and screaming and blaming you all the way.  You simply must not take their behavior personally.  You are getting better and leaving them behind and they are mad as hell—at themselves for not having the courage to follow–or for the disordered, they are mad that you are not falling for their crap anymore.

This is a time when your boundaries and tolerance will be tested in ways beyond belief.  You will feel torn and guilty.  You will question yourself.  “Is what he/she said really true?”  No, it is not.  It is far more apt to be true about them than it is to be true about you.  What you are being afforded is an excellent opportunity to firm up your boundaries even more by disengaging.  So many of us want closure, or the last word, or an apology from the one who lashed out at us.  None of those things are helpful.  What is helpful is moving away from the toxic person as quickly as possible.  Do not take on their “stuff,” and do not look to mend fences that were falling apart to begin with.  Love yourself enough to let go as completely as possible, with the maximum amount of compassion and forgiveness possible, for yourself, and for the person you are leaving behind.  Getting healthy is a process and this is a part of the process.  Do not beat yourself up for not seeing the person for what they were sooner, or for ignoring what you did see.  Know that you will not make the same mistakes again.

Once you enter “thriving mode,” you will attract other people who are happy, healthy, and thriving.  It is true, and I really want you to know and believe that.  You will also gain a sixth sense about people and you will be able to spot someone who is disordered or toxic with lightening speed, because as your boundaries become solid, your intuition will sharpen in the most magnificent ways.  Suddenly you will know, maybe for the first time in your life, that you are fully capable of keeping yourself safe and healthy and nothing, and no one, will stop you from doing just that.  There is a big difference between being needed and being well-loved.  You will choose to be loved rather than needed.  You won’t do it perfectly, but that is okay.  Just keep moving forward.

Boundaries are tricky in so many ways.  We have different boundaries with friends and family than we do with strangers or people on the outer edges of our lives.  We recalculate and relax as we get to know people.  I have found, for myself, that I am still an extremely tolerant person, even with firm boundaries.  I can tolerate political difference, different religious beliefs, child rearing practices, pretty much anything, unless it violates my boundaries, or the behavior violates the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.  That is where my tolerance ends. If you want me to respect your religious beliefs but will not do the same for me, something is wrong with the picture, and I will turn off the TV, and so on.

Yes, I will give you a chance or two to change your behavior as long as the offense is minor, because that is how I roll, but three strikes, and you are outta here!  If you cannot, or will not, respect my boundaries then I will know you do not care about me in a healthy way and I will say good-bye without a backward glance.  If your offense if major, know that there are some things I have zero tolerance for, such as abuse of any living thing, especially those that cannot defend themselves.  Not only will I remove myself from your life instantly, but I will do what I can to make sure you never hurt another soul, knowing full well that my power is quite limited.  And I will pray for you.  I will always pray for you.

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Anger, grudge holding, and the cure—Forgiveness

I’ve never been any good at holding a grudge, though I have admittedly tried.  In the past, I have been more apt to forgive easily.  Some would say too easily.  The problem was not that I forgave, it was that I also forgot, which meant that I stayed in bad relationships too long, or looked past completely unacceptable behavior, which kept me wide open for hurt after hurt, and certainly to abuse.  There is a middle ground, I believe.  We can forgive, let go of anger, hurts, and bitterness, and still remember that the behavior and actions were awful, and that we did not deserve that type of treatment.  We can then make healthy choices about who we keep in our lives, and who we do not.  Keeping anger in our lives is never healthy, nor is holding grudges, yet may people do, to their great detriment.

I know some lovely people who hold grudges and carry around things that should have been forgiven long ago.  We can all do this at one time in our life or another.  For instance, for the longest time I could not completely forgive my first husband for moving me away from the west coast, my family and homeland, against my wishes.  Despite all of the rotten things that happened during, and after, our divorce, we’d come to a point of forgiveness, but this was the one thing I could not let go of, try though I did.  I’d forgive him for the move over and over, and think that I’d finished the job, only to get triggered by something and realized I was far from done in my forgiving.

I hated that I could not forgive him completely.  It took me moving back to Montana for nine months, and coming back to Maine of my own choice, more or less. (The state of Maine fairly insisted that I come back to go to prison 😉  I am here by choice now, having realized finally that my home is wherever my heart is, and my heart is with my children, all on the east coast.  He also did something amazingly cool by taking my 7 year old into his home while I was in prison.  We talked two days ago, and when I got off of the phone with him I realized that it was finally done.  I had forgiven him completely.

There are a lot of what I term average grudge holders in the world.  I have a dear friend who has a friend she adores.  Of her she says, “She’s always been a very good friend to me, but there was the one time in high school where she said something that really hurt me.”  High school for her was about 60 years ago.  She carries other things around that she’s been unable to forgive, and they have added up, and I can see how they weigh her down.

There are other people who are masters at grudge holding.  They carries their grudges around with them, heavy in their pockets, and at the end of the day they take out their grudges, and look at them, and polish them up like precious jewels, then they return them to their pockets to carry around the next day.  Rinse, repeat.  So, why do some people hold grudges?  Many people use grudges to cut themselves off from the person who hurt them.  They feel that this distance protects them, but in reality it effectively cuts off the chance for positive communication, resolution, and forgiveness.

Chronic grudge holders often have anger problems that they are too afraid to face, so they hold grudges, and shame and blame, because it’s easier, and safer for them, than looking at themselves and taking personal responsibility for their part in the conflict, or events.   Grudge holders do not understand that people are human, and say and do things that hurt others, often with no malice involved.  The anger festers, the grudge grows and takes on a life of its own, and the person holding the grudge is left miserable, trapped my their own anger, and depleted of joy.  Oftentimes, their pride it too big to recognize just how badly they are hurting themselves with their undying anger.

When you are dealing with a narcissist, or a narcissistic sociopath, you are dealing withe a whole different ball of wax completely.  The narcissist, or narcissistic sociopath, will not just hold a grudge, they will hold a grudge and they will seek revenge, often stopping at nothing to right the perceived wrong.  God forbid you leave leave one of these people and try to divorce them.  The abuse that they exacted upon you will generally only escalate, and often they will use, and abuse, the court system to try to see to your ruination.  So distorted is their world view, and so disordered is their personality, that it is impossible to them to forgive, and let go, because they simply do not care what their vengeful acts are doing to others, even their own children.  They hurt, so they want to make you hurt, without taking a speck of responsibility for their own behavior.

I know a whole family who operates like this.  They blame and shame and tear down but never stop to see the hideousness of their own behavior.  The son held a grudge towards his parents for favoring his little sister, something he felt set him up for a life of failures.  This lead to several, years long, estrangements between him and his parents.  They’d say something he didn’t like, and he’s cease all contact with them for years.  I simply could not “get it” until I spoke to his parents during one of these estrangement periods.  His parents told me stories of his lifelong habit of lying, his inability to keep a job, and about the time, when he was 19 or 20, when he came home from work late at night and woke his father up several times in a row, so they told him to move out.  That had happened 25 years prior!  Yes, I did have an “aha moment” about the son’s behavior at that point.  It had been modeled for him all of his life.  I have seven kids and I have been awakened more than once by one coming home late at night.  My response was always, “Thank you,God!  They are home and safe.”  Then I went back to sleep.  Sadly, narcissists do not learn to forgive, and let go, and move on, nor do they want to learn.

Forgiveness is the cure for anger and grudges, though, and it is an excellent cure with many benefits.  People who forgive have less stress in their lives, lower blood pressure, sleep better, have a stronger sense of spirituality, better relationships, and are more loving and giving.  Forgiving people are happier, healthier people.  Forgiveness is good for you!

Forgiveness, like love, is not just a feeling.  It is a conscious choice and an definite action.  You have to make the choice to forgive, and keep working at the forgiveness.  This is especially true when the person you are working to forgive is still trying to hurt you.  Keep working at it anyway, for yourself, and your family. Forgive as many times as you need to forgive.  Ask God for help.  Forgiving does not condone the behavior, words, or actions, of the one who hurt you, but it frees you from needing to hold onto your hurts.  Freedom is an excellent feeling, and place to be.

It’s never too late to begin to forgive, and today looks like a great day to me. Like any dance, it will be two steps forward, one step back, but with practice and resolve, it is a dance that you can master.

Addiction versus Narcissism and Sociopathy

Yesterday, I read a post on a blog where the poster was speaking of people with substance abuse issues in what I consider to be a very narrow view.  Basically, what he reduced a person with an addiction was to “an addictive personality,” nothing more, nothing less.  Taking it further, the poster went on to say that addictive personalities have life-long, deep seated character problems, blame the world for their problems, and fail to take personal responsibility for their behavior.  That these comments were made my a retired psychiatrist, not just some man off the street, is even more disturbing.  While it is true that someone deep in their addiction will generally deflect responsibility onto someone, or something else, once recovery begins, so does acceptance of one’s own personal responsibility in poor choices, bad behaviors, and so forth.

However, to reduce addiction to a character defect, and to claim all addicts and alcoholics are merely addictive personalities does a severe disservice to those living in addiction, and those who have triumphed over their addiction.  Experience has taught me, both  intensely personal, and from extensive observation of others, that addiction is never that simple.  I believe this is especially true for women, because it is most often women who are subject to childhood trauma and sexual abuse, and these women are then are left to somehow pick up the pieces from those experiences without an instruction manual.

Childhood trauma and abuse lead to PTSD and, over a lifetime, PTSD can look like many, many things.  This is well documented in psychiatric world.  PTSD can lead to eating disorders, self harm, substance abuse, and repeated poor choices in life.  PTSD at various times in life can come out as depression, anger, and anxiety.  It can look like bipolar disorder, and is often misdiagnosed and treated as such.  Until the PTSD is faced, treated, and defeated, it can look and behave like so many things that are only red herrings.  Of course, childhood trauma and abuse that leads to substance abuse, or other self defeating behaviors, does not factor in any genetic components, also so important to acknowledge.  That a child who lives in an alcoholic home is more apt to be traumatized as a child goes without saying, and certainly in this case, you have trauma mixed neatly with unfortunate genetics.

It was while I was prison that I first became acquainted with the ACES Study.  ACES is an acronym for adverse childhood experiences study.  Adverse childhood experiences are, simply, put traumatic experience which occurred before the age of 18.  What I learned was among my fellow female inmates, nearly 100% of these women had an ACES score of over 6, with 10 being the highest possible score.  Statistics on women in prison who have suffered childhood abuse and trauma are generally quoted at being of 60% to 90%.  I tend to believe the 90%.  Since women in prison are almost always there for drug and alcohol related crimes, what does this tell us?   It tell me that these women, myself included, we not born flawed, nor defective, nor are we merely addictive personalities.  We are women who have been hurt, and hurt again, and then hurt some more, and we coped with that pain the best way we knew how, as faulty and personally destructive as was that coping mechanism.  Of course, when we are drinking or drugging, we are a perfect candidate for an abuser looking for an easy target to prey on, and the cycle continues, and gets worse.

But, alcoholism, addiction, and PTSD are all very treatable.   People do get better and go on to live healthy, productive, lives.  Some people go beyond getting better.  They move on to become authentic.  That brings me to my favored personality development theory, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.  As much as I like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Dabrowski rings far more true for me.  Loathe as I am to use Wikipedia as a source, for this topic, I am going to do it.  So, go here and read this: Positive Disintegration.  It’s not an easy or a quick read, but it is extremely worthwhile.  The theory is far too complex for me to give you a nutshell description here.

So, how can disintegration, an ugly term, ever be positive?  In certain persons, people Dabrowski terms as those with a high developmental potential, disintegration, as messy, and painful, and ugly as it is, eventually leads to the ultimate reintegration, and that is where the authentic person is found.   Dabrowski speaks of people with inherent overexcitabilies, similar to Elaine Aron’s traits of the Highly Sensitive Person.  A HSP, or a person with these overexcitabilities will see and feel life far more intensely than the average person.  I am a HSP, and I have several children who are, too.   Actually, I think they six out of the seven are, to one degree or another.  So, for we HSPs, life just hurts.  Are we born HSPs, or with these overexcitabilities, or are they born from childhood trauma?  What does childhood trauma do to a HSP?  Well, it may lead to that all important series of disintegration experiences, which, if faced appropriately, can lead to a beautiful place called authenticity.

I know many, many, women who are doing more than recovering from addiction, and healing from childhood trauma.  They are working hard to build their disintegration experiences into a firm foundation of personal integrity and authenticity.  These women, and I am one of them, have moved beyond excuses and blame and self abuse.  They live in honesty of all that they were, what they experienced, how it affected them, and those around them. We have a gleaming personal integrity.  We make mistakes, and take responsibility, we apologize, we keep moving forward.  It’s a beautiful way to live, and a gorgeous thing to watch.

Contrast all of the above with the narcissist, or the sociopath.  These are the people who are truly flawed to the core.  They do not get better.  They are the extreme in the term “treatment resistant.”  They lie, blame, fail to take personal responsibility, but worse, they see absolutely nothing wrong with that behavior, or themselves.  They almost never seek treatment, and if they do, they almost always use it to hone their craftiness—too learn how to better fake being human. Since they believe there is nothing wrong with them, they do not seek treatment to get better. They generally do it to shut someone up, usually a partner.  In their minds, there is nothing to get better from, so they lie their way through therapy, and the therapist often gets sucked in by their charm, so he or she may actually pat the narcissist or sociopath on the back and tell him he’s just fine.  For this reason, in many ways, it is far better for a sociopath not to seek help lest he come out of it more advanced in his manipulation skills.  These people are the users and abusers in the world, and they are everywhere.

So, give me addiction and PTSD and a messy looking life any day!   I am healing, and I moving forward, and I am better, and lest I sound a tad narcissistic, I am beautiful.   I am not an addictive personality.  I am a glorious, genuine, human being with integrity, kindness, compassion.  I live a wonderful life.

My ex-husband terrifies me….

 

I have been MIA for a few weeks, in the trenches, battling the sociopath.  One of the downsides to being an idealist is the way I think.  I do not think in mean ways, nor do I think about harming people—even people who have hurt me greatly.  So, when I find out that others have such violent, vindictive, hateful thoughts, and perhaps even plans, it throws me for a huge loop almost every dang time.  I’ve been forced to face a scary reality in the past few weeks; The sociopath and his girlfriend would like me dead.  This has pulled me right out of my happy little dream world and into a world, and day to day mode, that I am finding less than enjoyable.  I am terrified most of the time now, and that is just “so not me!”  After all, I HAVE been to prison, and I have lived through many, many hell-on-Earth experiences, and I have gone through these experiences almost blithely without fear.  But now I am scared, quite a lot.

I have had to come to terms with the fact that the sociopath is a lot sicker than I thought, and that his behavior is escalating.  His girlfriend appears to be completely obsessed, and is doing most of the dirty work for him, with his father lending a huge hand, as well.  What I have discovered, and uncovered, and continue to find over the last couple of weeks what  amounts to four Facebook pages, blogs, newspaper articles, and extensive Tweets regarding me, and the Guardian ad Litem in our divorce, and they are working to destroy us both.  The sociopath depersonalizes me by referring to me as “Mom,” in quotes.  Something new pops up every day.  Yesterday is was listing on Craigslist sites around the country.  What will it be today?  While they cry “censorship” and “free speech,” I refuse to feed the trolls and stoop to their level with personal responses, but I will not tolerate hate speech, libel, or defamation of character.  All of the newspaper editors that I have had to contact have agreed and have shut them down.  I have learned that I can speak the truth, honestly, factually, and without emotion, and people will respond with the right and proper actions.

I have Facebook posts, Tweets, Blog posts, everything, all saved to my computer, and all has been sent to my attorney, including the website the sociopath has on a place call GoFundMe where he “pimps” out our son to get people to donate money to him under false pretenses.  My attorney is afraid of “starting World War 3,” because everyone is scared of this family.  He tells me that the sociopath doesn’t have the balls to do anything for real.  I bet someone has said that to every woman, protecting her children, who has been murdered by her abuser.  I have made it clear I want a protection order, and yet nothing happens.  Any my son has to be around these poison people for some period of time, three out of four weekend each month.

The truth is that when we lived with him we never had heat in the winter.  I’d awaken with a baby to a house that was 38 degrees, and if I was lucky, with the cook stove, I might get the loft up to 54 degrees by mid-afternoon.  The washer broke and he wouldn’t fix it, so I washed all of our clothing, including dirty cloth diapers, in our kitchen sink for over 2 years.  A huge hole developed in front of the toilet, with a view straight down to the dug, dirt, basement.  No one would use the toilet but me.  My son had to use a potty chair until we fled when he was 4.5 years old.  We had no working oven, and three month prior to my leaving, the water pump broke and we had no running water.  We had farm animals, sheep, goats, a mama llama and her cria, and an alpaca.  Over the winter before I left, he left half of them starve to death.   I estimate we lost 25 animals.  He killed 25 animals.  He’d told me they were all fine, out in the back pasture, as I could not get to them because of snowed in fences and gates.  One day I went out to investigate a barking dog, and pushed beyond where I would normally go to find heaps of animal corpses.  Of course, there is more to tell, all sick and twisted and scary as hell, but I wasn’t scared then.  I was too numbed by the effort needed to survive.

The truth is also that, since we fled nearly 3 years ago, my son has never been cold.  He has always had running water, a full functional bathroom, and he can take a hot bath anytime he likes.  The house is not filled with a million flies, nor are there soda bottles filled with urine everywhere.  All of his issues that emerged after we left, some pretty severe, have been discovered, assessed, and dealt with to the point where he is a normal, happy, functioning child.  But, he remembers…he remembers it all, and at 7 years old, he’s begun to ask questions about what he saw and experienced.  I have no answers.  Daddy’s sick…  And now, Mommy’s scared, but I’ll be damned if my son has to feel that even for one moment.