Friday, December 26, 2008
Her Cinderella World
She lives in a Cinderella world.
Yeah, I grew up hearing that all of my life. I created that world because, although I didn't realize it at the time, the world I lived in, my reality, was so difficult and so painful that I had to create a place where I could be beautiful, creative, intelligent, desirable, and loved for who I was so that I could survive. My Cinderella World was my only refuge, my only escape.
I've just recently learned something about me and about my family of origin that has brought me to a season of introspection and self-discovery like none I've encountered before. I've been through a period of change and re-invention for going on ten years, now, but this most recent discovery has added a dimension of clarity and understanding of my past and past relationships that has brought me to an entirely new crisis within myself. I'm now coming to terms with the fact that I am an adult child of narcissistic parents. There are varying degrees of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (NPD), ranging from the mild narcissistic tendencies that we all exhibit from time-to-time to full-blown, sociopathic or even psychotic personality disorders. The type of narcissism that I grew up with in my home, which was exhibited in both of my parents in varying moderate to severe degrees was what is known as Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder which, in turn, affected me profoundly.
The key to understanding narcissists is to know that virtually all of them are persons who have most likely been abused in some way as children and who have grown up with a deep sense of self-loathing and shame. Because they've not found ways to rid themselves of this malignant sense of shame and self-loathing, they project their low self images upon others--their children, their spouses, their friends--by finding ways to put others down in order to bring themselves up. They accomplish this through a number of ways, through mental manipulation (mind games), power plays (temper tantrums, pouting, the silent treatment, physical abuse), intellectual control/manipulation (always being right, moral high-ground, legalism, excessive religion), and slander (putting others down, guilting others, malicious teasing, name-calling). All of these things leave their victims feeling confused, belittled, bewildered, and in many cases believing that they, (not the narcissist), are the one who is mentally or emotionally unstable, delusional, or in many cases, even crazy.
I had all of the above weapons wielded against me by both of my parents when I was child, in varying degrees, and although I believed growing up that I had a very loving and close family, I learned, after my mother died in 2001, that the close, loving family I had always believed I had, was the illusion. I recall sitting in the church pew at my mother's packed-out funeral listening to one of the men who had been in their Sunday School class talking about what an example of Christian love and virtue our family had been to him, and I thought to myself, "How can you stand there and say that? You don't know what it was like growing up in my home! They really had you fooled!" We did such a great job of fooling everyone that we even fooled ourselves.
I will not sit here and claim that my childhood was unbearable, because it wasn't. I won't give into bitterness, self-pity, or blame. My parents were wounded people themselves, who grew up in an era devoid of the knowledge of psychology or the understanding of childhood emotional development. Their world was very black and white, and their understanding of human behavior limited to sin and virtue. There was no gray or in-between. So they had no way of dealing with the demons of shame and self-loathing living inside of them, the residuals of their own childhood abuse, but to tamp them down in denial, wondering why Jesus hadn't "washed them away" as the Scriptures promised he would. They loved me as best they could. They simply didn't understand that their demons were more toxic than their love was strong. By comparison, my marriage was far worse than my childhood, and the abuse inflicted far more damaging, and less understandable or forgivable.
As a young adult, knowing nothing else, I married a narcissist and the cycle of abuse continued. I couldn't figure out why this was happening to me. I'm a good person, a kind person, a compassionate and loving woman, whose greatest desire is to love and be loved in return. I had no idea that when I left my family of origin and married the man who would be my husband for 18 years and the father of my three children, that I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
This blog is the story of my journey to wholeness.