I am of the opinion that in therapy, one should go from the point one is at and move forwards. I don’t think that dwelling on the past moves one forwards. It has its place, but ruminating on former times can be destructive.
So it was in this frame of mind that I sat across from my therapist and asked her what value talking about the past had. She responded that it can help to find out what the source of our issues are and agreed with me that it can be useful to move a person forwards, but it isn’t a good place to stay.
So feeling satisfied about this, I said ‘Let us go there briefly to say that we have done it.’ I had long felt that I had processed the past and had wrapped it up in a nice little parcel. I didn’t want to waste time or money going through that again when I felt comfortable with my past.
From the time that I was a teenage until I was in my early twenties, I had had a chip on my shoulder about my parents, their behaviours and their treatment of me. I am sure that most children get to an age when they suddenly realize that their parents aren’t the perfect people that we think they are as small children. It came as a great disappointment to me when I got to that age and my parents fell off their pedestal. Moreover, I was dealing with parents that drank two litres of wine or a bottle of Scotch at the weekends; shouted at each other a lot of the time; and were highly critical of us kids and unavailable to us.
As I started into my twenties and I was able to separate myself from them both figuratively and physically, I came to the conclusion that I could still love my parents in spite of their behaviours. I could love them and not what they did. This helped me so much in being able to interact with them more positively. I realized that they were where they were at. We are all on a journey to grow and develop and all of us are at a different point along that spectrum. Understanding my parents within this paradigm helped me to forgive them and to accept them for who they were and to love them genuinely.
I did not want to have to revisit all those painful times in therapy when I had worked through them and felt good with my current perspective. However, I did want to know why I felt so empty and so depressed; so at a loss to make sense of the chaos in the world; why it was so difficult for me to stand up for myself; why I isolated myself from relationships; and why I regularly shut down in conflictual situations.
So the therapist and I started to review the events of my childhood. I spoke in almost a blasé way. As I wound down from my disclosure, my therapist posed the question to me, “Have you ever considered that your parents may be narcissistic? When people drink it can change their brains in a way that they can become narcissistic. Why don’t you check out this website WillIeverbegoodenough.com. “
I didn’t really know much about narcissism. I hadn’t considered it a mental illness. I thought it was when people thought too much about themselves. I never even considered that my parents could be narcissistic. I left the therapist’s office with the intent to look up the website and pushed the idea of my parents having narcissistic tendencies to the back of my head.
About four or five days later, I went onto the website. I found it rather hard to navigate. I read a few articles and then stumbled on one that hit me right between the eyes.
I readily identified with the child described in this article. (As I plan to look at these traits in more detail in future articles, I won’t go into them at this point in time).
Suddenly the paradigm that I had framed for myself to function within my family started to crumble. I felt like I had had the rug pulled out from underneath my feet. I felt all the emotion that I had kept at bay by throwing myself into busyness descend on me like a ton of bricks.
Although I was pleased that I had finally found the key to my behaviours and the emptiness that I felt inside regarding my life, I was also dismayed at the chaos of emotions that cascaded down upon me. I also felt great guilt in pointing the finger at my mother as the cause of my dysfunctional self. I knew that it was my mother that was the narcissist in my life and my father probably drank as a way of coping. How hard is it to have to talk about one’s own mother in this way? How hard is it to know that the one person in your life who is supposed to support you and love you unconditionally was emotionally and psychologically abusing you?
Karyl McBride said “Being raised by a narcissistic parent is emotionally and psychologically abusive and causes debilitating, long-lasting effects to children. It is often missed by professionals, because narcissists can be charming in their presentation, displaying an image of how they wish to be seen. Behind closed doors, the children feel the suffocation of self and struggle with loneliness and pain. The narcissist is not accountable for their own mistakes or behavior, so the child believes they are to blame and that they flunked childhood.”
It took about three weeks for me start to figure out how I was going to interact with my mother again. I came to the conclusion that as this was a mental disorder, that I should treat my mother with kindness and respect. I was able to draw upon my prior paradigm again. I could still love my mother in spite of her behaviours. I love her – not what she does. She is where she is at.
This is what I shall use as I learn to find alternative ways of interacting with my mother. It is what I shall use when her behaviours provide the stimulus to my anger and to the feelings of not being good enough. Now I can learn to understand with new eyes, what behaviours are destructive, perhaps why my mother uses these behaviours and how I can heal from them even while being continuously subjected to them.
The journey of healing may be long and arduous. At this point in time, I don’t know what this journey looks like. But I am willing to share what I learn even though I feel vulnerable and overshadowed by the feelings of ‘Not being good enough’.