"Sunrise, sunset, sunrise, sunset," sang Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. "Swiftly fly the years." And in the twenty years that have swiftly flown since I graduated High School, another generation has been born and grown up. Yet the modern parenting style seems oddly familiar. Not new, fresh and enlightened but old, threadbare...and loathed.
What is every first-time parent's frantic wish? That their baby had come with a manual! As we grow up, their wish becomes our wish too. Please! Somebody tell me how to operate this machine, this mechanism that is myself! That need is exacerbated if you're surrounded by narcissists.
It's popular to express nothing but vitriol towards the narcissists we've loved and left. But I wonder: is there another side to the story? As aggressively as we embrace No Contact and as angrily as we tell the stories of narcissistic abuse, are we not whistling to keep up our courage? Is there not a secret "fly in the ointment," even in the bliss of narcissist-less No Contact, that no one talks about.
After a year of appearing in court stony-faced or smiling flirtatiously at her attorney, finally Louise Turpin is shedding tears supposedly for the thirteen children she birthed and then tortured. And we are expected to believe that she feels regret!? Shame? Empathy? Oh aye...and the moon is made of lemon meringue!
This is a Holocaust story, but not in the usual sense. It's more a tale of good vs evil. A tale about one young Belgian Resistance fighter named Lily and, sixty years later, a young American woman who always used "Lily" as her online screenname. Two "Lilies" who share the same favorite flower: lily of the valley. This is a tale about different people's perspectives on good and evil from two women who shared the same perspective.
Even "well-meaning" control is still control. When we think of control, many clichéd situations come to mind. We think of someone, like the infamous David and Louise Turpin, who locked up their children. But subtle control is as damaging as extreme control. Control can masquerade as "positive," for example, someone who believes they know best how we should dress, accessorize, act, speak, think, walk, live because "I want you to be the best you can be." Someone for whom we are, well, to quote my friend, "Not a person. Just a Project." Even this "well meaning" control, is still control. And control is always inappropriate, bad and usually backfires.
It's a fascinating question inspired by one woman's experience in a cult-like university in South Carolina. At the end of her shocking tale of abuse she wrote, "I have since forgiven myself for allowing myself to stay there and be hurt for that long." Have you forgiven yourself for being with a narcissist? For staying with them for "that long." To be frank, I haven't. There's always a lurking self-blame which inspired me to write I was Complicit in my Own Narcissistic Abuse in 2017. Two years on, I still blame myself for staying until they grudgingly allowed me to leave.
It's been years since it happened to me. That vague feeling of being controlled or violated or shamed or otherwise treated incorrectly by another human being. Yet, yet, you can't quite put your finger on it. Was I in the wrong, as they seem to think? Were they in the wrong? Was their behavior as inappropriate and disrespectful as my emotions indicate or am I over-reacting? Where does truth lie? I experienced it quite frequently in the narcissist's environment. Experiencing it again at the hands of a complete stranger was a revelation (and massively triggering.) It reminded me how it all felt, once upon a time...
Well, if that ain't hypocritical! This blog is called Narcissism meets Normalcy but only three articles have been about normalcy. Oops. My bad. Maybe it's because I'm not sure what normalcy is. Do you know what it is? We could glibly write the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for "narcissism" and make a pretty good stab at all its rotten little cohorts like projection, Stockholm Syndrome, infantilization, codependence. The list is endless. But when faced with penning the entry for "normalcy" we draw a blank and suck pensively on the end of our pen.
My Mom will be the first person to tell you: She praised me too much when I was growing up. While the Greatest Generation may've been too cold, too aloof, perhaps too threatened, too "Meh, pretty good" toward their children's accomplishments, the pendulum swung too far to the other side. What we, my parents and I, discovered from experience is that praising a child too much can also backfire.