In some ways, this “healing thing” would be so much easier if I hadn’t felt so loved. Yes, truly loved. The juxtaposition of love versus abuse is so confusing I can feel the pressure building inside my skull each time I think about it.
Engulfing VS Neglecting
Most narcissists are self-absorbed to the exclusion of their children. In some ways, I envy those kids. At least they know they were abused. It’s glaringly obvious.
But some of us were raised by engulfing narcs. And when I say raised, I mean RAISED. When they got done raising you, oh but they never got done, did they? I vividly remember Mother drooping tiredly into the dishpan and saying to 29-year-old me, “I’m so tired of being a Mother. Haven’t you learned to ‘Mother’ yourself, yet?” My crime: Wanting to go somewhere after my curfew of dusk. Silly me. Naive me. Immature me. I should’ve know better than to ask. Wait…why did I have to ask Mommy? And why did I have a curfew that would’ve made a 12-year-old blush? Ah, Stockholm Syndrome, thou art my name! And my Mommy’s name! Thanks a lot, Daddy dearest.
But I digress…frequently.
A Happy Childhood
Strangely enough, many children of engulfing narcissists report having a happy childhood. Yes, happy. I know. Weird, huh! And while I was codependent by age three, exhibiting classic signs of abuse by age six and broken by age fifteen, yet my childhood memories are golden. Watching sunrises with Mother. Playing outside with Dad. Happy, happy days I look back on fondly, working obsessively to heal from their abuses to reclaim my childhood joy.
The Love Thing
Color me fanciful, but I like to believe that there was true unconditional “agape” love somewhere in the mix. I felt it. It helped me recognize true love when I felt it from my husband.
Wait, wait. We gotta get together on this love thing. If you’re gonna read this blog, then we absolutely have to learn the four Greek words for love. English is shockingly pathetic when it comes to love. One word. LUV. Pathetic.
The Four Loves
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m obsessed with C.S. Lewis. He’s the first real, brutally honest, downright gritty person I ever met. The next one I met, I married. But that’s another story for another day.
Where was I? Oh yes! LOVE! In his book The Four Loves, Lewis explains the meanings of the four Greek words for love. I highly recommend reading it. If you’re especially lucky you may be able to find the recording of Lewis reading it in his deep, stentorian voice. If it doesn’t give you goosebumps, don’t blame me!
The following is shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia:
- Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē]) means “love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.” Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one’s children and the feelings for a spouse…Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children.
- Éros (ἔρως érōs) means “love, mostly of the sexual passion.”
- Philia (φιλία philía) means “affectionate regard, friendship,” usually “between equals…philos denotes a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
- Storge (στοργή storgē) means “love, affection” and “especially of parents and children” It’s the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring…It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant.
When Agape Isn’t Agape
Aye, that’s the rub. We should have been loved with agape…but we weren’t. As children, we naturally expected unconditional love.
What we got was conditional love. It turned off and on, like the proverbial faucet, based on our performance.
Why Can’t they Just *#@%*@! Love Me!?!
It threatens their non-existent self-esteem. We threaten them.
You heard me! As Addison De Witt said in All About Eve, “We all come into this world with our little egos.” And our in-born egos were threatening as Hell to our parents, because they didn’t have one anymore. Their ego was long gone, probably destroyed by their narcissistic parents. That’s why narcissism is a generational affliction. It just keeps getting passed down.
I betcha dollars-to-donuts they told you that you were a stubborn, cranky baby. A strong-willed child whose will they had to break. A naughty toddler who tested them repeatedly and got spanked a lot. A sinner in diapers. Right?
So they set out to destroy our evil, wicked, prideful, stubborn ego too.
Goodbye, self-esteem. Been nice knowin’ ya.
Having destroyed our self-esteem, we became dependent on our parents’ conditional love for survival. Because you just can’t reconnoiter life without something in your gas tank. It became like a drug. A placebo replacing our long-gone self-esteem. We had to have it. And that’s how they controlled us. Yanking the strings on the marionette called “Us.”
In cults, this technique is called “Love Bombing.” (And if you were raised by a narc, especially a religious one, you WERE raised in a cult. Remember, all cult leaders are narcissists. You can take that one to the bank!)
Where was I? Oh yes! Love bombing. New cult members are showered with love, attention, praise, you-name-it upon entering the cult. When they are thoroughly addicted, this “love” is used to control them. Any wriggle, any deviation, any show of having a mind of their own, and all “love” is removed post haste. When they get back in line, they’re love bombed again.
That’s why cult abuse and recovery is closely related to narcissistic abuse and recovery. Two sides of the same rotten coin. Look it up!
But How Could They!?!
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Damned if I know. I guess ego trumps love. Our parents couldn’t rise above their fear of our egos, of our in-born self-esteem to love us unconditionally despite feeling less-than their child. They had to gain the upper hand. And they did it via “love” (and other rotten techniques I’ll discuss in upcoming blogs.)
Is it just me or is that really, really sad!?!