As a little girl, I noticed a puzzling difference between me…and all the other little kids at school. They had strong likes. They had strong emotions. They had strong opinions. They had strong preferences.
Fast forward thirty years and the same is true, but to a lesser degree. When faced with a decision, I agonize over what is the right, the moral, the wise, the unselfish thing to do.
It never occurs to ask what I want to do. What I would like to do. What would make me happy.
Welcome to narcissistic invalidation.
I learned invalidation at my father’s knee. “We don’t make decisions based on feelings,” he monologued, somberly. “Feelings don’t matter. They’re fickle. Ignore them. Act based on fact and fact alone. Look at the people who make choices based on emotion. Look what messes their lives are. Live your life based on facts and logic.”
So I did.
But I had a little help. My emotions were deemed incorrect. My choice of friends and romantic interests incorrect. Hell! Even my taste buds and hatred of kidney beans, lentils and a certain dish called Spicy Vegetable Chili were off…way off!
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As I grew older, my inborn strong emotions began to fade. I became too ashamed to acknowledge, understand or express them. The day-to-day joy of childhood faded to few-and-far-between bursts of joy when something good happened. Vivid-green jealousy faded to a soft chartreuse. Happiness became a job, a chore, a duty as I was regularly accused of having, “B.O. of the personality.” My condemned “strong will” became rose-petal soft. And the temper I’m told I had since my angry baby days…well, I’d been shamed into hiding it by age six. Catatonia became my goal, invisibility my fervent wish.
It was safe.
Somewhere in my teens, I decided never to react. It was safe. I learned to control my impulses, both facial and physical. As I saw it, if I had no reflexes and reactions, I couldn’t get in trouble for them. Couldn’t be told to, “Wipe that look off your face,” if there was NO expression on my face at all.
After awhile, you get the hang of not reacting. One time my grandfather accidentally stood on my hand and I just waited ’til he moved. (Thank goodness for soft carpet, eh.)
It took adopting a hyper white bichon frise puppy to learn how to react again. My reflexes had to be just as fast as hers. No…faster! To catch her when she tried to take a flying leap out of a soapy bath. Or stop from her from eating any piece of schmutz she came across. Grab her before she bolted out the door without her leash. I owe regaining my reflexes to Delly.
When it came to opinions, mine were informed…taught, lectured, brainwashed day-in and day-out to what they “should” be. I was told what to believe and what to think. Judging others was modeled on a daily basis.
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But no one thought to ask, “Lenora, what do you think about such-and-such.” On the few occasions when I did share my unique point-of-view on a particular subject, my thoughts were often met with, “How interesting! You have a unique outlook. Why don’t you share your opinions more often?”.
Uh…really!?! After a lifetime of shame and invalidation…in a house of people who were 100% right 100% of the time…why would I!?
All Grown Up
As I began navigating the labyrinth of adult life, I encountered many people who had different viewpoints, worldviews and religious views. I liked to keep an open mind, to consider others’ points-of-view for validity, even if there was just a crumb of truth to it. What I did not like was being judgmental and following the narcissistic black-and-white thinking I’d been taught. Needless to say, my “mind controllers” were not pleased.
Again, I noticed how opinionated everyone I met was. How dogmatic and confident in their opinions. Was this being adult? Were they really that sure of their opinions after long, arduous study or just enjoyed hearing themselves talk. To this day, I’m not dogmatic and bombastic in my opinions. Is that immature..or merely humble? I dunno.
Like so many victims of narcissists, decision-making was awful! Sometimes, I didn’t even realize I could make a choice. Take my first graphic design job, for instance. I was miserable…and my boss was, um, really odd. But, I never realized quitting might actually be an option. No kidding. You can, like, actually do that!? No shit!
But like I said before, what I wanted, what would make me happy was never a factor in my decision-making processes. Fact is what I acted on…not feelings.
“Trust your ‘feeler’,” Mother liked to say. Good advice. Fantastic advice! But after a lifetime of invalidation, yeah, you don’t really have the option to feel, let alone follow, your intuition. You can, and should, try…but it’s a bitch!
If you, like me, were brainwashed, manipulated and abused by narcissists, then we’re in the same boat. We need to thaw out. To learn that our feelings are indeed trustworthy and it’s OK to have them. To once again be able to feel the colorful kaleidoscope of strong feelings beyond our usual two: pain and anger. To once again be able to hear our intuition. To figure out what makes us happy…and act upon it.
I guess that’s why I have therapy tomorrow. Cause I can’t figure out how to thaw out and feel, really feel, on my own. If I learn some good shit from my therapist…you’ll be the first to know!
For more rants, ravings and reverse engineering of narcissism, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com and don’t forget to subscribe for daily updates by email. Visit my website to order woodburned art for your home! The proceeds help me afford therapy. Thanks!