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An Exercise in Grieving and Self-Empathy

Would you treat anyone the way you were treated?

It’s a fascinating question. And perhaps the greatest antidote to the lack of self-empathy that too often sabotages the recovery of Narcissistic Abuse Survivors.

If you were born into a narcissistic family, it’s like being born into a cult. That’s all you know. If you married into it, surrendering normalcy was your only option to make your marriage work. When you’ve lived under Narcissistic Abuse for months, years and decades, it all becomes a blur.

If you’re a regular reader, you may know that I’m something of a spreadsheet maniac. Okay, okay. Maybe it’s an offshoot of my OCD, but spreadsheets help keep life organized. Like the rabbi in Fiddler On The Roof who assures us that “There is a blessing for everything,” I have a spreadsheet for everything.

When denial threatens to drown me and I’ve forgotten more abuses than I can remember, my “Timeline of Abuse” spreadsheet saves the day. There’s a column for the year the abuse occurred. There’s a column with a short summary and a column with the full explanation. Then there’s a column titled “Category.” I even did some Pivot Tables to give me a snapshot view from the 10,000 feet perspective when denial drowns me and I need a quick reminder that all was NOT well in the Kingdom.

Yesterday, I added a new column to the Timeline of Abuse. It’s titled simply, “Would I ever do this?”.

You see, my abusers were well-educated, smart and cerebral. They didn’t just abuse, they explained exactly why they were abusing, often with a Bible handy nearby, in a bid for my acquiescence in my own abuse. Resistance and unhappiness with “the way things will be” was deemed unrighteousness and rebellion on my part. Naturally, this robbed me of any grounds for self-empathy. How cruel!

The new column is intended to trigger retroactive self-empathy and facilitate the grieving that must occur before healing can occur. If you too have an Abuse spreadsheet, try adding this column (and don’t forget to refresh your Pivot Tables.) Then take a quiet afternoon to re-read your spreadsheet and fill out the new column. As you read each row, each abuse incident on your spreadsheet, ask yourself, “Would I ever, ever do this to anyone!?” Is there any reason, any excuse, any justification for doing what they did? Ever? Ever!?

If not, enter “N” for “no.” If so, enter “Y” for “yes.” How many Y’s do you think you’ll enter? Any?

So far, I haven’t entered any Y’s.

Which brings us back to the eternal question: “Why do narcissists do what they do?” I’ve heard a lot of reasons and excuses. But I’m not buying ’em.

Because my new column tells me what they did was not okay. Not then. Not ever.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. God bless us, everyone! And if you liked what you read, please subscribe!

Photo by jen_rab

An Exercise in Grieving and Self-Empathy

Lenora Thompson

Lenora Thompson is a syndicated Huffington Post freelance writer and food blogger. Her readers call her the "Edward Snowden" and "Wikileaks" of narcissism because of her no-holds-barred-take-no-prisoners approach to writing about narcissism. “Narcissism Meets Normalcy” is the real-life, ongoing story of her healing journey from being held “hostage” by a multi-generational, cult-like narcissistic family. It's gritty and real, bloody and bruised, humorous and sarcastic. Lenora Thompson considers herself a “whistleblower,” shining a spotlight on narcissistic abuse so others can also claim their freedom and experience healing. To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael's heroic battle with Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to read her writings about food, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2016). An Exercise in Grieving and Self-Empathy. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Dec 2016
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