Who would you be if narcissistic abuse had never occurred? Yeah, I know “happy” is the first thing to spring to mind. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, how has narcissistic abuse developed your character and made you a better person?
While you think about that, let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More, found herself as the (not!) proud owner of a big, old, rundown house. Night after night she cried, despairing of how to turn this Brobdingnagian heap into a home. Then one night an idea occurred. “I’ll try gratitude,” she thought.
Instead of hating her new home, she lavished it with love and care on a shoestring budget. Wallpapered. Scrubbed. Cleaned. Painted. Decorated. Gratitude turned her house from a decrepit real estate joke into a beautiful home. When I became the owner of a 1912 cottage that had not seen running water, let alone soap and fresh paint, for many a year, I remembered Melody’s advice and tried gratitude. My gratefulness for having a cozy, warm home-of-my-own far away from the narcissists (plus a whole lot of soap, water, scrubbing, vacuuming, painting and decorating) transformed a rundown ruddy hut into an adorable Thomas Kinkadesque cottage.
Is it possible that gratitude can also help us heal from the ugliness of narcissistic abuse!?!
With Thanksgiving coming soon, I’d like to challenge all of us to take a moment to find a morsel of gratitude in the midst of narcissism. No, I haven’t gone all soft and smarmy. Narcissism is still wrong and horrible damaging. But all year we focus on the harm the narcissists did us — real harm causing valid pain and anger.
Nonetheless, you have to admit that our characters were developed in the blast furnace of narcissism, refining our gold, removing our dross. Is it because of narcissistic abuse that we are who we are? Let’s take a moment to apply gratitude for our good character traits that resulted from narcissistic abuse. And along the way, we might just stumble into some healing from this exercise in gratitude.
- It made us gentle: We don’t want anyone to be hurt the way we’ve been hurt. Perhaps we ere too much on the side of mealy-mouthed codependence, but it comes from a good place. We’ll be damned before we hurt anyone the way we were hurt.
- It made us kind: Nothing brings a tear to the eye faster than the smallest act of kindness. It melts our defensive, stony, wounded hearts. We’re suckers for kindness — both giving and receiving.The other day at WalMart, an elderly lady walking with a cane dropped a pack of batteries. I could see the dread in her eyes as she contemplated the arduous task of bending all the way down to the floor, not sure she’d ever get back up again! It came naturally to call out, “I’m coming! I’ll get ’em for you!” and rush over to pick the batteries up for her. Her face lit up with gratitude but really! It was the most natural thing to do. A smile, a laugh and a tiny act of kindness truly is the shortest distance between two people of any race, color or creed.
- It made us empathic: Where our narcissist was unable (or unwilling) to put themselves in our emotional shoes, we do it constantly. Feeling others’ pain. Offering solace, a shoulder to cry on. Giving others what we were never given.
- It made us smart: I’ve yet to meet a narcissism survivor who isn’t well-spoken, well-read and well-written. As I puzzled over this, a Facebook friend had the answer: “We had to be smart to protect ourselves from being ridiculed.”
- It made us appreciate simple pleasures: In the midst of so much pain, we learned to eke out any joy we could find. A cloud formation. A good cuppa coffee. The taste of food. We wrung every drop of pleasure out of life. Is that something the Kardashians, Real Housewives or Rich Kids of Beverly Hills can say? They may brag about (and this makes NO sense), washing their Astin Martin in champagne, but does it make them happy? Not on your tintype!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving and my recent article Honoring Narcissistic Parents!?!, I am incredibly grateful for the excellent quasi-Classical education my parents gave me that allowed me, with no particular qualifications, to write passionately about narcissism for THE best psychology site on the Web. I’m grateful for a mother who introduced me to the finer things in life — the beauty of Nature (“Come quick, Lenora! You must see this sunrise!”), the rhythm of poetry, the joy of creativity, the bliss of femininity, the comfort of empathy, the blessing of giving (Operation Christmas Child), the joys of Memory and Scrabble, how to bake a chocolate cake and to be independent.
I’m grateful for a father who read wonderful books out-loud for thousands of hours (no TV, no problem!), played with me for hundreds of hours, introduced me to C. S. Lewis, got me hooked on the magic of live theatre and took me to my first symphony at the tender age of six and my first Handel’s Messiah sing-a-long at twelve, hooking me on classical music for life. I’m grateful they taught me right from wrong, introduced me to the epiphany of Koine Greek, the rules of logic and yes, made life hard enough that I learned to be strong, forging a unique pathway, enjoying my own society in times of loneliness. I am who they raised me to be sans codependence, false guilt, shame, mind control and brainwashing. That I honored my upbringing and it found its ultimate completion, fulfillment and resolution in their nemesis, a little blog called Narcissism Meets Normalcy, is just “one of those things.” As C. S Lewis wrote on page 369 of That Hideous Strength, “Oh, of course, they never thought any one would act on their theories! No one was more astonished than they when what they’d been talking of for years suddenly took on reality, but it was their own child coming back to them: grown up and unrecognisable, but their own.”
Lastly, I’m grateful for you, the readers of Narcissism Meets Normalcy. All 1,000,000 of you! I’ve learned as much from your comments as I hope you’ve learned from my articles. Thank you for always reading my stuff, sharing, commenting and being my new pseudo family via Facebook.
Here’s to more learning, more healing and more happiness in 2018!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, y’all!