Re-Defining Your Life After Narcissistic Abuse (Pt 1 of 2)
Every morning you wake up, switch on NBC’s Today show, eat the same ol’ breakfast, go to work, run errands, come home, eat supper, watch more television and go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But does it truly make you happy? Does it actually reflect how you want to live your life? Is it authentic to you?
My argument in this article is that our narcissists defined us as a person wrongly and pressed us into a lifestyle that was inauthentic to us. They scoffed at our dreams and mocked/appropriated our creativity. They made us believe that, although we didn’t like things as they were, there was nothing we could do about it. In the end, we crawled into our shells and gave up on living, really living!
Although we may be physically free of them and even No Contact now, we still believe we are who they told us we are. We still live how they told us to live. Our lives are passing us by in a whirl of boredom exacerbated by our emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion and/or stress induced illness.
I suffer from this malaise myself, especially in Winter when my energy plummets. It reminds me of a passage from C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The passage is really about a senior tempter, Screwtape, advising a junior tempter, Wormwood, on the finer nuances of temptation. But the utter malaise and boredom Screwtape describes reminds me of how I live, when I don’t try, when I live lazily, blind and deaf to who I am and how I want to live and what makes me happy. It reminds me of how I lived when I relinquished my life to narcissists’ control. It remind me of when I watched the same movie with them for the umpteenth time. They were happy. I was miserable, but it kept them happy and quiet.
As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement…less pleasant…you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room….so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”….”Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years…in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off. [emphasis mine]
Does that not exactly describe our lives with narcissists!?! We lost all our passion for living. Didn’t even know what our passions were anymore. And we certainly didn’t have the gusto or energy to pursue them.
Our minds were lost in the “dim labyrinth” of the confusing, chronic pain of narcissistic abuse. Trudging the same thorny paths, “whistling tunes that [we] do not like.”
The problem is when, even after escaping our narcissists, nothing changes. It takes time, work, journaling, focus and energy, but at some point in our recovery, our lives need an Extreme Makeover. I believe Thoreau called this “living deliberately.” Sometimes the best clue to what will make us happy now lies in the rich imaginative life of our childhood.
Remember when you were a child and you lived in your imagination? If you had that experience, you know how magical it was. I went through Sixth Grade pretending to be Sarah Crewe, the patient long-suffering riches-to-rags-to-riches girl in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s amazing book, The Little Princess. The book came to life in my imagination far better than any Disney movie.
Another Winter I spent living entirely in Narnia, keeping a sharp watch out for Talking Beavers, Mr. Tumnus the Faun and especially, the White Witch. When you live in Minnesota, it’s very easy to pretend to live in Narnia because it’s “always Winter but never Christmas.”
But then you grow up and feel forced into the same dull reality everyone seems to hopelessly trod. Wake up, Today show, work, errands, home, TV, sleep. Living with narcissists makes it worse. They control our movements, curtail our freedom, crap on (or hijack) our creativity and all the while, make us feel shitty about ourselves.
Surely, there must be more to life than that! “I’m just looking forward to when I retire,” you say. “Then I’ll pursue all my passions.” Really!? Been there. I left my career as an IM&T Project Implementation Analyst in 2012. Until you leave a longtime career, you can’t fathom how much your job defines you and gives meaning to your hours. Then you find yourself, like a slave suddenly freed, at very loose ends. Lost! It’s too easy to fill your hours and dull your mind in an endless stream of digital entertainment and infotainment.
Get Off the TV and Start Living
Seriously! How many times do we have to hear the same anxiety-inducing news story, which may or may not be true anyways!
I’m not saying that we should live in childish fake world of the imagination, but I also don’t see why we must live in the horrible world presented to us by the media every-hour-on-the-hour merely because we’re adults. Small wonder that Anxiety is epidemic. As Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, “wars and revolutions, floods, plagues.” That’s all we ever hear about, interspersed rarely with a “human kindness” story. It’s my belief that common, ordinary, everyday people are much better than the media would have us believe. If not, society would’ve unraveled long ago. It’s only the bad ones you hear about. (And hear about and hear about and hear about ad nauseum!) They’re a tiny minority with loud voices and all the airtime.
As if the news wasn’t bad enough, I’m shocked at how much “entertaining” TV shows carry on the “anxiety” theme. If I wanted to be stressful at home, I would’ve just stayed at work! But oh no! TV shows nowadays are just one long adrenal-fatigue experience.
When did Hollywood decide to jettison the comic relief character? Even Humphrey Bogart’s serious character in To Have and Have Not was balanced by the comic relief of the lovable drunk played by Walter Brennan. Nowadays, entertainment is one, long adrenal rush. And the dramatic arts and mankind are the poorer for it. (Am I ranting? Yeah, I ranting. Sorry, but that’s been pent up a long time! Whew! I feel better now.)
As James Hilton said in Goodbye Mr. Chips, “Give a boy a sense of humor and a sense of proportion and he’ll stand up to anything!” Add humility to that mix and I think Mr. Hilton put his finger on a recipe for a happy life: humility, humor, proportion (e.g. normalcy).
Today, I’m challenging myself to step away from the television, the internet, the media and pursue a happy life. An authentic, deliberate life. The life I want to live, that makes me truly happy. My “dream” life.
What is your dream life? Let’s dream together. Click here to read Part 2.
Thompson, L. (2018). Re-Defining Your Life After Narcissistic Abuse (Pt 1 of 2). Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2018/01/re-defining-your-life-after-narcissistic-abuse-pt-1-of-2/