In the M*A*S*H episode Mail Call, Radar O’Reilly appropriates Hawkeye’s identity and handsome photo to write a girl back home. To Radar’s perplexity, she writes back, “Now that we’ve exchanged pictures and general info, I wish you would write me and let me know how you feel about things and life, et cetera, et cetera….As soon as I get your feelings, I will send you mine.”
There was just one problem: Radar had no idea how he felt about anything. Frantically he turned to the worldly womanizing Hawkeye for advice, “Well, what are my feelings? How should I know?” he wailed. “But I don’t know what my feelings are. Nobody ever asked me my feelings before.”
Hawkeye responded, “You’ve got ’em, Radar. Everybody does.”
“Can you give me a hint?”
Now doesn’t that perfectly describe how we felt after years of narcissistic abuse! We were reduced to a shell of a person, not knowing what we thought or felt about much of anything. (But we were a walking encyclopedia of what our narcissist thought about everything!)
In my early twenties, the stuff that came flying out of my mouth shocked me. It wasn’t the content that was shocking. It was simply this: It was my parents talking. Every word I said was merely parroting of something they had said. Literally, nothing I said was original or authentic.
In my article Invisible People I wrote, “Since my teens, I’d crept through life, sneaking around the edges, walking cat-like and silent on the balls of my feet. Smiling constantly to keep everyone else happy. Talking so softly no one could hear me. Agreeable. Catatonic.” The response from readers was deafening. Invisible people came out of the woodwork screaming, “Me too!”
But at some point, being that benign, inoffensive, opinionless person doesn’t work. For me, trying to find a husband was a real problem. Who did I want? What kind of man did I want? Did I want the person that would please my narcissists? Would that kind of man make me happy? It was hard to know.
Hawkeye was right. You’re not actually opinionless, even though you may feel blank and empty. Not at all! You’ve been silenced and brainwashed for so long, everything’s crammed down into an airtight, seamless, waterproof, hermetically sealed barrel.
Discovering narcissism takes a can opener to that barrel. The seal cracks and out explodes a plethora of likes, dislikes, opinions, unique viewpoints, innovative ideas. You’ll be surprised at yourself!
Here, I’ll give you a weird example I particularly remember. In the early 2000s, acquaintances began talking about well, it doesn’t matter what it was. Suffice it to say, all my acquaintances were going ga-ga for this new idea.
Now at that time, I was just starting to come out of my hermetically sealed barrel. My mom was instrumental in that. She realized how silent I was and made an effort to get me out of my shell. She took the time to listen, appreciated my point-of-view and made it safe to have opinions. Even opinions that were divergent from what everybody-else-was-thinking in my social circles.
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I’ll never forget the day I went to my mom and said, “Y’know, Mom, everybody in my Singles group is going for this new thing like crazy. It’s like they embrace anything without any critical thinking. Well, I don’t agree. I don’t see any sense in it.”
Bless her heart, she made it safe to think outside the box.
My point is that I surprised myself by having an original opinion of my very own. Like Radar, I didn’t think I had any!
Sometimes exploring your unique opinions can’t happen without a venue. If talking is your métier, consider starting a YouTube channel. Set up your camera and just talk to the camera like you’d talk to a friend. Millions of people do it and get thousands of hits! You’ll be surprised what comes flying out of your mouth when you let flow of consciousness take over.
Perhaps you prefer writing. Setting up a blog is free and easy!
Or maybe you express yourself through painting. Sculpting. Dancing. Poetry. Whistling. Cooking. Woodcarving. Making collages. Digital artwork. Telling your story through gardening. The possibilities are endless.
To keep your thoughts to yourself is to cheat the world. You have a unique viewpoint informed by your life experiences processed in the unique way your brain works. Keep to yourself and you’re cheating me. Your friends. Your family. Your children. And worst of all, yourself.
Yes, it can be scary and dangerous. You may have every virtue and people will still hate you. Ignore ’em. Keep reminding yourself they’re just turning their own self-loathing onto you. Because you’re visible. You’re “out there.” Ignore ’em and keep going.
Because I, for one, want to know what you’re thinking. You have wisdom I crave. A viewpoint that will set me free of confusion. An angle I haven’t thought about.
So stop holding out and start expressing yourself!