Guest Post by Christian Van Linda
Title: Talking Loud, (they’re) Hearing Nothing
Each month I plan to feature a guest author writing about recovering from family scapegoating. Our first guest author is Christian Van Linda, whose writing I first came across on social media. I was taken by Christian’s elegant, poignant writing style, and his determination to dig deep into his own intrapsychic processes so he could “feel, heal, and deal”.
Important Note: All that is expressed belongs to the author alone. As a clinician, I do not recommend going off one’s medication without the supervision of a medical doctor. Please also note that Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not yet recognized in the United States Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but it is now recognized by WHO and will be included in the ICD-11 coming out in 2022, allowing for medical billing and behavioral health insurance reimbursement. Learn more about C-PTSD here.
-Rebecca C. Mandeville, MFT
GUEST BLOG POST: Talking Loud, (they’re) Hearing Nothing: Recovering from the Narcissistic Parent and C-PTSD
By Christian Van Linda
(Edited by Rebecca C. Mandeville, MFT)
I’m really interested in exploring the ways in which Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and my experiences with parental narcissism and dysfunction have shaped my internal and external behavioral patterns.
I want to understand it all. The good, the bad, the ugly and the sad. I think that’s probably close to the proper ratio, three awful things for one good.
They are all lessons. For positives, I need to know them in minute detail to celebrate them. They have been denied to me. Obscured intentionally to keep me in a mental prison. I need to embrace them to utilize them.
I want to know the negatives too.
I was raised by a narcissist. There are unquestionably unwanted qualities my parent passed down to me that I need to identify and work to surgically remove from my consciousness.
There are products of abuse that I need to understand to heal and connect. It’s exciting. I’m excited. Let’s get started.
Broken Trust as Psycho-Emotional Abuse
A primary way a psychologically abusive family system betrays the fundamental roles of parenthood lies in trust. The child has none. Literally none. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The child expects things to go wrong. Early trauma has made the child see threats everywhere. Instead of being conditioned for safety and healthy connection to safe ‘others’ and the world around them at an early age, the child is taught to view everything as a threat.
I’m not sure people who haven’t personally experienced this type of dysfunction have the context or ability to understand this. Even really well-meaning and compassionate people.
When I say the child sees threats that are existing on a subconscious level, I do not mean they are walking around saying, “Mommy, there’s a threat. Mommy, there’s a threat.” It is not so obvious as that.
What I mean is that the child has arranged the way he sees and interacts with the world in a manner that will not be compatible with a “successful” life until it is corrected.
They (the child) cannot grow properly because they have not been conditioned to see opportunity; they have been conditioned to see only threats. Specifically: Their inner life is one of survival, not cultivation of success.
The first step in gaining awareness around this process is proper identification. The ways that this type of dysfunction will morph and evolve to manifest later in life is unpredictable. There’s a scope of predictable responses but very little about the nuance of each experience will be identical.
Cultivating Awareness Takes Patience and Time
I am sure there are clues but again it’s so far from most people’s internal experience that words are incapable of providing an accurate description. It takes a level of self awareness and a courage to look at ourselves that takes time to cultivate. Patience is very important.
This brings me to one of the more insidious effects of this complete absence of trust: The child most of all doesn’t trust themselves. This is at the root of their personal hell. This is a crucial point of healing that is not always adequately understood.
Through this journey I have been unpleasantly surprised by the ignorance of my entire family. My dad is hopeless. I’m not talking about him. All he gets is raw anger. It’s his. I don’t want it anymore. I’m speaking about the ones who were capable of seeing the truth but didn’t listen to me or try to look beneath the surface.
A child can’t be expected to be their own parents. Someone is supposed to be watching them and knowing them. A child who grows up not trusting anything around or inside him always thinks he is wrong and that no one likes him.
You might see all my life these days as rebelling against that. As a child, I was taught by the ‘power-holders’ in my dysfunctional / narcissistic family system that my personal reality would be defined by those around me, not by my own self. So I listened to other people who had no idea what they were talking about. Since I didn’t trust myself, I assumed whoever was giving me crucial life advice had thought about my unique situation and was operating from a more informed perspective. And hence, I believed them.
Grappling With Hard Truths
Over and over I have been made aware this was never the case. Looking back, it is clear to me now that there was no point in my life where my fundamental needs as a unique individual appeared to be seriously considered. For literally decades I assumed certain family members were qualified to talk about things that it turns out they weren’t.
Even now they can’t see that because I followed their instructions for decades, it almost killed me. They are still giving me the exact same lazy advice and pretending I have no agency in the situation. I no longer have the time to accept that in my life.
I will no longer allow such a distorted image of myself to be reflected back to me through the eyes of anyone. I don’t care who they think they are supposed to be in my life. There is no one more important to a son than a father. If I gave up on that, I am willing to do literally anything to arrange my life into one that honors me in all my glory. We all deserve this.
I have to believe this is a common experience for mental health survivors. We survive the ignorance of those around us as much as the illness itself. Sometimes they are the same thing. I don’t think most suicides would occur if we all knew how to love each other in the unique ways we need to be loved.
So what do we do? How can we trust ourselves? How can we forgive those that deserve forgiveness and let go of who needs to be let go? I can only speak to my experience and hope it provides some clarity and illumination.
Compassionate Reconnection With the Child Within
For me I had to sit with myself off my meds for a year and take whatever came my way to map the origins of my pain. Once I began to see my experience as one of trauma and abuse, as a response to something, not an organic illness due to genetics or the normal sadness of life, I quickly realized I needed to feel what had been done to me.
I needed to live in the mind my family created for me in order to free myself from it. It genuinely felt like hell. Crying for a year. Being obsessed with killing myself for a year (with only my mom in my corner). I look at my journal from that time and it’s difficult to see what was happening in my mind during that year. I can’t in good faith recommend this to anyone else, but for me it was ultimately effective.
I went back on my meds with a new and profound understanding of my wounds, which in turn allowed me to construct a plan for healing. With the compassion needed for myself to give the scared (sacred) child within me who never developed the protection he has always needed, I was able to become my own loving protector.
I began to heal myself by acknowledging and loving the child within, and the child I had been in my dysfunctional family-of-origin. I allowed him to cry as much as he needed. There are tears streaming down my face right now even as I write this. They are gifts. Every tear is a piece of all the pain and sadness instilled in me since early childhood leaving my body.
Healing Is a Process
I don’t know when but eventually I will be drained. And I will be free. I cannot dictate the timeline. I can only remain true to my intent. I told my inner child that he could be angry. He could feel righteously angry at the ones that have stolen so much from him. I allowed the child within to have ‘revenge fanstasies’, and I understood the deep rage these thoughts were emanating from.
I recognized how much sadness had weighed him down and kept him from who he was and I comforted him. My six foot four frame has hidden him and obscured his existence. I had to give him space to grow into me. Give him what the adults in his life had denied him growing up.
He didn’t need a job. He didn’t need a college degree. He didn’t need to graduate high school. He didn’t need to graduate grade school. He wasn’t ready or properly prepared for any of that. He needed love and to be listened to and understood. The whole time. The fact that I did all these things – and more – while he was still hiding within me should make everyone stare at me with awe. All those things that I had accomplished in my wounded state prevented me from giving him what he needed. I told him this and let him know that I was sorry I hadn’t come for him sooner. He listened. And breathed…
My mom told me a story that broke my heart yesterday. Tragic and beautiful sadness. The day my dad left our family they called me in from Elephant Park (we lived across the street from it). We sat down in a circle and they told us he was leaving. I don’t remember this next part. I think this is one of the breaks in memory due to trauma.
As my dad pulled out of the driveway, my 10 year-old sister and mother stood at the top of the driveway as I ran after the car. My sister turned to my mother and said “Dad just stole Chris’s soul”. She was right.
Healing and recovering from being raised in a wounding, toxic family system is a process for which there is no timeline. We must free ourselves from the agents of mistrust before we can even think about building systems of trust. There is no point taking cold medicine if you continue to sleep outside naked in January. I’m spent. I’ll write a second part when I’m ready.
This had been a guest blog post By Christian Van Linda. You can read more of Christian’s work by visiting (and subscribing to) his blog, Oversharing as an Art Form.
If you would like to have your story featured on my Scapegoat Recovery Psych Central blog, please email me at [email protected]
To read my introductory eBook on Family Scapegoat Abuse or to contact me about my Scapegoat Recovery Life Coaching services, see my profile, below.
– Rebecca C. Mandeville, MFT