August 05, 2009

Why It's Hard to Heal: Self-Rejection





Portrait of the Artist's Mother by Pablo Picasso


I am grateful to forum members who have continued teaching me about healing because of their willingness to talk with me and listen to me, too. As I’ve mentioned before, I am not one of those people who’s always read self-help books or contemplated my navel when dishes needed to be done and the kids wanted mama to read a bible story or two.

It’s been a whole new venue for me to write out my thoughts, discover and reveal my beliefs, to share my grief, my joy, my mistakes. I don’t just naturally think about my inner self as a normal course of the day. Unless of course, somebody drives over my face with their gaz-guzzling, no-brakes, rude and crazy race car. While I’m laying on the road figuring out if my legs’ll ever move again, I tend to focus on myself a lot. While I’m laying there, the conversation in my head is about whether or not I’m worth saving. Maybe that’s part of the debate some of us have after the accidental narcissist leaves skid marks on our hearts and we’re coughing and sputtering from the exhaust wondering if our arms are still moveable and oh, by the way, do I still have a face? Is there a good enough person left inside to make it worth the pain it’ll take to walk again or go out in public without wearing a paper bag on my head? Or should I just lie here and hope nobody notices I’m bleeding because if they stop, I’ll interrupt their day and that’d make me feel so bad for putting a total stranger out.

After weighing out the pros and cons as I lay in the gutter with one eye shut and the other one squinting in disbelief, I must’ve decided to get up off my arse and limp to the bookstore. Alls I know is that suddenly there I was, standing in front of the self-help section crying my eyes out and hoping nobody noticed salty tears were leaking behind my dark sunglasses. I always wore sunglasses to the Self-help section because horror it would be should anyone from my hometown have recognized me buying a book titled, Why Men Leave Women. It’s not hard to imagine the town gossip about That Girl of the 1970’s who became Displaced Homemaker without-a-clue-what-to-do-with-herself in the 2000’s.

I used to buy Steven King books and assorted novels about science fiction until noticing that my husband was an honest-to-God alien. Now I buy psychology books to figure out where I came from ‘cuz surely I don’t belong on planet Earth where infidelity, betrayal, abuse, neglect, hatred, vengeance, malice, disregard, poverty, oppression, patriarchy and political fakes are considered to be ‘normal’; and honesty, generosity, fidelity, loyalty, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, religious principles, hope, faith, and integrity are considered to be abnormal flaws requiring modification because otherwise, you won’t fit into society and oh by the way, did you know altruistic people who give away their time and money are narcissists? 

Well, there are days when if what it takes to fit in to our society is to whittle away at character traits it takes a lifetime to create, then let this left-handed misfit remain an anomaly. But please don’t call me a narcissist because it reminds me how much work I need to do to educate my accusers about the difference between self-respect and a narcissistic pathology.

I began writing about Why Its Hard to Heal a few weeks ago and intend to compose an essay each time something strikes me as being relevant to what other people have gone through. Each of us is unique as a person but at the same time, we are all alike as victims. Some of my ideas will not reflect your experience. Others will. Let me say right up front that I do not pretend to have all the answers, nor do I assume my conclusions will be identical and true for every person who has been traumatized by the narcissistic relationship (be it in the family-of-origin or otherwise). My approach to healing has worked for me and if something I’ve written can help just one person out there in cyberland, then it is worth the time it takes to sit still, reflect on my journey, and type. I do want to thank all the people who are supporting my blog even though it’s not updated regularly. My hope is to Give Back, so thank you for being willing to receive within my time limits. Not everyone is, you know. Some people are good at giving but not so good at taking. Other people are good at taking and not so good at giving. Narcissists are the people we write about who keep us so busy giving, that we don’t notice our compassion meter is running out of gas. Who has time to pay attention to what they’re getting back if they aren’t inclined to view the world through tit-for-tat eyeballs? Givers will be ambushed if that is what the taker wants to do and until we are crushed on the side of the road, we likely won’t realize we should have protected our good hearts.

Which is why we feel like such dupes when we’re told the reason we were targeted by a narcissist is because we display the attributes our culture taught us were valuable and worthy of effort. When a person has always taken pride in being generous for example, the first reaction I had at least, was to stop being generous. My thinking went like this: “Had I been a bit more Machiavellian and less naïve, surely I’d not have been hurt the way I was.”

Like the typical betrayed victim, I flipped a 180 and began attacking myself for being too kind, too generous, too accepting, too forgiving which is only true if you are committed to someone who is mean, stingy, critical, unforgiving, un-accepting and did I mention self-centered? At the time, I could not see that I was rejecting my true self by denigrating every human value formerly held near and dear to my heart. My main concern was protecting myself from further harm because instinctually, I knew this was a fight for my soul’s survival. If that meant reading books that blamed me for being ‘nice’, then that’s what I did. For awhile. Until I felt safe enough in my own skin to start reclaiming character traits formed over a lifetime of moral choices. Moral meaning ‘alleviating the pain of others’ through conscious awareness of my impact and trying, oh so very hard: to do no harm.

Once the word ‘Nice’ no longer triggered survival instincts dosing my body with adrenalin, I could sit with the adjective ‘nice’ and let myself think about whether or not being nice was important to me. One thing I figured out PDQ was that I didn’t like people who weren’t nice and surely wouldn’t want to be like those not-nice but socially tough people who called themselves bitches because it meant nobody messed with them. Not even nice people who might make them Jell-O if they weren’t…ahem…such bitches.

I decided eventually that reclaiming Nice was valuable because it IS a part of who I am. A character trait modeled after very nice Aunties who woulda given anybody the shirts off their backs although the little kids would have been traumatized at family reunions had they done that. Maybe that’s why nobody asked because they knew they’d do it. Those very good-hearted relatives served as role models to lead me out of self-rejection because I wanted to be like them and not like the commercialized nasty people revered on reality TV. Those screaming, yelling, tough-mouthed bullies don’t have friends, I’m sure. They have adversaries and people they hold at arm’s lengths because if they don’t, they’ll stab each other in the back to get a higher rating from frightened people who think bullies are awesome.

I like people who are so NICE they cry when you cry and laugh when you laugh and care about the fact that your cake failed the night before and your kids had to eat withered fruit for dessert. So what do nice people do when you tell them your sob story? They make you a cake and bring it over the next night and it’s kinda sloppy and it’s sunken in the middle because they know the last thing a woman needs after a failure is a perfect cake on her doorstep.

I love nice people.

Another characteristic denigrated by people who are not-yet-safe-in-their-skin, is generosity. What’s to worry about being generous as long as you make friends with people who value generosity, too? I cannot bear the thoughts of befriending a tit-for-tatter who keeps score of his-or-her good deeds to make sure other people don’t get not one iota more than they deserve. That’s a crazy way to live although for awhile, I hated being a Generous person because it had made me vulnerable to selfish asses who only saw what he-or-she did and never what they had been gifted without expectation.

And you know? I did not like my new ‘stingy’ self very much because yes, I’ve always aspired to be a good person and everything it entails when you’re raised in a religious environment. It isn’t easy being ‘good’ when the list is longer than your uncle’s arm and written in small print but I was not about to throw away fifty years of effort simply because people were telling me generosity was a flaw. O yea? Who do you like hanging out with on Christmas Eve? Uncle Scrooge or my Aunt Ora? I can tell you that by the end of the night, my Aunt Ora makes you feel like a precious jewel because you know by the gleam in her eyes that she loves you with all the generosity a heart can hold. Generosity the likes of which my Aunt Ora has, is not an overnight decision. It’s a lifelong process. She’s 97 and she’s awfully nice.

By the way, she had a dark night of the soul herself, which only reassured me that people can be better than ever if they keep their eye on the right role model and not give up on themselves. So to all those people who view nice, generous, compassionate and kind people as suckers, go have a reunion of like-minded people and hey, be sure to take a rear view mirror so nobody can sneak up from behind and roll their eyes your direction. And you might also want to take an attorney because if your party is a flop, your guests will sue for pain and suffering, for sure. They definitely won’t be consoling you with reassuring words of comfort by saying the party was great when everyone knows it was terrible and had started counting the minutes they had to sit there until it was Nice Enough to say ‘good night’.

Reclaim yourself. Be proud of the attributes you worked hard to develop. Refine your characteristics that mark the best of human nature and continually strive to see through the narcissistic accusation that anything that is “worthy and of good report” is a character flaw or a mistake. Do not reject all that is good and beautiful about yourself simply because someone tried to destroy that which they could not create for themselves.

It is not goodness that ruins relationships. It’s narcissism.


Hugs,
CZBZ






26 comments:

  1. I can so relate to this. I began to despise my good qualities, and besides being devastated that my world had fallen apart, I walked around with a scowl on my face. If I was too nice, I would get hurt. By that point I didn't know who the heck I was.

    I had to work on the people pleasing, but had read that narcissist's despise your good qualities.

    I finally held onto my good qualities, and like you said, chose who to share those with.

    As always, an excellent article. You always make me laugh and cry. Good for the soul, and I never mind waiting for your articles. They are so worth it.

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  2. Ah, if I had a dollar for every comment someone made about me being 'too nice' and that's why my husband left, eh?

    Too nice? How can you be too nice to someone you love?

    You're only too nice if they were too mean, right?


    Hugs,
    CZ

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    1. Ha! Perhaps, you should have called him names and been really mean to him. Then, surely, he would be thrilled to stay and take the abuse.

      I used to pray that God would keep my ex from having another affair. God didn't do that. It did hurt my faith and deepen my anxiety to know God could just let me hurt like that. Now, I think maybe it was a very painful gift of mercy. Had we stayed together for a lifetime, I would have experienced much more wounding.

      My ex is putting others who are not so nice through a lot now, but they are giving the crap treatment back to him. Meanwhile, I live a more peaceful life without the Jerry Springer drama.

      Delete
  3. God Bless You and your ministry of helping other targets heal and grow in wisdom learned from extreme evil and cruelty, and from the generous wisdom provided by you and other brave souls who boldly share their stories. You are probably much further along in healing then you realize. Heaven is full of kind, generous souls full of Love and Our Lord will wipe away all tears for eternity.

    Gratefully,
    Carmen

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  4. I am in the beginning phase of healing- and it's a fitful beginning at that- but your words are a soothing balm.

    I'm thinking when you hear you're "too" this, that, and the other, it might be a tip-off it's not meant as a compliment. Or, and this is my question, could it be something the NPD is envious about? Something about you they want to emulate, a trait they want to assume, or take credit, for themselves? I ran into this with my husband.

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  5. I'm nice. We could like each other. Thank-you for this.

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  6. thank you for a salve to a very open and throbbing wound at this time...you give me hope and help me feel not wrong for being who i was to THEM.

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  7. Cz, Your post made my eyes water, not fully cry, but water! It's been very hard to reconcile that my generosity and niceness kept me in such a painful place for so long. It never made sense. Why would good qualities be rewarded with pain. I think that's why I never got the "work on your own issues" at coda and alanon....to be validated by you that I was not wrong, but that I choose the wrong man, a narcissist, is healing. okay now I'm crying. thanks

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  8. Thank you everyone for reading and commenting!

    I'm sending some love to all you NICE folks on the planet, for you are the ones who make our world a home.

    Hugs and Blessings,
    CZ

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  9. I accidently(Thank my Creator) came accross this site about Narcissistic people,and as I read it I cant believe that for 25 years I have been fighting this battle with my spouse.I cant stand him.He is selfish,puts me down,called me every name in the book,NEVER take responsibility for anything he has done.He has essentially ruined my life.He is manipulative,tells me to shut up when hes wrong,is Very controlling,does Nothing for me,Takes my money,does Squat for the kids but thinks hes a wonderful dad.is ALWAYS ALWAYS right. He thinks the world should be run his way and if your dissagree he shamelessly tells you youre and idiot.I told him the other day that I was teaching a man about the Scripture He blatantly said"The Creator NEVER appointed NO WOMAN TO TEACH ANYTHING. He puts my family down because they dont like him.They are pieces of shit he says, but yet his family is so wonderful.He has cheated at least 20 times that i know of and says its because of me. He says he refused to marry me all these years cause Im dirty and messy but that didnt stop him having 3 kids with me. Im made sacrifice after sacrifice but he has not made one.I gave up my life, my dreams, my friend, my family, my schooling anything that meant something and ended up with nothing. I knew he was a Jerk but now I know he really has a MENTAL problem. In his own mind he is the best thing since slice bread but to everyone else who tolerate him hes an ASS.Hes cheap, stingy and holds grudges,hell not call unless you do even when he is wrong. Hes always apologizing only to do the same thing again. If you try having a heart to heart with him he will listen for a while then automatically respond with"so you think youre perfect well your not and then proceed to list all your flaws (in his mind). He said to me one time when I tried to "GET THROUGH" to him "I dont want to hear it, there is a long list of things wrong with you, but you dont see me harping on them do you? We went on vacation he drove me home after I(escaped) from him and left his sorry behind, he had the nerve to call me long distance to insult me because I did not make the bed.His lazy @#$ was at home he drove 3 days to get there and instead of regretting his actions that caused me to leave him, said"What kind of woman doesnt make the bed. He went on for 10 minutes trying to convince me that I should be stoned for my trangression and THATS why for all these 25years, you heard me right 25 years I was not marriage material just screwing material.I feel like i am serving a life long prison term with no chance of parole. He doesnt like it when you point out ANYTHING he does wrong.He said to me " I want you to stop being so nice to people, youd give them the shirt off your back, you cant help that, thats just how you are. But then in the same breath says we should not have any "secret" money your money should be our money, so he purchased a mini van, drove it to my house ranted about how its "just what we need" and left me playing catch up with my bills, my 2 checks bounced and 100 in NSF charges because he "GOT HIS WAY" again. The vehicle is in his name and tries to appease me by referring to it as "our" minivan. He promised me 2 other cars, He called to tell me they need new tires and a bunch of stuff done to them so they can run, after wiring him the money he said he done the work (WHICH YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THE TRUTH CAUSE HES A BIG LIAR)and soon after that sold them. NEVER SEEN A DIME.

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  10. Well now, it sounds like you've snagged a real winner, anonymous. Does he at least have a nice smile? ha...just teasin' ya a little. Once you start writing down everything that's been happening over 25 years of marriage, you start wondering why-on-earth you're still with this maN.

    Then you remember: kids. The house. Family. The neighborhood. Your commitment. Your desire to keep the family together. There are more than the few reasons I've listed as to why we stay with abusive partNers. And many of those reasons are valid. Some aren't. It's important to put our complaints into words and FACE our fears about ending the 'escalation of abuse' (because it sounds like he's gotten worse, not better).

    If you haven't noticed the link to our forum, you may want to check out: WebOfNarcissism.com We have many longterm members who support one another and reach out to new people who recently learned about narcissism. You are welcome to join our group while you decide what you need to do about your marriage.

    I'm glad you had the courage to post...it's not easy. Especially the first time we start writing...

    HUGS,
    CZ

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  11. Just the other day I was beating myself up on my blog for being so nice and generous to the N ex-friends that they played us for suckers....We even let them stay in our home for a while. Paid some of their bills. Gave them food....Now I have firm evidence, in one of their own e-mails, that they never actually cared about us, so I take that to mean they were conning us. My husband's parents, even one of my old friends tell us we were too generous and should have turned them out, because they complained about the food and were bad guests. It makes you feel like you're the one at fault for being so generous.

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    1. They complained about the food you were giving them while they were staying at your house and you helped them with their bills? wow. That's some kind of arrogance, Nyssa. Real opportunists and users without an ounce of gratitude. Always always watch for "gratitude and remorse."

      Sounds like they used up your resources and instead of expressing gratitude for your generosity, they Put You Down. They looked for reasons why your gifts weren't good enough, or why you were mean, or whatever reasons they could find to diminish your generosity.

      When people are narcissistic, they resist being seen as needy or dependent. So they "devalue" whatever people have done or given to them and then they don't feel weak or dependent anymore.

      I hope you've set some boundaries so they won't come knocking on your door the next time they need help! You did a generous and kind thing and that's nothing to be ashamed of!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. Thanks! Yeah, even while they still lived here, they began finding reasons why I was a bad host, what was wrong with my personality, etc. I had to "make up for it" for the rest of the time I knew them. Just a whole twisted situation that I don't want to get into here....But they now know that my husband and I both think they were using us, that their own e-mail gives me that idea, and that the purse strings are closed.

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    3. Good for you both, for establishing boundaries and saying, 'NO!" Bet they didn't like that, did they?

      Thanks for commenting, Nyssa.

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  12. This went deep. I think the issue of being 'too' nice and generous is misunderstood by some therapists. I know mine. Perhaps when we give little gifts, because we WANT to, others (therapist here) thinks it's because we have no self worth, or are trying to buy friendship. Nah...it's because ...in SPITE of all we have suffered over life, with the n-relatives...we have for some reason, got it right: mean is bad, nice and compassionate is good. It goes against the tide, I think but I also believe it is probably one of those things that kept us alive.

    So, it took me some time to untangle what my sweet and fierce old therapist was saying, but she was wrong! LOL~ I had enough to give, and I gave it without expecting anything because I could...and wanted to. Now, that doesn't mean that we should not be unaware that there are people who are looking for suckers...they are called users...and we sometimes fall into their nets. That's a glitch in our self-worth, but in time, we escape that personal hell.

    My 93 year old n-mother's legacy is cruelty. But that will die with her. I don't have to adopt her legacy, and I know better. It is better to be made a fool once in a while than to guard your heart like narcissists do. Oh, they don't have hearts! Excuse me. LOL!

    Be nice and generous and spred it around. that is why I believe we are on this earth, regardless the cruelty that comes our way. We are so much better, though it might take a lifetime to come to know this.

    Lady Nyo

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    1. You are a nice woman, Lady Nyo. Even your name tells people that you value civility and self-respect. I find it truly ironic that our society revels in "reality television incivility" and brutish bosses like Trump, and shows that make asses out of people which keeps audiences laughing and THEN we COMPLAIN about the incivility of the american society today!!

      We've been telling people they were co-dependent if they apologized to a neighbor simply to keep the peace in the neighborhood. We have heralded, admired, and emulated assholes with no empathy, no sympathy, no kindness. We strive to be like the leader who fires a longterm employee without batting an eyelash. What a hero! Let's ALL Be like him! Let's teach our kids kindness is for suckers and being concerned about other people is a fool's game, maybe even a sign of mental illness or GOD FORBID: co-dependence.

      And then let's sit around in little groups and complain about our children!!

      Be nice. Be generous. Spread it around. Love your neighbors. Take care of the sorrowful, the broken-hearted, the broken. Assume responsibility to alleviate the world's suffering in whatever way you can. Something that requires your TIME is preferable, not your pocketbook. It's easy to write a check, it's much more challenging and character-building to listen and to care. Put your arm around someone and say, "Want some cake? It's a little sunken in the middle if you don't mind but the frosting is super-delicious on your fingertips."

      Love,
      CZ

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  13. LOL! I just found this, trolling your website for comfort (not cake!) and inspiration.

    You are nice, too, CZ. I think that this shines through your writing at every turn. We denigrate nice-ness in society as suckerism. Yet we bow down to those Trumps, those bad boys and girls that do nothing positive except to exploit and flaunt their egos. Fame on TV, in society, is very much part of this. These folk aren't producers....funny, so many of them...Paris Hilton, oh, all these 'role models' for young men and women....are they worthy of our adoration? Methinks not.

    We hold our hearts so closely in our closed hands. We are so afraid to be taken as fools, to be exploited...and we are. But! This isn't the way of the world. We have survived because of compassion, not war, we have built bridges of friendship, even within the ether of air the internet is...and I think as we age...we do get more humane. I hope so.

    I'll take any proffered cake, fallen in the middle or not...from a kindly hand.

    Oh..."Nyo" in Japanese with a particular accent over it means 'urine'. LOL!~ I didn't know that when I assumed this name for my pen name. Nyo also the sound that a Japanese cat makes as 'meow'. Apparently to the Japanese. LOL!

    'Nee-EEE-O"...something like that. LOL!

    Many of us are wounded by life (especially with narcissists....) but it doesn't mean that we NEED to fall to brutishness.

    Love,
    Lady Meow

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    1. Dear Lady Meow, ha!

      You may think me a total dork but I missed your comment last year because I depended on email notification. Only this week did I discover a convenient way to check for comments on old blog posts. It's in the admin controls. Duh. A simple link on the menu and voila! New comments appear.

      I've only been blogging since 2008. Sheesh.

      Love
      CZ

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  14. Just going to say "me too". You go hard one wah and then go hard the other. I want the middle ground, to be able to be nice and go hard for me as well.

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    1. The middle way, that's it! Maybe the only way to find the middle path is familiarizing ourselves with the extremes?!

      Stick up for Nice People. I am sick and tired of people denigrating civility!

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  15. Annnnnd 18 months later, another newbie loves this essay... thank you... I loved the last paragraph and I grabbed my journal and started writing down the last sentence...

    "Reclaim yourself. Be proud of the attributes you worked hard to develop. Refine your characteristics that mark the best of human nature...Do not reject all that is good and beautiful about yourself simply because someone tried to destroy that which they could not create for themselves."

    Oh it's great. Thank you so much. I had a negotiation trainer in an international graduate school sit down with me and say, "You're so NICE... you're the nicest American I've ever met... It's like you're a missionary or something!" Which, ta daaaa, I actually am, and just didn't talk about in class. I had just been slaughtered by a big N in our final negotiation simulation and it really took me out. Because I am nice. And I choose to stay that way. Smarter maybe, but yes. Nice. Everything that is good and true. Thank you.

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    1. I love hearing from people, especially when they leave NICE comments. ha! I get a few very un-nice accusations from time-to-time but we can't let it ruin our day. So from one very nice American to another, "It's lovely to hear from you!" And it's comforting to know you're a positive ambassador.

      I am sorry to hear you've encountered a narcissist who has taken advantage of your kindness. It's generally traumatic for people like ourselves, when we're treated like objects, maligned, even abused. The answer isn't "becoming a narcissist" however so I'm happy to read that you aren't doing that. Get Wise. Be Aware. Take Note of behaviors that "strike" you as odd. But be yourself anyway. That's how we make healthy change in our world.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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