June 29, 2011

Healing is not a race: s-l-o-w IS fast

The whole crowd bet on the horses and nobody bet on the hare.  Why'd the little boy pick the rabbit and not the red-white-and-blue stallion, or the mare with a garland of roses around her neck? Everybody knows horses outrun rabbits! The odds are against bunny rabbits---especially when the only person racing is the horse jockey whipping the flanks of his steed because he’s determined to win! “I’ll beat you, you wimpy wabbit! Move aside and let ME show YOU a real Winner!” 

How long does it take get over a narcissist?
The first question on everybody’s mind when they find my blog OR they discover the WoN Forum is this: “how long before this stinking merry-go-round stops and I start feeling good again?”

As my father said, “It'll feel better when it stops hurting.” In other words, it hurts as long as it must and after that, you’ll feel better. Feeling better might take six months and it might take the rest of our lives, intermittently working through all the crazy shit we picked up when we grew up. If you’ve had a string of narcissists messin’ with your mind over the years, well, you’ll likely be confronted with unconscious bits-and-pieces of yourself that need conscious effort for a very l-o-n-g time to come. Don’t fret though. It’s not all bad. Hang out with bunny rabbits and think carrots. this is not a race.

Patterns: the Narcissists and Yours
One reason healing is protracted is because we need experience in order to notice our behavioral patterns. To see destructive/unhealthy patterns, we need time. We can’t read a book or watch ‘Kernberg Live’ and suddenly recognize unconscious patterns, learned from family and society. We learn about our patterns when we catch ourselves in the act which requires time, experience, and insight. If we lack the capacity for insight, we’ll repeat unconscious patterns until we decide everyone in the world is rotten to the core and our best defense is a Machiavellian offense. That is the narcissist's fate---continually racing on a merry-go-round going nowhere. For the rest of us non-misanthropists, the healing process connects us to other people and opens our hearts…even towards ourselves.

The positive thing about admitting we were in a narcissistic family and/or relationship is that we can’t lie about being unaffected. Like people who blissfully say, “My life is perfect. I’m not like YOU thank god, there but for the grace of God go I.” To which I reply, “It must be nice being so normal!” And then they go home and on the way, drive over stray cats and smash a few straggling pedestrians then sneak anti-freeze in their spouse’s meatloaf.

Seriously though, my  issues won’t be resolved in a week since it took fifty years to grow my issues big enough to steal attention away from my iphone and Netflix. It’s a relief knowing imperfection is okay and that good-hearted people have issues--which IS what makes me lovable and human and an easy person for narcissists to feel comfortable around.

Narcissists like it so very much when they can be superior to other people. If you know you’ve got issues and you’re not prone to pretense about your flaws, you’ll probably have plenty of narcissists in your life to put your principles into practice. That’s how I look at my healing process: one narcissist after another (decreasing in severity) while building flexible boundaries, not rigid ones. The kind of boundaries that move and bend and grow in resiliency and this, of course, takes time.

Some people assume they are in race when they first learn about narcissism and embark on a ‘healing journey’. Their desire to feel better is tempting in a recovery group because everyone wants to keep up appearances as a sane and strong person (mostly to ourselves). They may boost their self-esteem by comparing themselves to others which is normal, by the way. When the comparison becomes dysfunctional however, is when people lift themselves up by putting others down. “O good laws! That person’s been crying for THREE years and it only took ME six days to complete all five stages of Kubler-Ross,  the eighth stage of Eric Erickson’s human development and sitting on the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Aren’t I amazing! lemme sell my secret!”

Their secret most likely is narcissism (self-deception) ---an easy and gratifying elixir with pathological side-effects. Beware of anyone selling secrets to suffering people. They know you will do (pay) anything to feel better, even if the relief lasts five s-h-o-r-t minutes. There is no secret to healing but telling you that won’t make you feel better and it won’t help me pay the light bill either. But we will both know what I’m saying is the truth and as crappy as it feels, this truth will set you free.

Self-deception is tempting because the emotional and psychological relief is immediate. We want to feel better, who can fault themselves for that?

A warning about entering Races
The ability to empathize with suffering people might lead to disconnection---not wanting to see ourselves in their shoes, nor feel what they are feeling.  So we demean the other person, fault them; find a reason why they are different from ourselves. Why they deserve their fate. We aren’t harmlessly comparing ourselves to others when we do that---we are viewing ourselves as superior which is absolutely a narcissistic maneuver. Spotting our unhealthy narcissism is another important aspect of healing and before you write me hate mail, remember: everyone has narcissistic traits that need conscious attention. When it comes to healing, deep and miraculous healing unveiling layer upon layer of the self, s-l-o-w is fast.

“How do you feel about the race now?” the interviewer asked the little boy in the video. “Good,’ he said. “Why do you pick the bunny?” he asked and the boy replied, “Because I wanted to.”

Set your intentions on authenticity, clear-hearted living, and intimate trustworthy connections. Pick the rabbit.




  1. Ahhh! Because I wanted to.

    Why did I chose to heal from the N/P relationship? to heal from my past, from my own self-abuse?

    Because I wanted to!

    As always my friend -- you make sense of it all1

  2. I love the delightful way you introduced a various serious theme. I started counseling thinking it would be a summer project. 8 summers later I am still in the s-l-o-w lane. I do get discouraged. Then I remind myself, "I may be last, but I am also first, since I am the only one in the race to become me." Thanks. I needed this as I am really looking a where I am on this path to healing.

  3. (((((((((((((((hugs)))))))))))))))))

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to hear it all. It's been only since April 2011 that I've gone NC, and I am struggling through the sorrow and the acceptance and longing to be completely healed ... and then I get annoyed at my sadness. (Does that even make sense? Geesh.)

    Lovely, thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Nice blog. :) I think those brave enough to confront their pain are going to be a little "emotionally unstable" for a while and that is completely normal. Sometimes, the pendulum swings to one side (anger) AFTER a lifetime of narcissistic abuse, but those on the true path to healing will eventually find the middle where peace resides. I was always so busy being "nice" that I could never make the full loop. Once I allowed myself to feel my anger and pain, I began to heal. Hopefully, we have a safe friend to confide in during that time.

    I love the video illustration and his answer "because I wanted to."

  5. Thanks everyone for commenting. I've watched that darling video ten times already and might watch it again before logging-out. Imagine being cheered and encouraged by the audience when you were a child! It makes my heart giggle just thinking about it.

    I'm still not exactly clear why it strikes me as profound that we "choose the rabbit because we want to." What makes someone WANT to grieve and cry and study and suffer? Why would we choose that path rather than the narcissistic way out of the pain?

    Pretend it doesn't hurt
    Block feelings
    Flail your fists
    Blame everyone but yourself

    Why do we choose to take the long route back to the self? And honestly--I don't think we even know we are choosing the 'right path' for authentic and clear-hearted healing when we climb ON that merry-go-round.

    There must be some niggling intuition guiding us even though we may feel as if we're stumbling in the dark.

    It is a curious thing to me, this desire to heal our pain and suffering. Plenty of people have the desire to feel better but they choose the fast track...they certainly don't pick the rabbit!

    For me though, it's more apt to say I've been riding a snail. I don't think 'snail' was an option, though. ha!!

    Hugs all,

  6. your comment is thoughtful and insightful too. :)

    The "because I wanted to" is timely for me because I am learning to do what I want to do rather what someone else wants me to do. The idea that I don't even owe someone an explanation or justification makes me feel like that little boy who is so free to just say with a smile "because I wanted it to."

  7. Thanks for an absolutely great post CZ - just right in time for me and the lifelong a bit stumbeling way of healing...
    Just a month ago I had my somewhat feard "run into Mr N" after 3 years of NC... Absolutely noneprepard in that moment with my son in the mobile and focus on beeing not run over by the cabel cars... Suddenly someone with that very toothpasteadvertising fakesmile is by my side - to close - with the Charmbutton pushed to the infinite...
    In a way its very interresting how the(my) body react - suddenly i was in an evolutionary moment - back on the savann/Africa - ready to both fight and fly... Icecold and very quickly finding a 2 meters space between... and then
    - Heeellooooo smile smile smile ... Oh Good sooooo niiiiceee toooo seee youuuuu - Hoooooow aaaare youuuuuu ? smile smile smile....
    Disgusting and sickening because of the typicall Ntype sadistic and hurtfull relationship ending as I belive we all on this forum encountered in similar ways....
    And I am proud of my self.
    very calm and cold I went on said : No It is not nice for me to se you. You treated me wrong and mean and bad. And then i went in to the shop I was attend to.
    I dont know if this was the right or wrong way - but for me it was empowering - I did not stop to small talk- I did not hit him with my clinched fist...
    I just experienced this manipulative and out of true human being in bright sunshine once again trying to drag me into the illusion...
    Maybe i fed him supply - maybe i did not ...
    For me this short meeting gave some perspective and a realitycheck - they do not change But I / we do - by sometimes small step... sometimes longer...
    And it is good enough :-)

  8. " The idea that I don't even owe someone an explanation or justification makes me feel like that little boy who is so free to just say with a smile "because I wanted it to."" ~Cheshire

    That is it! We don't have to give anyone a reason WHY we deserve to live. We don't have to justify WHY we've chosen the path we have. Even when people are QUICK to criticize us for moving so dang slowly (and there they had thought for years, that we were WINNERS).

    I get my fair share of criticism just like everyone else...people ask me often enough, "Why are you still writing about narcissism and recovery? Why are you running a website that keeps you listening to trauma stories everyday? Why can't you STOP doing that?"

    I usually think to myself, "Are they concerned about MY welfare or their own???" I'm sure they'd rather my life be focused on floral arrangements and faux-painting and sculpture and pottery and all the lovely things I did with my time before WoN came into being. I'm sure they'd rather me talk about Life in the Hereafter and our glorious rewards on High RATHER THAN bring up social inequities, lousy divorce laws, narcissistic parents and abused children. I'm sure that when they tell me to get off the snail and climb on the fastest horse on the carousel, they are concerned about me but most of all, they are worried about their discomfort.

    does that sound cynical? I don't mean it to be. It's probably very normal and I probably do it, too.

    But next time my friends or family members ask me why I keep writing about narcissism and healthy relationships, I'm gonna say, "Because I want to" and leave it at that.


  9. Hi "Proud of yourself"!

    When you can stay grounded in what that man did to you rather than dismiss his behavior, that's when you can really be proud of yourself! I am too, proud of you!

    See the thing is, people CAN feel better quickly. They can do this weird trick with their minds and believe they (or a guru) is cutting their energy cords to the narcissist. And they can believe it so much that they pretend to themselves that their work is done.

    BUT I am here to say that quick fixes have short-term benefits and long-term costs. Placebos are very expensive in the long run.

    Deep, authentic and gut-wrenching grief is not accomplished in ten sessions or less. It is not accomplished with the mind, nor affirmations, nor tapping your way to twenty bruises. (tongue-in-check here, don't flame me). Loving yourself and trusting yourself enough to honor your losses IS a long, challenging yet rewarding process.

    This cannot be done in six months.

    Of course, that depends on each person's history. Were you raised by narcissists? Add ten years. LOL! Were you married to a narcissist and raised by narcissists? Count on the rest of your life.

    Still, that doesn't mean every day is miserable...just now and then the tears fall. When they do, we let go of whatever caused those tears to fall and this is the BODY's way of grieving. You cannot grieve with your mind.

    You gotta get on the horse and ride. Or the rabbit. Or, to continue with the metaphor, the snail.

    Ever notice how the body has a mind of its own? Healing is not for the faint of heart...


  10. Thank you CZ for these lovely comments. Early in my counseling I found a small statue at a fabric store of a fairy riding a snail. I had to bring her home with me. I like your use of the snail as your symbol of progress. Thank you for continuing to blog. You are making a difference in my life. Thanks, Ruth

  11. A fairy on a snail? O my gosh...what a lovely image! I love fairies and all things magical and I even love snails but I love them best in a delicious french sauce piping hot from the oven. ha!

    Thank you for being here, Ruth. You are an inspiration and I also appreciate your blog and your willingness to be authentically you.


  12. Hi CZ, What a great post and wonderful thread! I too needed to hear this. I've been kind of stuck, for a while! I think I told you that, but some of it does have to do with not wanting to dive in, not wanting to say how it still hurts at times, even after all this time.

    But it is so true, all of what you say. We must be honest with ourselves if we are to truly heal and when we've been influenced and/or abused by narcissists for a long time, in our family and outside of it, well, I think you must be right. I think it can take a lifetime. I wish I was one of those people who could just walk on, never looking back, but it doesn't seem to be the case. Not who I am, I guess.

    I love the snail metaphor. I've recently decided on the turtle as my totem animal; my power animal. This post is certainly timely in that regard.

    Thank you, as always, for your work CZ. I'm so glad you want to do what you do!

  13. What a GREAT post!

    I think you hit the nail on the head: people are more concerned about their own 'discomfort' than anyone healing...even though it is nothing off of them.

    Recently, I had a long term friend just rage at me: Why are you still researching narcissism? Don't you now know enough about it to stop reading and writing?

    Well, actually...no. It is a very deep subject and goes to the core of my being and upbringing and my errors in judgement today.

    She....went NC with both of her parents 40 years ago, and really has obviously never put the pain out of her heart: therapy would have helped, but because she became as oppressive as my mother in this, I had to shut down this 'friendship'.

    When a person tells us to stop doing our research, our writing, our reaching out to other women, people who have the same wounds, suffering that we do....they have crossed the line.

    This woman spends her time on the beach, playing with her grandchildren. Bully for her. But the unresolved wounds she has are no excuse to deny others the hard work towards healing just because she is discomforted by it.

    Interesting that this woman, who rails against Narcissism, is rather Narcissistic herself.

    CZ...keep writing. You are so helpful to so many others. We need your voice.

    Lady Nyo


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