|Ancient Beekeeping by Pieter Bruegel|
The title of this post is misleading. You aren't limited to two options. You have many. I hoped an either-or question would capture your attention and get you reading because there's a variety of ways to participate in online recovery work. Some methods are more communal. Some are more agentic. Depending on your personality and your values, you may be drawn more towards one than the other.
You do not have to post about your life to benefit from online learning. You can read only. Read other people's blogs. Read message boards. Read self-help books. On message boards, it is not uncommon for someone to read the forum regularly before posting a comment. People may never post a comment and still benefit from feeling like they're a part of that community because they are. This is why most forums have a public board where people can connect to other people in similar circumstances without compromising their security by posting. Some forum members use public computers at their library. Depends on how abusive their relationship may be.
As a dreadful forum manager *grin*, I've received emails from grateful people who've gained wisdom and courage by reading the WoN forum while they learned about narcissistic relationships. They had never posted a single comment. I'm especially grateful to our forum members who write about their lives and are willing (because they value community) to support other people. They listen and empathize--far more valuable than advice or website links. That these good people take time out of their day writing long, sensitive messages that are lost in the backpages---is a miracle to me. When a community works, it makes ya cry because you know communal values are how human beings have made it to the 21st century. What's gonna happen now that self-admiration and self-preoccupation is acceptable, even encouraged, is anybody's guess.
Managing a forum isn't easy but somebody's gotta do it. Forums aren't something to mock---it requires formidable social intelligence. The manager/moderator keeps one eye on the individual's rights and the other eye on the group's rights and no manager will do this perfectly 100% of the time. Not even myself...and I'm about as communal and other-oriented as a person can be.
HOWEVER, there is NO perfectly safe place for anyone to write about their lives, or their thoughts, or their opinions, or their preferences, or anything personal at all. A moderator can intervene when people take pot shots at each other but I can only clean up the mess after the fracas has occurred. Anyone, even if you warn people that you're afraid, is vulnerable to being criticized, shamed, and bullied. People in recovery, even ACoNs (nah, ya don't say!), have unconscious agendas. Recovery is about making our agendas conscious, becoming self-aware. Self-awareness is a l-o-n-g process and anyone who thinks there's an end is only kidding themselves. Ten years in recovery work? pshaw...we're newbies! Find me ONE self-actualized person on this planet and I'll eat my hard drive.
How Safe Are You?
There are risks with "anonymous" recovery groups which is why vulnerable people might consider participating on the safest forum they can find before standing alone in the blogosphere. Get your worst secrets out in a group and then try standing on your own. As we've witnessed recently, some folks have an open eye on agentic rights and a jaded eye on community. sheesh. For some reason and maybe it's the planetary alignment or perhaps the upcoming elections, but people are on edge. Short-tempered, self-centered, reactionary. This recent drama triangle in the blogosphere mirrored a recent drama triangle on the WoN forum with people taking sides, defending the rights of the individual without keeping an eye on the whole.
When narcissism is afoot, there will always be relational consequences. Someone will be hurt and it's usually the ones who need someone to keep an eye on them. 'Cuz we are our brother and sister's keeper and to pretend we aren't is narcissism, an escape from our reality as social creatures who depend on one another.
However, and this is unavoidable, members of forums must extend trust to managers which is hard to do when trust has been betrayed in the past. The best suggestion I have for those who want to take advantage of anonymous posting is to get to know your forum manager. I participated on a forum where the manager never self-disclosed. We didn't know much of anything about her other than she be da boss. After reading about the importance of self-disclosure for healing AND for moderating people's natural idealizations, I became even more dedicated to letting people know me as intimately as they could online. I'm about as transparent as glass and if you don't like what you see, you wouldn't like me in real life either. Although most people do.
And, last point: each person must assess how much risk you are able to tolerate. If writing a blog increases your anxiety, then don't write a blog. If trusting your forum manager increases your anxiety, don't post messages. You must make a fair assessment of where you are in your healing process because there is no guarantee everyone will care as much about you, as they do their opinion of you. You can start a blog and if you are suffering too much distress and worry, delete your blog or put it on private with no visitors allowed. You can start it up again in six months and if you still feel exposed and anxious, delete it again.
There is no such thing as failure as long as you are trying.
If you join a forum and the manager doesn't respond to your concerns after emailing him/her, leave the forum. If you read a book and the advice is stupid, throw that book in the fire. Don't pass it on to someone else who might not realize the book is trash. If you go to therapy and your therapist gives you panic attacks, stop going to that therapist. I guess my point is that when we are ready to examine not only our narcissistic relationships but also ourselves, we MUST protect ourselves as adults, especially if we were not protected as children.
If you are not ready (and you may never be) don't join a recovery forum/community OR an individual-set-of-blogs-discussing-similar-topics-but-definitely-not-managed-by-anyone-other-than-the-individual-blog-owner-him-or-herself.
Take Care of YOU. Do the Right Thing for YOU. Make no judgments of yourself. Don't beat yourself up. Don't compare yourself to anyone else, or put yourself down. Treat yourself with compassion. The fact that you have awakened is impressive. It's a miracle.
Take things as you are ready and remember this: S-L-O-W is fast. There is no such thing as failure as long as you are trying.
Love to all,
Oxford Art Online PDF biography of Pieter Bruegel, the elder