October 21, 2014

A Poem & Appreciation for my Readers: Blogging is GOOD for your Narcissism

Sheldon Peck, artist

We visited my parents over the weekend, always a catalyst for rumination on the three-hour drive home.

Our visits frequently include a ten-year review: my ex-husband leaving the family; the financial and emotional losses of infidelity and divorce; the grief we suffer because in spite of my ex's paranoid perceptions, he was my siblings' brother, my parents' son. All of us lost someone we loved and he wasn't easy to love, believe me. He was a lot easier on the eyes I must confess, than most of us. We miss his face in our family portraits.

My mother retrieved two file folders she'd kept during my high school and college years. Hand-written letters, scribbled poems, creative essays with big fat A's circled on the header. My daughter eagerly scanned the poetry to see what her mother had written when I was too-young-to-be-self-conscious. I didn't even know I had a subconscious. Or an unconscious, id and ego, much less an arsenal of defenses. My daughter is much more educated than I; the poetry she writes is worthy of serious contemplation. She read literary masterpieces in high school and my principle excused me from English to teach reading to first graders. Yea, that was the "good ol' days" when women were destined for housewifization, not publication. 

Anyway, we were sitting at the table, my mother, daughter and I when my daughter read this gawdawful eye-rolling poem about the wife I wanted to be one day. If anyone else has suffered the unveiling of your horrific naivety and patriarchal colonization, please hold my hand. I need company. It took every ounce of my hard-earned self-esteem not to slam my face in the tabletop. 

If you wanna know how much increased narcissism has helped women like myself, read that poem and then this blog. The disparity in self-ownership suggests something very interesting. I think it suggests that some women (especially women in traditional cultures) need to increase their individuality, their right to autonomy, their sense of entitlement and "havingness". Just because our score is low on the NPI (Narcissistic Personality Inventory), doesn't mean we're living to our fullest potential as human beings holding up half the sky with one hand and a sandwich platter with the other. Narcissism can be a good thing is my point. You don't develop healthy narcissism without risk is another point. You have to risk doing things friends & family might not agree with (like writing a blog), risk being criticized, risk being rejected. Nothing ended my marriage faster than claiming my right to exist on my own terms, within bounds of course 'cuz a conscientious woman will always keep her entitlements within reason. My right to have an opinion that differed from my husband's led to a midlife divorce, although that wasn't a conscious awareness on my part. The amazing thing about narcissistic husbands is that you won't know they aren't in full support of your spiritual and psychological growth until they find someone else. And then by golly, you realize how lucky you were that you didn't know how much he hated your guts since you might have would have tempered or even silenced that big fat opinion you need to have! 

Well once again, I'm typing more than intended before getting to my initial reason for writing this post: my readers. Thank you, thank you so much! As we talked about my transition from a naive and idealistic young woman to a naive and idealistic older woman, I KNOW without a doubt that the people reading my writings have Changed My Life for the better. We can only go so far on our own. We need people to encourage us, validate and support us, read us, inspire, question and accept us. It's temptingly easy to start feeling better and abandon recovery work, watching movies on iPhones instead of writing. That's because it's hard work putting feelings and thoughts into words and risking ridicule and criticism when we publish those words. Facing fear makes us grow and taking risks make us heal in ways we simply can't in the family living room. I can list screennames as long as a day without bread, of the people who inspired me to stand up for myself, to look at myself, to like myself. Thank you.

I am also grateful to my brilliant daughter who said after reading my tender soliloquy, "Every woman has the right to be idealistic and even naive, Mom. It's beautiful. But a man does not have the right to appropriate her idealism to serve himself."  Yea, what she said. 

Yesterday's stats referred to a website that recommended my blog (!) as a great website, albeit l-o-n-g. My writing is l-o-n-g and maybe my next challenge is learning to say a lot in a little, since most people won't read daunting entries such as mine-----another reason why I LOVE my readers each and every one of you. I am a better woman because you hold me accountable while allowing me to change and grow, to be myself. During the past decade, I've been bitter, cynical, too opinionated, too wishy-washy, too forgiving, not aggressive enough. I've been mean and spiteful, kind and rightful, tender and harsh intermittently. And still, my WoNderful readers have accepted me as an older woman rendered almost invisible in our narcissistic culture. You have made me feel that despite everything that happened because I was and continue to be idealistic, you still find something worthy in my experiences, valuable in my writing. Thank you. I am a lucky woman and I know it's because my interlocutors have taken the time to read and comment on my work. Thank you.

And now as promised: one of my high school masterpieces. It's not the poem you're dying to read, admit it. I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you, but my ego isn't yet strong enough to publish Ode to My Future Husband. This poem says a lot in a little, though.

"Poetry, schmoetry," that's what I say.
I can write poetry any ol' day.
It ain't that hard, all you have to do
is match up a line with a word or two.

My teacher says "write!" and I just laugh.
She thinks I work but I don't hafta 
'cuz I can write poetry any ol' day.
If those doggone words don't get in the way.

Love to all,


  1. Hi CZ,
    You are welcome! I love reading your posts and hearing your stories. I learn so much and find myself chuckling in understanding of how you feel. Your humor, courage and wisdom make me feel like I can get through this. "Our visits frequently include a ten-year review" - how accurately you describe an experience that reflects my own. Most FOO (including in-laws) visits includes such a review of 'my failures'.

    Oh boy, I can imagine that wasn't easy to see that file folder come out. I love the kind words your daughter expressed.


    1. Hi TR! Right after posting, I came down with the flu and couldn't even stumble downstairs to my office...boohoo

      I reflected on my daughter's words for several days and finally decided to write a post around her comment. I still get bogged down in my shame for being so naive and "romantic", feeling bad about myself for being a 'sitting duck" for exploitation. Most people try to make me feel better by saying I wasn't naive. (we both know its a lie but they say it anyway because they care about me). The truth is: People Deny the Truth all the time when they want to make you feel better---like, "Oh, you're NOT fat!", when you obviously are; or "Oh, you weren't naive", when you obviously were. That's a quick fix smoothing over a rough moment until the conversation can shift to something less troublesome.

      Instead of trying to make me feel better (which can make us feel worse), she did a very healthy thing. She validated the truth that her Mom was naive and idealistic; and she placed responsibility on the person who appropriated my vulnerability. It was a rare moment for me, I can tell you that. Sometimes people say just the right thing at the right moment and it's as if they handed you a key to your freedom. I have felt so good about myself ever since.

      And one more reason why her comment was powerful: in our narcissistic society, we make fun of vulnerable people, people who love with an open heart and aren't afraid to show it. If someone takes advantage or victimizes that person, we blame them for being vulnerable. The word "naive" has become a pejorative in a society that values power and dominance.

      Love to you

    2. Ugh, the flu, I hope you are feeling better.

      I can relate to the shame from being naive. I want to smack my forehead sometimes, (can you hear me do that across the net). I feel like how come I was a doormat for so long.

      What she said was healthy, she validated your right to feel that way. And I like how she addressed what you said about the person who appropriated your vulnerability. Incredibly wise and healing. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

      Your last paragraph is so true. It was at this time I was discovering narcissism and reading so much and I was surrounded by a philosophy at work and where I lived that my vulnerability was the problem. This is not an exaggeration. A lot of my friends have said to me that I am too naive and what would I expect if people took advantage of me. "If a person allows it then it isn't wrong to do so." - that was the gist of what they would say.

      I just finished reading the book "The Devil in the White City" - a non-fiction book about the World Fair in Chicago and the serial killer H.H. Holmes. The author did psychological research on the serial killer and writes on how Holmes probably saw people (women specifically) and there was one line that made me gasp and I had to stop reading for a minute. Upon first entering a store and seeing the female worker, the author writes about Holmes: "He sensed vulnerability, sensed it the way another man might capture the trace of a woman's perfume." This was so creepy.

    3. "A lot of my friends have said to me that I am too naive and what would I expect if people took advantage of me. "If a person allows it then it isn't wrong to do so." - that was the gist of what they would say. "~TR

      Oh...yea. There's a notable lack of empathy for a "victim" these days, isn't there? Nobody wants to think about how vulnerable we are---that anyone can be taken advantage of by a con-artist. Just look at our economic mess all over the world---do your friends think it's okay for our white-collar psychopaths to steal from the little folk? After all, they were just going to work everyday and taking care of their families instead of figuring out all the ways they could be scammed (or scam others) ARGH

      I also think this attitude is based on Machiavellianism which is one component of the Dark Triad. It's a sure sign to me to keep my pocketbooks closed and my heart on guard when someone turns a blind eye to injustice. It also smacks of narcissism and a disregard for common morality. I think it's intellectual laziness--sitting on the fence and pretending to be wise when in fact, they're either too narcissistic to care, psychopathic enough to lack conscience and/or adequately Machiavellian to reduce human relationships to business deals. /rant

      H.H.Holmes...bbrrrrrr...I didn't know there was a book but I did see a film on Netflix suggesting he might be the notorious Ripper. He definitely used women's naivete to lure them into his web. It is a scary thing to think about, TR. I live in an area where Ted Bundy also used women's naivete and desire to "help" as a lure. And now we have Shades of Grey which will deliver another trail of victims into predator's hands. But hey, as you know: Not Our Problem. If she's vulnerable, why not hurt or kill her? This is such a stooopid shallow attitude that is so self-centered and narcissistic, I can't stop typing. You know what else it is? Immature. Our world is turning into an adolescent fantasy where no one is morally compelled to bear the burdens of the other---just each of us to our own.

  2. Yeah, what K said. One of the things that I love about this blog is that you don't post that often, but when you do they are ARTICLES, basically. Carefully thought through, meditated upon, and I always learn reading your posts. They're worth the length. So I hope you don't let anyone who suggested that your posts are l-o-n-g lead you to curb the length. They're never redundant, they move into different facets, then elegantly bring the strands together at the end. It's called good writing. So please just keep doing what you do. It's a gift to your readers, the time, thought, research and care you put in. And I appreciate this one, rare, post wherein you simply talk about a few naive poems you wrote ages ago, and the need for women raised to be ONLY wives and mothers sometimes need to learn more positive self-regard. love you, CS

    1. Thank you, CS. If I were trying to build a business, keeping my articles to a maximum word length would be important. I am always pleased and surprised when a lengthy post is read by thousands of people; i.e.: PuppyGate. A post I didn't think anyone would read if they hadn't been there at the time. I wrote that for myself, to be honest...a way to silence the demons of self-doubt by organizing the sequence of events into a narrative.

      I've thought about your comment: "the need for women raised to be ONLY wives and mothers sometimes need to learn more positive self-regard". It was nice to have something to think about during a couple of feverish days! However, I don't want my post to suggest women who identify as "wives and mothers" are deficient or undeveloped. You understand where I'm coming from because you know the whole of my life but I'd like to be clear about that for readers who aren't familiar with my story. That my teachers knew I was highly intelligent yet saw my intelligence as a "resource" they could use to benefit their budget, is sexist. I can't even imagine them proposing such a thing to the "smart boys" in my class---more likely, they'd have encouraged them towards higher academic studies.

      I'm truly not upset about the way things were because hey, that's the way things were. Whenever I reminisce on how things used to be, it makes me feel a little bit better about how things are today.


    2. Absolutely, CZ, being raised to be a wife and mother is not in itself a bad thing, and thank you for making that clear where I made it murky! Everything depends on who one is dealing with. My mother had ambitions she tamped down, then resented the hell out of all of us, especially her children. Positive regard should be plentiful for anyone who has truly loved and been there for her spouse, children, and most importantly--when that spouse has SEEN and appreciated what she has done and given. Amen. xo CS

  3. In my opinion, your claim to 'wishywashing' behavior is just showing your humanity and development. Anything else in life and our development smacks of dogmatism.

    When I read your blog, I know that I have to settle in: you are profound in your understanding of human nature, besides the issue of narcissism and I know that I will deepen my own understanding of these issues. I never get tired of reading your experiences, because they clarify a lot of my own confusion on these issues.

    Your sense of humor certainly greases the reading! I firmly believe that a person who can mock/laugh at their own self is highly sane and should be read. I enjoy the belly laughs you give here.

    Kudos to your daughter, too. Work on the poetry, I can match you line for line with bad.

    Love, Jane

    1. I like the way you turned wishy-washy into an attribute. Thanks Jane!! *grin* Have you ever had someone drag out an old post you wrote maybe ten years ago and say, "See! I can prove it! You're a hypocrite!" And then I wonder: how boring that critic must be if her thinking and opinions haven't changed in a decade.

      I'm glad to know you find my writing funny...my ex certainly didn't see it that way. "YOU are NOT funny!" he used to say to me. "You THINK you're funny, but you're NOT!" What a joy it's been to have people lol-ing throughout my posts and validating that yes, I am a funny lady after all! I don't think narcissists have a very good sense of humor---they seem to appreciate jokes that "kick down", picking on the vulnerable and marginalized. Or they hee-haw over slapstick comedy/tragedy slipping on banana peels; or baseballs being slammed in groins. You know, stuff I do NOT think is funny.

      Maybe we could have a narcissism test and measure what makes people laugh? Do you laugh when a homeless woman slips on a banana peel? Add two points to your narcissism score if you think that's funny. Do you laugh when a mouse pees on the foot of a lion? No points added if you think that's hilarious. ha!


  4. Actually, a mouse peeing on the foot of a lion is hilarious...at least to me! It shows courage of the mouse. LOL!

    You are a VERY funny woman, but I think a narcissist can't really appreciate any type of humor. They are too enmeshed in appearances and to crack a smile over normal humor would be beyond them. I remember a sadistic narcissist named Jerry in Montreal who not only would not laugh or smile, he was extremely rude to me in his house. Of course, I didn't complain then because it was HIS house....but I don't think most Canadians are so socially retarded. At least I hope not. But he is the first example that comes to mind when I think of narcissists/humor.

    As for someone dragging out an old post to PROVE you are a hypocrite? has been done to me, too. But what is telling is that people like these are so entrenched in their own search for negativity that they can't realize that others grow and change is constant. I've been under an influence before (not drugs, but narcissistic people) where I would write something 6 years ago and then go: 'Oh, my god! How could I have championed that???" I use these things as a measure of growth in me.....sometimes not a fast growth, either. LOL!

    I have a problem with "America's Funniest Home Videos"...all this hitting in he groin with bats and baseballs, stupid tricks in the snow that are dangerous (like sledding off a roof, etc.) and don't think these things are funny at all...someone on the receiving end of the bat/ball is given pain. I don't think we think these things out very well in our society: perhaps we are dulled by tv, the movies, etc. But pain is nothing to chortle about. Rant over.

    Keep leavening your serious posts with humor, CZ.....I, for one....LOVE IT!

    Love, Jane

    1. Anyone who's conversed more than a year online, has likely encountered the "secretary". You know, the person keeping strict notes on what's been said on message boards and making sure your opinions never waver. It's a rather odd thing to do on recovery forums because the point is "change", right?

      I was watching a YouTube collection of supposedly FUNNY videos and it was awful. I am sensitive to sadism and laughing when someone gets hurt, kinda falls in that category. It's also the kind of thing that makes eight-year-olds laugh before they develop empathy, which is probably rude to say since viewers are older than eight. I simply don't "get" why people think it's funny when someone is hurt unless that proves to the viewer, that the victim is stupid; therefore the viewer is comparatively smarter. If anyone has answers, clue me in.

      Have a fun fun Halloween this week, Jane! We will, too!

  5. Please do write a post on your daughter's comment, CZ. I can't tell you how validating and freeing it is. Like it's not enough to have suffered at the hands of cruel people, we have to blame ourselves for not having seen it sooner :P If I ever hear someone making that kind of comment to others or themselves (or indeed, if my inner critic dares to insinuate such a thing) I am quoting your daughter's comment. Please thank her very much on my behalf.
    Lots of love and hugs,

    Kara xx

    1. I will tell her and she'll be so pleased, Kara!

      I know people say that parents divorce each other, not their children. There's some truth in that and some guidance for managing the divorce in a way that doesn't force children to choose between their parents. She was an adult at the time and she was broken by the ordeal, too. We've pulled ourselves out of cynicism and despair since we were all convinced "he" was as devoted to us as any man could be.

      She has "hated herself" too--especially when people wondered why she was distraught about her father leaving with another woman. They were like, "Hey, you're thirty years old...so what?"

      Since she's been living at home this past year, we've had many heart-to-hearts and I hope its not too self-indulgent to write about our conversations. I'm oddly interested in talking about our family interactions now. Perhaps it took a decade for me/us to embrace the beauty of what we'd accomplished as a family in spite of the ending. I mean, it's really not fair to judge the whole of our experience based on HIS rejection, now is it? IF we thought our family was amazing before he left, why wouldn't it still be amazing after he left? This is the vein of thought we're exploring now. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Kara.


    2. Too "self-indulgent to write about" your conversations with your daughter? How would that even be possible, CZ? This is YOUR blog. You've always written nearly everything here with an eye toward making your points as widely applicable as possible to and for others; the occasional more personal posts are pure blessings, especially since you've built this household family for yourself that is not simple, not Norman Rockwell, not perfect, yet still supportive, loving, and dependable. That's not an easy balance; when you write about it, you do help others too. love CS

    3. Well, I started this blog so people could find our forum but at this point, I'm switching gears a little bit. My daughter has encouraged me to talk about our family because she thinks we're swell. ha! Actually, she pushes me to write a book about our 'issues" as individuals, as mother-and-daughter, as a Non-Rockwell family doing a very un-traditional thing learning to live without a man proving our worth. Now that she has an incurable disease and is unable to work, we have lots of time to talk, lots of time to re-hash the past, lots of time to laugh together.

      I do think what we've done is remarkable and many many people have done and are doing the same thing. It isn't without criticism, though---we get plenty of snide comments about choosing to remain single, about a daughter living with her mother, about how much healthier we would be if we lived independently. Isn't that interesting? We see strength in broken connections and isolation, suspecting there's something amiss when a mother and daughter like each other.

      Thanks for your comment. It means a lot to me. ~CZ


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