April 11, 2010

Like A Chicken With It's Head Cut Off

How can it possibly be April 11th?  It was just March 25th two minutes ago!  Since my last post I've been traveling, working and preparing to move... kind of that "running around like a chicken with its head cut-off" sort of thing, ya know?

Which reminds me...

of the national sales manager I hired many years ago to oversee the sales of a product I created and was marketing nationwide at the time. He was bright, successful, educated and well-spoken, but I'll be darned if he didn't have an annoying tendency to edit and misquote passages, old adages and cliches that had otherwise withstood the test of time. Case in point: the chicken sans head.

Whenever, and I do mean each and every single time, he was stressed out and I asked him how things were going he would reply, "I'm running around like a chicken!"  That's it.  "I'm running around like a chicken!"  Just a normal chicken, mind you, a regular old bird, not a recently decapitated one.

Now, if you've ever seen a chicken running around as compared to a chicken running around with it's head cut off, you know there is a huge difference and it is this very difference that provides the meat (no pun intended) to this cliche.  His benign bastardization of this silly expression just about made me crazy.  It got to the point that I wanted to scream, "It's not running around like a chicken, you dunce, it's running around like a chicken with it's flippin' head cut off!"

I wonder if he said it just to annoy me, hmmm...

Anyway, a headless chicken I have imitated as of late, but hope to settle back into a modified routine soon.  For now, I would suggest that for those of us who have lived with or do live with a Narci it's not unusual to feel a kinship to the beheaded chicken.  In trying to meet their needs, dodge their bullets, be what they want us to be, excuse what they want us to excuse, calm them, praise them and defend them, while simultaneously trying to cope and present an appearance of "normal" to the world we may, indeed, feel an element of "fowl" play in our lives... sorry, I couldn't resist.

Some of us have chosen to leave, some are choosing to stay.  In either case, doesn't it feel good to laugh at something related to the craziness. Put your own head on the chicken (oops, I mean put your own head on the ground next to the chicken), see it for what it is and have a good laugh.

We each have the power to change our life and our destiny.  As we learn and apply what we learn, we can make choices that will bring many days of laughter in the years ahead.  What a relief!

I'll be back as soon as I can.  Until then..

Take care.

March 25, 2010

Not Just for Narcissists: The Link to Addictions

I recently celebrated a birthday... and as it marks the start of my personal new year, I decided to try something new.  In fact, I decided to consider something new, try something new, and anticipate something new by changing some behavior and setting some goals.  Why not?

So, I baked my first red velvet cake.  I've thought about it for quite some time and finally got around to doing it.

When my kids were little and I tried a new recipe I would ask them, "Keep it or toss it?"

The red velvet cake recipe was neither a keep nor a toss, but a tweak. I'm considering altering the recipe slightly by adding more cocoa, as well as sour cream.  I'm anticipating a new taste by changing the original recipe and I'm setting a goal to try it again by April, in cupcakes.

That doesn't sound too intimidating or overwhelming, does it?

Of course, there's more.

I've lived 51 years now and have experimented with a number of recipes for life: some keepers, some tosses.  I think it's about time to sort through my recipe box and reevaluate what's still there collecting dust.

As luck would have it, I've been nudged.

The nudge came as I listened to a presentation given by a woman who volunteers her time serving with the addict recovery program in my local area.  I was shocked to learn the impact emotional wounds have on addiction; that 90% of addictions are driven by unmet emotional needs as opposed to the 10% driven by physical components.

How many of us have unmet emotional needs?  I'd guess all.  And so, while children of narcissists certainly have their many reasons for addiction, they are joined by a circle of friends that cross all socioeconomic boundaries with a vast array of human experience.

Long after the speaker concluded her remarks, I thought of addictions: their many faces, forms, and factions.  I thought of the common ones, but I thought longer on those that we, who call ourselves healthy, keep alive and well and never acknowledge to be addictions.  I made a list and began to consider which ones I could call my own:

  • drugs
  • prescriptive medications
  • alcohol
  • sex & pornography
  • gambling
  • violence
  • anger
  • power
  • success
  • being right
  • control
  • being better than
  • having more than
  • perfection
  • neediness
  • victimization
  • entitlement
  • attention
  • approval
  • gossip
  • abuse
  • spending
  • eating
  • working
  • doing
  • cleaning
  • appearances
  • managing the lives of others (co-dependence)
Interesting, isn't it, to consider an addiction to being right? How would our lives change if we freed ourselves from the addictions on our lists? How would our relationships change?

If we consider our addictions, then consider what unmet emotional needs may have led to the addictions, I believe we can reconstruct the thought processes that left us vulnerable, then transform ourselves through conscious effort and spiritual help.  

From my list I can identify several addictions that have impacted my life and relationships.  I have work to do.  Life can't just be about recognizing the weaknesses of others in order to justify our own behaviors.  It's okay to make mistakes.  Humans have addictions.  But, only through self-reflection and a willingness to try something new, can we make change... no matter how old we are.

That red velvet cake was really pretty good,

but, I can't wait to experience the new and improved...

Take care.

March 17, 2010

A Bandage for the Exploitation Wound

I recently received a comment to my post, Narcissistic Exploitation and the "Power-Over" Relationship from a new reader, in which she shares an example of this behavior in her own life and its resulting effects: confusion and sorrow.  I'd like to share her comment, my response, and then, a thought process for healing.

The comment:

freelyfloating said...

Hi there,
I just found your blog, and I wanted to comment on this post, because this is one of the things I've been trying to grasp recently. My father is a classic N, in many ways, but he does appear caring and loving a vast majority of the time. But, I've come to realize that it's only to inflate his self-image. As long as other people notice that he's always talking about his daughter (me), then they assume that he is attentive and actively involved in my life, even though my parents are divorced. Unfortunately, that's not the case. I'm in my 2nd year of college, and he's never been to see me at school, let alone see the campus. I'm not even sure he could tell you what my major is. Not to mention that I'm double majoring! It's amazing the type of "show" an N can put on for other people.

My response:

Welcome! Thanks so much for your comment. I understand exactly what you're describing... I call it grandstanding. Narcissists have the tendency to invest tremendous energy in outward appearances that depict their behavior and/or relationship(s) as strong, healthy, responsible, respectable and admirable. They may emotionally, even theatrically share stories of bonding experiences with their children, they may host "big" events for family and friends, or invite family and friends to "big" events... often very exciting and generous, they may proudly adorn their children with grand accolades when reciting their accomplishments to others, but in each and every case the motivation will be to reflect favorably on them (the Narci). Once the curtains close on the performance, the show ends, the Narci fades away or resorts to his self-absorbed behavior and you are left to wonder what is truth. It's the perfect recipe for crazy-making! There are many people who demonstrate narcissistic characteristics without having the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Reading through the various posts, will help you in the assessment of your father. Understanding is half the battle. You're well on your way. Take care! (And kudos on the double-major, way to go!)

In my post, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Am I a Narci After All? I wrote about duplicity, how to recognize it, and how living with it may create emotional comfort with and possible attraction to more of the same, perhaps in the form of a narcissistic relationship.  (This would be my concern for freelyfloating, so I'm extremely glad to see she's learning about this now instead of later!) Narcissistic exploitation is an example of duplicity in that words don't match actions.  As freelyfloating explained, her father talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk!  Once the curtain closes and the audience has left, there IS no relationship with his daughter.  His purposes were met.  The audience has applauded HIM.  He's done.  

Say one thing, do another: duplicity.  Do it for self-gratification: exploitation.

Understanding that this behavior is to be expected from a narcissist can help you regain equilibrium and self esteem.  Let me illustrate the typical downward spiral:
  • Initially you are pleased to hear your Narci praise you, or hear that he has praised you to others.  (This also applies to receiving an invitation from your Narci, receiving a gift, etc.)
  • You feel good about yourself because of the praise, invitation, gift, etc.
  • The situation or occasion ends and the Narci pulls away, or suddenly changes behavior, disposition, mood or temperament.
  • You are confused, you think you must have done something to cause this change, and that you're to blame.
  • You feel bad about yourself because of the Narci's changed behavior.
IF you understand this behavior is NOT about you, that it is only about the narcissist, you can anticipate it objectively, take yourself off the roller-coaster and watch it all play out in emotional safety.  (You can even think back on past experiences and reconstruct the memories in your mind.)  The praise was given to benefit him, the mood swing or the sudden disappearance benefited him, as well.  That's all.  You did nothing wrong.

To take it one step further,  I tend to believe that the praise narcissists render regarding others is usually true (as in the example of my reader above). Narcis are not motivated to give praise unless it benefits them, but when they do express praise, I consider it truthful.  (I realize it may be embellished for purposes of self-aggrandizement, but the basic facts are still usually grounded in truth.)  Therefore, if you are the recipient of the praise, own it, believe it and enjoy it.  You can fully understand what the motivations and limitations of the narcissist offering it are without having to feel less than deserving of it just because it came from a Narci.  Think to yourself, "Wow, even my Narci can acknowledge this!  Awesome!"  Then don't expect anything more and go about your life.

I hope awareness of this serves to be more than just a bandage for the exploitation wound.  I hope it's a healing salve.  If you've been shouldering the blame for Narci behavior for a while, it may take some time to undo the damage, but it's possible.  You can retrain your brain and get healthy!  For additional guidance I recommend Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, by David D. Burns.

To freelyfloating: thanks again for sharing so that others can benefit... please come back often and...

Take care.