Releasing the past in order to find myself

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Validating Response

Editing Note:  I originally posted just CZ's comment with nothing else.  I had meant only to save this on a blog post for my own notes and not publish it.  OOOPS!!However, since I've gotten three comments on it, I will leave it for now, edited to include other pertinent information.  Here is the original link to the CZ's post, that I commented on and she replied:

The post is chalk full of good information, but something CZ had said in her comments to another person resonated with me and was a huge point of validation for me. 

Her words were:
"The most dangerous problem in society is when people do not understand pathology and assume the narcissist operates in the same reality as themselves. My X used to tell me all the time that he wished he lived in my world because to him, it was Disneyland compared to the jungle in his mind (Eat or Be Eaten). It has taken ten years for me to grasp the meaning of his words."

I've often felt that my sister (and mother and MIL, to some degree) live in a parallel but separate universe from me.  That, with my sister in particular, I can't really have a relationship with her because our realties don't overlap at all. 

This was my comment, to which CZ further commented on (the original message of this post, and copied below):

"CZ, this article is enlightening and helpful. But this comment above really struck a chord with me. This seems to be at the crux of my relationships with my narcs. I've been trying to maintain relationships with people that live in parallel but completely different realities from the one I live in. And my narcs, unfortunately, do not have enough insight to realize that I live in a different reality. They assume that I operate in exactly the same way as them. And this in congruency makes any sort of real relationship impossible. "

Sorry for all the confusion on this post!  And sorry CZ for publishing this without realizing what the heck I was doing.  Darn buttons!  I need to pay more attention!!! :) Here is CZ's final comment, the one I found most validating and helpful, and I'll leave it here for anyone else who may find it helpful.

"Hi Jessie! It's lovely to hear from you. <3

A great book for understanding narcissism is "Disarming the Narcissist" by Wendy T. Behary. She practices Schema Therapy and her insights can be particularly helpful for those of us seeking understanding. If we are dealing with a hostile malignant narcissist, maybe not; but the majority of us are not dealing with that degree of pathology. There are no malignant narcissists in my life today which allows me to be less defensive and more compassionate with narcissistic people. When a malignant narcissist is destroying your life, about the only thing people can do to protect themselves is "no contact."

I wonder if you could talk casually about schemas with the narcissists in your life? Not focusing on their schemas of course, but yours. This is how conversations with my X began, when I was in therapy and openly discussing my beliefs. Such as my response to Einstein's question (supposedly): "Is the universe friendly or not?" My X could not believe i didn't see life as "Eat or Be Eaten." This was the first realization we had that our perceptions were polar opposites. He said the universe was predatory and I said it was nice. We were both wrong. hahaha

What this helped me do as his wife (not that it changed the outcome) is recognize his fear which I had 'mocked' to some degree because I didn't understand. The level of fear he lived with day in and day out (fear of failure; the need to WIN at all costs) softened my heart. But I lacked the Rest Of The Story such as the inability to bond to people, etc.

There isn't anything WE can do to change the schema in someone else's head but we can prevent conflicts from escalating because we 'understand.' As I mentioned though, ending the relationship may be the only option if that person is unreasonable. You simply cannot expose yourself to hostility without losing your joy and your self-respect. It wears people down bit-by-bit and even as TERRIFIC as their boundaries may be, NO ONE can live with that degree of insult.

IF someone believes the world is Predator-Prey without allowing for alternative views, no matter what you say, no matter how you explain yourself, they will NOT believe you. They will think (as I mentioned on #21), that YOU are pretending so they'll let their guard down AND then, you'll GET 'EM. You can't work with that mentality and if someone is thoroughly convinced their perceptions are right, there is NOTHING you can do to convince them you have a kind heart and would never intentionally hurt them. As you wrote, "the incongruency makes any sort of real relationship impossible."



  1. I have been thinking about this idea lately too. Of how some people seem to live in "insane universes" and how -even if we don't cut them out completely because say, we work with them or other circumstances- we have to "switch off" from their "channel". Like CZ says, I have also come to the conclusion that, for all the will in the world, you cannot have a relationship with them.

  2. Hi jessie! After reading your post this morning, I spent some time familiarizing myself with more of your FOO story. And wow, you have dealt with some traumatic dynamics in your family without realizing what you were dealing with were Wackdoos. Or if you won't be upset with me saying this: Crazy People. People who's behavior is not only SELF destructive, but OTHER destructive, too.

    Your parents lacked the temperament and knowledge to raise a child as complex as your sister. It's not just their fault (in my view) that she's a mess, your sister has biological issues such as emotional dysregulation and impulse control. Someone mentioned on your post about your sister that this could be BPD. BPD has a healthy treatment rate now depending on how severe her narcissism might be. The two go hand-in-hand together. BPD invovles pathological narcissism.

    That said, my heart went out to you as someone who escaped the family insanity and feels guilty about that a little. I'm reading into your words of course but 'guilt' is something survivors feel. I believe that also applies to surviving the family Titanic. You have a heart and you have healthy enough esteem to create your own family and move forward with your life doing your best to meet your obligations and expectations as a woman, a wife, a mother. As much as you and I would love to save our families, we can't do much if they refuse to get in the life boat.

    I've also learned through my sad story that sometimes the kindest thing we can do is LIVE our lives as healthily as possible. That means eliminating people who won't be responsible for themselves. Notice I didn't say "negative" people! If' I'd written that, I'd be living alone. ha! As long as people are taking charge of their own shit, it doesn't bother me if they're negative or positive---just be responsible!

    So what I can say to you this morning is that your responsibility is to your family of creation. Not your FOO. If they wanna dance on the poop deck while you're rowing your children to shore, that's their choice. Your mother and sister and even your father, make their own choices and they are the only ones who are responsible for their consequences. It is very hard to let go of the "obligation" we feel for caretaking dysfunctional family members but if you look at this as a healthy thing for you to do, it might alleviate some of the guilt.

    One thing you know for sure is that what you've been doing has NOT worked. Your sister is still a mess. Putting more effort into repeating the same things you've always done, only takes time from your family-of-creation, the one you DO have power to influence. If you could influence your FOO , you would have. You Have Tried to do that and they either can't or won't accept it.

    I would feel guilty going "no contact" but only for a little while. It can be the very best way to for a mother of two children to do HER best for those children (and support her husband). That is where your allegiance lies now. I went "no contact" in my thirties by moving to France (LOL) and it allowed me enough space to be myself without the constant drama and distraction of FOO problems.


    1. Thank you for your comment, CZ. I appreciate you taking the time to read my post. Again, I'm sorry I posted it without realizing it (and your permission). That big orange 'post' button sticks out more on blogger than the "save" button. :)

      I do feel guilty for a lot of this. I'm continually being told I that I am wrong and unkind and that I need to "get past it" with my sister. Both my mother and my sister believe that this is just some "typical" sibling spat. Like she was rude about the potatoes I served at a meal or something. My sister has told me, in trying to figure this out, that she thought we had a "close" relationship, that we had a good sisterhood. She said she was "blown away" by this and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and pitying herself. She has not, and will not, acknowledge that my experience with our sisterhood has been different. That it wasn't good for me. Although she will acknowledge that her "choices have had negative effects on" her family, she doesn't seem apologetic or concerned about that. She seems to feel that because she is suffering "too" and that the trauma is primarily "her's", that I don't have a right to complain about it or claim I don't want to deal with it (sort of "you think it's hard on you, well, you should see how it is on me!!!)
      I've tried, over this year, to attempt even minor boundaries as a sort of "test". She can't respect even those simple ones. I've tried to venture some path to reach her. She has no interest in hearing what I have to say. My father says "until she hears you" you need to stay away; but my mother continues the guilt bombing, and my sister makes attempts to contact me as if nothing has happened.
      And in the end, although I know I've done the right thing, I struggle with the finality of it, mourning and grieving the relationship with my sister I had hoped would come around if she could just heal from our childhood, and feeling guilty too because I don't miss her. At all. Waking up and accepting her for who she is has been hard.
      It's interesting that you reference the "life boat". That's how I have felt. That she is drowning and refuses to accept the life preservers I've thrown fact, she throws them back at me. And then gets insulted I've thrown her a life preserver.

      You are right that my family is crazy. We seemed, mostly, "normal" until the divorce and then it all exploded. My mother always sort of put all the crazy on my dad before that. And then it was me, for having a "bad reaction" to the divorce. She told me that I WAS CRAZY for having the feelings I did. And it has taken me so long to realize that I'm not crazy. I realize that my parents didn't have the tools to take care of my sister and I am well aware that they were damaged (my mother having been raised by an alcoholic father and a cold, ignoring narc; my father experienced a severe trauma as a child that caused him to sink into a horrible depression.) You had mentioned that with your ex, in the story about the therapist, that you finally understood their reality. For me, I think I understood it TOO well. My heart was TOO softened. Because I so felt for them, I accepted a lot of behaviors from them and set about care taking. But in doing so, I never took care of myself. I never stood up for myself. I never made myself a priority. Until, two years ago, when my emotional state was so bad, that I needed to complete "overhaul" my perceptions on everything.
      I found your original comment so validating, as it's been the only way that I could describe the situation: that I couldn't have a relationship with someone who lived in another reality. But that is so hard for "others" to understand.
      Thank you for your thoughts, kind words, and suggestions. I am going to explore them further.

    2. CZ, I should say too, that despite the way my last posts read, "everyday" people would struggle to see it. Many, many people believe that my mother, sister, and I have a "close", normal relationship. Both my parents, and my step parents have high-paying, "professional", jobs. Although many people may see my sister and mother as "difficult" or "bitchy" even, they don't see the level of pathology that runs in them. I think, even my step father, would have a hard time truly "seeing" what my mother is (and he was there for a lot of the stuff with my sister). I think they chalked everything up to "normal" teenage growing pains, or "normal" reactions to the divorce. My mother recently remarked about how she had given "advice" to another woman with two daughters about how "difficult" teenagers could be. She simply CAN NOT see that anything else could've played into it (or she chooses not to. I think it's a mixture of both.)
      In my early childhood, I didn't see us as much different from my peers. We had a modest, but nice, home. We went on vacation. We spent lots and lots of time together. I loved my family dearly. I had aunts and uncles who we were close with. I didn't see our family being much different from their's. I assumed that the early acting out of my sister, was somewhat "normal". I assumed spankings with belts were, somewhat, "normal". I knew my dad was angry and "cranky", but I didn't see him that differently than other kids' dads. I would guess that, even my relatives who know/knew us well would find my posts to be completely out of the realm of what they "thought" we were.
      This was something that was so hard for me to wrap my head around. That they were, in fact, crazy people. That this was NOT normal. Or OK. My father sees it now. But my mother and sister live in complete denial. And since we are all relatively "productive" in life (nice homes, nice cars, good jobs), no one has been permanently in the psych ward, most of that other crazy stuff gets dismissed. I know ACoNs know, but I think other people don't realize that "crazy" doesn't look like the screaming, wild eyed banshee in their minds. That crazy can "look" just like everyone else.

    3. I had mentioned on the forum maybe that when my family gathered around my father's hospital bed over a year ago, the nurses thought we were the most loving family they'd seen. We didn't argue, fight or bicker. What they could not see was the crazy turbulence underneath the appearance of "calm."

      I agree with you that to the outside person looking in, narcissistic families look less crazy than their own. But the people inside the family, the ones that are fighting for sanity each day of their lives, know the truth.

      Now that my X is gone (and he was a great guy, until he wasn't) and I have learned about "mental health" and dysfunctional families, it's much much easier figuring out how to live together peacefully. My sis, my daughter and my nephew live with me and though it took some adjustment,we have a more informed basis for "NORMAL." Well, if you can call people with OCD, ADD, Bipolar and Aspergers "normal" and yes, I do think we're pretty darn normal!! Narcissism is so intolerable, even worse than mental disorders because of the constant projections, constant pretenses, constant put-downs and drama. The hostility, even with my X, was tiresome and it wore all of us down. Maybe his reality was Predator-Prey but he was the one eating us alive!

      You would think that after living with very 'agreeable" people, that he would adjust his perceptions. I don't think this happens even when narcissists are "cured." I think narcissists learn to live WITH their perceptions, countering them and changing their behaviors to fit a rule sheet for better relationships.

      My X said "I" was too hard and he was tired and now he's drinking himself to death. That's the easy way out (in my view) but I honestly believe it is the only way out for someone who believes the world is hostile and cruel.

      So I can say because of my experience that "No Contact" is the first step towards sanity and peace. We'll have plenty of work to do even after we separate ourselves from the craziness (which "looks" like everyone else).


  3. Whoops! This was only meant for my personal notes. I was keeping what CZ said and meant to save it and not publish it!

    1. It was a bit of a surprise so thanks for clearing up the mystery! Your post inspired me to dig into a blog so maybe it was meant to be? I hope you find some peace, Jessie. You deserve it! Thanks for explaining what happened!

    2. So sorry about that! You can imagine my surprise when I had comments on a "new" post and I had no clue what I had posted ;). My heart sunk in to my stomach when I realized my error. Thanks for being gracious and kind about my mistake.
      I have re-edited the post above to clear up the issue (as best I could). Originally I had planned to just return the post to draft, but as you gave an additional lovely reply, and others had commented, and I believe that your words might help others, I have chosen to leave it. I hope this is OK with you, but will be glad to remove it if not. I apologize for not getting permission for it all first!
      I'm glad you've had a chance to look around my blog a bit too. I'm one of the "lucky" ones who is fortunate enough to have a NM, NSis, AND, a NMIL. It's been a long road to get here!

    3. I've appreciated getting to know you better, Jessie. And this has turned out to be rather funny if you think about it. Maybe not so funny to you yet (I know that sinking feeling in the gut) because I've made mistakes myself. Just a couple of weeks ago, I clicked "publish" instead of "close" on a blog post I've been working on for several months but don't have the guts to publish…yet. Before logging-off, I saw the published article on my blog and nearly had a heart attack! So I quickly re-set it to draft but by then, my feed had sent out the title to subscribers. I had to post a new article to cover up my mistake.

      I kinda have the philosophy that "mistakes happen for a reason". Maybe that reason was getting to know you! Funny how life works out sometimes!

  4. Hi Everyone,
    This was really helpful and insightful. It helped me understand some odd behaviour regarding DH's FOO - revolving around how they play games (board games and such). I think I might write and post on this later. Thank you. xxTR