There seem to be three different kinds of people in the world. Those who are fake-positive, always wearing a plastered on smile and never admitting to failure or to their true emotions; those who walk around wearing their misery like a badge of honor; and everyone else.
Before I became active in the narcissistic abuse community, I really only met the first type of person and the third. I’m all too well acquainted with “positive thinking nazis” — you know, fake and shallow people who don’t want to acknowledge your pain and tell you to “get over it” or “you bring your misery on yourself with your negativity.” These people are often–but not always–narcissists (but even when they aren’t, they are all neurotypicals.) They are good at social skills and making a good impression at all times, and that means they are always smiling. They cannot and will not understand how introverted Aspies like me work–or really, how anyone who has deep emotions and isn’t always happy works. Positive-thinking nazis drive me insane. They lack compassion and understanding. They don’t think or feel deeply–about anything. It seems epidemic these days–people who don’t want to hear your problems because they don’t want to acknowledge that you may be in pain. For them, I don’t think it’s really about “positive thinking” at all. I think it’s about not wanting to be accountable or have to give time to anyone but themselves. They would rather brush your pain under the rug and act as if it’s not there, rather than let it ruin their day.
However, recently I’ve been seeing the opposite too, especially within the narcissistic abuse community. These are the people–usually raised by extremely abusive parents–who seem to wear their victimhood like a badge that proves how deep, emotional or even holy they are. The problem I see with this way of thinking is that they cannot move forward or ever find happiness or peace with themselves. Their Debbie Downer attitudes keep them stuck where they are and they can’t really heal from the abuse that was inflicted on them because they’re trapped in the quicksands of their own misery. A few have even implied that to be a happy person means you aren’t a godly person. They say that being optimistic or believing that God allows suffering or toxic people to come into our lives to strengthen us is a demonic way of thinking, and in fact, that the whole positive thinking movement is a “gift of Satan” in order to fool us.
When I first joined the narcissistic abuse community, I felt like I had finally found like-minded people. I felt like a victim most of the time and my early posts were mostly rants against my narcissists and how much life sucked in general. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding people who thought exactly the way I did–other people whose lives seemed ruined beyond repair due to the damage done to them at the hands of abusive or narcissistic people (usually parents), and that, well…life really sucks. Wow, I thought. There really are others like me! I could relate, and I felt like I was no longer all alone in thinking this way. And at the time, it was exactly the sort of validation I needed. But it wasn’t meant to be permanent!
Recently I’ve been changing and I’m finding myself getting irritated and depressed around people who cling to victimhood like a trophy and refuse to–or can’t–heal from abuse. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not “blaming the victim”–at all–but I have noticed with a great deal of sadness how people who cling to such views don’t seem to be able to heal. Sometimes I think they believe if they let go of their victimhood and allow themselves to pursue and embrace joy, that they are “letting the narcs win.” But in fact, they are letting the narcs win by embracing victimhood because their being happy wasn’t in their abusers’ plans. By stubbornly clinging to their no-hope thinking patterns, they can’t heal and and their abusers get what they want. Because our being happy wasn’t part of the narc’s agenda.
I have heard some say that happy people who are doing well in life aren’t authentic or “real.” I don’t think this is true, at least not all the time. Yes, I think there is far too much emphasis put on always APPEARING happy and yes, showing human emotions such as sadness, fear or depression seems to have become taboo in our narcissistic society. I don’t agree with that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing our true feelings, even when they’re not positive. But there is a huge difference between an authentically happy person and one who is faking it. A person who has true joy and feels it in their heart is a person other people want to be around, even people like me who get easily annoyed by “goody goodies” who smile too much.
A genuinely happy person is positive about life, but they don’t force their positivity on others, or make others feel guilty for showing real feelings. They don’t victim-blame or tell you it’s your fault you feel the way you do or have the circumstances you are faced with. They know how to listen–without judgment. The few people I have known who are like this are among the most empathetic people I ever met, and it’s because they’re not so caught up in their own issues that they have nothing left to give to others. I knew a girl like this a few years ago. Even though she laughed and smiled a lot, she was never annoying or obnoxious. I used to see her cry a lot too–often for others, because she was so compassionate and she CARED about other people. You could tell she was a person who was able to love deeply. People went to her with their problems because they knew she cared and wanted to help, and would never judge you for feeling down.
I don’t believe this world is our final destination. I believe our fallen nature and sin makes suffering inevitable. But on the other hand, I don’t think God wants us to be miserable either. I don’t buy the phony Joel Osteen brand of fake happiness or the ugly philosophy of the “Prosperity Gospel.” I can’t stand so-called “Christians” who don’t believe in helping the less fortunate because they believe that “poverty is the result of moral failure” or some such BS and is therefore deserved.
But I do think God does want us to be happy while we’re in this world. This planet, as imperfect as it is, is filled with small and not-so-small gifts and they are there for us to enjoy every day–but we won’t be able to appreciate these gifts if we’re too caught up in feeling like we were born only for suffering. It’s okay to smile when you feel like smiling, to be successful at something, to even be prosperous. I certainly am not what anyone would call “successful,” but I won’t condemn anyone else if they’ve found success and happiness–as long as the happiness is authentic and the success was earned honestly. I don’t think anyone needs to consign themselves to always being impoverished or depressed. No one was born to be a victim. I used to believe I was, but now I know I wasn’t–I just needed to open my eyes. Adversity can even be a teacher if you frame it differently. I have learned from my narcs. No, they aren’t good people, but perhaps God placed them in my life to teach me some hard lessons and to lead me to where I am right now as a writer about narcissism and mental health.
The obstacles and obstacle-creating people we meet in life aren’t put there by the devil. They may not have been put there by God, but God allows us to find our own way through the obstacles and become stronger through our pain, perhaps so we can “pay it forward” and help someone else in pain.
The idea of there being a purpose for everything in life–the bad along with the good–is Biblical. One of my favorite Bible passages is Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 (KJV):
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.
16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.
17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.
21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?
22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
I can’t tell you how many times I have read this and been inspired and comforted by it.
If you feel happy, don’t feel guilty about it! If you don’t, that’s okay too. There’s a time and reason for everything.