Going with the flow.

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I wanted to get up early and walk on the beach at sunrise, but I guess I was so exhausted from my long drive yesterday and busy evening (also stayed up late blogging about it and chatting with my son) that my body needed extra sleep, and I didn’t get up until about 1 PM!

No worries though.  My son has to work all night tonight so he was still asleep too.   I quietly ate some cereal and headed out. I decided to go back to Rees Park, where we witnessed the sun set last night.   I felt like it was calling me back.  This time I had the presence of mind to wear a swimsuit.

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The day was hot, very hot–95 degrees and very sunny.    I drove to Rees Park and immediately smelled the ocean smell and felt the soothing sea breeze, making it seem cooler.    I noticed that unlike last night when we were there, the tide was coming in.  There were no sandbars and there were very small waves (really, more like ripples), and a lot less of the beach was visible.   Banks of puffy white clouds dotted the horizon against the bright, almost electric blue of the sky.

I took off my sandals and stepped into the water.  It was as warm as bathwater!  So unlike the ocean water further north, even as far south as Myrtle Beach. Of course, this was the Gulf, a smaller body of water than the Atlantic Ocean, so that probably had a lot to do with the very warm temperature.

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I waded out into the water, and when I looked down, I saw small schools of tan colored fish swimming around my feet.  I squeezed my toes into the very fine, silt-like sand, an lowered myself into the water.   It was like sinking into a bathtub, only so much better.

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I closed my eyes and used the rest of my senses to feel nature around me.  I felt the ripples gently rocking me, and I just let my body respond to that, rolling over and floating and stretching every part of me that could be stretched.  I breathed in the salty air and listened to the seagulls on the shore.  I scooped up some of the silt-like sand into my hands, and squeezed the water out of it until the claylike substance squeezed out between my fingers and left a small ball in my hands.   I looked at it and could see many tiny shells and fragments of shells studded throughout the ball.    It felt so nice in my hands I decided to rub it all over my arms and then lifted my legs out of the water and rubbed some of it on those too.

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I looked around me and saw a few other people, also just relaxing and enjoying nature.    I had a short conversation with a woman lying in the water nearby, who was visiting her mother.   She said this was better than going to a spa, and I agreed.

I just sat there, not caring that the tide was now getting dangerously close to where I’d laid my things.  I looked down into the clear greenish water and then looked out where it seemed to stretch out into infinity, becoming dark blue as it receded into the distance.   I looked down again and there were those little fish swimming all around me, as if protecting me.    I looked back at the beach and gazed at the palm trees and listened to the hissing of their fronds in the gentle breeze.    For a rare moment, I was completely in the moment, not worrying about the future or fretting over something in the past.  I just was me, just a part of nature.  Not my ego or my achievements or my failures or my fear or my anger or my shame.   Just me.

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I felt the healing energy of the sun, sand and water that cradled me, and realized that this was all God’s doing.   It wasn’t the water rocking and comforting me, it was God holding me gently and using the warm water to do that.  I never felt like I got that from my family or anyone else I loved, but God has always been there, always ready to hold and comfort me.  All I had to do was ask and be open to it.   I felt a lump of gratitude form in my throat and thanked him for bringing me to this place.   Through grace, I knew I would be healed, that one day my mental disorders would be a thing of the past.

When I got back to the apartment, I found out an answer to an earlier prayer was answered favorably.   I think that has everything to do with what I found out on the beach today.

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Mindfulness keeps me from quitting therapy.

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In my last post, Jocelyn made a comment about quitting therapy, and this reminded me of something important that’s kept me going: mindfulness.

People in therapy, especially people who have cluster B disorders and have problems either regulating or accessing emotion, often quit when the going gets rough.  Narcissists are notorious for quitting therapy (if they ever enter it at all) because of all the Cluster B disorders, NPDs have the most problems allowing themselves to become vulnerable (well, maybe ASPD is even worse that way), but for therapy to work, this cannot be avoided.   This is why people with NPD so rarely get better.  For most, as soon as they start to feel too much, they’re outta there.

For borderlines, it’s a little easier.  We’re not running away from emotions all the time the way narcissists do (although I do to some degree and probably have narcissistic tendencies–I also have comorbid Avoidant PD which also explains my reticence).  For BPDs, our main problem is the regulation of emotions that are too intense.  But the core issues–abandonment trauma–is the same.   When you finally reach the stage of diving into the maelstrom of pain and emptiness, it’s incredibly painful.   You feel like you’re dying or going insane.  You think about quitting because who wants to live with all that pain?

That’s where mindfulness comes in.   Without mindfulness, I probably would have quit therapy after today.   But with mindfulness, I can actually let myself fall into the pit of pain and trauma and allow myself to feel those unpleasant emotions.  At the same time the mindful part of me is observing myself feeling them as they arise, and thinking logically and trying to make connections and give them meaning.   This kind of distance–while at the same time being fully submerged in the feelings–makes the experience more bearable and also makes it more likely you’ll learn something valuable from it.   Mindfulness also means you acknowledge that the emotions are not YOU; you have emotions but you aren’t your emotions.  You are you, and the emotions are just trapped energy moving out of you.

Without mindfulness, you just feel like you’ve somehow fallen into the 9th circle of hell and will never escape.   You can’t separate yourself from the overwhelming feelings and feel consumed by them.  No wonder so many people quit when they get to this point.   I’m so glad I took DBT classes (even though I blew them off back in he ’90s when I took them) and had the presence of mind to keep the DBT book I was given.  It’s been so helpful to me throughout this whole process.

I think mindfulness training should actually be a prerequisite for intensive psychodynamic therapy, especially for trauma survivors (whether they are personality disordered or not), because there is nothing to prepare you for the intensity of the ride you’ll be taking (which seems so gentle and tame at first).

Do narcissists cry?

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This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article.  It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.

Do narcissists cry?  Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices.  Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest.  The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave.  Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist.  Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.

Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.

Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.

Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.

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Here’s who your narcissist really is.

While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”).  Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category.  They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them.  They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you.   They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.

Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?

A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare.   But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible.  Don’t get your hopes up though.    That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting.   If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing.  Maybe.  (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be.  It’s his livelihood).

Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy.  For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.

He writes:

I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.

One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.

I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.

Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.

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Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at Deviantart.com

Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?

The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams.  A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above.   Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it.   They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams.   Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon.  The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists.  If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane.  Suicide is not unheard of.

Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing.  If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on.   Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being  swept away in the the river of day to day reality.   It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede.  But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been.   I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.”  Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.

Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are).  That being said,   I like to remain optimistic.   I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls.  Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never.  I don’t recommend you try  doing this yourself.  Leave it to the professionals or to God.   You cannot fix a narcissist.   All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.

Circling around the maelstrom.

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Credit: Jim Carson Design

I’ve been thinking a lot more about my parents and my nightmarish upbringing as a hybrid scapegoat/golden child (I was raised as an only child, so I had to be both). It’s worse in some ways than just being a scapegoat, because it’s a topsy turvy hall of mirrors where you can predict nothing. There’s no stability. There’s no security. There’s no consistency in a childhood where you have to serve two roles, and never know which one you’re going to be next, and where both roles you play are a lie.

I started blogging because of my sociopathic NPD/ASPD ex. I was trying to deal with my feelings about going VLC (very low contact, since we have children) with him and cope with being on my own for the first time. Blogging introduced me to myself.

I’ve been through a lot since the day I sat down and started to write. As I progress in my journey, I’m spiraling ever closer around the emotional vacuum that lives in my center, the maelstrom that was born from hurt and pain. I liken it to a black hole in space or a maelstrom in the ocean, because everything disappears there never to return. Falling into it prematurely could obliterate me. But if I’m ever to heal from my disorders, I need to dive into that maelstrom and explore its terrors and maybe its wonders. I’m a lot more courageous now than I ever was before. I think I can do this.

I’m realizing the problem wasn’t really my ex after all. What I mean by that is that we came together because I was programmed almost from birth to become codependent to someone like him. Yes, he made me worse, but I was in bad shape long before he came on the scene. In therapy, I’m beginning to talk more about my childhood, and the pain inflicted on me by disordered parents. I’m still at the point where I explore it from an emotional distance, as if I’m watching a movie. I can’t really internalize and surrender to the pain yet. I feel a vague sadness and anger, but I’m dissociated from it, as if it’s someone else it’s happening to and I’m just watching.

But it’s beginning. I’m starting to trust my therapist enough to take the plunge. He is using reparenting techniques on me, which is what I wanted. He’s empathetic, which is what I needed. I’m thinking about my past a lot, and making some connections. I have some tools to protect me when the time comes to go in. I’m scared but excited. I’m gaining courage.

I’m swirling around the edges of the maelstrom, looking down into an opaque blackness that looks empty but is full of unseen mysteries. I won’t fall into it. I’ll willingly dive into it, just like when I was eight and first jumped into the deep water at the community pool.

Once I dive in, I’ll either disappear forever, or rise from it triumphant. I’m banking on the latter.

Paper tigers: why I choose understanding over rage.

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I know I don’t need to (or should) forgive what the narcissists in my life have done to me. I will never again enable them or give them the benefit of the doubt.  I certainly won’t attempt to fix one (an action about as futile as trying to empty the ocean using a teaspoon). I can’t fix a narcissist and neither can you. The only viable way to deal with a narcissist is not at all. Go No Contact. Release them from your life.

Going No Contact  isn’t an act of hatred or revenge, and it doesn’t break any commandments either (if they are your mother or father) because they haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain as a parent.  If you have narcissistic parents (and that includes having one who isn’t technically a narcissist, but was codependent to the narcissistic parent and never took your side and colluded with the abuse), then you are an orphan.  You were mercilessly abandoned.  So it’s not a sin to go no contact with a narcissistic parent.  It’s an act of self-preservation. The same goes for a narcissistic spouse, sibling, or friend.  You owe them nothing, no matter what they tell you.

That being said, I still do try to understand the narcissists in my life. I see them as broken people who, whether by choice or design, have adopted a way of relating to others that poisons their own minds as much as it poisons the life-force of their victims. Yes, I feel badly for them. I don’t like them or what they do, but I feel badly for them. They cannot help themselves.

Some of you won’t understand my attitude. I understand the lack of understanding. Narcissists have made our lives hellish and compromised our ability to become everything we could have been.

Anger, rage and hatred is a perfectly normal and desirable initial reaction when you find out you’ve been had by one or more narcissists, especially if they were your parents, who were supposed to love you unconditionally. But it shouldn’t be permanent. I’ve been criticized for my attitude before, but I think it was taken out of context, because I’ve never suggested, not even once, that anyone needs to put up with a narcissist or keep him or her in your life. But for me, feeling pity for them (NOT forgiving them!)–from a safe distance–helps me to feel like less of a victim myself.  You might be surprised how well it works, too.

I don’t choose to be an eternal victim because that sucks. I don’t choose to hold onto my rage and anger (been there, done that!) because, well, it’s toxic to me. Seething anger eats away at my soul and turns me into someone I don’t like at all. I start obsessing on my rage and hatred and that turns me bitter, resentful and depressed. It drives home my victimhood and makes me wallow in self pity (“Oh, poor, poor me, WHY did *I* get stuck with such evil monsters as parents/spouse/friends, etc.”)

By seeing narcissists as broken people who can’t help themselves and will probably never change without some kind of earth-shattering shift in their consciousness (which must come from inside them and only them), their power over me seems diminished. They become paper tigers instead of terrifying beasts who rip me to shreds and eat me alive. And by seeing a narcissist, especially one who has “raised” you, as a toothless paper tiger, by contrast I feel more powerful and less afraid.

I used to have as much rage and hatred toward narcissists as any other victim of narc abuse does. That attitude served me well, too, because it motivated me to make the final break. But I found that after a few months, I couldn’t hold onto that anger anymore because all it did was make me feel bitter and depressed, and it also held me into an identity as an eternal victim, which is an identity I don’t want. I’m tired of always feeling like a victim, but to do that I had to change myself and my attitudes.

For me, releasing my hatred and rage allowed me to stop stewing in negativity and self pity, and once I did that I could begin to work on the things in myself that needed working on. Since I moved on from all that rage, my overall attitude toward life has improved immensely. I’m beginning to feel like a real live person who can overcome just about anything my narcs have done to me, because all you can do is laugh at a paper tiger.

And, if you’re still wanting to get back at your narcs,  think about this:  Narcissists WANT you to continue to feel victimized.  They WANT you to be afraid.   They even revel in your hatred because your hatred (which is based in fear) makes them feel powerful.  The best revenge is to see them as ridiculous paper puppets, which is really all they are.  By seeing them as pathetic paper tigers with no teeth or claws, you are giving them the opposite of what they want and they will HATE you for that!

I think the Serenity Prayer is something that can be as helpful to us as it has been to countless people in 12-step programs:

God grant me the Serenity

To Accept the Things I Cannot Change

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

and the Wisdom to Know the Difference…

***

Therapy in Color

I have always believed in the power of art and creativity. Engaging in painting, drawing, poetry-writing, singing, sculpture, cartooning, creative writing, music-making, arts and crafts, and even cooking, scrapbooking, and home decor relax the mind, feed the soul, and bring us closer to our Creator. Each one of us has been blessed with some kind of creative gift and it’s our job to find out what it is we love to do best, and use it to connect more deeply with the world, not just escape from it.  Making art in any form also fosters mindfulness.

Even something as seemingly childish as coloring books can help us connect with our creative muse. This article explains why.
After all, it’s the child in us that gets activated when we create, and there’s no one more creative than a young child.

Catharine Toso

An increasing number of adults are handling stress by engaging with art. Specifically, art in the form of coloring books. But while some may consider this to be a temporary fad, the psychology behind it is much deeper. Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate Jordan Gaines Lewis explains the appeal of coloring books to adults, and why they work, in a piece for New York Magazine’s The Science of Us blog.

Creative engagement is a major stress-reliever for many people. If you are artistically inclined, whether it be in the visual arts, music, or literature, you already know this. However, just because one lacks artistic training doesn’t mean that this great feeling can’t be experienced. So many adults are spending time with an open coloring books because it allows us to exercise our creative muscle, as long as we can hold a coloring pencil. Lewis cites psychologist Barry Kaufman, who says that the…

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I think my Winter Blues are saying adieu!

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I’ve posted before about my SAD (seasonal affective disorder). I also explained that for me, a sufferer of the Fall/Winter type (the most common type), I’m extremely sensitive to changes in daylight.

The Winter Solstice falls around December 21 or 22 every year. That’s the shortest day of the year, but also the last day the days are going to get any shorter. The next day, the sunlight-hours increase every day by increments of about a minute a day, as they march toward the Summer Solstice which falls from June 20 – June 22 every year.

I always noticed a darkening of my overall mood and loss of energy very shortly after the first day of summer, since the days are already becoming shorter even as they grow hotter. My body perceives these changes as early as mid-July!

There’s probably an evolutionary reason for this. Our distant ancestors were nocturnal, tree climbing, shrew like animals who may have needed to hibernate during colder weather to conserve energy and calories, while food was scarce. Many mammals today have a need to hibernate, and this tendency may have been retained in human genes to some extent, causing many of us to feel tired and depressed when they days begin to shorten. How nice if hibernation were an option for some of us humans!

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Getting back to the topic at hand, my mood is already starting to improve, even though the first day of winter was only about 3 weeks ago (that long already???)
That’s early even for me. My body and spirits don’t usually start reacting to these increases until the end of January at the earliest.

But maybe my improving mood is due to more than just the lengthening days. Since I’ve been in therapy, I’ve been feeling a little bit happier and less anxious overall. For example, I have a serious car issue, but I’m actually not freaking out the way I would have a year or two ago. I’ve also noticed people are responding to me in a more positive way (or maybe nothing has really changed but I’m just perceiving they are perceiving me less negatively than before).

My creativity is increasing, and my motivation to write, and–I dearly hope I don’t sound narcissistic saying this–I think my writing lately has improved immensely and I’m beginning to find my humorous voice too and seeing how funny things can be I never would have found the humor in before.

I still have a long road ahead (my therapist thinks it’s going to take a while) and maybe this is just the honeymoon stage of therapy before the work starts getting really emotionally draining, but it’s a taste of what might be to come and I’ll enjoy this as long as it lasts.

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

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I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

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Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

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And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.

I’m not making any New Years resolutions.

2016_newyear

It’s hard to believe, but I’m entering my third year since ousting the narcissistic psychopathic ex from my life once and for all. So much has happened since then. The other huge change I made in 2014 was starting this blog, which has proved to be powerful therapy.

In 2015, I shifted my focus from the narcissists in my life to my own behaviors and realized that to find happiness, I needed to change. Blogging alone was no longer enough, and so I entered actual therapy–the intensive, psychodynamic type that makes you dig deep into your distant past, not just behavioral therapy like CBT or DBT (though those certainly do work too). I’m seeing some patterns that are so obvious to me now, I can’t believe I didn’t see them before. Tonight was probably the most incredible session I’ve had so far, and I’ll be writing about it later. This has been one of the best decisions I ever made, and I couldn’t have asked for a better therapist.

I’m not setting any New Years Resolutions, because those have a way of getting forgotten or abandoned. I’ve never kept a New Years Resolution, ever. But I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a great year with or without resolutions. Right now, I’m just feeling incredibly grateful at the shape my life is taking and the discoveries I’m making on this healing journey. I’ve surrounded myself with people and situations that are good for me and are helping me grow. That’s something new for me. I always surrounded myself with toxic people before. No more! Those days are long gone.

Have a safe and happy New Year and an even better 2016!

Unfolding.

origami_crane_in_hand_by_miaauraylea

Tissue paper origami wings
pressed down flat on the table
now unrecognizable sharp edges that cut and slice
No longer beautiful
no longer delicate
a paper thing bound for the trash
made ugly by the rage of its creator
because it didn’t come out perfect
It insulted her pride
and filled her with shame

You came along and saw beauty there
in its flattened ruins
I see you holding it gently in your hands
I see the sadness in your eyes
at what this once was and could have been

Your clumsy but tender fingers prodding its innards
working to bring it back to beauty
Wrinkles are its scars
You are so careful not to tear the aging paper
as you work the jumbled angles back to life

It will never be perfect
even so much as the day it was made
but its unfolding is a testament to your compassion
made beautiful by those who see its value
and breathe life into it
and save it from incineration.