6 “useless” emotions that aren’t useless, and 2 that really are useless.

Originally posted on July 10, 2016

negative-emotions-crop

I get tired of the positive thinking brigade who tells you you always must be happy and that there’s no place for “negative” emotions.   Not only is it obnoxious to wear a pasted on smile all the time even when you’re not feeling it, it’s not natural or healthy.   Of course, being a positive person who thinks positive thoughts is a good thing, but when it’s taken to ridiculous extremes (and it certainly is in my family, where “negative” emotions are not accepted or allowed) it can be soul-damaging.   Following is a list of unpopular (or “useless”) emotions that definitely have their uses (when they’re not excessive).  There are only two emotions I can think of that have no uses whatsoever, and I’ll describe those last.

1. Guilt.

My father always used to tell everyone that guilt was an unhealthy, useless emotion, but I couldn’t disagree more.   True, excessive guilt is bad for you, but the right amount of guilt separates people with a conscience from the psychopaths. I pointed out this to my father once, and he became enraged.   Hmmm, I wonder why!   The ability to feel guilt keeps us civilized and mindful of the feelings of others.

2. Sadness.

Sadness is a normal reaction to a loss.  It also connects people in those times of loss.  We have socially sanctioned rituals that promote and even encourage the expression of sadness (funerals) but otherwise, people are uncomfortable with the sadness of another and are always trying to cheer you up.   If you’re crying, people always want you to stop. Why?  Feeling sad and crying can be healing; if sadness is repressed it can lead to something much worse–depression.   People need to just shut up and let you be sad and cry if that’s what you need to do.

3. Anger.

There are times it’s appropriate to be angry.    Anger, though toxic both to yourself and others when excessive,  helps you survive.  If you feel threatened or feel that someone close to you is threatened, you are going to fight back.  The only other survival option is to flee (which I’ll talk about next).   Otherwise you’re just going to stand there and let yourself or your loved ones get attacked or treated badly.    Excessive anger, of course, leads to hatred, and hatred is not only useless, it’s dangerous to the soul.

4. Fear.

If you can’t fight (sometimes you can’t), you can flee danger.   Like anger, fear is a survival emotion.   It can be excessive, leading to anxiety disorders, but fear in normal doses is both healthy and appropriate reactions to danger.   It’s important to distinguish whether it’s better to flee (fear) or to fight (anger).

5. Jealousy.

I’m not talking about envy here, an emotion often confused with jealousy.  But they are not the same.   Jealousy refers to the fear that someone is taking something you love away from you; envy refers to wanting what someone else has.  There are similarities though. Both are bitter, painful emotions, hard to deal with.  Sometimes they lead to people attacking the object of their jealousy or envy to “even the score.”   But jealousy has its place.   It’s another survival emotion, similar to anger mixed with fear, that warns you that something that belongs to you is in danger of being taken away.   The problem is jealousy often crops up when there is no real danger of that happening, and that leads to all kinds of problems.  Excessive jealousy can actually be self-defeating and drive what you love away from you — the most obvious example is constantly asking someone you’re in a relationship with if they are seeing someone else, or snooping in their things to find out.  That sort of behavior will eventually drive the other person away.

6. Envy.

I hesitated to put envy here, because on the surface it really doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose.  I almost put it as one of the “useless” emotions I’ll be describing last.  But envy does have one useful aspect.  If it’s not excessive, it can be a motivator, making you take action to improve your own circumstances.   When it’s used that way, it’s really more akin to admiration than envy.   The problem with envy is it can so often turn so bitter that it saps all your energy and lowers your self esteem, making you LESS likely to improve your circumstances or achieve the things you want.

The Two Emotions That Really Are Useless.  

uselessfork

1. Worry.

I heard a great saying once:  “Worry is useless because if what you dread comes to pass, then you’ve lived through it twice; if it never happens, then your worry was in vain.”  I took those words to heart because of how true they are.   Worry is absolutely useless.  If faced with a potentially bad or dangerous situation, worry won’t help you.  If something can be done to prevent the situation from happening, taking action will help,  and once you take action, then there’s nothing more to worry about.   If there’s no action you can take, then worrying about it is a waste of time.  Better to plan how you will deal with it when it happens, than to sit around wringing your hands, pulling out your hair, and making yourself sick over it.

2. Shame.

Shame must be distinguished here from guilt.  Guilt refers to something you did, while shame refers to the person you are.  Guilt is useful because without it, there would be no apologies or amend-making for bad behavior.   People would just go around doing whatever they want, regardless of how it makes others feel.   Shame, on the other hand, is useless because it means feeling sorry not for something you did, but for who you are.  If you were the family scapegoat, then you were the receptacle for all the family shame, and were made to feel like you’re worthless and don’t deserve to live.    Shame is the one emotion that is at the core of all the personality disorders and every case of complex PTSD generated by familial abuse.  It’s incredibly toxic–probably the most toxic emotion there is, and it has about as much usefulness as a bicycle does for a fish.

For more about shame vs. guilt, please read Carrie Musgrove’s article about the important distinctions.

Observing your feelings.

watching_emotions

When you hear the term mindfulness, what that means is to quietly observe your own emotions, not judging or denying them, but just accepting that they exist.     This includes observing the way an emotion makes you feel physically or where it seems to reside in your body.    When you quietly observe your feelings this way, by default that keeps you in the present and you are not likely to act out impulsively on an emotion.    It’s central to mindfulness therapies like DBT.

I feel very anxious today.  I don’t know what’s causing it but that doesn’t matter.  Probably nothing is causing it; it’s just free floating anxiety.    In the past I might have drank too much, snarled and snapped at people to relieve the stress, or just suffered.  I might have told myself I was being stupid and to snap out of it, mirroring the very words my narcissistic parents and ex would say to me whenever anxiety (or any other emotion they didn’t like) would strike.   Feelings themselves are never wrong, though acting out on them in impulsive or destructive ways can be.

I went outside and sat on the porch and just observed my anxiety.    I realized how physical emotions really are.   The anxiety manifested as a tightness in my chest (heart area) and the middle of my abdomen [these may correspond with the third (solar plexus) and fourth (heart) chakras, if you’re into that].   I know I  have blockages in those areas and this is causing a lot of my anxiety.    I breathed deeply, imagining my breath flowing into these constricted, painful areas.   It didn’t help a whole lot, but it did a little.  I tried to connect the anxiety with a triggering event but couldn’t think of one.   I told myself the free-floating anxiety was temporary, like a headache, and that it wouldn’t kill me, so I just surrendered to it without judging it as a good or bad thing, and that the anxiety wasn’t ME, it was just a feeling and would pass.  And after a while, it did.

6 “useless” emotions that aren’t useless, and 2 that really are useless.

negative-emotions-crop

I get tired of positive thinking nazis  who tell you you always have to be happy and that there’s no place for “negative” emotions.   Not only is it obnoxious to wear a pasted on smile all the time even when you’re not feeling it, it’s not natural or healthy.   Of course, being a positive person who thinks positive thoughts is a good thing, but when it’s taken to ridiculous extremes (and it certainly is in my family, where “negative” emotions are not accepted or allowed) it can be soul-damaging.   Following is a list of unpopular (or “useless”) emotions that definitely have their uses (when they’re not excessive).  There are only two emotions I can think of that have no uses whatsoever, and I’ll describe those last.

1. Guilt.

My father always used to tell everyone that guilt was an unhealthy, useless emotion, but I couldn’t disagree more.   True, excessive guilt is bad for you, but the right amount of guilt separates people with a conscience from the psychopaths. I pointed out this to my father once, and he became enraged.   Hmmm, I wonder why!   The ability to feel guilt keeps us civilized and mindful of the feelings of others.

2. Sadness.

Sadness is a normal reaction to a loss.  It also connects people in those times of loss.  We have socially sanctioned rituals that promote and even encourage the expression of sadness (funerals) but otherwise, people are uncomfortable with the sadness of another and are always trying to cheer you up.   If you’re crying, people always want you to stop. Why?  Feeling sad and crying can be healing; if sadness is repressed it can lead to something much worse–depression.   People need to just shut up and let you be sad and cry if that’s what you need to do.

3. Anger.

There are times it’s appropriate to be angry.    Anger, though toxic both to yourself and others when excessive,  helps you survive.  If you feel threatened or feel that someone close to you is threatened, you are going to fight back.  The only other survival option is to flee (which I’ll talk about next).   Otherwise you’re just going to stand there and let yourself or your loved ones get attacked or treated badly.    Excessive anger, of course, leads to hatred, and hatred is not only useless, it’s dangerous to the soul.

4. Fear.

If you can’t fight (sometimes you can’t), you can flee danger.   Like anger, fear is a survival emotion.   It can be excessive, leading to anxiety disorders, but fear in normal doses is both healthy and appropriate reactions to danger.   It’s important to distinguish whether it’s better to flee (fear) or to fight (anger).

5. Jealousy.

I’m not talking about envy here, an emotion often confused with jealousy.  But they are not the same.   Jealousy refers to the fear that someone is taking something you love away from you; envy refers to wanting what someone else has.  There are similarities though. Both are bitter, painful emotions, hard to deal with.  Sometimes they lead to people attacking the object of their jealousy or envy to “even the score.”   But jealousy has its place.   It’s another survival emotion, similar to anger mixed with fear, that warns you that something that belongs to you is in danger of being taken away.   The problem is jealousy often crops up when there is no real danger of that happening, and that leads to all kinds of problems.  Excessive jealousy can be problematic too.

6. Envy.

I hesitated to put envy here, because on the surface it really doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose.  I almost put it as one of the “useless” emotions I’ll be describing last.  But envy does have one useful aspect.  If it’s not excessive, it can be a motivator, making you take action to improve your own circumstances.   When it’s used that way, it’s really more akin to admiration than envy.   The problem with envy is it can so often turn so bitter that it saps all your energy and lowers your self esteem, making you LESS likely to improve your circumstances or achieve the things you want.

The Two Emotions That Really Are Useless.  

useless.stamp

1. Worry.

I heard a great saying once:  “Worry is useless because if what you dread comes to pass, then you’ve lived through it twice; if it never happens, then your worry was in vain.”  I took those words to heart because of how true they are.   Worry is absolutely useless.  If faced with a potentially bad or dangerous situation, worry won’t help you.  If something can be done to prevent the situation from happening, taking action will help,  and once you take action, then there’s nothing more to worry about.   If there’s no action you can take, then worrying about it is a waste of time.  Better to plan how you will deal with it when it happens, than to sit around wringing your hands, pulling out your hair, and making yourself sick over it.

2. Shame.

Shame must be distinguished here from guilt.  Guilt refers to something you did, while shame refers to the person you are.  Guilt is useful because without it, there would be no apologies or amend-making for bad behavior.   People would just go around doing whatever they want, regardless of how it makes others feel.   Shame, on the other hand, is useless because it means feeling sorry not for something you did, but for who you are.  If you were the family scapegoat, then you were the receptacle for all the family shame, and were made to feel like you’re worthless and don’t deserve to live.    Shame is the one emotion that is at the core of all the personality disorders and every case of complex PTSD generated by familial abuse.  It’s incredibly toxic–probably the most toxic emotion there is, and it has about as much usefulness as a bicycle does for a fish.

For more about shame vs. guilt, please read Carrie Musgrove’s article about the important distinctions.

Mental Health ~ Coping Skills

Mental health madness.

doctor_lucy

Good mental health treatment is becoming increasingly a thing of the past. Many times, it simply isn’t available to those who aren’t wealthy. Most company-sponsored health insurance plans don’t even cover mental health anymore, unless it’s short term or if your problem directly affects your job. Most of the time, they’ll just fire your ass.

Mental health for the poor is even worse. If it’s even available in your community, it could take weeks or months of waiting after an entire day spent filling out forms before you even get your foot in the door for your “intake session.” Once you do get in the system (if you do), you’re sent to a bored psychiatrist who wants to pump you full of drugs instead of send you for long term psychodynamic therapy. Then you have to check in weekly with some condescending nurse-practitioner who asks you a litany of prefabricated questions (one size fits all!), takes your temperature and weighs you (why?), and asks you about your drug use.

That’s right. Drug use. It seems like psychotherapy programs for the poor try to siphon you off into a “drug treatment program” if you admit to even sipping a glass of wine a few times a year or having a few tokes of weed on occasion. Where I live, the only free “mental health” program is a drug-treatment program in disguise. Having little money, I went there not too long ago to get therapy for my depression and anxiety and had to fill out about 10 pages asking me about my “drug abuse history.” I walked out.

That’s why I’m currently paying out of pocket for a real psychodynamic therapist who focuses on digging into your childhood and stuff (eg, the kind of therapist rich people pay for) even though I’m poor as fuck.

Mental Health Blogger Award nomination.

mental_health_award

I’m humbled and proud to announce that Tessa from Tessa Can Do it has nominated this blog for the Mental Health Blogger Award. This award recognizes blogs that both promote mental health awareness and attempt to reduce the stigma associated with mental disorders.

Thank you so much for the honor, Tessa!

So I’m paying it forward by nominating five blogs I think deserve this award too. Nominees should do the following if they wish to accept the award:

The Rules:

1. Place this award somewhere on your website.

2. Nominate five bloggers who promote Mental Health awareness to receive this award.

3. Give reasons for your nominations.

My Nominations:

1. BPD Transformation has a very informative and well researched blog about Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and believes the negative “Cluster B” stigma associated with BPD can be eliminated by focusing on treating its symptoms over the medical model of misleading diagnostic labeling.

2. An Upturned Soul is a narcissistic abuse survivor whose articles are very well written and entertaining at the same time. This blogger definitely knows a lot about NPD and malignant narcissism but writes in a way that doesn’t automatically bash people who have NPD but instead attempts to educate people about them so they can protect themselves accordingly. I also like her out of the box thinking and thought provoking ideas.

3. Grace For My Heart is a Christian-oriented blog written by a pastor. While not specifically about mental illness, every Friday Pastor Dave features his intelligent and engaging “Narcissist Friday” posts, which focus on NPD and narcissistic abuse. I’m impressed by Pastor Dave’s intelligently written posts that do not stigmatize or promote hatred of people with NPD, but at the same time make it clear how dangerous people with this disorder can be and that the best thing the rest of us can do for ourselves is not to have contact with them.

4. Make BPD Stigma-Free! — the title of this blog is self explanatory. It’s also a good source of information about BPD and methods of treatment and therapy.

5. Discussing Dissociation: Thoughts from a Trauma Therapist — Although this site focuses on those suffering from DID (dissociative identity disorder), there is much information and help here for anyone suffering from other mental disorders caused by abuse and trauma, such as C-PTSD; and the dissociative symptoms associated with the “dramatic” Cluster B personality disorders.

“Don’t Cry Out Loud”

If you were a survivor of a narcissistic family (or were otherwise a victim of narcissistic abuse), as I was, you were probably told your emotions were not okay. Instead you were told to stuff them and hide the way you really felt from the world. Unfortunately that’s the same philosophy modern society holds in general, and of course narcissists stuff all their feelings all the time, except rage. It can get so bad you reach a point where you tell yourself you’re bad for even having feelings or being upset when someone hurts you.

Several months back, I wrote an article about the way some proponents of positive thinking use it as a way to deny their own true feelings or use it to invalidate the emotions of others. Used this way, positive thinking can become a form of abuse or self-abuse. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being a positive person, but there’s something very off about someone who walks around wearing a fake smile pasted on all the time and insists we must always do the same. Ironically, these “positive thinking nazis” instill a sense of guilt and shame.

Here’s an article from a Christian-oriented blog that describes how damaging stuffing our emotions is and what we can do about it.

Don’t Cry Out Loud

stuart_smalley
Stuart Smalley.

Back in the early ’90s, “Saturday Night Live” did a mock self-help show called “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley.” Stuart Smalley was a spoof on individuals who were obsessed with 12-step programs and who had become addicted to the act of going to therapy. Smalley ended each show by looking into a mirror and saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” The skit was hilarious because Smalley was the personification of vanity, self-indulgence and narcissism — traits often used to describe our culture.

To counteract our self-absorbed culture, many Christians have gone the opposite direction. Worm Theology is based on Psalm 22:6: “I am a worm, and not a man…” or the line in the Isaac Watts hymn “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed,” which says, “Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” Worm Theology is a belief within Christianity that a feeling of worthlessness and expression of low self-esteem means God is more likely to show mercy and compassion.

Instead of debating the merits of this belief system, I want to focus on what I see as a natural consequence to a low view of self in our Christian culture today: a lack of self-compassion. Sadly, I even noticed this in my own house last night with my 14-year-old daughter.

My family recently relocated from Northwest Arkansas to Colorado Springs. No cross-country move is ever easy, but it’s been especially hard on my daughter Maddy. Last night I lay on the floor of Maddy’s room as she cried about feeling like no one really understands her feelings. It broke my heart to hear how alone she feels — that no one understands what she is going through. Thus, she felt that she has no one to share how she really feels. In the end, she ultimately got tough with herself and expressed that she should be over these feelings, that her feelings were wrong and that she was stupid for getting so emotional.

I so wanted to jump in and correct her, “Your feelings are not stupid!” but I didn’t. I wanted to tell her that God cares about her emotions (which He does), but I refrained. I was tempted to recue her by telling her that I care (which I do), but I stopped myself. What an insensitive father, some might think. I didn’t jump in to rescue my daughter because I want her to learn something that most Christian adults don’t get: Their feelings matter!


Beautiful song with a destructive message.

But sadly, for so many people, their emotions usually don’t matter. I watch time and again, when counseling with people, that they constantly judge, belittle, criticize, demean, minimize and marginalize their emotions. It’s like there’s this Christian belief that we must never wallow in our emotions. It’s like people are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent or vain (like Stuart Smalley) if they have compassion around their feelings. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on your self is the way to be. It’s like the ’70s song by Melissa Manchester that had the lyrics, “Don’t cry out loud. Just keep it inside and learn how to hide your feelings.” Listen to some of the messages that are out there about our emotions:

Real men don’t cry.
You’re just being a drama queen.
Play through the pain.
It’s just that time of the month.
You shouldn’t feel that way!
That’s not how you really feel!
Why do you get so emotional?

Both men and women have learned these messages well, and the tragic consequence is that most people have no idea how to validate their own emotions. Since birth, most of us have had our feelings so massively invalidated that we don’t know how to care for our emotions. Instead of valuing our feelings as a great source of information, we stuff them, ignore them or judge them away. Thus, the hope for our relationships is that we will find that perfect someone who will finally care about and validate how we feel. Although we don’t do it, the fantasy is that our friend, significant other or spouse will value our emotions. Great plan, right?

I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give our self is the gift of compassion. When we are upset, frustrated, fearful or hurting (like Maddy) we should be the first one in line to care about how we feel. Why should I expect someone else to care about my heart and emotions if I don’t do that job first and foremost? The question we should be asking ourselves is do we treat our self as well as we treat our friends and family? We are often gentle, kind, compassionate and empathic with others. However, a new research study on self-compassion found that people who find it easy to support and understand others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for negative emotions and perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising. The research suggests that giving us a break and validating our feelings and imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic.

The more you seal yourself from your emotions, the more isolated and disconnected you feel. While you can suppress and repress your feelings, you cannot get rid of them. You always bury emotions alive. At some point they will always come out, but then they usually come exploding out like a volcanic eruption. The only way to make peace with our emotions is to value them, face them, explore them, understand them and then take them to the Lord. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Suppression takes an incredible amount of energy — energy which is constantly being tapped to maintain a wall of protection around your heart.

The bottom line is that your emotions are incredibly valuable. Not in a way that suggests we should all indulge in emotional bliss, holding hands while singing “Kumbaya” like Stuart Smalley. Give yourself the gift of compassion around your feelings — after all, your emotions are the voice of the heart.

What do you do when you are fearful, frustrated, upset or hurting? Are you good at self-compassion, or do you stuff, ignore and judge your feelings?

http://www.boundless.org/blog/don-t-cry-out-loud/

Not every narcissist has NPD.

narcissist_continuum

As has been done with autism spectrum disorders, it’s becoming increasingly common to think of NPD as falling on a spectrum of narcissism, ranging from normal or healthy narcissism (which most of us have to some degree) all the way to psychopathy/sociopathy (variations of Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD) at the top. What we call malignant narcissism is actually NPD shading into ASPD.

Narcissism is a normal trait that helps us survive, but it becomes pathological when there is too much of it. On the narcissism spectrum, just below NPD and above healthy narcissism is a disorder called The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, or DNP. It’s not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), but Dr. Nina Brown has written books about the disorder, which I haven’t read yet (I never even heard of DNP until a few days ago), but here is a description of DNP:

The destructive narcissistic pattern (DNP) is a term used to describe a constellation of characteristics generally associated with pathological narcissism, but which are fewer and less severe. Nonetheless, these characteristics negatively impact relationships. The destructive narcisist’s typical interaction produces negative reactions in others. For example, the individual devalues others, lacks empathy, has a sense of entitlement, and is emotionally shallow. He may function very well and be successful economically, but is unable to form and maintain stable relationships, as evidenced by numerous partners or marriages. The DNP, Brown asserts, is often unrecognized. Although others may find him frustrating and difficult, the individual with DNP can be charming when charm is perceived to be to his benefit.

Dr. Brown’s book “The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern” can be purchased on Amazon.

The blogger CZBZ has also written about DNP on her blog, “The Narcissistic Continuum” and has devised a detailed graph that shows the placement of disorders on the narcissistic spectrum: http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2013/11/narcissism-key-from-healthy-to.html

DNP is probably much more common than full-blown NPD. These people can be very difficult to deal with but because their symptoms are less severe they would be more likely to respond to (and seek) therapy and may not be completely without empathy and have a stunted or limited conscience instead of an absent one.

The only problem I have with this continuum is that almost everyone would be on the narcissism spectrum, since most people (except for those whose self esteem has been all but obliterated) have some degree of healthy narcissism.

Maybe we throw around the N label too freely.

Hand with pointing fingerletter_N

I’ve written about this before, but I think it’s something important we ACONs need to remember that can save us and others untold heartache.

We need to be careful about labeling someone a narcissist until we have gotten to know them well enough to be sure. I think ACONs and other victims of abuse are sometimes very quick to label people narcissists who may actually have some other, less malignant disorder such as Borderline Personality Disorder, OCD (some people with OCD can seem very cold), Histrionic Personality Disorder, or even Aspergers (Aspies are often accused of being unempathic just because they don’t express their emotions very well). Some conditions are easily confused with NPD because the behaviors shown may be similar.

Narcissists are actually a small minority of the population, but when you’re a codependent, high empathy type of person, they can seem to be everywhere because we attract them like flies to honey. That being said, the times we live in and a society that rewards narcissistic behavior have probably made NPD more common than it used to be.

Whenever we do pin the N label on someone, it’s our own subjective opinion. In most cases, the person in question probably does have NPD (we are all adults here and it isn’t that hard to see the red flags), but remember it’s an informal diagnosis, not a bona fide diagnosis made by a mental health professional.

Keeping it all in perspective.

perspective

Tonight I needed to step away from blogging and take care of practical matters. If you’re a person prone to an active imagination or lives inside your head (like most Aspies), emotional and spiritual growth can be tricky because it is so extremely seductive for people like us, and far, FAR more rewarding and exciting than the physical world of chattering neurotypicals, abusive narcs, bills, jobs, traffic jams, annoying bosses, and people who walk four abreast and block your way in the aisles at Walmart.

We’re all at different stages in our journeys, and we move at different rates. Everyone’s experience is different, and God has a plan for every one of us. But God’s plan will be different for each person. You will not experience your awakening the same way I will, and what you are called by God to do will not be the same as mine.

I never felt close to God until about three months ago. For years I tried–I prayed for faith even–but always felt my prayers fell on deaf ears and that God, if he even existed, didn’t like me too much. I tried various religions over the years and none of them spoke to me.

My awakening wasn’t earth shattering, I didn’t have a Saul-to-Paul like sudden conversion. I didn’t see a burning bush. I wasn’t struck by lightning in the desert. I didn’t fall on my knees and sob in repentance. I didn’t see Jesus on a piece of toast.

I didn’t suddenly become cured of my Aspergers, PTSD, anxiety, avoidant personality, and (possible) BPD. I still struggle with these things every day, and will probably continue to do so for quite some time.

But being able to see beyond the everyday physical world was every bit as exciting as those dramatic conversions you see in the movies and TV. Mine happened over a period of weeks, but was no less emotionally intense. It might not have made good TV, but I was never trying to get on a reality show anyway.

Besides feeling alienated from God, I felt alienated from my abilities and talents. As someone who was emotionally numb for so many years, my creativity was in the toilet. After years of narc abuse, I didn’t think I could think for myself. I was sure I forgot how to write. In fact, I was quite sure I lost quite a few IQ points. I felt helpless and incompetent, one of life’s losers. I’d internalized my family’s opinion of me. I also thought I didn’t deserve these God-given gifts since I hadn’t really used them, so it only made sense he’d take them away.

All that being said, my awakening has been rapid. It’s a little dizzying and disorienting at times, but it’s never been scary. There are a lot of changes in me, and I can see this reflected in my writing since September. My early posts tended toward fluff and the merely informative or entertaining; even my entries that comprise “My Story” seem as if they were told by someone other than me; they give the details, but seem to be lacking much feeling. I was still in my PTSD state of emotional numbness. I felt disconnected from myself. All the colors in my world were washed out and grayish, like the colors in an old color photograph that’s been sitting in a musty attic or in the sun way too long.

My recent writing has been about deeper subjects and my style far more analytical. As my knowledge about narcissism and narcissistic abuse has grown, I’m exploring topics I never intended to on this blog–the metaphysical and supernatural, for one, especially how those things relate to narcissism, which I’ve come to realize is more a spiritual disorder than a mental one. And overall, I think my posts are a lot more positive. I complain less and when I do I can find the humor there now too, even if that means only laughing at myself. Because everything has its humorous side. It’s just a matter of perspective.

I’m seeing things and knowing things and not understanding how or why or what it all means. But it is. Things are revealed as they need to be. It’s okay and isn’t frightening, but can be a little disorienting. Sometimes I have my doubts about these things but that’s normal for those of us who have been trained to never trust our own judgment.

Because my creativity has taken a sudden upturn too, it’s too easy for me to confuse a creative vision or idea with spiritual truth. In fact, the two are related–creativy is very close to spirituality and each depends upon the other for its existence. Sometimes they’re one and the same. For me, blogging is a melding of creativity and complete emotional honesty.
But they’re not always the same. It’s important to step away to gain perspective on which is which, and when they not the same.

When I talk about my awakening sometimes I think I sound a bit insane. After years of being told by my narcs that I was always imagining things, always the crazy one, I learned not to trust my own judgment. Like most victims of narcissistic abuse, I didn’t know what was the truth and what was a lie. Because I couldn’t trust my narcs, I couldn’t trust even concrete evidence being waved in my face, and trusting any sort of intuition? Fuggeddaboutit.

With all this shiny new clarity, I often have doubts about my thoughts and feelings being real. I worry that people will think I’m some deluded woowoo. Sometimes I wonder about it too. I pray for the ability to distinguish truth from my own vivid imagination and/or wishful thinking. Like I said, I never could trust my own intuition because my narcs told me it was all a lie.

But truth doesn’t lie, and when you feel something, know something, to the core of your bones, and can’t explain it but just know it as truth, you must trust that what you feel is real. You have only God to answer to; no one else in the world can take away your truth. You are not deluded. Trust your intuitions.

We need to keep things in perspective though. It’s easy to get carried away emotionally by rapid spiritual growth and allow it to consume us or remove us from the need to still engage with the everyday, material, and all-too-often boring world we know through our 5 basic senses. We sometimes feel above it all, like it’s not worth our time or effort because the spiritual realm is so much more captivating, exciting, meaningful, and mysterious. Over-imaginative creative INFJs like me tend to prefer the spiritual and mental realms over the mundane physical one. We also tend to have poor survival skills, especially if we’re also suffering from PTSD (or Aspergers).

We have to engage with the physical world whether we like it or not. It’s not going away, but it’s not all bad either. The physical world gives us the material tools we need to carry our whatever our vision is. In my case, it’s this laptop. I have to remember to maintain it, run a full antivirus scan every few weeks, clean up storage space, and dust my keyboard and screen every day. Without this $300 Hewlett Packard laptop, I would not be where I am right now. Thirty years ago, I would not have been able to undergo such rapid change, because I wouldn’t have this tool that has brought me into a community of so many people who can relate to me in a way no one else has ever been able to, my family least of all. So it’s this banal corporate-made piece of plastic and metal that has enabled me to engage with others and explore the deeper meanings of things.

We also have to remember to take care of our physical bodies. I don’t need to tell you how to do that. If you’re not healthy we’re not going to be able to reach those higher states of consciousness and you’re still going to feel like a victim. How can you not, if your own body is turning against you? We still need to stay in and engage with the real world, and that means staying (or getting) as healthy as we can. Your mind works better when the body is well fed and well rested.

If you have a chronic physical condition, do the best you can. You will still get to where God is taking you; it might just take a little longer. Take the best care of yourself you can.

It’s okay to disengage. In fact it’s necessary. Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all this new stuff of the spirit, heart and mind. It’s important to step back every so often and do something normal like bake a cake, clean the house, mow the lawn, shovel the snow, pay the bills, read a good novel. Take a walk. Paint a picture. Put in a new kitchen floor. Call an old friend. Take a long hot bath, light a candle, and feel yourself sink into the comfort of the water and let your mind wander. Those are times I like to be still and listen to what God is telling me.

I can’t spend every minute on this laptop , as much as I’d like to. Stepping away from blogging about and thinking about narcissism and everything I’ve learned lately gives me more clarity; if I spend too long thinking about narcissism or healing from narc abuse and even just writing in general, I can get emotionally overwhelmed. Even though they’re mostly good emotions, even those in excess can muddle your thinking and turn your thoughts into a confused jumble. There’s a such thing as too much of a good thing.

If your spiritual and emotional journey is moving at a faster pace than you expected,like mine seems to be, remember to step back and join the regular world at frequent intervals and I promise you will gain more clarity on things.

If your journey seems to be at a standstill, or is poking along like a tortoise, don’t worry. You are changing too. God is doing his work in you even if you can’t feel it yet. When God reveals his purpose for you, you will know it, because it will be a moment of utter awe. It’s hard to explain but you’ll know it when it happens. It may not be dramatic, it may be a quiet realization. You will know, and you will know why it has taken this long.

Pray for patience and faith, and most of all strength. If you are not a believer in God, believe in something and ask it for guidance. Remember to enjoy the small, every day things. Appreciate life in all its kaleidoscopic colors. Because even in the everyday things, you can find beauty and truth.