Friday thought.

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reminder

I used to be a dominionist without even knowing it.

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I’ve written about dominionist Christianity extensively, so I won’t describe it at length here.  One of the most toxic and abusive doctrines of dominionism is that if you are vulnerable in any way — if you are poor, sick, disabled, mentally ill, or even a person of color (in dominionist doctrine, people of color are believed to be derived from the line of Ham, the son of Cain, who was Adam and Eve’s “bad” son — in the past this has been used as “biblical” justification of slavery) — these are all indications of God’s disfavor and people “afflicted” with these things deserve their lot.   In contrast, God’s favored people are always rewarded with great wealth, perfect health, and no disabilities.  They are also usually white and Republican.  This is why dominionist Christians feel no obligation to show compassion toward the sick, poor and disabled (as Christ would do) — because to help them would be to go against God’s will.   It’s also why they seem to think unlimited power and greed (and oppression of others) is perfectly moral.

But getting back to myself.  While I was never a dominionist Christian or even a conservative evangelical, my attitude in the past toward myself was a very negative, self punishing one.   I always had at least a nominal faith in God, but I truly believed he disliked me and my terrible luck, my bad relationships, my inability to form close relationships, my emotionally abusive family, and my poverty were all punishments God was inflicting on me because he hated me.    I looked at others and saw how fortunate they were (or at least seemed to be) and felt like God must like them much better.  Sometimes I thought God only put me on earth as an example to others of what not to be.

This made me feel completely worthless and made me want to hide in shame from the world.   It made me painfully shy, which only exacerbated my problems meeting people and socializing.    In my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I realized this negative, self defeating narrative was self inflicted due to internalizing abuse inflicted on me when I was young.   I began to realize that I had good qualities and never had the chance to develop them.

I like myself now.  No, I’m not living my “dream life” (that would involve traveling all over the world and writing bestselling books) and I will probably never have a high powered, high paying career at my age.  I probably won’t ever achieve all my dreams, but really, who does?   I’m still on the lower end of the income scale, but I wouldn’t say I’m impoverished anymore.   I have enough money to be comfortable and even buy a few luxuries (like occasional inexpensive vacations, beach trips, new books, the occasional dinner out, and nice clothing).

I’m still alone (not in a relationship), and even though sometimes that’s lonely and I even occasionally feel sorry for myself, I also know I prefer things that way for now.  I’m still working on myself, trying to find out more about me and what God wants for me (and what I want for myself).

I feel fortunate to have two wonderful adult children, both of whom I have a great relationship with, and three awesome cats.   I also live in a beautiful part of the country, with endless opportunities for photo taking and just enjoying the natural world.  Not everyone is so fortunate to have that.

Recovery from narcissistic abuse coupled with reframing God as a benevolent and loving Father who wants all his children to be happy and healthy rather than as a punishing and hateful bully who favors some of his children over others (and rewards them primarily with wealth and material abundance) has made all the difference.

I think this is why I find Christian dominionism so triggering and scary.  Not just because it’s become a real threat to our basic freedoms and rights, but because it’s a toxic, abusive, and hateful belief in an avenging, constantly angry, narcissistic God who likes to bully and punish the most vulnerable.  That sort of God, to me, is as bad as the devil.   I think that God was made in his narcissistic control freak human makers’ own image.

I’m so glad I don’t believe in that God anymore.

 

Fragile.

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Scale.

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In defense of “needy” people.

Many of us complain about certain other people acting too “needy.”  But maybe they’re not the problem; maybe we are.

Martial arts for uncontrollable anger.

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Many people with Cluster B disorders and C-PTSD suffer from periodic, uncontrollable rages.  My son isn’t Cluster B, but when he was a young teenager, he had anger issues due to his father’s and my divorce (among other things) and successfully channeled that anger through his involvement in Kung Fu classes.    Not only did the classes help him channel his anger, they also taught him how to be mindful and greatly boosted his self-confidence.    As his confidence grew, he was less prone to sudden rages.

Many kids these days take Taekwondo classes.   Kids who have been bullied really benefit because learning these skills makes them feel less defenseless and more confident.  But they aren’t just for kids.  Adults with anger problems can benefit from such classes too.

Contrary to what many people think, the martial arts don’t teach violence.   These disciplines aren’t just for self-defense.   The philosophy behind them is that mindfulness is a must to defend yourself successfully–and that fighting back without justifiable cause will always make things worse.   They also teach their students respect for others and demand deference to the instructor.

For Cluster B people in particular, the martial arts provide four things that people with these disorders need so badly:

–learning to be more mindful
–learning to respect others
–channeling anger appropriately
–boosting real self confidence

Here’s a good article I found about how martial arts can be used to help people control angry outbursts and learn to be more mindful.

http://english.astroawani.com/lifestyle/do-you-suffer-anger-disorders-learn-martial-arts-42022

When is narcissism a good thing?

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Originally published on November 23, 2014

Narcissism has become a dirty word. But the kind of narcissism that’s such a hot topic all over the media and the Internet right now is the the type we call malignant narcissism–or at the very least, NPD. Narcissism isn’t a bad thing itself, but like most good things, it becomes bad when it becomes extreme or there is too much of it.

Why do we always hear about “malignant” narcissists, but never “benign” ones? Do they exist? This was a topic that was brought up in the comments section of one of my posts a few days ago.

Of course they do. Not everyone with narcissism is malignant. Narcissism, like autism, runs on a spectrum from practically non-existent to mild to moderate to severe. Most of us have some degree of narcissism, especially those of us with blogs! Studies have shown that people who post lots of photos on Facebook or Twitter or are very active on social media, who take a lot of selfies, or keep online journals or blogs where they talk about themselves are narcissistic, or at the very least, vain. Well, vanity is one aspect of narcissism.

Benign narcissists are lower on the spectrum than malignant narcissists. Some in the middle of the spectrum or close to the middle may be self-centered, can act like jerks, talk about themselves a lot, and may be overly concerned with their appearance, likeability, athletic prowess, or some other quality. Think of the popular kids you knew in high school, the cheerleaders and the overconfident jocks on the football team. (Of course, some of the “mean girls” and boys are probably malignant narcissists). Even farther below the annoying jerks on the spectrum, a benign narcissist is just a normal person with high self esteem.

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Benign narcissists don’t normally use or manipulate others to get what they want, they have a conscience, and they can feel remorse, guilt or empathy. They can feel genuine love or care for someone else. They can be moved by beauty or truth. They can be happy for you. They can weep tears that aren’t of the crocodile variety. They may be annoying at times and seem full of themselves, but they are not generally dangerous to others. A malignant thing, whether it’s a tumor or a narcissist, is a threat. Something benign will generally not hurt or kill you.

Benign narcissists do not have NPD. Not all people with NPD are malignant narcissists, but they are still above the midpoint on the spectrum and can be manipulative and make other people suffer. They are more malignant than benign narcissists, who populate the entire lower half of the spectrum. In fact, most bloggers probably “suffer” from benign narcissism, at the very least.

Benign narcissism has evolutionary advantages. A woman wanting to look beautiful and who preens in the mirror or takes time choosing an attractive outfit is more likely to attract a mate than one who is slovenly and doesn’t take care of her appearance. A man who works out at the gym and takes pride in his appearance is likewise more likely to attract a beautiful woman than a flabby man who sits in a La-Z-Boy all day munching on hot wings and drinking beer. On the evolutionary level, attractiveness and beauty signify fertility and good health. Even if we don’t want children, we are unconsciously more attracted to people who appear fertile and healthy–which means a good looking person. Wanting to feel good about ourselves is healthy–and narcissistic. So reasonable levels of narcissism are healthy and have advantages in propagating the human species. A person without narcissism at all is a person who thinks they’re worthless and deserve nothing. That can be just as “malignant” as a dangerous narcissist, the difference being that person is more likely to hurt themselves instead of others–and are likely to suffer instead of making those around them suffer. Benign narcissism is good. It’s only when it overtakes other qualities necessary for survival that it becomes malignant and dangerous.

There’s even an increasingly popular theory stating that malignant narcissism (psychopathy) is an evolutionary strategy that was adaptive before we became sentient and civilized. Malignant narcissists and psychopaths normally fear commitment but have high sexual desire and like to have many sexual partners. They may be “serial monogamists” (keeping one lover at a time, but will callously leave one lover for the next) or they may be promiscuous, having several lovers at the same time.

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For a man, being promiscuous or bedding many women can result in having many children (even if having children is not consciously desired). There are many male mammals that use this strategy–they don’t stay with the female or care for the young. They will mate with the female, impregnate her, and move on to the next. This strategy results in more offspring, which helps propagate the species. Of course, many of the young will die, but overall, the strategy works. Think of male lions: they are terrible fathers and “husbands.” Male lions are lazy and spend most of their days sleeping and lounging around while the female does all the hunting, caring for the cubs, and defending the pride. Male lions insist on being the first to eat a kill, even though the female was the one who did all the work and brought the kill back to the pride. A hungry male lion will aggressively cuff an upstart cub or a female who dares to eat before him (the male lions in the movie “The Lion King” are anthropomorphized and are atypical of real lions). Male lions are also known for killing unrelated cubs of a female he wants to mate with. This is to ensure she can only devote herself to his cubs, once she gives birth to a new litter. This isn’t far off from the psychopathic stepfathers we hear about in the news who abuse or even kill babies and young children that don’t belong to them.

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It’s harder to see how this strategy would work for females, but think of reptiles or fish–or spiders. Non-mammalian females (except for birds, which are very nearly mammals) do not have the capacity to feel love for their young, and evolution has ensured they give birth to many young at a time to ensure that some survive. It’s to their advantage to drop their load of young and abandon them, moving on to finding another mate. In the case of the spider, the female will even eat the male after she mates with him. That’s pretty psychopathic, but the strategy works if you’re a spider.

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A person with psychopathy seems to lack the higher, mammalian part of the limbic system of the brain that enables them to feel love or provide care for their young after they are born. They are acting on the reptilian (or in the case of males, the lower mammalian) brain instead, which all of us still possess. The problem is that as humans have become civilized, these reptilian, callous strategies that many animals use to propagate themselves have become maladaptive to civilization. That’s why we’ve developed laws that keep psychopathic behaviors that were once advantageous under control.

But a little narcissism is adaptive, because it helps us attract and keep a mate.

One step up on the corporate ladder!

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This seemed so insignificant at first I almost forgot to post about it.

On Thursday I was summoned by my boss, who told me I’m being promoted to a semi-supervisory position. It doesn’t pay a lot more and the job isn’t really any less crappy, but it’s still recognition for being good at my crappy job, and that does feel kind of good, especially in a crappy economy in a geographic area where good jobs are scarce and almost everyone who isn’t independently wealthy is slaving away at McJobs and trying to get by on $8 an hour.

I never asked to be promoted at this job, and really don’t care that much one way or the other (what I really want to do is write and publish a book–what’s stopping me, anyway?), but I realized that this promotion really is kind of a big deal, because I’m one of those people who is rarely chosen for promotions in most jobs (in spite of almost always getting excellent performance reviews). I think I get overlooked a lot because I never projected much confidence and always tended to be a pushover in work situations and fade into the woodwork. I think therapy is making me act more self confident or something, and this is a small testament to to that.  I also noticed people seem to like me more than they used to, or maybe it’s just that I’m less hypervigilant now and don’t keep imagining that everyone hates me.

Making your inner judge work for you.

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Credit: Me (click to enlarge image)

I’ve recently met my Inner Critic, who from now on I’m going to call my Judge, because it’s funnier and seeing the Critic as cartoon-like helps me be able to make him seem  (I think of the Critic as male for some reason) less intimidating and scary.

I mentioned that the Judge, while keeping me trapped on a very thin tightrope, making me afraid of a lot of things, really is trying to protect me. Unfortunately the Judge’s overbearing manner can be abrasive and downright abusive, attempting to keep me trapped in old shaming thinking patterns (which apparently it thinks are best because it’s a big clueless dummy).

You need your Inner Judge, because it keeps you moral and doing the right thing. It also gangs up on you when you’ve let others step on your boundaries or abuse you (“how could you be so stupid to let that person take advantage of you AGAIN?”) The problem is, the voice isn’t very nice and feeds into your already low self-esteem. It makes you feel like a bad person–or a pathetic loser. As a result, you can be afraid to take any action.

For me, although I’ve used all the Four F’s, my primary defense has been and still is Dissociation.  Pete Walker talks about the Four F’s of C-PTSD–Fight (narcissism), Flight (obsessive-compulsiveness and workaholism to escape), Freeze (dissociation; withdrawal from humanity, self-isolation), and Fawn (being codependent).

The trick is to make your Inner Judge work FOR you instead of against you. My therapist had me try to think of “him” as being afraid rather than mean and judgmental. By having compassion for your Judge, you can actually change the way the Judge talks to us.

Changing the Judge’s script.

My Judge used to (and often still does) tell me things like:

1. You are worthless. You never accomplished anything of any value.
2. Who would listen to you? You think you’re some kind of expert? What sort of credentials do you have?
3. You’re over the hill and it’s too late for you. You will die poor, miserable and alone.
4. All your friends and everyone in your age group are making more money than you, own their own homes, can go on vacations, have real careers, etc. What’s wrong with you?
5. All your friends are still married or re-married, but you don’t have anyone and will never find anyone else. You’re too old to find anyone now.
6. You’re so weak and such a pushover.
7. You are too crazy to have a good life. You have too many mental issues.
8. You made bad choices, that’s why your life is like it is.
9. You’re embarrassing to be around and are socially awkward so it’s best if you keep your mouth shut.
10. Your accomplishments aren’t real, they don’t really count, so bragging about them makes you look like a narcissist.

And finally…
11. What is wrong with you?

These are lies, the same lies my abusers used against me as long as I can remember. These lies became internalized and now that I’m NC with my abusers, my Inner Judge still does their dirty flying monkey work. But unlike my abusers, my Judge can be trained to change the unhelpful, judgmental statements to things that can be more helpful, like:

1. You are worthwhile. You have accomplished as much as you have been able to, and that’s enough for right now.
2. Many people enjoy your blog and tell you how much it’s helped them. You have friends who love talking to you and like your insight about things. Just because you don’t have a piece of paper deeming you as an “expert” doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about.  You have the expertise of life experience, which is more valuable than any degree.
3. You’re never over the hill. Age is just a number. We evolve with age and get wiser. Getting old isn’t bad, but society likes to tell you it is.  even if you remain “alone,” you can still have friends, happiness, and a full life.
4. You might feel envious, but many people are doing worse than you. You have many blessings, and you also shouldn’t compare yourself to others. You should only compare your accomplishments to previous accomplishments, not those of others. We are all different and have different reasons for being here.
5. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely. What’s so bad about being single? You could still find someone anyway. In the meantime, cultivate your skills, talents, self esteem and friendships. Those count for just as much if not more than “being part of a twosome.”
6. You’re strong and are getting good at setting boundaries that work but are also permeable enough to let others in sometimes.
7. You are not crazy. You have PTSD, which isn’t a mental illness, but a normal reaction to a series of abnormal events. And you’re getting better every day.
8. Yes, you made some bad choices, but who doesn’t? You also made those bad choices because you didn’t have a choice but to make them (you were programmed to always make the choice that kept you from taking any real risks or chances–which usually meant not making a choice at all–and this is what kept you from growing emotionally). This was NOT YOUR FAULT.
9. You are smart and a lot of people like you. You have a right to express what you feel.
10. You should be proud of your accomplishments. Talking about them sometimes isn’t bragging, it’s showing healthy self esteem.
11. What happened to you to make you believe such outrageous lies?   There was something wrong with the people who told you these lies.

Guest post #4: You Are Empowered (Just Plain Ol’ Vic)

I’m happy to introduce my 4th guest blogger, Just Plain Ol’ Vic.  Vic’s blog is one of my favorites.  I’ve been following it almost from the very beginning of my blogging journey and have found it always inspiring and thoughtful.    Vic has helped me through many of my own rough moments and is a regular commenter on this blog too. Be sure to stop by his blog!

This is from his About page:

Just Plain Ol’ Vic

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Bio: Thanks for taking a look at my blog. I am Just Plain Ol’ Vic, however Vic will do just fine. I originally started this blog as a form of writing therapy. I am happily married, with kids but my wife suffers from bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, has an eating disorder and is a recovering alcoholic. Needless to say it is quite a bit for one individual to handle, thus my blog. I started this blog to connect with others that suffer from mental health issues and/or have loved ones that have mental health challenges. This is a way for me to connect, discuss and educate myself about my wife’s condition and perhaps in turn, allow me to be a better spouse. Perhaps too, in hearing my story, others will know that they are not alone and there is help, empathy and resources out there. My blog has since developed beyond just talking about mental health (although that is still a priority). I pretty much discuss what is on my mind or happening in my life. I am not afraid to spout verbal diarrhea, give unsubstantiated opinions and generally exercise my 1st Amendment rights. Along the way I hope to provoke some thoughts, get you interactive with my blog…perhaps even make you crack a smile and belly-laugh every now and then. So if by now you are still interested and willingly join me on my journey, thanks for coming along and don’t forget to buckle up! http://justplainolvic.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/tempting-fate-taking-a-leap-of-faith/

Here is his guest post, not really about himself, but about all the wonderful things he’s learned from living with his wife, who suffers from Bipolar disorder.   Through their relationship, joys and struggles, Vic says he has developed a level of empathy and understanding for the mentally ill he might not have otherwise had.  I thought his story was very touching and inspirational and I even got a little misty-eyed reading it.

YOU ARE EMPOWERED

By Plain Ol’ Vic (http://justplainolvic.com/ )

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Introduction:

Hello there, my name is Vic and first of all I would like to thank Lauren for giving me this wonderful opportunity as a guest blogger.  I don’t think my story makes me any more special than the next person, thus my moniker of “just plain ‘ol” seems very appropriate.  I am just a guy, husband and father that is trying to make sense of his world and do right by my family. There are days that this is harder than it sounds; as my wife has bi-polar disorder, has attempted suicide, has had multiple hospitalizations, is a recovering alcoholic and recovering from an eating disorder.  Guess what?  She is and will always be a wonderful woman and I am lucky to be married to her.

 Instead of telling my story and the trials and tribulations we have faced as a couple and family, instead I would like to talk about some of the positive things I have learned as I have become more educated and empathetic to the challenges my wife faces on a daily basis. As tough as the challenges have been, as daunting and insurmountable as the obstacles seem to be – we are still here, engaged in the moment and are as strong (perhaps stronger) than we ever were.

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It is so easy, when someone suffers from a mental illness, to have it consume their lives and allow it to define who they are, how their perceive themselves and become the cornerstone of their existence.  I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case!  You ARE empowered to be who you CHOOSE to be, should EXPECT people to treat you the way you DESERVE to be treated and you should NEVER SETTLE for anything less.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

I know it is hard to look in the mirror and not “see” your mental illness.  I challenge you to look beyond the physical and see your spirit within.  See the inner beauty, the inner resilience and the inner fighter that you have become.  “Normal” and “perfect” do not exist, they are made up abstractions.  Who you are, your uniqueness is what makes you beautiful.  If you can embrace that inner beauty, it is the first crucial step to learning to love yourself.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AND AFFECTION

Having a mental illness does not make you “less deserving” than the next person. Despite the challenges you may face every day, you are deserving of a partner that will love you for who you are – not what they want you to be.  While a relationship can and will be challenging at times, you can find someone that will accept and love you the way you are.  The key to this is communication:  being open and honest from the first moment.  Making sure you have a partner that you can talk to, confide in and lean on is critical.  No relationship is ever perfect but it can work for you as long as you are willing to work for it.

YOU ARE POWERFUL, STRONG & CAPABLE

Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person, less capable than someone that is “healthy.”  Indeed you may actually be much stronger than a “healthy” individual because you have to endure so much more.  Never doubt your ability to lead a full and productive life.  You are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to.  Now I am not going to deny that it may be tough, that there may be setbacks – however you are powerful, strong and capable – you can take back your life.  Your life and your contribution is just as important and relevant as anyone else, so shout your message from the rooftops and embrace all that makes you unique.

I would like to show you this video where I drew inspiration from for this post.  Now I have made it clear that while I am not religious I am a spiritual individual, however despite that I cannot deny the power of this message.  Please also understand that I think is message (and my message) is geared for both men and women.  Take the time to listen to some of the words that are said and understand that this IS you or CAN be you If you so choose.  There are so many things misunderstood when it comes to mental illness, so many stigmas out there.  However if you empower yourself, share and communicate your story then you too can help other see what makes you so wonderful, so unique and so human.

I wish everyone the best.  Be well.  Take care of yourself and each other.

Just Plain ‘Ol Vic.