Little Miracles.

GodsGrace[1]

God keeps sending me all these little gifts and surprises that are becoming proof to me that he listens and cares.   I’ve written about a few of these before.  A few others are too hard to explain so I haven’t talked about them. Another one happened today, sort of a big one.

Katie from Dreams of a Better World blog and I have been having a lot of discussions (in the comments) about the nature of suffering and what it means.  She’s also written some excellent and moving blog posts about it.    A whole book could be written about this topic (and maybe has), but here’s the short version of what we both think suffering means.

God doesn’t cause us to suffer or make bad things happen.  He isn’t a big bully in the sky. But he allows those things to happen and asks us to trust him when life looks hopeless.   He uses those things so we learn to lean on him, and then he will begin to show us in small ways that he is there, and that increases faith.

What happened today seems like a dream, but I think it’s the beginning of a spiritual awakening…maybe.   Time will tell.  I know I’m changing, and they are all good changes. I don’t think these changes would be happening without God and the reason why things never changed before, was because I wasn’t ready to trust him or lean on him yet.  I was still too proud and too suspicious and untrusting and skeptical because of my past. But you need to lean in completely and just let go. But that came later.

You reach a spiritual low that can go no further, in our cases caused by prolonged abuse, and one day we realize we must fight to survive.   But we’re so weak and beaten down, how can we fight?   But we do.   We get angry at first, and rage and pound our fists against the walls and at the sky and maybe at God himself.  But soon the angry fires burn themselves out and are replaced with a sort of openness.  I can’t explain this openness but it happens after the anger.  It’s like you’re empty and waiting.  Waiting for what, you don’t know.   You’re exhausted.

If you’re a writer, you start to write. Katie and are both write and that’s the tool God has given us to draw us closer to him, and to help us make sense of what happened to us. So we started blogs. For someone else, it might be art or music. Creativity is very close to spirituality, and it is given to us through grace.

That’s when God steps in.

And then everything begins to change.

Getting back to the conversation Katie and I were having in the comments about suffering, I decided to go to Mass today.  I never go on Saturday but something told me to go today.  The homily was about–

You guessed it.  The nature of suffering and how God uses it to humble us and mold us into who he wants us to be. 

I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.   I felt my heart open.  Wiping away tears, I looked up at Jesus on the cross and whispered thank you.

After a lifetime of not knowing what I was put here for or what I wanted to do, and not being passionate about much of anything,  the clouds are finally beginning to clear and some kind of plan is coming together for the rest of my life, and it’s nothing I could have ever dreamed up myself.

Whenever I tried to make choices without God, I always made the wrong ones and was back to where I started or worse.   But now, I’m finally starting to see the path that God has laid out for me, because my faith is growing.  And it’s the little miracles like what happened today  that are helping with that.

 

 

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Gifts a scapegoat brings to the world

I thought Katie was gone, but she came back just when I needed her posts like a starving person needs a nourishing meal.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been depressed and resentful about my scapegoat status in my family and repeated throughout my life (especially in the workplace), sinking into resentment, envy,  and self pity. These are bad emotions for me, they are bad for anyone! These emotions poison your soul. In fact, last night I told my wonderful therapist that I didn’t think therapy was working, because I felt like I’ve taken 3 steps back and failing to make any more progress. He reminded me that a lot of negative and self defeating emotions got triggered starting with my father’s death last month. He’s right, of course, but I still wasn’t buying it.

Reading Katie’s latest two posts made me realize that my unhappy upbringing, continued tendency to be the target of abusers, and lifelong, seemingly intractable poverty as an adult didn’t just happen in vain. I feel strongly, like Katie does, that those of us who were scapegoats and have suffered so much must be very spiritually strong for us to have been chosen for such difficult and harsh training–training for something far more wonderful than having the latest SUV or European vacation.    If that sounds grandiose, then so be it, but I simply won’t and can’t believe that what happened to us happened for no reason at all.

All the World Is Full of Suffering. It Is Also Full of Overcoming – Helen Keller | TheSeeds4Life.com

helen_keller

Think of Helen Keller and what she achieved in her life in spite of being both deaf and blind from early childhood. This brilliant woman was such an inspiration and really makes you think that almost anything can be overcome or at least that we can cope with almost anything life throws at us.

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Source: All the World Is Full of Suffering. It Is Also Full of Overcoming – Helen Keller | TheSeeds4Life.com

The narcissist game of “Gotcha!”

gotcha

An earlier post of mine described the 8 mind-games  that narcissists all love to play.   (Please be aware this was actually a reblog of someone else’s post).  One of the more popular games, played by both covert and overt (grandiose) narcissists is “Gotcha!”

“Gotcha!” can be played two different ways, but both have the same devastating effect on the narcissist’s opponent (victim).   Both are intended to bring your mood down as low as it can go and at the same time, reward the narcissist with supply (which you provide with your emotional reaction) which makes them feel better about themselves.

Here are the two versions of “Gotcha!”

Bug.

dead-bug

This game is most popular with overt narcissists because it allows them to exercise their grandiosity and turn it into a handy weapon and suction tube for feeding.

In “Bug,” the victim always goes first.  You start the game by feeling down, depressed, or worthless after some misfortune.    The narcissist is good at faking empathy and love bombs you by spreading that phony sh*t on thick.  Eventually you let your guard down and confide in the narcissist all your woes, misfortunes,  and feelings of dejection.   You tell them your whole life story, feeling like you have found a kind shoulder to cry on.   A patient, empathic person who cares about you and wants to help you.

Not so fast, there!   Your narcissist is already planning their next move, and it has about as much to do with empathy as a Canadian Mountie has to do with a Taliban terrorist.    What is that next move, you ask?   They’re about to pull a bait and switch on you.   The next time you confide in them about losing your home, your spouse, your job, or your mental health, they will callously “share” with you all about the exotic vacation they’re planning to take, the big promotion they just got, or the new romantic partner in their lives.   They will crow about how blessed they are (“blessed” is a favorite term used by narcissists as a subtle envy-generator) and how unfair it is that others aren’t as fortunate as they are (this last is a snide put down, implying that you’re not one of the chosen people that God has chosen to shower his bounty on).

Of course you’re not an envious person, but hearing all about their perfect, blessed life at a time like this when you are suffering is too much.    The narcissist doesn’t care.   In fact, they may actually be lying to you about all those wonderful things.  They want to see you suffering and envious of them, because (1) your suffering provides them with a comparative ego boost (hey, at least they’re not as unfortunate as YOU!)  and (2) your envy inflates their ego even more.   They feed off your pain like a pig rolling in slop.

To them, you are just a bug, not worthy of respect or any real compassion.   Maybe they’ll getcha with some pitying contempt though:  “Oh, I feel so SORRY for you!”   It’s intention is to make you feel shame.  When you’re already down, expect to be stepped on and squished under the heel of the narcissist’s boot until there’s nothing left of you.

Wet Blanket.

wet-blanket

This is a game almost always played by covert narcissists.   The tactics used to win the game are very different than “Bug,” but the end goal is the same:  to make you feel like shit.

As in “Bug,” you (the victim) begin the game.  (Of course you don’t know it’s a game, but that doesn’t matter.)   You think you’ve found a friend in the narcissist because they seem so interested in you.   You just found out some great news–you got that promotion, your book is going to be published, you just found out you’re pregnant after months of trying, you won the lottery.

Naturally the narcissist doesn’t like your good news. To them, it is very bad news, because in their minds, the good fortune of someone else diminishes them.  Life to them is a zero sum game.  There can only be one winner and it has to be them.    For something good to happen to you means it didn’t happen to them which means they hate your guts because you have something which they do not.   It doesn’t even have to be something they want:  the fact you have something good at all is an affront to them.  They must find a way to ruin it for you and in effect, bring you down closer to being as miserable as they are (evening the score).

So after a phony congratulations (maybe), the narcissist becomes a concern troll.  Out of “concern” for you (and always for your own good), he or she just has to “warn” you about the dark  side of your good fortune (and if possible find a way to put you down too, or tell you why it doesn’t count).    So if you got a promotion, you’ll get a speech about how much harder you’ll have to work and how you’ll probably lose all your friends stil in lower positions.  Or you’ll be told why your promotion doesn’t really count because it’s one of those “honorary” titles or it’s really just a “lateral” move.   If your book just got accepted by a publisher, you’ll be told that publisher is a crook or their business is failing and you’ll never see your royalties; if you found out you’re pregnant they’ll tell you all about how horrible pregnancy is and about all the drudgery and loss of freedom you’ll be facing; if you won the lottery, they’ll trot out stories about people whose lives were ruined after winning the lottery or they’ll remind you that “you did nothing to earn it; it’s only chance–I could have won too!”

Of course, after you listen to the narcissist’s “advice,” your heart will feel heavy and your smile might have disappeared.    You might even be gnawing the sides of your fingernails in anxiety over all the things that could go wrong.  Checkmate!  The narcissist won and now he can feed off your new worries too.

A variation of “Wet Blanket” is actually the mirror-image of “Bug.” After you’ve shared your great news, the narcissist brings down your mood by telling you how terrible their own life is and how they never get any breaks at all. The intention is to make you feel guilty for having so much while they have so little.

Whether it’s guilt, shame or envy the narcissist is trying to induce in you doesn’t matter. They just can’t stand to see anyone happy and must take you down to their level or obliterate you like a bug if you’re already down.

Changes.

changes

I never used to be able to relate to “positive thinking” statements.  They seemed trite and shallow, as if they were made up for other people–people with normal lives, normal families, normal incomes, good jobs, who didn’t suffer from mental illness, who hadn’t been abused by almost everyone they had known, and who had an actual future to look forward to.

Dying slowly.

When I was with my narcopath ex,  I really didn’t have a future.  Not if I’d stayed with him.  I was slowly dying a long, excruciating death–a death by annihilation of my spirit. His abuse was effecting my body, my mind, my emotions, and my soul.    Pictures of me taken when I was with him compared to pictures taken of me now show the toll the relationship was taking on me.   I looked older 3 years ago than I do now–and my depression showed on my face in every picture, even the smiling ones.  I was overweight and miserable. Even my hair looked depressed, dull and without shine. When I was told to “just think positive” I felt nothing but rage and frustration.  How could I even hope to have a better life, how could I even hope to ever be happy?   A smiley face meme, a “thought for the day,” or “inspirational” coffee mug just wasn’t going to do it for me.   And those things can be shallow and trite, but that doesn’t mean that a positive outlook is forever barred from me.  It doesn’t mean I can’t still find happiness.

 Cynicism and bitterness.

Even if I hadn’t been abused, by nature, I’m a depressive sort of person.   As an INFJ, I think deeply about things and feel them even more deeply.    I’m a worrywart who tends to see the glass as half empty.  I catastrophize and ruminate and obsess and worry about almost everything.  I get upset when I hear about wars, murders, shootings, racism, sexism, injustice, unkindness in general, and most of all, the abuse of animals and kids.  Or  the abuse of anyone for that matter.

I see all the trappings of success–big houses, late model cars, vacations, the latest this or that–and feel depressed because those things will never be mine.   I wasn’t invited to be in the Club.   I feel victimized and alone in the world.  I used to think God hated me.   I almost became an atheist–but not quite.   I always felt *some* kind of presence, but didn’t think that presence thought very highly of me.  I even thought that my purpose for existing was to be an example to others of what not to be.  I felt like I was held in contempt and condescending pity by everyone.  But what I didn’t know was I was projecting my own sense of self-hatred and hopelessness onto whatever Higher Intelligence was out there and everyone else too.    The internal voices instilled in me by my emotional abusive upbringing echoed down the years and contaminated any ability I had to find joy and meaning in life.   I became bitter and cynical, and turned up my nose at “happy people,” assuming they had no depth at all–but was it really just because I envied their ability to feel joy?

Slouching toward heaven. 

godareyouthere

When I finally went No Contact with my ex, things began to change.  Not a lot at first, but for the first time ever, I felt some hope and even fleeting glimpses of joy.   I started to blog. Writing down my feelings about what happened to me helped me make sense of them.  Through blogging, I found a community of others in a similar situation.  I no longer felt so alone.  Blogging was the best sort of self-therapy I could have hoped for.    A talent for writing was the one tool I had that began to help me be able to lift myself out of the mire.

Eventually, this got me to the point of wanting something more–an actual relationship with God.  A lifelong agnostic, I began going to church and decided to become Catholic.   I started to pray a lot more (I call it “talking to God,” which sounds friendlier).   My faith was shaky and fragile (and still is), but I kept plugging away, asking God to give me the ability to trust him and to give me faith.   If I couldn’t trust other people, it was especially hard to trust an entity I couldn’t even see.    Sometimes I felt like God wasn’t listening and had doubts that he existed at all.   But God was always someone I could turn to when no one else seemed to care.   I had no choice!   Over time, I felt myself beginning to change from within.  I began to appreciate the things I had more, instead of feeling resentful and envious of others for having more than I did.   I’ve even had a few of those rare transformative moments of  gratitude and happiness so profound it brought me to tears.

I am grateful.

I may not have a lot, but I have what I need, and that’s a lot more than many.   I don’t live in the best house in the world, but it’s a nice place to live and I like its cuteness and coziness.   I don’t drive a late model car, but I have one that’s reliable and gets me where I need to go.   I don’t come from a big loving supportive family, but I have two wonderful children who I have a good relationship with.   I can’t afford to take real vacations, but I have a car to go on short day trips.  I live in a beautiful part of the country, even if I’m jaded and don’t appreciate it as much as I used to.  I can sit on my porch and see mountains and trees and flowers and see the night sky.  I can hear birds singing outside my window.  I don’t have to look outside my window and see a back alley full of broken glass and hear sirens and people fighting all night.  I don’t love my job, but it pays for what I need and there are a lot worse things I could be doing.   I have two wonderful cats.  I have writing ability.  My blog is doing well and is not only helping me, but it’s helping others too.  I have a wonderful, empathic therapist who almost seemed to drop out of the sky at just the right time.  Lately, I’ve been finding myself thinking that my glass is half full instead of half empty.  That’s God changing my attitude in a really big way.

It’s not a smooth road.  I still get triggered and go back to my old thinking patterns.  I stil have days where I feel hopeless and unloved.  These attitudes are so ingrained in me that removing them sometimes feels like performing a skeleton transplant.  But all I have to do is lean on God and tell him I can’t handle it myself–and things do begin to look better. God is working on me, changing my attitudes, and people have said they’ve noticed a difference in me.

Big changes, bright future.

gulf_coast

I have a very strong feeling that God is planning a major change for me in the near future–a change that would give me a whole fresh start and more choices than I’ve had.   It looks very likely that in the very near future, probably before winter (my least favorite season–I hate it!) sets in, I will be moving to Florida to join my son.   I won’t be living with my son; I will have my own place.   He thinks he can get me a job where he works too.   I will be living near the beach.  I can watch the sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico every night if I want.   While I love the North Carolina mountains, they don’t speak to my soul the way the ocean does, not even after 23 years of living here.   I grew up in coastal New Jersey and New York and used to hit the beach every weekend in the summer since it was no more than an hour away from where I lived.   The ocean is in my blood. Here where I live now, getting to the beach requires planning a vacation or at least a weekend getaway since the closest beach is a five hour drive away.   I never have enough funds to do that though.  I haven’t seen the ocean since 2008.   That’s far too long.

I have no ties to North Carolina. There’s nothing left for me here–no friends, no family, no pressing commitments–so I won’t have any misgivings about packing up and leaving when the time is imminent.   I’m trying to get my daughter to come with me, because I think she needs a change too.  There’s nothing left for her here either except her dad, but he is a toxic person and her relationship with him is a codependent one.  She may not want to leave him though. She feels responsible for him.    But when and if she decides enough is enough (and I’m praying she does), the invitation to join me and her brother is always open.

I think that this move will change my life in so many positive ways.   No, of course it won’t be perfect, but I will be living near my son again, I will near my beloved ocean again, and I can make a fresh start in a new place, free of all the ghosts of my abusive past I still associate with where I live now, and which continue to haunt me at times.   I imagine myself in my little house or apartment, or sitting in front of the ocean, listening to the waves and the gulls, finally writing the book I keep saying I’m going to write.   And I’ll thank my Heavenly Father every day for presenting me with such a positive life changing choice.   I never felt like I had choices before.  Now I think I do.

Why God has waited until now, I don’t really know,  but it’s probably because I wasn’t ready.   I wouldn’t have appreciated it.  Maybe he wanted me to appreciate the things I already have first, before blessing me with new opportunities.    Now, when I see positive thinking memes or inspirational quotes, I actually pay attention.   Yes, they are trite and can be shallow and annoying when nothing else of substance is being given, but they do seem to have more meaning now.  Is that because I feel like God is finally smiling down on me so I can relate to them better, or is it because I’ve changed enough to pay attention?

Little gifts.

God shows up at the strangest times.  Earlier today I was at the Laundromat, and as I waited for my wash, I found a small devotional book called “Fear Not Tomorrow, God is Already There,” by Ruth Graham.  It was sitting right there on the table, on top of a bunch of advertising circulars.   A few years ago I would have left the book there.  Today I took it home with me and said a small prayer of thanks.  I know God left it there for me on purpose.  I’ve realized he is always trying to show you in small ways how much he loves you, but if you’re not paying attention you won’t notice.    If you open your heart to God and just talk to him, like you’d talk to your best friend or a loving parent, your heart will begin to change and your faith will grow stronger in tandem with that–and then it’s possible your whole life might take a turn for the better too.  It’s so simple–how did it take me so long to see this beautiful truth?  I feel in my bones that the last half of my life is going to be when the harvest comes in–a harvest rooted in the pain of my past.

Is there a reason why we suffered so much?

student_teacher

One last thought.   There’s an old Buddhist proverb: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”   Everyone who ever touched my life has been a teacher to me. Yes, even the narcissists.   Maybe especially them.  If it weren’t for them, I would not be who I am today.  I don’t think I would be as deep or as spiritual or value empathy and kindness as much as I do.   I don’t think I would have the same sort of relationship with God.  Many of the most spiritual (not necessarily religious–that’s a different animal!) people I know came from abusive backgrounds.   They suffered terribly and carried that heavy spiritual load all their lives, then finally turned to God because there was no one else.  In pain there comes much wisdom.     Maybe God allows some of us to experience more adversity so we learn to lean on him instead of other people–and then when we learn to trust him, he finally blesses us with people who can help us and love us unconditionally.   No, we should never have been abused by our narcissists.  It definitely wasn’t fair.  But out of that kind of adversity we can learn so much about ourselves, about human nature, and even learn to help others who suffer like we did.   And that is my greatest wish now–to help others heal.

Suffering can create maturity in survivors

There are a few people in this world that astound me with their ability to find the silver lining behind every black cloud and these are the people who always inspire me to do better. Katie is one of them. You should follow her blog because it’s awesome.

Please leave comments under the original post.

The #1 thing that makes me question God’s existence.

why-god-why

TRIGGER WARNING: Photos in this post may be triggering to abuse survivors.

I believe in God. I also believe God answers prayers and God sometimes even performs miracles. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, and in the lives of people close to me.

But tonight I was reading a site about abused children–not children with narcissistic parents who grew up into emotionally damaged, but physically and mentally normal adults, but children who never had a chance at all. Children like 3 year old Jeffrey Baldwin, who was tortured almost from the day he was born, and whose photos show both the emotional and physical destruction of a human being, and ended in a painful, horrible death by starvation at the age of three. Or children like a 4 month old baby girl, whose name escapes me, who was repeatedly raped and tortured by her own father, and died of internal injuries. These are just two examples of children who God seems to have forgotten, but they are far from the only ones.

PLEASE RETURN IMAGES TO PHOTO *P51 PRON *U42 GRAPHIC NE-JEFFERY-B@@IP1AW6Z3@#STAR@#@#MAIN@#NEW@#@#CITY Various images throughout his life, other faces in images other than Jeffrey should be obscured.
There’s bruising on Jeffrey’s face, but he could still smile.

AppleMark

AppleMark

Jeffrey Baldwin, second from the right.  He could no longer smile; in these later photos he looked this way in almost every picture, before the light went out in his eyes.  

 

Local Input~  UNDATED -- JEFFREY BALDWIN -- Photo of Jeffrey Baldwin at the time of his death from evidence provided by the coroner.  The inquest into the murder of Jeffrey Baldwin, whose grandparents beat and starved him to death began Monday, September 9, 2013.  Jeffrey weighed less than 10 kilograms and was emaciated when he died of starvation in November 2002. CREDIT: CORONER EXHIBIT (source: From: "McConnach, Robert (MCSCS)" ŠRobert.McConnach@ontario.ca>, Rob McConnach -Coroners Constable , Office of the Chief Coroner, Province of Ontario, 15 Grosvenor St., Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1Y6, Tel. 416-314-4200, Fax 416-314-3935 )/pws

Local Input~ UNDATED — JEFFREY BALDWIN — Photo of Jeffrey Baldwin at the time of his death from evidence provided by the coroner. The inquest into the murder of Jeffrey Baldwin, whose grandparents beat and starved him to death began Monday, September 9, 2013. Jeffrey weighed less than 10 kilograms and was emaciated when he died of starvation in November 2002.
CREDIT: CORONER EXHIBIT
(source: From: “McConnach, Robert (MCSCS)” ŠRobert.McConnach@ontario.ca>, Rob McConnach -Coroners Constable , Office of the Chief Coroner, Province of Ontario, 15 Grosvenor St., Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1Y6, Tel. 416-314-4200, Fax 416-314-3935 )/pws

 

A few days ago, there was a thought provoking and inspiring article called The Surprising Gifts of Suffering on the Dreams of a Better World blog (the post is in two parts), in which my friend speculated on the reasons why God allows people to suffer, some horribly. For emotional abuse victims, her argument that God is attempting to hone us and shape us into something more and draw us closer–knowing our souls are strong enough to withstand the abuse–make a kind of sense. We may not realize we were even abused until 40, 50, or even 60 years of age, but once we realize what happened to us, that’s when we begin to heal. Then we have something to teach the world. Many of us grew close to God because other humans proved to be so untrustworthy. We may never fully overcome the emotional damage, but if we keep an open mind and ask the right questions and learn the right lessons, we can reach out and begin to help others who were in the same situation. God knows we have the ability to turn our pain and suffering into something good and beautiful, which may be the reason we got handed that particular crappy deck of cards.  Maybe.

I can even understand, to a point, sick and starving children in third world countries. Although they live in unimaginable poverty and squalor, suffer physically almost from the moment they are born, and in all likelihood will die at an early age, they usually still experience joy, acceptance, and love. Their families suffer along with them, and photos show these children being held and loved by mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors, who are all in the same boat. They don’t suffer alone. The healthier among them may still even laugh and play.  Not knowing anything about prosperity, they are more able to enjoy the simple, natural pleasures that life offers.

But when I read about a case like little Jeffrey Baldwin, I just shake my head in sad bewilderment. I don’t understand how God could allow something like that to happen. For what reason? Some people may think it’s because God allows free will and Satan has dominion over a fallen world. But as I explained in a post I wrote a few days ago, I don’t believe the devil, if he exists at all, has that much power. Even if he did, why wouldn’t God step in and protect a helpless child who never had a chance, who no one prays for and no one cares about? If God loves us all, why would he allow an innocent life to be completely wasted, with no chance of redemption? Even if their souls go on to heaven, why would he put them here on earth, if their only fate here is to suffer and then die? If yelling at and cursing God is a kind of prayer, as a commenter the other day suggested it really is, then I guess I’m praying when I angrily implore to the heavens, “God, why THE HELL do you allow these things to happen?”

The ultimate dissociative experience.

thanatophobia2

Death isn’t something I like to think about, much less write about.  In fact, it’s my biggest fear (outside of the death of one of my children).  Oh, I know all the pat arguments and rationalizations that it’s not so bad–death is a part of life, death is nothing to be afraid of, if you’re a good Christian you will go to Heaven and there will be no fear, nothing at all will happen so there will be no fear, even the idea that death is beautiful.

I woke this morning, as I often do, thinking about how much I fear my own death.  I think this is a little obsessive-compulsiveness on my part, and probably something I should talk about more in therapy.   The mental health field has a name for the irrational or excessive fear of death: thanatophobia.    So far I’ve only talked to God about my phobia but I feel like He isn’t listening.     People in my age group (50’s) say they’re beginning to come to terms with the prospect of death, but so far, for me, that hasn’t happened.  I get more scared every year.

Maybe death terrifies me because it entails complete ego loss–it’s the ultimate dissociative experience, and as someone who has had massive panic attacks usually instigated by dissociative experiences (feeling out my body, feeling like things are dreamlike or unreal, etc.) it would be natural for me to be afraid of what it might feel like.   It’s like someone who had a bad drug trip and is mentally unstable to begin with being slipped some acid when they’re unaware of it–and never being able to return to reality.

I don’t like to write about death, because even thinking about it too long makes me extremely anxious.  But I need to write about it, and need to talk about it with others, and maybe find comfort in the fact that others have the same sense of trepidation and worry.  Maybe I’m not alone in my fear of death and dying.   So I’m going to plow on. Writing about it surely can’t hurt.

thanatophobia

I’ve been told by many Christians that, if I am strong in my faith, that there is nothing to fear, because I can be sure of my place in Heaven after I die.   But this makes things even worse for me, because I do have doubts in my faith and I am not at certain I am going to Heaven, or even that there is a Heaven.   No matter how much I pray for perfect faith, I can’t seem to make my mind rid itself of its many doubts.   There are just some things about Christianity I can’t make myself believe or at least not question.  Again, maybe it’s my obsessive-compulsiveness.   As someone who is afraid to trust anyone and is hypervigilant, it’s even hard for me to completely trust God and not worry about what will happen to me after I die. I look at others–even narc abuse survivors who should be as hypervigilant as I am–who seem to have attained perfect faith and I marvel at this. How do they do it?

Although it’s hard for me to believe that if I question Christianity or what the Bible says, that God will send me to burn in Hell for eternity even if I’m otherwise a good person (that seems like a terribly cruel, narcissistic God to me), how do I know for sure God isn’t like that?  Maybe God is really that cruel and narcissistic, but in that case, why would I want to even spend eternity in Heaven, trapped there with sanctimonious, self righteous, insufferable believers? (I’m not saying all believers are like that, but I’ve met more than a few who are).  In that case, maybe Heaven would be more like Hell.     But Hell…well, I definitely don’t want to go there.

But Christianity is only one way to look at the issue of death.  Let’s face it.   No matter how sure you are in your faith, whatever it is, none of us really knows what’s going to happen after we die.   What if the New Agers are right and what happens is you look back and see yourself lying on the hospital bed, pavement, or whatever, see your own broken, bleeding, or used-up body there, and then watch as they pull the sheet over your head?  What if you are swooshed at light-speed down a long tunnel toward “the light” and meet angels and see otherworldly landscapes and other inexplicable things?   Or what if you float around the earth as a disembodied spirit, revisiting your friends and relatives you left behind?   People who have reported NDE’s (near death experiences) have said that at some point they become aware they have died (that’s usually when they “come back”) and most say it’s very disorienting and even scary at first, because their bodies just aren’t there.   All of these things, no matter how pleasant others have said they are, strike terror in me, because they sound like dissociative experiences that you can never escape from.   I’ve struggled with episodes of dissociation my entire life, but no matter how terrifying they became, I always knew I’d “return” and the experience would probably only last a few minutes.   Does something happen after you die where you’re no longer afraid of such things, or do you just learn to deal with it?

death_quote

Maybe this is true, but I wish I could believe it.

What if the atheists and existentialists are right and nothing happens after you die?  What if you simply cease to exist?   While I find that prospect extremely depressing,  it actually causes me the least anxiety.   Eternal sleep and unconsciousness doesn’t seem so bad to me.  If you’re aware of nothing, well, there’s nothing to be afraid of or get depressed about, is there?  But I still don’t like the idea that this life is ultimately meaningless.   What is all the struggle for then?

Reincarnation doesn’t seem so bad, and actually does make some logical sense to my scientifically-leaning brain, but it flies in the face of being a Christian.   I don’t know of any Christians who acknowledge that reincarnation is a possibility after death.  But why couldn’t it be? As a Catholic, we believe in the concept of purgatory, a place of purification (not punishment) after death.  But no one can explain what purgatory might be like.  Maybe living additional lives is what purgatory actually means?   Again…we just don’t know.

'It's not that I'm afraid of dying, Doctor... It's just that I don't want to be there when it happens!'

‘It’s not that I’m afraid of dying, Doctor… It’s just that I don’t want to be there when it happens!’

Maybe we just go back to wherever we were before we were born, and have amnesia for this life. Or maybe it’s like eternal dreaming (that doesn’t sound too bad). Again, we don’t know.

Besides the inevitable experience of death, which seems bad enough, I’m terrified by the prospect of dying.   I’m in my 50’s, and figure I might (realistically) have about another two or three decades of life left.   To someone my age, that doesn’t seem so long.  Twenty years ago was 1996; thirty years ago was 1986.   That means that in that same amount of time, going forward, I will probably be leaving my body permanently, but before that, I may well suffer either unbelievable pain or a few moments of sheer terror.   Few people just die peacefully in their sleep or just suddenly keel over while out on the golf course (that’s the way a 90 year old great uncle of mine died).   Most suffer first, either for months (as in a long illness) or a few seconds (as in an accident).   I’m terrified of both.  I know there’s no way to get out of this life alive, so the inevitable is going to happen, and there’s not a whole lot of time left before it does. Even worse, each year time seems to hurtle forward twice as fast as the year before. What seemed like “a long time ago” to me twenty years ago now seems like the blink of an eye.

As someone who tends to overthink everything,  I probably think about death and dying way too much.  I know I should just stop and enjoy life while I still have it.   But the more I try not to think about it, the more I seem to.   It’s like that game where you try not to think about an elephant.  I pray about this all the time but it hasn’t helped very much.    I just keep feeling guilty because  no matter how hard I try, I can’t embrace my Christianity with perfect faith.   I have no guarantee I’m going to Heaven.   I keep questioning everything and then I worry about going to hell.  Or being eternally dissociated, which to me would be hell.  Or just worrying about the intolerable suffering that will precede my exit from this planet.    Maybe I need to talk to my therapist about this because it seems like it could be a form of undiagnosed OCD.

Further Reading:
My Fear of Death

Finding meaning in life after narc abuse and in poverty

Katie’s life trajectory has been so much like my own it’s downright spooky, but I think God brought this woman’s spiritual wisdom into my life as part of my journey in recovery. Her blog has become one of my favorites.

This article was so triggering and upsetting to me I almost stopped reading it (because it was like reading about myself) but something (God, maybe?) told me to keep reading anyway, and I’m glad I did because by the end (as with all Katie’s articles), my soul was lifted up.

Comments have been disabled; please leave comments on the original post.

Do narcissists have a spiritual purpose we can’t understand?

darknessintolight

This fascinating topic was raised in the comments section under The Man You Love to Hate…or Hate to Love.

The implications raised here are bound to be controversial to some, but I think Joan and CheriSunday may be onto something. In fact, I’ve sometimes wondered myself if narcissists exist for a good reason that only God can understand, but I always thought it sounded too crazy to write about and it was hard to formulate those feelings into words. I’m glad other people have had the same thoughts. It makes me feel less crazy. And it actually makes a type of sense.

CheriSunday says:
January 26, 2015 at 2:46 pm

As you wrote quote “Maybe when one chooses to become a narcissist…..you are drawn into darkness, and once you’ve entered you can’t ever escape.”
My response: I live in a darkness, however I know light shines through my being.
Why feel sorry, we like to suffer, for some , sufferance becomes their friend, that’s how we make peace with the darkness.
CheriSunday

Joan S says:
January 26, 2015 at 8:45 pm

That is very wow. I actually think that aware narcissists like Mr. Vaknin might be a gift. We can’t interpret that gift yet, but will remain till we can.

I like your point though that some like to suffer that it brings comfort. I just can’t believe that darkness can overcome the light though, that is impossible. Maybe if you felt that light long enough it will bring about the deliverance. They just have to want that deliverance. Have to want it. And that is where narcissists are stopped. JMHO of course. I like insightful things.

luckyotter says:
January 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm

Joan,
we don’t know what God’s reasons are or what his plan is. I have thought myself, that narcs may have been put here for a reason that only God knows. Maybe they are here to teach us valuable lessons about human nature and spirituality in general.

In thinking so much about narcissism, because it’s a mental disorder that most likely has a spiritual component, I have been brought much closer to God in the process and have found some semblance of joy and peace for the first time in my life. I have never been happier than I am now. So looking at it this way, narcissists may help us in our own spiritual journey.

I don’t think narcs are demons, I think they’re here for a reason and that reason is a teaching one, even if the lessons we learn from them are painful. Even Satan himself, was created by God and was initially God’s most beloved angel, and his purpose was to test our faith. His original name, Lucifer, means “light bringer.” He became too narcissistic for Heaven because he began to think he was greater than God so he couldn’t stay. (I don’t know whether or not this is a literal story or there is or ever was an entity called “Satan,” but it’s worth bringing it up in the context of this topic).

This doesn’t mean we have to (or should) associate with a known narc. But the ones we haven’t been able to escape from or those who raised us, at the end of the day (when we can finally see the forest for the trees), can make us stronger; their darkness can put our own light into sharp relief.

And in atypical narcissists like Sam, who have contributed so much good to the world (even if his motives were self serving), it could be that he (and those like him, if there are any others) are a special kind of gift, and that his darkness may be a necessary thing, both for himself and for us. We don’t know the reasons, but he may know, and although he suffers, he may have accepted this suffering as part of whatever his own mission on this earth is. He may not need deliverance, or maybe the deliverance will come at a later time or upon his death. We just don’t know. Only God does.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” — Kelly Clarkson

luckyotter says:
January 26, 2015 at 11:43 pm

CheriSunday, first of all, welcome to this blog! 🙂 I love to see new “faces” around here.

If you know light shines through your being, you are not hopeless. Maybe there are some people who need to suffer. We don’t know the reasons. In a way I can relate. I flirted with darkness for many years, out of choice. Fortunately I’m coming to a place of more light but there are still dark days. I accept them for what they are, and realize those dark days may have some enlightening lessons in them. “Without darkness, there can be no light.”

I am curious, though, since you say you choose suffering and you have never posted here before, are you an NPD sufferer or have another disorder, like BPD or depression? Forgive my presumptuousness, but because of the nature of this topic and this blog, I don’t think it’s stepping on your boundaries to ask. I hope you don’t mind.

I also think most narcissists have an inner light that does shine through sometimes, except maybe MNs and psychopaths/sociopaths. There is a lot of light in Sam and that’s why I think he is still able to help people and victims looks up to him even though he is exactly the sort of person we’re trying to get away from. I hope that makes sense.