It’s Narcissist Friday!
I remember one of the motivational speakers telling a story about a woman who really wanted to make changes in her life. She told the speaker that she wanted to learn things and write, but she had no opportunity. She said that all she did, all day, was sit staring at a brick floor while she peeled potatoes and hand-washed clothes. There was nothing she could do to better herself. The speaker asked her what kind of brick it was. She didn’t know, so she went back and looked more carefully. Then she decided to ask around and do some reading at the library to find out what kind of brick it was. Turned out it was some unusual kind of brick with an interesting story. She wrote up the story and submitted it to the local newspaper. She was excited when they printed it, so she told the speaker about it and he asked, “What is under the brick?”
Now, I know that I butchered that popular story, but the point is important. There are times in our lives when we feel trapped. We can’t think of anything we can do to change our circumstances. Whether your narcissist is a spouse, or a parent, or a co-worker, or a friend—sometimes there seems to be no way out. Yes, there are options, but nothing good. You really feel like you can’t do anything.
Narcissism and traps seem to go together. Many people, in fact, most people, feel trapped in their narcissistic relationship. The narcissist often creates the trap and encourages the feeling of being trapped. Control is the key component of any narcissistic relationship. The narcissist must control the victim. Being controlled feels a lot like being trapped.
So what do you do when you can’t do anything?
The obvious Christian response is that we should pray. I believe this and would readily proclaim it. I believe that God hears our prayers and acts according to His love in our lives. Praying gives the heart an opportunity to be heard and comforted, perhaps especially in those times when we feel alone. So pray first!
Then ask yourself if you are really trapped or if you have just been convinced that you are trapped. In other words, what options do you really have? For example, many people feel trapped in an abusive marriage. They can’t get over the psychological or spiritual hurdle of divorce, so they stay in the marriage. But there are other options. There are many things that can be done before making the decision to divorce. Moving out and living in separation is just one. Telling people who can help is a great first step, long before a divorce could happen. There are options. There may be an option that you don’t like, but is the right thing. Or there might be one that seems impossible because you have been told lies about yourself or the option so that you will think it is impossible.
One thing people do when their hands are tied, is to move and stretch the bonds to begin to loosen them. The beginnings of changes that lead to freedom might be very small at first. A few minutes to yourself. A conversation with a friend. A dollar hidden away, then two, and three. Reading a book, or an ebook, or a website. Asking people for ideas anonymously. A little pushing on the boundaries might reveal weak areas in the control, or might set up opportunities for further stretching later.
Never believe the either/or scenario. There are always options. Always. They might take time and planning. They might take real effort. They might take help. They might take small incremental steps. But there are always options. Even those who are actually in prison can find ways to be free in their hearts and minds. Every time you come up against a wall, push on it or explore its limits. Look under it or try to climb over it. And always be willing to ask for help.
And if you are absolutely convinced that you are trapped, and you have tried all of these things and more, then relax. I have counseled people for many years and I have often said that if you truly have no options, then you must be right where you are supposed to be. I don’t say that lightly (nor would I ever say it to someone in an abuse situation), but sometimes all you can do is wait. And sometimes people have to endure a little more before they push to find the way out.
What do you do when you can’t do anything? Go to the Lord who loves you and trust Him. Then start pushing. Wait and watch and work for change. Don’t believe the lies.