It’s Narcissist Friday!
You sit in your chair staring at the television. It’s off. The room is dark because you don’t want to be in the light right now. No one is around and you are grateful. Your mind and heart are numb, yet racing with thought. Numb thought. That’s about right.
What you did was wrong. It was a foolish decision. Yet, you did it knowingly and willingly. You didn’t stop at the warnings, you just did it. And it felt good. Or did it? There was something in it that felt good, but that numbness was there as well. The laughter and happiness were tempered by the knowledge that regret was coming. You knew you would pay a price.
And maybe this wasn’t the first time. It’s like something builds in you and needs to be released. The release brings pleasure, but also pain. The problem seems to be that the pain is future while the pleasure is present. As long as the pleasure comes first, you long for it. The pain, which seems so real as you sit in your chair staring at the TV, is far enough away to be ignored.
Pastor Jones preaches in favor of marriage and family, but visits the adult bookstore when he goes to the big city. He lives in fear that someone will see him and hates himself later, but rarely misses the stop. Mrs. Smith has a bottle hidden away and seeks comfort in its contents. The last bottle, like the ones before it, was poured down the drain in shame and guilt. But there’s always another. Another few dollars from the register at work, another few “extra” hours on the time card, just one more night together, just a little lie: these seem to take the pressure away—for a while.
Why do we do what we don’t want to do? Why do we keep making these bad decisions? What in the world is going on?
Well, the problem may be old, but the answer isn’t easy. It has to do with how we believe we are accepted or loved. The old saying is that everybody needs to be somebody to somebody. We need affirmation and, to get it, we will do just about anything.
Almost all of us grew up with affirmation that came on the basis of some kind of points. We earned points by doing the right things. We lost points when we did the wrong things. Our culture, whether from the church or family or community, sought to mold us by a system of rewards and punishments. And, for the most part, it appeared to work. We are affirmed when we do well and shamed when we do not.
But inside, where our thoughts and desires live, affirmation comes from feeling important or valued. We want to feel good about ourselves. Yes, that might mean that we want to feel righteous, but it also means we want to feel strong or desirable or rich. We aren’t usually content with feeling acceptable to the community, we want to feel like we are “somebody.” The community affirms us when we conform, when we are not independent and creative. Our hearts affirm us when we express our uniqueness and value.
Most of the vices in life minister to our need to feel special. Alcohol, overspending, porn, drugs, lying, theft—all are there because they promise to meet that need. They may do it through fantasy, but even fantasy feels good for a while. They all have consequences, but the feeling is sometimes worth the price. The vices calls to the needs of our hearts.
Keeping the rules and cultural standards may satisfy the community, but that doesn’t satisfy the heart. The points we gain from “doing right” are not enough. We seem to need more. Points come from the other side as well. The fantasies give us points that feel good. It even makes us feel strong and independent to break the rules. Those points count. They don’t satisfy either, but they seem to give us something.
Once the cycle begins, and it begins early, we go from breaking the rules and scoring the points that make us feel good to keeping the rules and trying to overcome the negatives with points from the good side. So Pastor Jones preaches about faithfulness in marriage, then visits the porn shop, then preaches a stronger message about marriage the next week. He isn’t being simply insincere. He is struggling with these feelings of acceptance. He thinks he can overcome the negative points with more positive ones.
But the more we try to overcome the negatives with positives, the more we feel phony and the less any of the points help us feel good about ourselves. Our goal is to feel good, but those feelings diminish the longer the process goes. The cycle becomes more and more frantic until something happens to break it. It will begin all over again unless we find a way to get away from points altogether. As with any addiction, we have to find a way to break free.
There is a way, but it is contrary to most of what you have been taught and most of what you feel. That way is to accept the love and affirmation of the One who made you. He does love you. It doesn’t matter what you have done. He welcomes you. He values you. He wants you to know that no system of points, either in your culture or your heart, will ever be enough to satisfy your need. His love will be enough.
The message of the Gospel of Jesus is a message of love and acceptance. I know that preachers have made it sound otherwise, but they are as bound up in their system as you have been in yours. The message of the cross is one of sacrificial love for those who neither deserved nor understood it. It allows all of us to get off the point system and accept our acceptance.
Think about what you will give up when you leave the point system behind. No more spiritual comparisons. If there is no need for gaining spiritual points, then no one can be better than another. No more sleepless nights worrying about regrets. You are accepted by the Lord regardless of your past and your mistakes. No more fear of judgment. The One who judges you loves you and has given all to have you with Him. No more fear of failure. Results and accomplishments are in the hands of the Lord who loves you. On and on. The things you give up by leaving the points behind are the things that have hurt you so much.
I understand that this post is long and may seem convoluted. Let me summarize by saying that we tend to gravitate to that which promises to make us feel good—and those feelings come from both sides of the moral system. There is a better way. When you get up in the morning, remind yourself that the Lord loves you. Let yourself feel accepted and valued by Him. Throughout the day, seek His presence and remember His love. At the end of the day, thank Him for loving you. Then accept the rest He gives. Is it that simple? Yes, I believe it is.
12 responses to “Why oh why?”
I go numb when I am being hurt. It is an actual physical response. I used to think I had a delayed response to emotional pain caused by verbal abuse. But now I know I just go numb.
This has gotten me into trouble. It has also probably saved my life. I have friends and partners tell me I need to speak up when I am being hurt. If something they are saying or doing hurts, I need to let them know right away.
But as a child I must have learned that if I responded I might then or probably would endure physical pain do to abuse.
This is a handicap. I can’t always tell when someone or something is hurting me until after the fact. I am unable to discern the difference.
It’s easy to say if your gut “feeling” tells you something is wrong, trust it. Flee or fight. But it doesn’t always work properly.
Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days to actually feel anything. A recent visit with N mom lasted longer than I knew it should have. I was ready to go home, you know, on a good note. My head started to pound. My ears ached. They started to ring. It was like slow motion. Or a silent film. I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. I just watched her lips move and tried to store the information to process it later. Even though I knew I should go home, I stayed, and thought the barometric pressure was dropping, causing the physical pain, pain I could detect but couldn’t feel…till later.
4 days later and I’m still processing the strange and twisted topic of discussion between, the tears and sadness. Going to see my mom after a six month rest was not a bad decision. Letting her manipulate me into staying longer was. She just wasn’t done with me. I pitied her. Against my better judgement, I stayed.
I know this isn’t the sort of bad decisions you are referring to. But this is the sort of bad decisions I make time and time again that cause me the most trouble. I can’t say it requires forgiveness. The assurance that God loves me doesn’t change anything. Knowing God loves my mom helps. Turning her over to God helps. Staying away from her another six months, God willing, might help. God knows I can’t help her. God knows the pain and suffering I endure at her hands is unjust, unnecessary, cruel and pointless. God knows wether or not she is evil, or under the influence of evil. Maybe she’s just stupid. I can’t judge her. I can only judge myself. And sometimes I have a real hard time of it because I’m not sure I love her. I surely don’t trust her. I can’t forgive her. I want to. But as soon as I do, and as soon as I forget, as soon as I let my guard down, it happens again.
Maybe I am angry at God because I wasn’t born to a mother. I was born to a severely damaged and personality disordered child. I did my best to raise her.
My heart goes out to you. Once I heard and started studying about narcissism it helped me to recognize narcissistic behavior and have a plan beforehand for what would cause me to flee a narcissistic moment. When meeting with family members and they start being caustic to anyone in the room I leave with a polite excuse and go home. Same with the phone as I instantly disconnect. Later the narcissist may call to apologize. I do this as taking a stand for preserving health and healthy relationships. Due to this self-protection, though I don’t relish being with narcissists, I don’t sweat it because the event will be enjoyable if they behave and if they don’t I’m not subjected to abuse because I will leave. One day they may see this as a teaching tool to curb their behavior. If not at least my memories of unproductive time will be limited.
Wow! I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I completely understand. Know that you are not alone in having these kinds of experiences. I’m praying for your peace.
Just Numb, your thoughts really struck home with me, as I am in daily contact with my N parent. No one should have to raise their parents, but we have……and it’s Certainly not a lack of effort on our parts that makes them choose to be what they are. I thank God that He only makes us responsible for our own choices – not theirs!
She is not your responsibility. She is in God’s hands. It is easy to feel we have failed somehow when we are confused by their antics spazzing out again. Resenting that we never had a parent is natural to healing, and I suggest that what you are angry at may be the shocking wrongness of it all, not God. We need this sense in the long run, to be able to point out in our numb minds ” This is wrong”. If you Know something shouldn’t be that way, you can aim for and see with better clarity what is right. We are often faced with stark evil as an identifying contrast to see healing truth as what it is.
Repeated bad decisions can often become addictions. But, I agree that Dave was not talking about addictions that have physical causes here, such as some food addictions, where someone cannot stop what they don’t want to do. I believe I had one, and later found that my general illness had actually been starving my body of nutrients, so no matter how much I ate, it was never enough for my needs. The underlying physical nutritional need had to be met before I could make the right choices I’d wanted to make. The same happens with many long term alcohol and nicotine addictions. For anyone dealing with this, we should look for underlying deficiencies and Stop guilting ourselves as we get help. ❤
I'm totally familiar with that blur-out feeling, so your phrase " Barometric pressure" really caught my eye. I think you have something there. This has happened to me over and over again. It is a coping mechanism, but perhaps something more. Our body's stress sensors can numb us by temporarily lowering blood pressure . Less blood to the brain = numbing. I have a vascular condition now, but can remember this response to surviving stress all my life. I even felt dizzy and nauseated some of the time. It's a thing I've come to expect, almost as a gift from God, so that the over-dose of pain can be dealt with at a better time. We have similar natural physical responses, like hearts racing when we sense danger, so we can have enough adrenaline to survive. But sometimes these things feel really too strong and for a reason. I don't know if it will help you or not, but I have found that highly bioavailable methylated B vitamins have really helped me cope with stressful situations and lessen the strength of these physical responses. There are a lot of things that can contribute to this affect: hormone balance, hidden food sensitivities, detox needs ( such as a form of genetic things like MTHFR ), etc. I think any physical stress issues and other needs stemming from them must be fairly common for those of us raised in N atmospheres. We can get depleted so fast and need a lot of self-care.
I'm so Happy you have made the right choice to limit your time with your N! I pray to be in your position someday and that we might also be enabled to go no-contact. It seems impossible, but nothing is impossible with our God. Keep on healing and loving and being the precious person you are. Bless you! ❤
Thank you Unforsaken for your understanding. Knowing I am not alone helps. It really does take a physical toll.
This morning I awoke with my usual pattern of thanking God for five things (a counting ritual I need to motivate me to get out of bed “by the count of five”). This time my mind focused on five things about God the last of which was His love and the idea that the greatest form of love on earth is Christ’s living inside us. His dieing on the cross for our sins so that we who believe in Him would no longer be separated from God by those sins, then God taking up residence in our hearts with the 24/7 Presence of His Holy Spirit I now see as the highest communication of love. It’s not a hug from a trustworthy man on a beach at sunset…but something that came at a great price from Jesus. That’s why Paul didn’t write in the Bible that being in a bliss-filled marriage was better. Instead, he wrote in 1 Cor. 7,8 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.” This makes me think I can be in a strained marriage to a covert narcissist for the sake of finishing homeschooling my children and not grieve as one missing out since, with God, I do have the highest form of love within me which I can build on and can never be taken away. Romans 8:38,39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I thought long and hard about my original definition for feeling loved (wrapped in the arms of a man I trust) which made me realize I’d described the first form of affection from a parent, that of being cuddled and fed (nurtured). That is special but infantile as love is much more than a hug. It likely remained in my mind as something I’ve missed because when I was born my Dad’s mother visited and told my parents not to comfort me when I cried but leave me alone in my crib so I wouldn’t be spoiled. That was my Introduction to Humans 101… My mom said she obeyed till Grandma left…I guess that’s how my Dad was raised and likely connects to his narcissism and disconnect with people. My parents were more scary than safe and cuddly.
I am grateful God has replaced my misconception with God’s truth, a rock foundation, which I look forward to building upon.
Hello Gratefully Yours,
I appreciate the depth from which you write. I commend you for your “ritual” of gratefulness upon starting your day. I relate to your situation as I too was married to a very covert narcissist while homeschooling my four children for many years. I wanted so desperately to finish well, as I believed that what I was instilling in them was so valuable. However, my husbands behavior was extremely destructive to all of us. Our minds and emotional wellbeing were being damaged daily. I could no longer buffer them from his blame, gas lighting and continual double binds. I had to give up the one thing I felt was enriching for them in order to get out, a year and a half ago. I did not have a husband although I was married, I longed for that warmth for over two decades, and clung to “my grace is sufficient”. The promise of His grace was sufficient for me and is for you as well. However, In my situation, I saw what his abuse was doing to my kids and I began to feel like an accomplice. He was distorting their world in such a way that it was violating my conscience to continue to give him access to them. I also realized the enormous amount of energy I expended just holding everyone together, peace “faking”, and mitigating damage. With covert’s, it is so very isolating and lonely, because the world on the outside only sees the mask. I don’t want to make assumptions about your situation, hopefully it is not as mine was. I sincerely hope you can finish homeschooling your precious children. I also hope you will find refuge and peace within or without of your marriage. Take care of yourself, hold tight to the Word (psalms of David, I & II Peter), find support from people you can trust. Know you are not alone.
This was beautiful. Thank you.
Excellent post, one of your very best! It goes right down to the heart of the matter. Thank you!!!
This explains a lot! Wish I could write more, but feeling very muddled these days. Please pray for me.
You just confirm so much today. Right when I was thinking of doing bad. I get your blog email. The comments I read here today are so heart felt. Praying for you all. Pray for me and my struggles.