It’s Narcissist Friday!

They took away normal.

Of all the things the narcissist takes, taking normal is at least one of the most grievous.

Some of you know very well what I mean. It wasn’t that the dysfunctional relationship replaced the definition of normal; it was that normal just disappeared.

When you got married, started the job, joined the church—at the beginning of the narcissistic relationship—you thought you had an idea of what normal would be. A certain amount of challenge; a certain amount of joy; added to a mixture of sadness, fear, excitement, passion, anticipation, and more. Things would be, you know, normal.

But normal never settled in.

Narcissistic relationships, like television dramas, move from crisis to crisis. Unlike the television dramas, real life crises, no matter how often they come, are not normal. By keeping things stirred up, the narcissistic boss keeps the employees in constant crisis. They wait for the next bad review, odd job requirement, or new company policy. The narcissistic mother, spouse, friend all do the same thing. We chuckle and say, “Well, never a dull moment,” but we long for a break.

And there’s the rub. We begin to think that normal would be a rest time, a vacation, a break. We think that normal is the absence of fear or sadness or trouble. We no longer know what normal could be.

So, when we get out of the narcissistic relationship, we don’t know what to do. How can you get your work done without someone yelling at you? What does a spouse want if he doesn’t make demands or threats? What kind of friend doesn’t criticize others and works to make you feel good about yourself?

The old line is that “normal is just a setting on the dryer.” We laugh, but we cry a little at the same time. We know life should not revolve around crises and threats and anxiety. We know normal is out there somewhere.

We have a lot of wrong ideas about normal. We sometimes think normal is what others have and we don’t. We think normal means perfect. We think normal could come if (insert current challenge) were removed. We think normal is Mayberry, the town where everyone lives at peace and nothing fearful ever happens. But normal isn’t defined by the outside world. Normal is inside.

You see, normal is being who you are wherever life takes you. This is why I like to teach about identity. Normal is you. Chances are pretty good that you are not a person who moves easily and joyfully from one personal crisis to the next. At the same time, remembering who you are is the key to knowing how to survive. And remembering who you are is the path to normal.

I suppose I should say that normal is healthy. As you grow more healthy, you experience more that is normal. When others are not dictating how you feel about yourself, when criticisms and comparisons no longer prescribe your actions and thoughts, that’s when health begins, and you find normal. When you discover something in yourself that you like, something you can call good, something that matters—that’s healthy and normal.

Now, many people have never experienced normal. Those who grew up in narcissistic homes, for example. A narcissistic parent can’t model normal and probably wouldn’t want to. But there’s more. Most of us grew up not knowing ourselves. When we looked in the mirror, we only saw what others judged. Our work, our plans, our hopes, our pleasures were all influenced (if not dictated) by the input of others. We grew up caring more for what others thought of us than what we thought of ourselves. In fact, we only thought of ourselves in relation to what others thought of us. That might be what almost everyone does, but that is not normal. Normal is using the mirror for self-care, rather than for self-presentation. Normal is liking the person who looks back at you. Normal is healthy.

If you have read this blog much, you know that I believe we find healthy when we begin to understand that the Lord truly loves us. When we embrace the fact that we are precious and welcome in Him, that our value comes as He reflects His love to us, and that He made us to be the persons He wanted us to be—then we are finding normal. When you and I are secure in His love for us, remembering that no one else has the right to judge us or make us feel less than we are, then we are finding health.

Jesus loves me. This I know. That is a statement of health. That is normal. If I can live in that, I can face the crazy world with peace and joy and confidence. The normal me is the victorious me. Victory over the criticisms and comparisons and even the attacks. Peace inside. Rest inside. All because Jesus loves me. That’s your normal!


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8 responses to “Normal

  1. Lorna Sparks

    This explains my whole life. Explains how after leaving NH and filing for divorce after 23 years I feel stuck. I’m SO worried ablut what others think. Even after praying and asking the Lord to show me that He still loves me and he answers through friends and Bible study I’m still doubting. And the reason I’m doubting is because after much support my pastor’s wife turned and said she doesn’t agree with my filing for divorce. And another woman I used to be friends with messaged and said she thinks I’m on the wrong path. 2 people and now I’m immobile to move forward emotionally.

    I hear myself all the time saying I wish I had a normal life. I’m so tired of not being healthy. I want so badly to understand what that looks like.

    Thank you for your blog every week!

    • Patty

      Lorna, all I can say is keep moving forward and keep praying. Unless you have lived with a narcissist person, others do not know the horror. Your life is in constant turmoil and doubt. I will be praying for you. You are making the right decision. Don’t be fooled by distractions. God is love and he will lead you.

    • JLM

      Dearest Lorna,

      I believed being faithful, loyal and strong would fix my 32-year marriage. I trusted my ex and did not realize my precarious situation. I was drinking more, sleeping less and allowing someone else to decide when and what I ate. I took uncharacteristic risks. I had transformed into someone else slowly and insidiously. I was usually the breadwinner, so I managed to keep a false facade at work. One day I read a friend’s comment on the internet and my journey to enlightenment and escape had begun.

      After a ton of research, I understood who was sharing my life. It was like putting puzzle pieces together. My life was not “normal”. My efforts to keep my marriage would eventually kill me. This was the final break for me, and I wasn’t turning back again. My attorney would not file the divorce until I secured a safe place. I made a safe exit plan. I trusted no one with my plans. Three long months playing “normal” until finding a place I could afford for an emergency exit. My ex knew nothing until I told him on the day I filed for divorce. From that point the person I knew and loved was gone and I was living in a different nightmare. Every trick was used to change my mind. Things alternated between love, hate and indifference. Threats and fear tactics. It was the most traumatic experience of my life. My heart broke.

      Despite the constant lies, denials and threats, I managed to sort, split, clean, and dispose of 32 years of accumulated belongings. I cleaned by myself and repairs were at my expense, and then sold our home for distribution in the divorce settlement. With help from a limited number of trusted people, me and my fur babies made it safely out of town. Relationships with all mutual friends and family were severed. I went dark on social media. Once I left town, not even my own son from a previous marriage knew where I lived for a while.

      I moved to my hometown and my ex was sure to inform me he knows where I live. Security cameras and good neighbors give me some comfort. Last year I went to the emergency room with heart pain. I think it was an anxiety attack. Right then I decided to let go of the debilitating fear of my animals being hurt or home damaged. I finally asked God to take care of me. From that point I started to rely on Him. I stay cautious and aware of my surroundings. I have finally begun the true journey to healing. Now I can think more objectively. I don’t cry as often, and I have released the debilitating fear.

      I must tell you this. Take care of yourself. Do not listen to those naysayers that want you to stay or try to make you feel wrong about taking care of yourself. They are not you. They do not know what you are going through. They may have been told lies that you are unbalanced or the one that is abusive. I heard all kinds of things about myself.

      Continue with your plan. Do what is right for you. Let go of the people that don’t have your best interests at heart. Trust those who really show their support and love for YOU. Make new friends. Be careful of people that will take advantage of your goodness.

      After 4 years I can attest you can survive. I am becoming normal again because I know God is taking care of me.

      God heals. God loves you. Rely on Him.

    • Savedbygrace

      Dear Lorna I imagine you were gutted when the people you looked to for support through very difficult times turned and judged you for filing for divorce- which is your means for ending the abuse and restoring the opportunity to heal and find peace and just have some ‘normal’.
      I have been out of my 35yr plus marriage for 5 years now. One of the best things I did early on was start seeing a specialist DV counsellor.
      Session 1, I remember, was so validating – he believed what I had been through , I did not have to ‘prove’ or ‘convince’ him- he also said “some people will get it and some people won’t”. I was so glad to be forewarned of that so when it came I was not so gutted.
      Your friends don’t get how “un -normal” life with a narcissist is and how abusive. Look around your friends network and spend more time with those who do. A good counsellor ( especially one who understands DV) will be a great support- in fact, I think THAT understanding is even more important than being a ‘Christian counsellor’ ( tho if they are both that is ideal). Your community may have DV support groups where you will meet and be supported by others who understand.
      In the end I had to keep reminding myself that it was what Jesus thinks of me that matters- there will always be someone to ‘judge’ and offer ‘advice’ especially within the church- after much soul searching, counselling, conversations I concluded, that my separation and subsequent divorce was God’s rescue plan for me and I was free to accept and pursue that. It was OK for me to seek ‘normal’ and ‘health’- in fact God wanted that for me and was grieved over the abuse.
      Every blessing on your journey x

  2. Batya Ahul

    Thank you 😊

  3. Sue

    Words of wisdom are so valuable!

  4. Savedbygrace

    Thanks for highlighting this aspect of narcissistic abuse Pastor Dave. For about 3 years towards the end of my marriage my brain was ‘working overtime’ trying to solve the ‘riddle’ of my marriage….it ‘should’ have improved, we had been to counselling, marriage enrichment weekends etc I had read every book under the sun on how to have a happy marriage, we discussed it.. I longed for it, did work on ‘me’ as I found areas that I could improve.
    I became a ‘detective’.. watching other people’s relationships that looked ‘happy’ and I began to see what ‘normal’ looks like in a healthy marriage. The husbands were kind to their wives – the way they spoke, the offers to help; the husbands ‘cheered their wife on’ and were their No 1 fans in her life pursuits; they were affectionate, loving ; thoughtful; they accepted differences- in fact celebrated the differences!; they gave their wives freedom of time, and space, to fulfil their own needs, wishes; they supported their wives friendships and family network; the were respectful; they did not make every little thing ‘difficult’.

    [Did you know that banks teach teller how to detect counterfeit notes by handling ‘the real thing’- so that the abnormal stands out. We need to know what a picture of health and normality looks like for relationships.
    I recommend the work of Gottman in this area if people want to read up.]

    When I saw this picture of ‘normal’ in other marriages it was then I knew something was very very wrong in my own- there was an abiding lack of ‘normal’ that needed naming.. I canvassed many options in a search to ‘diagnose’ the problem, but the only one that fitted hand in glove was that my h was very high in narcissistic traits…to the extent I would say he is character disordered- at last my life made sense, even if it was not what I wanted to find..
    a light went on and I could recognise dysfunction, brain washing and abuse…
    the road to ‘normal’ is a long one but it is worth every hard step along the is not a road to ‘perfection’ – it doesn’t have to be – just a healthy knowing of who we are – made by God: precious /unique /valuable /dearly loved/ “enough” -just as we are.

  5. SaraJane

    This is so beautifully expressed. And I needed it so very much. Thank you for letting God use you to comfort others.

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