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!