Take out the Trash

It’s Narcissist Friday!     

(I am traveling again.  This post fits with the series For My Grandchildren and, I hope, will encourage you.)

I have said many times here that you should not tell the narcissist your secrets. Your dreams, your regrets, your fears—these are things the narcissist will use against you. So don’t tell him/her. The problem is that you usually don’t know someone is a narcissist until after you have exposed yourself. They are deceptive and persistent. They know how to ask questions and apply pressures and gather information. They work to get these things out of you long before they show you who they really are.

The best way to protect yourself is to do some regular housekeeping. Last week we talked about protecting your treasures. Don’t put your dreams and hopes out there for people to play with. They are yours, and they are special. Put them somewhere you can see them often, but others can’t get them. Hopes and dreams and special loves are treasures to be kept.

But fears and regrets are something else. Why are you storing them at all? Most of us store stuff that should be thrown out. We keep reminders of our failures, souvenirs of our pain, and things that make us afraid. Why? Partly because we don’t want to risk others finding them, I suppose. So we tuck them away, hide them, and use our time and energy to keep them away from others.

Believe me, the narcissists will find them. The only way for the narcissist not to find your regrets and fears is for you not to have them at all. If there is nothing there to find, the narcissist can’t use it against you.

Okay, I know. We all have fears and regrets. We do. My dad used to say that the person who said he didn’t have any regrets probably lied about other things as well. We all have fears. But these are things for us to overcome, not treasures to be kept in our hearts.

As you rebuild after the narcissist, or to protect yourself against the narcissist, you need to take out the trash. The trash consists of things that had a value once, but no more. Think of them this way: your fears show you the areas of your life where you feel vulnerable. They had a purpose. But when you deal with those areas, find ways to become strong and not feel vulnerable, then those fears no longer have value.

For example: What if you fear handling money? Take some basic accounting classes. Read some budget books. Learn some basic math. Take small steps until you feel more confident. Once you realize that you can handle money better than most people, you no longer have to be afraid.

Regrets are the sore spots that remain after we do foolish or wrong things. If you tried to jump over the chair and missed, you might have a bruise on your shin to remind you not to do that again. That’s the purpose of a regret. Just as you do not need a continuing bruise to help you remember not to try to jump over the chair, you do not need continuing regret to remind you of stupid things you did. Learn and move on. We all do dumb things, the advertisement says. No sense in keeping the pain around.

If you teach your children to learn from their mistakes and then move on, if you teach them to face their fears and grow in the areas of their vulnerability, then you prepare them for a life mostly protected from the narcissist. The normal manipulative tools of the narcissist (shame, intimidation, etc.) simply won’t have any effect on them. No one can do this perfectly, of course, but why not give them the best chance you can?

And why not do the same for yourself? Look your fears straight on and find ways to overcome them. Learn the lessons your regrets came from and stop holding them close to your heart. When you do this, the narcissist has so much less to use on you. Yes, narcissists are persistent and ruthless, but there is no reason to give them the tools they need.

Now, anyone can do this, but Christians have divine help. Our God stands strong against the things we fear. Our Lord affirms us when we fail and does not require us to hold onto our regrets. We know that we are loved and forgiven and accepted. Even when we sin, He still loves us. So we learn our lessons and move on with our lives. We face our fears with the confidence of someone well-protected.

I know that a few words in a blog post can make these things sound easy. I don’t want to suggest that they are easy. But I do want to assert that they are true. Regrets and fears are not things to hold in the safe place of your heart. Instead, find the ways to overcome them. Then throw them out with the trash.


Filed under Narcissism

9 responses to “Take out the Trash

  1. The One

    This is good. Thank you!

  2. 20:20

    I even keep current health issues private especially from my N mom. It was a hard lesson to learn, as even in your fifties, a natural response to not feeling good is reaching out to mom.

    My mom achieves some sense of satisfaction and empowerment when I am ill. She always makes me feel worse. She goes so far as to treat me like I am dying, and tells me I will find health after I die, and that I am just like my father with all his health issues. He died ten years ago. She has already bought her headstone, put my name on it and bought the plot next to hers assuming I want it. I don’t. I have told her.

    I know there are other personality disorders she has aside from narcissism. But I have to be very diligent about not sharing anything with her, and this act or non-action hurts. I have gone no contact several times in my life. But because she is my mom it never lasts that long. The longest time is two years.

    Right now she has health issues, is facing her own mortality, and I feel bad for her. I try to make sure she knows I love her. I am very sweet to her when she calls. But I stay away from her. Even if she doesn’t mean to hurt me, she does. I can’t keep setting myself on fire to keep her warm. I have been spiritually disfigured by the scars from the wounds she has inflicted.

    I have accepted the fact I did not grow up with a mom, that I grew up being the mom. I know, despite small glimpses of the mom I always wanted and deserved, that she is seriously incapable of demonstrating or feeling maternal love. She has been abusive, neglectful, a thief, a rival, and monstrous. I know she wants to watch me die. If not before her with her and she wants to drag me into her grave with her if she dies first. It’s frightening and sad. But that’s the way she is.

    So yes, protect your treasures and take out the trash. Identify lies and call them out, call the liars out by name. Your very health and life depends upon it.

    • Gratefully Yours

      Initially when I read Dave’s “Take Out the Trash” article I imagined my covert narcissist who is so indifferent this subject doesn’t effect us, except to say he’ll ask what I need and when I tell him he uses the information to ensure he doesn’t provide for the need…I recognize that and don’t share needs. But after reading 20:20’s comments I had to go back and re-read the whole article in light of my mother as now I totally related! It was really comforting to read about something I’ve lived my whole life but never read about, and that is the urgent need to limit details about my life with my narcissist mother as any information about me can and will be used against me. I don’t dare say anyone is sick or she’ll jump all over that with accusations of not taking proper care of oneself, then there’s the advice and more wondering why someone would have a non-life threatening cold! Funny thing, mom was over for a rare visit and since I’d been too busy to dye my hair she went after that: “you have gray hair!” I was prepared for that and told her “Did you really expect a child of God to get away with no gray hair at 57?” She replied in shock, “You’re 57?!!!” Most days with a narcissist you just can’t win!

  3. deborah lawson

    I’m so sorry you had to grow up this way and still dealing with it. I’m praying for you.

  4. Gratefully Yours

    Dave, I appreciate your writing and thinking of us. Last weekend I had an amazing insight about narcissism that really hit home. It’s been a month since my husband calmly shared he felt divorce was the only answer to our relationship once the girls finish homeschool H.S. next year. I’m fine with that news, the logistics are a little foggy so I’ve been a little dazed but I’m doing well and receiving more outside support from safe people.

    So Saturday I cried out to God to tell me something I needed to know (which I now see as a pretty good prayer to pray!) and God delivered big time Sunday morning. Some history first: It’s typically said on a list about narcissistic traits that they are “above the law”. That never hit me too profoundly outside of having seen aberrations of the law of etiquette socially and in business and I’ve seen bypassing of traffic laws. Well God drove that thought home when He clarified my narcissist was “above GOD’s law” which perfectly makes sense of His unchristian “Christianity”: why I don’t see Jesus in His heart, nor empathy or improvements in behavior, etc.

    I had a second revelation that while my husband is a law unto himself above having to follow God’s laws, he also expects me to follow God’s laws AND live “above God’s law” in that he expects more of me than even God does! What a concept! I now see this Pharisaical trait because anytime I react with the slightest stressed tone when I am treated wrongly, my husband switches the conversation to be one of blame and how wrong my “intensity” or “tone” is. It really hit home when I realized Jesus never sinned and He likely used tone and intensity to drive home a few thoughts: addressing the money changers in the temple and Matthew 17:17 “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” There are times when some Godly intensity and tone used appropriately are indicators to pay attention!

    For so many years I have prayed God would take away the angst I feel when treated badly so I could share my hurts without stress in my voice as required by my narcissist husband. Now I see why this prayer was never answered as it was above God’s law. God gave emotions to us because we needed them. They are outward indicators of what’s going on inside. Yes, like anything else in life, emotions can be used sinfully, but when used in line with the truth of the Holy Spirit they are a tool of righteousness and grace to the one who would listen.

    • CJ

      I also wanted to add that I found out I was “missionary dating”…. (there’s a name for it!)…trying to”save” my ex boyfriend narcissist and bring him close to God. You’re totally right, they do use your vulnerabilities and even your overcoming power to twist it around and leave you scratching your head! No one saves but Jesus! Once I got that through my thick skull I felt light and unburdened. My narc was emotionally abusive and then it progressed physically. He has anger, raging anger, and even admits it but sees it as other’s problem if anyone dare push his buttons. Well, he has TONS OF BUTTONS! Like all narcs do. You are damned if ta do and damned if ya don’t. He has pride and ego and will not surrender to God! We didn’t stand a chance since I’m a seasoned Christian and he was uncomfortable with my disciplined life, by choice. He said I had a way of making him feel like sh*t, but I replied it wasn’t me who was making him have that feeling, but rather the Holy Spirit convicting him. He doesn’t apologize or admit fault. God is clear about “do not associate with one quick to anger, lest you become like them”.

      • Gratefully Yours

        Awesome insights, CJ! What a thought, that narcissists marry the best then resent them because we’re a constant reminder that THEY don’t measure up! So instead of raising the bar on their own behavior, they have to raise our standards so impossibly high we can’t meet them, and that justifies their disgust…all the while never looking at themselves and how far from perfect they are. If they would just humble themselves and look to their Heavenly Father for help, He would reside in them and raise them up.

  5. CJ

    Boy is this spot on! I’m left feeling devoid and empty after my narcissist and I split up. I cling to my Heavenly Father who has and is showing me a direction I didn’t think I’d be taking, but it’s proving to be best for me!

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