It’s Narcissist Friday!
From time to time something happens to remind me of struggles of the past. It might just be a memory, or it might be another interaction with one of the narcissists who have caused pain. In those times, it is normal for some of the old feelings to come back. And, I have to admit, some of those old feelings aren’t very nice.
Dealing with narcissists and abusers means dealing with our own feelings. My last post prompted some introspection among commenters. Some mentioned their own feelings, particularly of anger. Some knew their anger was justified, but it still felt wrong. Along the way many have been taught that anger is bad, always. So, even when the anger was prompted by the abuse of the narcissist, it still seemed wrong.
I have written on anger before (here). Those who have read over the years know that I believe anger is a natural and, sometimes, good emotion. It has its purpose. It isn’t a good place to live, but it may be very helpful in moving to a new place.
What I want to write on today is this idea that we should somehow be able to control our feelings. When dealing with the cruelty that comes from others, we all find it very hard to control our feelings. The “don’t worry-be happy” message is not only useless, but cruel in itself. Sometimes we want to scream: “Don’t you think I would be happy if I could?”
When we receive an injury, our response to the pain is involuntary. We flinch. We jump. We grimace. We cry. We might even strike out. These physical responses are normal. To not have them would be strange. Watch a child who falls or hurts himself somehow. Often the first response is confusion. The mind doesn’t register the pain as quickly as it registers the fact that something happened, something unpleasant. It may take a moment or two for the crying to start.
So when we receive an emotional injury, why would we think that our responses suddenly become voluntary? You would not tell a child to stop making a fuss about a real injury. So why do people think they can tell us not to feel a certain way about the emotional and spiritual injuries we suffer from narcissists? Or why do we think we can suddenly control the feelings we have in response to those injuries?
Yes, I know that we are adults and can handle pain. Right. We can learn better responses for chronic pain. We can learn techniques that take our minds off the pain or even minimize the pain as we learn to expect its coming. But when that pain taps into deep personal insecurities or memories of former pains, and when that pain comes unexpectedly or in an overwhelming way, and when that pain comes from someone we have come to trust or even to love—then all the techniques and learning go out the window. Then we become confused, more insecure, very sad, and even angry.
Is anger wrong? That question is wrong! Anger just is, sometimes. Sometimes I am afraid. Sometimes I am lonely. Sometimes I am confused. Sometimes I am hurt. Sometimes I am sad. And, yes, sometimes I am angry. I want to handle all of these, and I usually can, but I can’t beat myself up for feeling them. They are natural. They point to something I should be aware of.
I also wrote about the validity and usefulness of our feelings in another post (here). It prompted a question that has come up often when I want to validate the struggles and negative feelings of victims. “But what about the feelings of the narcissist?” I really wish we could not worry about that. I know that narcissists use their “feelings” to manipulate the people around them and demand attention by their emotions. That’s not what most victims do. Most victims are troubled by their feelings. They wish they didn’t have some of their negative feelings. So that’s the direction of my writing today.
One more thing. Narcissists usually will not own their negative feelings. They project those feelings onto others. So strong is their ability to project, particularly to the people closest to them, that they are able to pass on those emotions to their victims. In other words, are you not usually an angry person? Could it be that your anger actually is a projection from the angry narcissist in your life? Is your loneliness or shame or fear your own, or does it belong to the abuser? Many have said that they were strong and secure and confident before they met the narcissist. Perhaps what you feel now is not really yours.
So how do you deal with feelings? Well, it doesn’t really matter if they are projections from the narcissist, because you can’t unfeel them easily either way. Instead, embrace those feelings. Acknowledge them and thank the Lord for them. Ask Him to lead you into them, to explore why you are feeling that way. He will begin to show you why you are angry or sad or lonely. Then trust Him to stand with you, even in those negative feelings. He will help you sort them out and find the way to health and peace.
I have always been impressed with the way the Bible accepts our feelings. Read the Psalms. David is angry, hurt, lonely, confused, ashamed, even bitter. God loves him through all of it.
He loves you through all of your feelings, too.