Tag Archives: emotions

My Anger

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.


Filed under Narcissism

I am Content

Words of Grace  


Over the past several weeks I have shared words of affirmation that proclaim what the Bible says about you and me, even though we often forget or don’t understand these truths. I want to push a little beyond that in these posts to address the emotions and feelings we are supposed to enjoy, even while we struggle with them.  Last week I wrote about being confident even though we don’t feel confident. I mentioned the disconnect between our reality and our emotions.

When the Lord tells us to move in confidence, but we don’t feel confident, what is happening? The flesh is speaking up against the move of the Spirit. The old ways we learned to live apart from the Lord assert themselves against the reality the Spirit has created in our lives. Some people think this is two natures battling within them, but it is simply our emotions slipping into the default mode of what we have lived for so long.

Here’s another one: be content, the Spirit says. You know the verse. Hebrews 13:5, “be content with such things as you have.” Easier said than done, right?

When the Spirit calls me to a certain emotion or attitude, He is not telling me to create that attitude in my heart. He is telling me to live according to the attitude which is already present in my heart. Being content is already a part of me because I am in Christ and Christ is in me. I have all I need in Him. I need nothing more than Him. The Spirit is simply calling me to live in the satisfaction and contentment that are already mine.

The flesh, on the other hand, is never really content. It needs affirmation and never finds real satisfaction. Have you noticed how the things of this world never satisfy? You need a new car, you think. You become so discontent with your old one. More and more your flesh longs for a new one. Then, when you get it, your flesh begins to need something else. It never gets enough.

Understand that the flesh is simply the old way of thinking. It is not you. The flesh is fading away as you learn to walk in the Spirit. But there are many things to unlearn, and a process of transformation that will take some time. The Scripture refers to this process (Romans 12:2, 2 Cor 3:18). It is simply learning to walk according to the Spirit now that we no longer walk according to the flesh (Romans 8).

So you—the you that Jesus knows, the you that will live eternally, the you that is real and complete and right—you are content. There is no other you. But you don’t fully know yourself yet. You are being transformed in your thinking so that you are beginning to conform, in your thinking, to the reality Jesus has given you.

Wow! If that makes sense, you can see how freeing it is. We are becoming who we are. So you and I can say:


I am content.

Jesus is enough for me.

He is the source of all blessing and good in my life.

Jesus is with me always.

I am content.


Filed under Words of Grace

Anger is your friend

. . . but it can wear out its welcome!

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

Let’s just admit that the Bible seems to send a conflicting message about anger.  On one hand, we are told to avoid anger and get it out of our lives.  On the other, we are told about the anger of God.  I know that some people say only God has the right to be angry, but I think that misses the point.  Anger might be a generally negative emotion, but I think our emotions reflect the way God made us.

There are many passages that speak of the anger of God against the cruelty of people.  When Jesus saw the unkind hearts of the people around Him, He got angry (Mark 3:5).  When God gets angry, something happens.  The status quo is changed.  And, if God can get angry, then good people can get angry.  There is something good in anger.

Anger is a natural response against injustice and abuse.  We might go so far as to say that it is a right response.  It moves us to action.  We used to refer to “righteous indignation.”  Anger has moved some people to get up and rescue those who are being abused.  Anger has moved some to work hard on changing laws and practices.  Anger has moved some to make serious changes in themselves.  Anger gets things moving.

Think of anger as a large and vicious dog that you keep in your house to protect your family.  You know that the dog is powerful and ruthless and deserves respect.  Yet, you keep it around anyway.  Why?  Because there is danger in your neighborhood and you need something strong and ferocious in your house.

Now, you can’t just let a dog like that run around the neighborhood terrorizing people.  Nor should you let go of your caution when it is around your kids.  The dog could get out of hand and become dangerous.  But when the burglars or those who would harm your family come to your house, that dog could save their lives.  He would be more alert, more aggressive, and a lot more formidable than you would be.  You want the bad guys to be afraid.

Some people would say that they would never risk having a dog like that.  I understand.  There are risks, but sometimes the risk is worth taking.

There are times in life when anger is your friend.  In dealing with narcissism, anger is natural, perhaps even right.  Narcissists can be so cruel.  Without anger, some people would not have the strength to separate themselves from a narcissist.  Without anger, the narcissist may continue his/her abuse unhindered.  Without anger, no one else may ever hear of the manipulations and lies.

Anger may be the one tool in your chest that gives you the strength to get out or to say no.  I remember reading, very early in my study of narcissism, Vaknin’s comment that the most common response felt by those who realize they have been victims of narcissism is rage.  Rage that stirs them to speaking loudly and acting harshly.  Rage that makes a fist.  Rage that finally moves the victim to pack up and move out.

But listen: you can’t live there.  Rage drains your spirit and body of energy.  Anger may be useful, but it cannot be sustained without great cost.  Nor is it necessary.  You don’t want your anger to become a dangerous part of your life.  Like the big dog, anger can hurt your relationships and can hurt you.  And anger can move you to do stupid things.  Use wisdom and caution when you allow yourself to be angry.

So the Bible says that anger should be put away, not be allowed to stay for long.  Even God’s anger lasts only a moment (Psalm 30:5).  We must learn to control our anger, to be slow to anger.  Otherwise, it is dangerous for us and others.

I know that most of us have been taught to hold in our anger or to deny it and call it wrong.  The truth is that the big dog already lives with you.  You can ignore it until it gets loose and causes problems, or you can accept its presence and understand its purpose.

My point in this post is not so much to change your thinking about anger, but to give you permission to use anger to move forward with your life.  If you are the victim of a narcissist, you know that something has to change.  Even if you stay in the relationship, you must establish boundaries and find ways to regain your health.  The initial strength may come out as anger.  Don’t be afraid of it.

And, I know that narcissists are usually angry people and would read this as a way to excuse their anger.  The truth is that narcissists are what they are because of fear and anger.  They like using the big dog to scare others.  They think it makes them look strong and it moves others to do what they want.  They don’t care about relationships.

But you are not like them.  Your anger has a purpose and a place.  Your anger does not control you.  It is simply a tool for you to use and then set aside.  You control it.  Let it come out when you need it, then take it to the back yard when you don’t.

There is a risk for me to write this.  I really don’t want readers to misunderstand.  Anger is not bad, but anger is dangerous.  It will consume you if you do not control it.  Once your anger has done its work then you can choose not to live there.  You do not have to use anger to maintain your boundaries or distance.  Anger can be unpredictable and can flare out of control.  We can hurt a lot of people with our anger.  So be careful.  But don’t abandon something God gave you for strength.

What about trusting the Lord and prayer?  These are still most important, of course.  Give all things over to the Lord and trust Him to lead you.  Maybe you won’t need anger.  Maybe you will do the right thing with peace of heart and ease.  Maybe you will look at your narcissistic relationship and act in wisdom and freedom in the right way.  But, if you have become confused or intimidated in the relationship, the Lord might just allow you to get angry enough to do something.


Filed under Narcissism, Relationship

God’s Input

Grace 101


It appears to me that the Lord gave us two important venues for input, the head and the heart.  They are different, but both are important.  Some would use the terms, mind and spirit.  What I mean is that there are things God wants us to know that are absorbed through reasoning or understanding and there are things He wants us to know through feeling or intuition.

Because of our different backgrounds and demeanors, we often lean toward one or the other of these two ways of learning spiritual truth.  Some people seemed geared toward gathering information for the mind.  They read and study and discuss.  Others seemed geared toward emotions and sensations.  They try to feel whether something is true or good.  And, even though both of these are affirmed by Scripture, one group believes its way is the only right way, while the other looks down on those who learn differently.

For example, God gave us the Bible to teach us important things and to encourage us in our walk.  He also sent the Spirit to speak into our hearts.  They are not the same, but they are both important.  Unfortunately, some groups completely dismiss anything to do with the Spirit, or relegate the Spirit’s influence to something mysterious and dangerous.  For them, it is the Bible only.

Other groups almost forget that there is a Bible.  I am hearing more people say that the Bible is dull and has some difficult things and we don’t need it because we have the Spirit.  For them it is the Spirit only.

But we forget that there are many spirits and some desire to deceive us.  How is the heart able to choose which voice it welcomes?  That’s one of the important functions of the Bible’s message to the mind.  And the Bible becomes either a confusing mess or a tool for abuse in the hands of those not guided by the Spirit.

Here’s what I mean.  The Bible is truly a love letter from God to us.  It tells us how He designed us, what dangers confront us, and how to find our help in Him.  It shows us examples and illustrations of what God wants us to know.  But apart from the heart ministry of the Spirit, we find it very hard to see the love of God in the Bible.  Love is communicated to the heart.  If we push away the work of the Spirit, we will see only the judgment and anger of God when we read.

Sadly, that’s how the evil one has compromised the Scriptures in the lives of so many of God’s people.  Because the Bible was misused and the love of God was missing, they learned to see it as something negative.  It brought condemnation and fear and guilt and all kinds of what my kids used to call “bad thinks.”  So these folks try to live on what the Lord speaks into their hearts.

But then they have another problem.  How do they know whose voice they are hearing in their hearts?  The evil one whispers his lies.  Their own flesh provides its version of wisdom.  How can they discern the voice of the Lord?  Well, apart from the wisdom of the Bible, it is very difficult.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  If I had to choose one of the two, I would always choose to be led by the Spirit.  Always.  Give me the personal relationship, the One I can talk with and listen for.  But I don’t have to choose.  I can listen to the Spirit and read the Scripture and each helps me see the truth and learn the wisdom of the other.  My faith grows through my mind and my heart.

Just because the evil one has misused the Scripture by twisting it in the hands of those who will not listen to the Spirit does not mean that the Scripture is bad for us.  God meant it for our good.  His love is seen throughout the text.  The problem is in the grid some use to present it and the grid in which we learned to see it.  I have written several posts on this idea of the grid and you can find them beginning here.

Read the Bible, but pray first.  Ask the Spirit to show you the love of God.  Ask Him to push aside the old legalism, the source of shame and fear.  Ask the Spirit to lead you into the truth you need.  You will be surprised at the wonders you find.


Filed under Grace 101, heart, Legalism, Relationship


Legalistic indoctrination begins early.  I remember a little song that said something like this:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.  Since Jesus Christ came in and took away my sin, I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time. 

So, little boy or little girl, you see that those who are not happy all the time might not have Jesus in their hearts and might still be living in sin.

I think those who say they are happy all the time most likely lie about other things also.  Let’s face it: there are happy times and not-so-happy times.  There are days or hours or minutes when we just have trouble feeling happy.  Why lie about it?  Why deny what is really happening in our hearts?

Show me one person in the Bible who is happy all the time.  Not Adam.  Not Moses.  Not David.  And, no, not Jesus.

There is a difference between true Christian joy and temporal happiness.  In my heart is joy.  No matter what is happening around me, I know that I am loved and accepted and that my future is good in Jesus.  I know this and I can usually find it in challenging times.  Joy is real and is part of who I am.

But happiness is in the moment.  Happiness is where the things of the world connect positively with the desires of my flesh.  Everyone has flesh to deal with.  Everyone has to learn a new way of thinking.  Everyone who is saved is being transformed.  Our salvation is finished because He did it but it will take the rest of our lives to learn just what that really means for us.  In the meantime, the flesh will still cause us to react in ways that seem negative.  We will, occasionally (perhaps less and less), be unhappy.

And that’s just as true for the grace teacher as for the legalist and for the person who has no idea where he stands.  There is a way out of unhappiness, but it sure is easy to get into.

What do you think?


Filed under heart, Legalism

Why Do I Feel This Way?

Feelings are the place where our flesh meets the world.  As we grew up, we learned to like certain things and hate certain things.  Certain things made us afraid and other things made us sad and still other things made us angry enough to fight.  We learned these responses from the intricate web of connections and stimuli in what we experienced in the world.  Some feelings connected to other feelings and all of them were interpreted as how we saw life.  And sometimes our feelings caused us problems.

For example, you meet someone in a group and you find that you like that person.  Why?  Just a feeling, you say.  But that feeling may come from the fact that something about this person reminds you of someone else you like or liked at one time.  Or someone who was kind to you.  Or someone associated with a good, if vague, memory.  Or perhaps the person you meet says something that you like, something that connects with other positive feelings.  Or perhaps what the person is wearing reminds you of someone or something good.  The connections feelings come out of are complicated.

But there are reasons for your feelings.  I used to know someone who was very much prejudiced against anyone whose skin was darker than her own.  Her prejudice was not reasonable because it came from very early fear.  She grew up in a situation where certain segments of the population represented danger to her and her family.  Those dangerous people, of course, had dark skin.  For much of the rest of her life, she could not trust dark-skinned people and disliked being around them.

Sometimes feelings are based on wrong information, wrong data imprinted on your flesh.  But those feelings are still yours and are still part of how you think.  And sometimes the associations are strong enough to overcome reason.  Even if you don’t want to feel a certain way, you still do.  Even if you believe your feelings are wrong responses, they still come from a place deep inside.

The flesh, as I have written before, is the way we learned to deal with life.  The flesh is filled with strange connections and feelings.  We react certain ways to certain things because that’s what has been programmed into our flesh.  A radical transformation is usually required for our feelings to change.

So, for one person to tell another not to feel a certain way is not only narcissistic, it is totally unreasonable.  Most of us would love to be able to simply turn certain feelings on or off, but the connections that created our feelings can’t be ignored or twisted by a simple decision.  We have to learn new information, form new connections, begin to think new thoughts.  That takes time and support.

Consider the ramifications of this.  Is it any wonder that we continue to struggle with certain behaviors after we come to Jesus?  Is it a surprise that Christians interact with each other in hurtful ways—based on feelings?  Coming to Jesus brings salvation.  Walking with Jesus through life teaches us a new way to think and brings us new feelings.

Read this article and meet me back here.  I will be interested to see what you think and, of course, I will share my thoughts.

1 Comment

Filed under Freedom, Legalism, Narcissism

Fake feelings are not my feelings

At one point in my ministry I worked with a sizeable group of people who were being led by a legalist teacher.  He had rules and standards for almost everything in life.  It’s hard to imagine the level of influence these teachers can achieve in the lives of their people.  Somehow the system designed by the teacher accounted for almost every facet of life: including intimate relations between husband and wife, daily diet and health, and personal dress and grooming.

It is one thing, however, to conform in action to what an authority dictates and it is quite another to agree that the action is good.  For example, the women were told to wear skirts all the time, that slacks were for men.  While the women conformed, at least in public, many of them felt the rule was arbitrary and silly.  Their feelings did not conform to the system.  So what do you suppose they did?  Of course, they wore pants, even jeans, whenever they could and not get caught.  The same inconsistency was in the keeping of many other rules.

I began to see some of these people in counseling relationships.  They suffered from a great deal of stress.  In order to maintain their feelings and opinions as valid, they had to compromise and deceive.  They worried about getting caught and branded as rebels or failures.  They felt anger when they thought about the rules with which they didn’t agree.  Then they felt guilty for being angry because the teacher said that anger was evil and came out of sin.  Whichever way they turned, they were failures and traitors, either to the system that demanded conformity or to their own hearts that desired to be free.  They chastised themselves for keeping the rules and for breaking them.

Legalism usually tries to establish a culture around its people to reinforce teachings and reveal wrong thinking.  Outsiders are seen as dangerous and evil.  Only those who conform truly belong and belonging is everything.  If a person should become strong enough to leave the group, there is often nowhere to go.  Feelings that do not conform could be very costly.  So “friends” come alongside to tell others how to think.  “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way,” they say.

But what I feel is as close to me as I know how to get.  I could be wrong about things.  I may have wrong feelings, ones that should be adjusted by better thinking, but I have to make those changes myself.  If I do not, if I simply submit to the group or the system, I will begin to lose myself.  Fake feelings are not my feelings.  If I give up and reject my feelings so I will fit in, then not even I will be able to recognize myself.


Your thoughts?


Filed under Legalism, Narcissism