It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Monday, January 23, 2017

“Get over it!”

Narcissists are slippery fish. Just when you have screwed up the courage to confront her on some really hurtful thing she did to you in the past, just when you have pointed out to her how hurt you feel over some behaviour or another of hers, just as you have become clear on the fact that you aren’t crazy and she is doing things to hurt you, she turns the tables on you and suddenly she is your victim and you are in the wrong. “Get over it!” she screams at you, “you are holding a grudge! That happened ages ago! What is wrong with you? You are living in the past! Let it go!”

Flying monkeys and even ordinarily-sympathetic friends can be guilty of the same thing. My children were stolen from me by my MNM and hidden from me for eight years—and I was told by a family member to “get over it” when I wept about the loss of my children and my pain at not even knowing if they were dead or alive. “Get over it,” this person said. “Get on with your life.”  

How do you “get over” something like that? How do you just “get over” a lifetime of being found inadequate, not good enough, last in line, ignored or enmeshed, and disrespected?

Just what does a narcissist or flying monkey mean when they tell you to “get over it”? We humans are a resilient bunch, recovering from all manner of hurts, given sufficient time and support. But such recovery requires a grieving and mourning process which can take some time. The one thing true recovery does not include is normalizing that which hurt us, making it “ok” that it happened. Processing a profound hurt requires truth and clarity and, ultimately, acceptance that it happened and that our lives can go on in spite of the loss.

But this normal process of grief and acceptance is not what the narcissist wants from you when you are told to “get over it.” What the narcissist means is for you to forget or, if you must remember, make it ok. What the narcissist wants is for anything and everything s/he does to be acceptable to you, regardless of how you are affected. Because if it isn’t accepted by you, then you are, in the narcissist’s point of view, holding him responsible for your hurt, blaming him. And in a narcissist’s world, that is verboten because it makes him the guilty party when, in his mind, he is without fault in anything.

So what happens then? Well, if you won’t “get over it,” and the narcissist is aware that you are holding her responsible for your hurt, the narcissist (who believes she is never at fault) feels victimized. You are blaming her for something that is not her fault. You chose to feel hurt by it or, it was done for your own good, or you are really the one at fault and you are shifting the blame onto her. Ergo, she is your victim because you refuse to “get over it.” And so the perpetrator dons the cloak of victimhood. And, interestingly, in a large percentage of dysfunctional families, the narcissist’s posture as victim will be believed and you, the real victim, will be rebuked and reviled for your attempts to reveal the truth.

The good news for you is that there are ways for you to “get over it,” whatever “it” may be, but they are ways that the true guilty parties and their apologists will not like.

First of all, you must acknowledge in your conscious mind that you have suffered a loss. This means stripping away all of the forms of denial that you have, often unwittingly, allowed to smooth over your previous emotional injuries. This mean not rationalizing, not justifying her behaviour, no accepting blame or guilt (but taking responsibility where it is warranted), not denying that they knew their words or actions would hurt you, and—the big one—acknowledging that they do not care if you feel hurt or injured by their words and or actions. Without acknowledging your loss, you have nothing to grieve and you will stay stuck right where you are. But when you make yourself strip off the mask your narcissists wears, when you confront the truth of whatever you believed your mother to be, when you acknowledge you were wrong and that she doesn’t love you “deep down,” her own trials and tribulations and history is not an acceptable excuse for hurting you, for ignoring you and your needs, and/or smothering you with her needs—when you see her as she really is and how little love and compassion she has for you, when you acknowledge your loss of a loving, functional mother, you will be able to grieve.

Acknowledging your loss is the first step in “getting over it,” grieving your loss being the second. Consciously or not, you have had expectations of your mother for your entire life. As a small child you considered your household to be “normal” because, for you, it was the norm. But your perception of normal began to change with your exposure to other households and families: television and movie families, families in the media, families in books, even the families of your friends and acquaintances. You saw that other families were different from yours and some of them even felt good to be exposed to. You had friends whose mothers packed their lunches or who exempted them from chores because they had company (you), you had friends whose mothers, by their very gestures and tone of voice, broadcasted that they loved their children—and you recognized that this was not the way your mother acted or sounded. And you found her wanting—and then you thought it must be your fault so you felt guilty—because the mother is right and your observation of normal mothers only entrenched the notion that if you were a good child, your mother would be like those others you observed.

I can remember watching Leave it to Beaver and marvelling that the children in the program were never hit or screamed at. I went to the houses of school friends and observed mothers speaking politely to not only me, a guest, but to their own children as well. I went home and aped the behaviour of the little girls in my class, expecting my mother to respond like their mothers, but I was never able to find the right combination of words and deeds to free up the loving mother I just knew was locked inside the harridan in my home. It was my fault and if I could just figure out what I was doing wrong…

In this way the dysfunction becomes entrenched: we take responsibility for our narcissistic parents and because we believe ourselves at fault, we never realize that it is our NParents who need to change, so change never happens. And so we carry with us the pains of failed expectations, disappointed wishes, and that hollow feeling in the absence of nurturing. For these we must grieve.

Getting over the legacy of a narcissistic parent and the betrayal of their flying monkeys takes time.

“[They] always see themselves as victims, no matter how horribly they’ve treated someone else. Nothing is ever their fault—they’ve always been wronged in one way or another. To them, the problems is not their lying, cheating, stealing and abuse. The problems is that you started to notice all of those things. Why couldn’t you just remain happy with the idealization phase? How dare you betray them by standing up for yourself? Encounters with these people are like drowning in a black hole, because no matter how much they hurt you, it’ll still be your fault.” (MacKenzie)

The problem with Flying Monkeys is that they never engage the critical thinking portion of their brains, never stop to think “Let’s ask Suzie why she did this to her poor old mother.” No, rather than ask you for your side of the tale—or at least ask you for the reasons for your behaviour—Flying Monkeys take the word of your narcissist as gospel, believing them implicitly. You find yourself not only being betrayed and beaten down by your NParent, you find the parent has a Greek chorus of sycophants and supporters, all singing the same song: you are the problem. When you grow up with this, it can be very difficult to step outside of the box they built around you and your independent cognitive functions. Even when someone not engulfed in the F. O. G. points out what is obvious to them, you may well fly into defensive mode, denying everything pointed out to you and defending your NParent vehemently. It takes time for those seeds of doubt, planted by observant outsiders, movies, books, television, and even your own observations, to sprout and grow and weather the attempts to uproot them by your NP, the Flying Monkeys, and even your own emotionally conflicted self.

But when they do take root, you begin to question Life According to NParent. You begin to seek out information, looking for clarity, for explanations. You may even start your journey by seeking ways to up your game with respect to pleasing your N, ways to gain their love and esteem, ways you have obviously overlooked due to your own incompetence. And the shocks start coming as you find page after page on the web indicating that the behaviours you have so long accepted as normal are less than normal, they are actually toxic—abusive—and not your fault!

So how do you handle demands that you “get over it?” You don’t accede to them.

You remember that you have an absolute right to be hurt and angry, and you also have a right to take your own time to process the abuses that have made you hurt and angry. You remind yourself that the rights of others do not include demanding that you gloss over their misdeeds so that they can feel innocent of wrongdoing. And then you take however much time you need to process their hurts and betrayals until you can view those behaviours dispassionately, until you can think about them and talk about them without feeling like you have been stabbed in the heart—or the back…

With therapy and effort, you can truly “get over it.” But you probably won’t forget—which is a good thing. In order for you to get over it, however, you may need to stop contact with those who have hurt you so that your emotional wounds can have some peaceful time to heal before the next assault. And make no mistake, if your narcissist is the type who tells you “Get over it” after ripping your heart to shreds and stomping on it, there will be a next assault unless you go No Contact...

But that that has already been another blog entry.