Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dishes and Anger

Washing dishes. Soapy water induces an introspective state, and can help wash off worry, dream into the suds, flow with ideas, and work through life's puzzles. But this time, I became angry. I have been reading Lundy Bancroft's "Why Does He Do That?" and it made me angry. It made me angry to have this awareness of abuse*, to know about where I was abused* and silenced. It made me mad to learn that abuse* is a choice and rests on a deeply ingrained overblown sense of entitlement on the part of the abuser.*

I was angry for my daughters, and how in the world of men they are learning about abusers first hand, and blessedly quicker than I did. I was angry at how our culture inadvertently and sometimes deliberately supports abuse of women. I was angry at my own  confusion...about how the abusers I've had relationships with have had a "good" mask and somehow, in giving the benefit of the doubt, I wanted to believe that person was defined by their acts of good, and not their cruelty. But I came to the conclusion that cruelty and acts of relational destruction far outweigh a surprise gift, an attentive joke, a sincere conversation, or going out to eat. Those are just  ways for an abuser to avoid responsibility and to avoid having to acknowledge your humanity. I wondered why, when I'd received those gestures in the past, they made me so mad and in an "ah-ha" moment I realized it is because they were fake and their actions in no way made restitution or amends.
I was angry for my son, for most abusers are men, and an overwhelming percentage of them learn abuse from their fathers. I was angry at the prospect of a world that would allow him to abuse and have all these constructs and double standards in place to be able to blame the victim ("It's between both of them. She asked for it. She was too chatty/messy/gossipy/fat/worldly/etc. She exaggerates things. I can see why she would drive him crazy. They both contributed.Men are victims just as much as women {not statistically true, by the way}") I was reminded of the passage in Bancroft's book that told how this neutrality from onlookers is just as harmful to an abused woman as the abuse itself. Bancroft points out that people will oppose abuse in the abstract, but loyalty to family, even to family secrets and dysfunction, is strong. Denial is strong and binding, like metal link chains. And no one wants to believe a brother, son, friend, or trusted co-worker is an abuser. It is much easier to sweep it under the rug. I get it, I really do. It is very difficult to overcome these strong social forces.
And that makes me mad too. I have had trouble understanding why people would come to the side of an abuser and help him, instead of saying to the woman, "I see what he is doing to you and the kids and I don't agree with it. " Why is bad behavior so consistently excused? How can psuedo-intellectual rationalizations be swallowed as truth?

"Acknowledging his abusiveness and speaking forcefully and honestly about how he has hurt her is indispensable to her recovery. It is the abuser's perspective that she is being mean to him by speaking bluntly about what he has done." (Bancroft, p. 287)

I thought of how one of the most powerful guiding forces within an abuser is this complete drive to avoid responsibility for their actions at all costs. I thought of how, since the majority of abusers are men, and they grow up being taught to be that way in their family, and then culture often doesn't hold them to personal responsibility, what kind of messages are we giving these men about their worth? Are we telling men they don't  have the capacity to fix their mistakes? That we have to culturally coddle their fragile egos when they mess up? That we must allow the attitudes of the entitled to go completely unchecked?
It made me want to show my son he is worth WAY more than that.
I had a metaphor for the end of a marriage as a car, where my partner gets out and slashes the tires, then blames me for the car being unable to go, and so he gets out and finds another car, and bills me for the repairs of the old car that HE damaged. In Lundy Bancroft's book, he gives this metaphor of abuse:
You live in a house with a beautiful old tree in its backyard. Your neighbor complains that the tree hangs over into his back yard. You offer to prune the offensive branches but he starts insisting that you cut down the entire tree. You calmly tell him this is your property and your tree and you will cut down what hangs over into his yard, but not the whole tree. Your neighbor starts to ferment and seethe and convince himself that you are wrong. One day, when he knows you will be out of town, he triumphantly cuts down the tree...the big, old, beautiful tree that shaded your yard now lies in a heap of stumps and leaves and branches. When you return, it is obvious who cut down the tree  and you are mortified by this senseless act. Your neighbor denies it but eventually is pressed to admit it was he who cut down the tree.
In this case, it is clear that someone destroyed property and restitution must be made. The man will have to answer to his neighbors as well, for they won't trust him. The man must make restitution financially, apologize to her and their neighbors, and take steps to restore her yard. She will never get back that beautiful tree. And he will not be able to come into her yard again.
I got mad that in cases of abuse, where a man can wreak havoc on a woman emotionally, physically, financially, and mentally, he will only rarely willingly admit he has participated in relational destruction; most of the time he will point the finger back at her, and therefore, excuses himself from personal responsibility.

There is certainly a lot on my mind regarding this topic of abuse and abusers. I recommended "Why Does He Do That?"to a friend and she read it too. In the book, Bancroft mentions how when he wrote the book, he did a search and review of college courses and he could not find one course on abuse. Perhaps types of abusers and abuse dynamics are taught in other parts of college courses, or as part of training for therapists. Yet judging by how difficult it is to find therapists who understand the dynamics of emotional abuse and Cluster B personalities, I would say this isn't necessarily so. I've been blamed by a therapist for someone else's abusive behavior and learned a hard lesson that not all therapists can recognize emotional abuse and couples therapists have the capacity to do more harm than good.  Luckily, I was able to process this incident with higher-level clinicians who confirmed that the attitudes of that therapist were indeed victim blaming. In my local support group for women and men who  have endured severe emotional abuse, we speak of how difficult it is to find good therapists who can guide healing from the trauma of abuse. My friend was so impacted by this book she said every woman and man should read it, and I have to concur.

As I mentioned, my own daughters are in the dating world. One of my daughters is learning through experience how to recognize abuse. Her situation was not dangerous and she has set good boundaries for bad behavior and she will talk to me about it, openly. It is so important to listen to and validate the experiences of  our daughters, indeed, of all women.
I search my mind constantly for what to do about this problem in our culture. It seems so large and overwhelming. You know, abuse is at the root of so many troubles. So many. It isn't a case of someone doesn't like someone else. It is rarely that simple. It is that someone has deliberately harmed another. It is someone mindlessly living out the system of abuse they have been taught in their family, refusing to give up their cushy attitudes of entitlement that allow them to shirk interpersonal responsibility (and gaining supporters for their cause), or trying to lift themselves up through demeaning others. Or all of those. Either way, it is destructive.
I know for me, I have done my homework (extensively) and can name the abuse and types of abuse  that I'm dealing with. But not everyone has that context and I still encounter a lot of victim blaming and neutrality(which is another way of adopting the abuser's perspective; neutrality supports abuse). I also encounter, in much greater proportion, a lot of validation and support. I am sure some people have gotten tired of hearing about my situation, yet most have shown me the greatest love and grace. I hope to give back for what I've been given.
One day, I think we will look back on emotional and other forms of abuse and our cultural support of the entitled and see it all as barbaric.
I end with this quote from Gertrude Stein that I am currently loving and identify with:

It is funny that men who are supposed to be scientific cannot get themselves to realise the basic principle of physics, that action and reaction are equal and opposite, that when you persecute people you always rouse them to be strong and stronger.
Gertrude Stein

*When I refer to abuse, I am not just referring to battering. That is one type of abuse. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual, or physical in nature. Many women who have been physically and emotionally abused report that emotional abuse is so much more damaging because it is harder to pinpoint. 

For further reading:

Sunday, May 3, 2015


We've been camping every year for 6 years now.
Even when I was married, I camped solo with kids. Our first trip, we knew nothing, and in many ways, we still don't! But really, what is there to know? Bring extra blankets ALWAYS. There's always Miguel's pizza. Spend lots of time fire-gazing and hike when you feel like it. Explore a creek. That's about it.
When Davis was younger, we started out at a campground that became "our" campground because it had:
1. a creek
2. trails with caves
3. a bathroom with showers
4. close proximity to the skylift and Natural Bridge
Since then, we've branched out. With Davis being six now, we are setting our sights on doing some back-country camping. No fires allowed and my picky eaters will have to learn to love trail mix rather than our typical "glamping" breakfast of eggs and, this might sound funny, but gluten-free waffles fried in butter. All of this is made possible by our trusty iron skillet.
Other things we are looking to do is some bouldering. Since the Gorge really only has a couple of places to boulder, we are going to have to slowly dive into top-rope climbing. I think it can happen!
This past weekend, other than a Derby party, we chose to forego Derby events and get out of town. We found a new favorite campground which was perfect except for the noise of traffic (how does one get so far away they can't SEE a road but it is so loud it interrupts sleep? And who are all these people traveling the backroads of Kentucky at 1 am?)
Here are some random pictures of our camping trips over the years. Mostly they are Cumberland Falls and various places at the Red River Gorge. I want to say in praise of camping, being in nature like that truly heals your soul. It is a church out there, just waiting for you to be humbled in the best, most beautiful way.  (my favorite picture is the one of Davis looking over my shoulder. He is so darned cute!)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Knit a Tree House

Knit a tree house? Why not?
Materials: rope from Lowe's (not thick or slick). I used four 100-foot packages.
Two branches that are 5-6' apart
broom or piece of bamboo, or two if you prefer to use a broom to do the knitting
people and children

Start with the rope:

 To start, you will need loops on your first branch. I "cast on" using the backwards loops method. First, I tied the end around the branch, loosely, and made several knots to secure this loop to the branch. Casting on is basically wrapping the cord around the tree once, then bringing the cord back through the loop you just made.

Keep doing that until you have as many stitches as you like. We had 17 stitches.

Casting on completed!

To start knitting, make a loop, then pull it through the first loop on the branch. Put this loop on your left arm. 

Continue to make loops, taking the cord from the roll, and putting them on your left arm.

Here you see the "live" stitches on the left arm of my daughter.
To change colors, simply tie on. I leave a long tail and tie several knots in place for extra security. I'm sure you could fuse the cord together with a woodburner but we were too far from the house.

 Once you have all the stitches on your left arm, then you use your right arm to loop the cord through and turn and go the other way. We divided stitches between my daughter and me and our neighbor and used all six arms to knit. Soon, they tired of this and so I was able to put them on my arm then transfer the stitches to a broom to finish solo. Last summer, I did this in my camp and assigned each person a stitch. This was great teamwork and cooperative play, for we all had to snuggle in very close, wait our turn, laugh and giggle, and help each other keep track of the loop. I hope to chronicle a treehouse knitting like that soon. It really is great fun.
After awhile, it was long enough! I then climbed the tree, too the end and tied cord through the loops on the broom, 4-5 at a time, to secure the end to the next branch. It wasn't rocket science, just tying it on tight enough and repeating it enough to be secure. 
And now time to use the treehouse!

 Davis tried not to smile and insisted on not smiling.

 But he sure did spend a lot of happy time in his new treehouse!
The treehouse is a place my kids go to often when they want to be alone, and also when they want to be social and climb a tree. We have now attached a zipline to the tree, so the idea is that they can climb into the treehouse then jump on to the 100' zipline. I just need to get the zipline tightened and we are good to go! And that is another blog post for certain.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Well, gosh, that seems like a simple thing, doesn't it? No love, I'm outta there? Perhaps I am not so simple because I stayed in a marriage where I tried to convince my tablemate to bring some love to the table. I loyally overcompensated for what was being withheld. I did not just walk away from the table.
It's been three years since my divorce. Three years since my marriage was killed yet the anger, blame and scapegoating towards me keeps going, in court and otherwise. This means I have a chronic situation that isn't going away any time soon. Now there is even a whole group devoted to unhealthy interference and micromanagement of our lives. 
Why was this chronic situation so hard to come to grips over? Because I thought if I got healthier, set my healthy boundaries, delved into my grief, had all this knowledge, properly let go, that I would be somehow set off into the sunset of healing...and that I would have arrived somewhere. I also bought into the mistaken belief that my ex would let it go, given time. I thought his anger and need to control would abate. I was wrong.   

For a long time, I've struggled with what it means to be a victim. In my support circles, I've learned that there are many women who are still being targeted by their exes. This "you can't make me" attitude, and "I will ignore you" is, like this article  says, "is as violent and destructive as a fist fight, but so much more deniable and self-righteous."  What we are dealing with are the men who push so hard for a divorce and thoroughly discard their wife, then stay angry at her even though she was not good enough for him.  For me, I can grieve it, learn about it, watch it, document it, stand up to it, wonder about it. And I do. Yet there is more of life available to me than me being the target of someone else's unhappiness. Being a target isn't the same as being a victim. Being a target means thinking strategically; shifting to higher ground, getting out of the line of fire, and well, only focusing enough on the situation for protection while moving on with my happy life.  I have in every way chosen to have my soul and my life back and I stick to that.
Getting out has meant that I assign my own status and I am not a victim. Ever. The actions of another person toward me do not define me as victim. No matter what is thrown at me or how hard they try. Heck, I've already endured severe cruelties and crushing losses.  I've lost my home and family and husband TWICE. I've survived and even thrived through all of the ensuing darkness and painful growth and destruction of self-worth.
My therapist framed it in terms of using it to my advantage. "Huh? "I thought. "I can use this to my advantage?" Part of me didn't quite get that yet was excited and ready for the challenge. I don't always feel strong yet somehow I manage to grow and mature and keep making good in my life. I still resort to thinking like I have no choices at times. People have been in worse situations that they've used to their advantage and even then to better society. This is the shift I am making and I am ready for it. It is the next level of healing. It is embracing the health and love that is already here for me. It is accepting that the time for deep grief has passed and I have shed so much of the past. It is allowing patterns (such as seeking re-enactment of childhood wounds) to re-form and be healed. It is creating my bubble of love and acceptance and growth and giving my power over to that, not to impossible dysfunctions. It is about turning myself around so I do not become bitter and hurtful in response to the bitterness and hurtfulness of others. 
Every person who has put themselves in a perpetrator position in my life is my teacher, if only to show me how darkly their actions contrast with the light of love. I am not their victim, nor can I influence their choices. I CAN use it for my own healing, which in turn, heals a whole lot more than just me. 
For I have a line of women in my life who have been violated and demeaned by men, and even some women. It has been a cycle I have participated in through my own choice of relationships.The legacy of distorted love stops here. Healing myself, lifting my metamorphosisters up, allowing my sisters to lift me up, also heals my daughters, my grandmothers and great-grandmothers, my mother, my son, and  in the meantime busts up some karma. Control is not love. Abuse is not love. It has taken work and a fair amount of time to walk away from the loveless table, both in my inner and also my outer life.
It's time for the next phase of healing...for gratitude and strength...for forgiving myself. It's the glory of spring!
Happy Easter!

For further reading (there is always room for more education on personality disorders):

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shades of Grey

If you read a lot of articles on the internet, you will know that often there comes up an opinion about how you respond to something. Usually this is framed as an "either/or" proposition. You can either see a setback as a death, or see it as an opportunity. You can either grieve or dance, cry or laugh, choose to be happy or choose to be miserable.
I personally think that is completely messed up.
Thinking that you only have two options in any given situation is the black-and-white way to misery. It does not require you to think for yourself and allow yourself to feel the spectrum of human emotions and accept them with love.
I turn to  the wisdom of the Bible: to everything there is a season. Timing is a beautiful aspect that allows us to move with grace through all that happens.
From Ecclesiastes:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

As a divorced woman, I have heard plenty of "black and white." 
Things like "Just move on. Let go. Get past this."
The truth is, some days I have moved WAY on, and other days something brings up a sadness that must be worked through. There is not an easy black and white answer to the human heart.I came across this quote in my Behavioral Research Methods text that touches on this: "by definition, professionals on the edge of knowledge do NOT know what causes what. Scientists, however, are privileged to say so, whereas business executives, politicians, and judges, for example, sometimes make decisions in audacious ignorance while appearing certain and confident." Perhaps troubles are caused when we behave as judges and business executives with each other, rather than curious, humble scientists. 
There are always choices, and colors outside the black and white, hard and fast, rule-bound and rigid. Knowing when to pick up those colors and when to put them down, knowing when to give each color its time, requires that we have a sensitivity. Out of that intuition, we gain discernment and the ability to move through life with greater love for ourselves and compassion for others.
It is a great paradox. If you say " I choose love", and then hold yourself to such an impossible standard that you end up failing others and yourself, then you have not chosen love. You have chosen a strict moral code that is supposedly consistent with love. But choosing love often means looking outside of the black and white, right and wrong beliefs we stubbornly hold.
Living in color means accepting all the possibilities of life, and then applying your own good sense. There IS a time to grieve! There IS a time to dance! It doesn't have to be either/or. That is where your creativity resides....the playful and honest expression of what is real for you now.
Timing is important. The timing of letting your soul breathe through yet another cycle of get angry/ be sad/ let go. The timing of holding back a thought and then bringing it forth. The timing of giving support and then letting mistakes emerge. The timing of having your idea and letting it rest, then nurturing it completely.
Life is undoubtedly complicated. I think often people give advice out of their own discomfort with the suffering of another, and in essence tell them, "don't feel. you're mucking it up.". It is nurturing, however, to give the comfort of validation of their position, of their feelings, of their situation. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Raising a Narcissist

Recently there has been a rash of articles about the beginnings of narcissism. These articles point to the fact that if you overpraise a child, they will develop into self-centered narcissists. It seems obvious and simplistic, and I believe there are several things missing from these articles.
First, one must have a real sense of what narcissism really is. Yes, narcissists are entitled, and grandiose, and contradictory, and selfish, and socially awkward, but many of them are also lacking ambition, superficially generous, socially adept and manipulative, and moral. Being self-centered and entitled is not necessarily narcissism, although it is part of it. It is not necessarily so easy to spot a narcissist. They look good on the surface. They can be fun and charming. They often have a story where they are the victim and so they elicit sympathy.
The key, in my opinion, is empathy and character.
One can be self-centered and still have empathy. One can be overpraised and still feel a sense of reality in their capacities.
One can be a narcissist and think about the world around them. One can be a narcissist and still make grandiose and generous gestures in the world, making others think they have stumbled upon someone truly moral and higher.
That is the key. True narcissists will always think they are better than you, deserve more than you, take more from you than they give, and believe that they are morally superior to you. There is not just snobbery, perfectionism, and judgment of everyone else. There is an element of abuse in that a narcissist needs a scapegoat, and an audience, to keep up his masks and prevent him from taking responsibility for his actions.They need others to use and walk on.
Narcissists invest in masks. Behind every "good" mask a narcissist has a "nasty" mask that they will trot out just because it suits their whim.
Narcissists are quintessential bullies who never grow past their need to make someone else smaller so they can always be the one who is bigger, more right, more moral, more intellectual, and more capable.
To a narcissist, people are not people. They are toys, tools, or obstacles.

Outside of the DSM definition, there is the experience of being with a narcissist. The following traits are common among the narcissistic set: passive aggression, contempt, judgment, stonewalling as an abuse tactic, habit of correcting you as a way to consistently give the message that you are "wrong", can't "do" feelings, has a narrow repertoire of feelings, "heady" and intellectual, lacks empathy even when asked to demonstrate empathy, refuses to take responsibility for actions and their consequences, constantly projects, is self-deceptive, contradictory, sets double standards, extreme lack of self-awareness (or simply lack of care for how they treat other people), concerned with how they appear to others (masks), won't apologize, controlling, verbally abusive, emotionally manipulative, and often "delusional".
These behaviors come out of a sense of entitlement, extreme selfishness, and a "my way or the highway" approach to life.
Why should we care that there are narcissists, bullies, or mean people? It is my belief that to the degree we collectively tolerate this behavior, we limit our humanity and invite abuse. These behaviors are hurtful and damaging to relationships, and to our world at large. Lack of empathy is at the root of all kinds of evil.
While it is impossible to change a narcissist and if you have one in your life you are in for a healing journey you didn't expect, it is possible to be conscious in how we raise our children so they are not exploitative and uncaring.

The Flip Side
So how do you avoid raising someone who feels entitled to base their relationships on whether you are useful, entertaining, or an enemy?
How do you avoid raising a narcissist?
My belief is that it is NOT that we avoid teaching children that they are important, or even overly important. It is that we teach them HOW they are important in RELATIONSHIP to other people. 
Here are my suggestions based on my in-depth research on narcissism, personal relationship experience, 13 years' experience as a Waldorf teacher, and 23 years' experience as a mother.

1. Build Good Character
I believe it starts with building good character. Good character, at its base, is allowing words and actions to match up. Narcissists can't do that. They are Jekyll over here, Hyde over there, and have a "split" in that their picture of themselves just doesn't consistently match with their actions. They may claim to be moral, yet be habitually dishonest with others and themselves. I believe lessons in good character are learned first with modeling behaviors of good character. Just live your truth, don't cover it up with lies, take responsibility for yourself, don't judge, and teach your children to do the same.
Honesty and good character will prevent a multitude of narcissistic traits: projection, blame, criticism, scapegoating...because if you know how to care for yourself through responsibility for your own words and actions, you know how to take care of others as well. You can be trusted in a positive way because your word is backed up by your behavior.Sadly, one of the scary things about narcissists is their ability to delude themselves, and others are sucked in to their stories of victimhood because they seem to so vehemently believe they are victims. I have found myself nodding in understanding of a narcissist's sob story even though it was all about them: the friend who became jealous of a friend's new baby and stopped talking to her, the man who left his wife high and dry yet said he "had" to. When confronted on these behaviors, watch out for a narcissist's revenge. A narcissist has no self-awareness and wants none either, since that would mean taking responsibility for themselves. They cannot tolerate personal boundaries you set since those are a threat to their ego or their enmeshment.

2. Emphasize Compassion 
There are many writings on compassion, and developing compassion is sometimes a lifelong commitment. It is a worthy commitment. Narcissists don't feel compassion, not in the way you and I think of compassion. They might put on a show of kindness but cannot ultimately back it up in a meaningful way. They borrow the neighbor's lawnmower without asking and return it broken without offering to fix it. They are prone to blame, kick you when you're down, and when faced with your heartache will somehow turn the attention back on themselves. For example, after my divorce, I had a "friend" who indulged herself in opinions about my life yet refused to hear my experience, and got angry when I did not comfort her over my divorce. They will judge, disdain, and ignore your feelings, thoughts, dreams, and desires. Contempt is the opposite of compassion and narcissists are filled with contempt. It is what eventually makes you angry with them and want to run from them as fast as you can.

3. Empathy/High Tolerance for Feelings
Narcissists often cannot tolerate feelings. I have a hunch that anxiety around feelings or going deep into one's own self are one of the roots of narcissism. It keeps life very superficial indeed, and helps one avoid being close in relationships, spiritual, or self-aware. Tolerating feelings in ourselves and learning how to consciously work with them gives us a tolerance for the feelings of others, helps us develop sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Repression is not healthy or life-giving.
Don't give your kids a reason to create scapegoats in their lives. Allow them to feel what they feel without fear of judgment, and teach them how to be healthy in their expression of what they bring to the world. Give them the confidence to contribute their unique ideas, plans, dreams, and feelings. Those can be a motivating force of love and bringing good to our world. I learned a long time ago that unhealthy families adopt the unwritten rules of "don't talk, don't trust, don't feel." Being open to feelings squashes those unhealthy rules.
One cannot experience empathy if one lacks a healthy sense of feelings.Some say narcissists have selective empathy. I think it is difficult to determine if they have empathy or if they mimic empathy when it serves them.

4. System of Forgiveness
Narcissists can't forgive, nor can they seek forgiveness. They will not hesitate to correct or criticize you, in essence, taking the heat off of them and their crappy behavior. One who is perfect, morally superior, and above everyone has no need for sincere apologies.  Apologies can either be lacking, or used as tools to manipulate. They are not backed up with action. Narcissists also have a need to scapegoat.
Having a system of forgiveness in your family is anti-narcissism. It gives everyone permission to mess up and have the confidence to clean up their messes. It encourages accountability to yourself and others. The act of forgiving deep hurts, discerning when it is right to forgive and let that person out of your life, and knowing when forgiveness is possible as a way of mending fences, or of re-establishing relationship are important aspects. Sincerely apologizing is anti-narcissism because it says you care about the other person, Letting go of a narcissist or someone that wholeheartedly supports them is often the only thing to do. They are lost unto themselves and will only bring more pain to their relationships and to the world. Teach children that they are human, not above someone else, tolerant of others, able to truly hear others, and to have compassion for what they are hearing.Again, this kind of honesty prevents the need for projection and blame.

5. Humanistic Values
As a way of developing empathy, one first values and accepts human beings and relationships with the people in our lives. In other words, we care about each other and how we treat each other. Intellectual or materialistic values, when overemphasized in a family, can lead to lack of empathy and therefore, narcissism. Being overly logical, robotic, cold, and detached are often traits of narcissists, especially if they rarely move into the warmth of empathy and valuing others. There has to be a sense of the other in order for us to appreciate how our words and actions impact another. Of course, you first have to care that you do have an impact.
I think people get morals and integrity mixed up. Morals are a superficial code by which to live. Integrity is a deeper way to live. Morals can be twisted to justify bad behavior or make one adopt haughty, superior attitudes. It is my belief that no one can, deep down, feel good about themselves in mistreating another human being unless they are psychologically damaged. Integrity is built when we feel good about how we treat each other and how we are treated. By the same token, we have healthy boundaries so that no one is unfairly exploited, and to give each other the opportunity to choose integrity. Helping your children feel good about themselves means valuing human relationship and valuing human beings. It means they are able to care for themselves, and recognize when they are safe and cared for.

There is more. Enmeshment and repression are two more aspects of a narcissistic family. then there is projection, overt or covert criticism, a feeling that you could never be good enough for these people or that you cannot be yourself: you must bear loyalty to the family "script". Lack of self-awareness.  I think just being on the road to emotional and psychological health through personal growth is going to help anyone be a parent who is "real" enough to avoid raising a narcissist.

(The articles I referenced:

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Looking at my blog statistics, my last post about apologies seemed to have touched something in people who read my blog. I did not drum up the conversation I had intended, so I can only guess why people liked the post so much. Maybe it was just to see how another person interacts with their children? Perhaps simple curiosity. But if I look deeper, I believe that we all have people in our lives with who we desire one thing: reconciliation. After the brokenness has been caused, we long for closure through acknowledgement and validation. The longing we have  to be connected to each other is a powerful force in our lives.
I think we all have someone we wish would have recognized us in that moment, would have known how they had hurt us, would have cared one little bit.
And maybe we have deep remorse for a hurt we have caused someone else and aren't sure how to make it right.
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about our culture sucking at apologies. It's true. And since our current times has been called a "culture of narcissism", it makes sense that the entitled and unempathetic would eschew apologies in favor of dismissing and disposing of people.
For inspiration, I offer this:
Apparently people have been so inspired by this work on forgiveness they have set up forgiveness "booths" and so much more. If you have a day you are needing hope and inspiration and a good cry, peruse this site.
And although this next article is long and full, it does touch on some of the things I have been writing about lately: (This sounds remarkably close to Internal Family System's 8 Cs of self-leadership:  calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness.)
I believe apologies, giving and receiving, cleanse our souls. I believe taking responsibility for our words and actions builds self-confidence and trustworthiness. I believe caring for each other this way is a force of Love in action and is a peaceful way to live.