A calm has settled over me lately. This is not to say that I do not feel anxious at times, nor am without restlessness or urges to do more. Those moments and experiences are mostly a result of the legacy of narcissistic abuse and trauma (and who knows how much influence comes from culture). I am working out those kinks, embracing them and observing them in the process, accepting them as part of healing and recovery.
But overall, this newness of peace, the lack of feeling, thinking, or believing that there is something more to do, that I need to be more, that I am not sufficiently enough has ended. And now, I just want to be quite ordinary. To just be. I love ordinariness at the moment, and I swim in its calming, nurturing, steadfast waters.
Narcissistic abuse and trauma creates an environment of psychological torture and torment, as well as emotional chaos. Generally speaking, abusers do so from a source of profound shame and deep, old wounds, and they employ many tools and tactics to maintain power, control, “order,” and an illusory narrative and belief system. It is inevitable that those who have endured a twisted and circuitous relationship with narcissists are influenced by them, mostly unwittingly so, and, thus, internalize an “inner” narcissist. It does not mean that we are narcissists per se, but rather have taken on thinking and reactive habits of engaging with others, as we have lost trust in ourselves and the abilities to behave calmly and clearly, for fear of threat.
As an example, I spent decades trying to overcome narcissistic abuse and trauma, spurred by an event that happened at age five. I became a seeker. I traveled. I experienced many relationships. Oftentimes, those relationships were very unbalanced — romantic, friendly, work-related, otherwise. In them, I would play out the various roles that mimicked those laid out for me in my family of origin — scapegoat, hero/rescuer/fixer, caregiver. At their core, these roles were about others’ needs, not mine, and a desperate “need” for love and approval born from abuse. And so those relationships I encountered would inevitably play out as they did in my family of origin: all of us trying to have our needs met; all of us trying to share the same source of “love” with never enough (none) to go around; different narratives for different people; triangulation and, thus, distrust, suspicion, emotional unavailability, and lack of nuance; and that love/relationship was conditional.
This feeds the seeds of control, perfectionism, people-pleasing, defense, denial, and dissociation that were planted long ago in the early life and on-going stages and phases in a relationship with a narcissistic. We learn these unhelpful ways of being in relationships, internalize them, because this is how we have adapted to and what we have expected from being in relationships with a person with narcissistic personality disorder. When these characteristics are at play, we perpetuate the practice of unhealthy relationships, even and especially when the narcissist is no longer around. We continue to grasp for love, almost and often desperately so.
In my case, I had a strong need to protect and deflect: I would control (the outcome); I scored high as a people-pleaser; I could become highly defensive; and I definitely deeply mistrusted (I have heard here and there about my “walls.”). But I also had internalized perfection, the black-and-white thinking of the narcissist, that it was all or nothing, that I always had to do more to be “enough” to be loved. The internalized thinking and behavior mirrored that of the emotionally chaotic and psychologically abusive and unstable nature of a relationship with a narcissist. Waves are choppy, seas very stormy. One never knows when the waters will be calm, nor for how long, or if at all.
And so, when the mind settles and the breath finally calms, the walls crumble with boundary-making and -practice, dissolving almost entirely, it is so stunningly helpful and refreshing to be still, to just be. To be ordinary and every day.
Sometimes lately, my thinking is such that large gaps of “time” have opened and I am not sure about what to do. I feel as though I should be doing something: Cleaning something? Fixing something — relationships? Damage control? Is something broken? Making or cooking something? Organizing something? Creating something? Finishing something? Contemplating something? Studying something? Writing something? Working on more than being wife and mother? Influenced by Protestant work ethic and capitalist culture, certainly, but definitely growing up under the roof of a narcissist, the “need” to constantly have to produce, correct, perfect something had been so ingrained in my being that, quite literally, prying its teeth-like shrapnel from my skin clearly has been a work in progress, requiring physical/somatic and emotional unpacking, as well as grieving, to do so. It takes time and effort to undo all of the madness and habit energy that had found its way into almost every pore, cell, muscle, and fiber of my being over many long, lonely years.
I liken this journey, of finding one’s way to a destination of healing and recovery, as a sort of boot camp, where you lug all of your heavy but compact belongings and necessities on your back as you trek. You approach a large, looming wall that you must climb, over and over again. But in order to climb it, you must heave-toss your super-weighted backpack over the wall, and then figure out how to overcome the towering obstacle. For there is no going back, only forward, as you gain strength, new muscle memory and skills, until walking and climbing and heaving are just your new healthy, helpful, healing habit energies that carry you up and on and over and out to your land of peace and quiet and calm. Ideally under a dark, starry sky or vast, open meadow protected in the valley of a mountain range.
That is where I currently am, in a land of peace and quiet and calm, under a dark, starry sky, as well as foothills illuminated by sunsets, in a home filled with love and stability, strong and wise, made up of free and loving hearts. There is cooking and cleaning and hugging and being. There is effort within reason, there is unconditional love. There is conversation and dialogue, and laughter and light and openness. There is trust and freedom. There is possibility and growth. We control what we can, but let go of the rest. In practice is flow and just being. Successes and failures just rise and fall as a natural progression of life, without apex or expectation, like the tide. Fear is confronted, replaced with trust and nurturing. Just a humble, warm, loving bubble of kindness and tenderness.
Ordinary life as I hope it to be for all people.
This, I know, is a dream, but I can wish it, having come from chaos, from storms, from underwhelming and quite overwhelming circumstances. I am done with that. I am done reacting to the whim of emotional instability. I embrace the chill nature and steady pace of tranquility, being, rhythm, routine, pattern, and ordinariness. Never have I dreamed of such a thing, but now — for now — it is my compassionate cloak, a loving, handmade shawl of comfort.
Ah, yes, to be ordinary. Bless its warm heart.