This is "part two" of my "Welcome to Rock-Bottom!" post yesterday.
I apologise in advance, because this post is going to be exceptionally disjointed (even more so than usual with my posts!). There are themes I ran with in the last post that made my session sound like a coherent conversation (hopefully!) with my psychologist, but in reality there were insights everywhere, and of different varieties. So I'll have to leap from one premise to the next in this post so that I can share the insights in case they are of value to others as well.
Taking on Responsibility versus Helping Someone
When I was speaking about the conundrum (what an understatement that is!) my NFriend has 'found herself in' (read: orchestrated from the beginning, but denies any involvement to the point of impossibility!), I was upset that I was getting everything dumped in my lap whether I wanted it or not.
I also complained that it's not this friend alone, but most of my friends to do this to me. I wasn't sure if they all thought, wrongly, that I had some sort of special skill-set that allowed me to take on and easily solve the problems of others (while they have no consideration or empathy for my current overwhelming state of affairs, of which they are all aware!),
or if I was somehow bringing these insane 'responsibilities' upon myself (I suspected this might be the case; the frequency suggested it, and I'm the common denominator),
or if it was simply by virtue of me not passing the buck quickly enough. I thought maybe I was just the slowest one to find a chair when the music stopped. Or the last person to put a finger on the tip of the nose; I was always "it" because I wasn't abdicating responsibility quickly enough.
My psychologist nodded. At least one of my theories was valid.
"I wonder . . . can you differentiate between taking full responsibility for someone and simply 'helping' someone?"
That's a thinker. "No! Good grief, I never really think of it that way! If I'm helping, I'm responsible!"
"Hmm. I thought as much. They are, in fact, different things."
"Yes. Yes, I understand, conceptually... but... I just- I just don't see where the dividing line is between helping and taking responsibility!"
"Exactly. How would it be if you said to your friend, 'I've offered you my best advice, but you won't take it. That's all the help I can provide'?"
My first thought to this was, 'Ack! Then she's going to say, 'You can't even drive me to the therapist's appointment?! You won't even come with me to _____? You can't even talk to ______ for me? I thought we were friends! Wahhhhhhh!''.
And my second thought was, 'Huh. I guess I could just set a boundary'.
In the end, I didn't end up setting a boundary with my NFriend. I just started repeating my advice. "Did you do that yet?". She did eventually look into the provincial laws on the subject, so I reassured her that now she knew her rights and responsibilities and could make good decisions for herself. I got silence, but that's quite nice!
I'm also deliberately using the word "responsibility" in every communication. I said, "I know you feel that these circumstances aren't your fault, but unfortunately you must take responsibility for them all the same. Legally, you don't have an option!".
It seems to be working, but I'll keep you posted. I've probably just inadvertently passed the buck to another "rescuer". Or did I? Actually, no, I didn't do that. My psychologist would jump all over me for that assertion - I didn't pass the buck to anyone, the friend is actively appointing another "rescuer"!
See, even there you see my dysfunction. If I'm not saving the day, I'm not only being a terrible person (!), but I'm also putting that impossible situation unfairly onto someone else, someone innocent!
And yet this isn't true! Neither am I a terrible person for not taking responsibility for someone else's problems, I'm also not actively (or even passively, really) causing anyone else to have to be a rescuer. The 'victim', the Narcissist, is the one who won't do the right thing! Not me!
This is my NParent's legacy!!! "Your mother can't be made to deal with this! If you don't take care of this situation, who will? Your younger siblings? Is it fair to do that to them? They are so young! You are being a horrible person for not accepting blame for this situation of your mother's!"
Honestly, I've heard that very complaint, in different words, throughout my childhood.
"Your mother can't be held responsible!"
"Your mother can't be left with all the blame! You were as much to blame as she was!"
"You mother is crying her eyes out in her room. She can't deal with this! You are breaking her heart by not helping her!"
It never occurred to me to just tell my stupid, pathetic EF to 'deal with it himself'! I was a child, a very young child, too! I wasn't intelligent enough to work this out! I had no resources to do anything but apologise and accept responsibility, all the time, for everything. I had no experience to know how wrongly I was being treated!
So I've been raised to dive in and rescue the Narcissist every time, no questions asked, no complaints allowed. And I'd better have done it with a smile and a good nature - I had no right to complain.
I still have trouble seeing where "help" ends and "responsibility" begins.
Resentment and Other Dead Emotions
There are certain feelings I won't allow myself to feel. All of them are 'negative' emotions, or at least, that's what I've been raised to believe them to be.
Resentment is dead. Regarding my NFriend in her 'conundrum' of epic proportions, I said to my psychologist: "I just don't want to start feeling resentful towards her!"
"Do you feel resentment for your friend?"
"No! No - I won't allow myself. It's not right to. She doesn't mean to...."
"Seriously? Why is it wrong to feel resentment?"
"..." I think my mouth opened and shut a few times. "I don't know. Because it's a negative emotion?"
"Resentment exists to tell you that you're being taken advantage of. That you're being used. Do you still think 'resentment' is a 'bad thing'? You've had resentment bred out of you so that you could be used over and over again by your mother without ever holding her to account. You weren't able to register complaint or sadness or anger, either, were you?"
"No. I always had to smile, too. I wasn't allowed to complain."
"Parts of you are dead. They've been killed off to better serve the purposes of your parents."
Ah. I think I knew this coming in, but it never hurts to hear it again straight from the lips of the man in the armchair. I have a feeling that future sessions are going to work to "resurrect" parts of me. I told him that I wish there was some "course I could take" that tells you the degree to which employment of 'bad emotions' is "acceptable"! Because even the slightest spark of resentment in me is something I feel very badly for, and I quickly snuff it out, ashamed of my perceived 'weakness'.
Insights of the DH: an Amputee Metaphor
After I returned home and could update the DH on the latest session, he gave me a perfect metaphor to describe my "void where parental love should have been that will never be filled" problem.
"It's as though you're permanently physically handicapped. You're missing a leg or something. So, where you are living in the metaphorical Rockies, with all its steep and rocky terrain, is not suitable for you because of your disability. It would make much more sense to move to the Prairies and walk along flat and even ground! You just have to make changes in order to make things easier on you, that's all."
I love my DH. Here I was freaking out that I'd always be an empty shell of a person, emotionally fragile and lacking resilience. (Again, note that I think what my NM would have me think!). How was I to be a good wife for the rest of my life? I certainly couldn't be a mother! If I'm this fragile, I'd be likely to lean upon my kids, the way my NM did, and screw them up and hurt them terribly! How am I going to cope with the bumps and bruises that come along with my choice of career path, either?
In short, how will I live?! (Playing right into the hands of NM! Way to go, QG's psyche!).
Adaptation. It's true that people who lose their legs, or their hands, can adapt. Life is harder for them, and much of society is designed with only able-bodied people in mind. But they can live good and full lives, with much therapy (physical, emotional) and the help of prostheses. They just have to make concessions. No mountain-climbing for the wheelchair-bound. And even then, there are those who train and strategize and do, in fact, conquer mountains! It's just much more difficult for them. And the achievement is that much more impressive!
People who lose a limb have to accept that it's gone. It sucks, it sucks real bad, but it is what it is. They must adapt and move on. (I thank God for an able body! I have been blessed, that is certain, and I see it when I think of the alternatives). Life is cruel and harsh, and none of us get out of it alive! We all must adapt to varying degrees in innumerable ways.
Maybe I just have a significant disability. Coming to grips with it is harsh. It's cruel. It makes me thankful I haven't lost an actual limb. But I have lost part of what I recognize as instrumental to being a "whole human". Isn't it funny that we all instinctively know what "wholeness" looks like? And why we are desperate to fill the voids in our lives. I also think faith is an essential component of wholeness, now that I've discovered it. So is hope, which I have in short supply.
I wonder what I can and can't do easily, with my disability. Going forward, what specific adaptations will I have to make? What paths should I choose? What situations should I avoid? I don't know how this emotional disability will manifest itself, really.
But I think I ought to try to cultivate "hope" and remember the inspirational videos of a paraplegic climbing, hands only, to the summit of a rocky mountain I couldn't even climb with all my working parts! Or the very poor people of this world, who manage to live in some of the most deplorable conditions on earth, and still find something to be thankful for and to laugh about!
I might have a huge hole in my mental landscape that can never be filled. But I suppose it doesn't mean I can't live my life, and well, and happily. I'll just have to adapt, and in time I'll probably forget it's even there. I'll get used to it. Every so often, I'm sure my disability will handicap me. But I'll get better and better at finding alternative paths to take. And I really ought to rely upon my faith in God more.
I once heard this in a sermon: "Someone said to me, "Christianity is a crutch! It's for the weak!". And I laughed and said, "You're absolutely right! It is a crutch! It is for the weak!" For you see, those who aren't weak really are - they just can't see it or haven't realised it yet!"
I think this is where the "consider suffering to be absolute joy!" stuff comes in (from the opening lines of the book of James) - if your weaknesses are never discovered, you're confidently going along down the wrong path with a bunch of disadvantages that are going to trip you up badly. Perhaps tripping early on down the wrong path, however painful it is, really is a blessing. How far down the wrong road has the Narcissist in your life travelled? How far gone are they? Can they even turn back? Can they reassess their whole lives? Can they change their ways? Outside of Divine Intervention, I think the answer must be "no".
Whether seen from the perspective of Christian faith or an agnostic view, we are all, all of us, truly blessed to have seen the TRUTH about our FOOs. No matter how much we suffer for knowing what we know, we are in fact BLESSED. We will not go down the same road our parents chose. We will not treat others as we have been treated. We will not allow our children to be victimized by emotionally ill adults.
I'm going to try to spend the rest of the week feeling THANKFUL for the realization that my parents are Narcissists, and for the knowledge that I have a crippling hole in my soul which will make my life difficult. No matter how hard it is, it's going to be different to the lives of my NParents. And I am thankful.
I'm going to break this cycle no matter what. I'm going to be the cripple who summits the mountain. I'm going to have to learn to rely upon others to help me here and there. Training starts today.