How to Heal from Narcissistic Abuse Using Your Inner Knowing and The Middle Lane

I get a lot of questions via the inbox feature on my book page on FB related to healing from narcissistic abuse. Some are thinking of getting on the road to recovery and wonder where to start. Others were on the road but, out of fear, manipulation, or guilt, by the abuser, pulled to the side, and some even circled back for more of the same. Some are further down the road than others. And some have exited right and are going in another direction all together because they are done with the initial stages of learning.

Make no mistake about it— they are only out the other side of that layer of healing. We all come back to each issue time and again for further understanding and healing until that issue no longer repeats, no longer gives us an arousal jag, and we no longer have any response whatsoever to that event. You know what they call that? Wisdom. And it’s glorious!

After a lifetime of abuse and actively working on healing, and only having a name for what was happening to me in just the past seven years ‘narcissistic abuse;’ with therapy and copious amounts of reading, I can tell you, we will always be in the process of healing something—so the more you take your foot off the gas pedal, the more you stall your own progress. We need to shift gears; upshift (out of our head) as we heal up and out of one trauma, and downshift, as we need to slow down (into our bodies) and further investigate other traumas. It’s a mind/body connection healing.

You already know that narcissistic abuse is on a spectrum. On one end are victims and the other end are perpetrators. And what nobody who teaches about this will ever tell you, all of us have narcissistic traits from time to time. If you haven’t yet realized that you yourself have had some not-so healthy tendencies as you learn about this spectrum, you’re not far enough along yet. You’re still in the finger-pointing stage.

Healthy narcissism is how we get our needs met. It’s how we don’t die as children. But, no one who learns about this is completely innocent of not causing harm to another person. Reactionary abuse. It’s a thing. Learn about it. Forgive yourself. Make amends and move on.

It’s when bad behavior becomes a pattern and causes other people pain and trauma that we slide into the danger zone of unhealthy narcissism and the psychopathy that lies near the end. Two far either way is not healthy. If we’re not careful, this spectrum becomes a circle that like a two-headed snake can bite us in the ass. To avoid this, try to learn about yourself daily. Learn about your triggers and your limitations and stay in the middle lane called, “Survivors and Thrivers.” My favorite motto in life is: “Do No Harm, But Take No Shit.” Something I’ve lived my life by.

Processing our lives at the deepest level is not for wimps. I started my journey as a young runaway on a much more superficial level than where I am today. I learned early to tune into my inner knowing. To observe. To sit and listen and just know. As we get older, learn more, and have more time, we go deeper. If you’re in your twenties and thirties now, you’re busy working, some of you are creating your own families. You’ll come around to the choices you’re making now, much later in life. Try to make good decisions. Because if you don’t, they will be more in your mind in your fifties and sixties, than what you had for dinner yesterday. And please understand, if we’re using our life as a learning tool to learn better and do better, we are never done growing and learning as a person.

I’m always willing to stop and reach back to help and encourage those who are where I used be because I’ve had my own teachers that have helped me, BUT, (and here’s where it gets difficult) no one but YOU can do your work for you. This may sound harsh, but we can’t do it in learned helplessness and excuses that the world seems to be so in love with now. There is no excuse. You have to read, seek help, integrate the learning you do and incorporate it into your life. You’re on the internet already, do research. Read books. Be a seeker. Find your problem and then find the solution. Can’t afford books? Go to the library and check out books. Everything starts with a choice and a decision to end this crazy-making cycle of abuse we have called our life. I made the decision young, you may be making it now. It doesn’t matter as long as you make it.

It starts with accepting what is, like it or not. Don’t like that step? I don’t either. Like you, I know it should be at the end of something, not the beginning, right? Not in this case. We have to accept people where they are. And sometimes we need to leave them there.

So cry, vent, throw yourself a big pity party, rage on paper about how unfair this stupid fucking life is, take up kick boxing, take a nap, a bath, go to bed early, then get up and try again tomorrow. Wake up knowing you showed up for yourself. You did some deep work. You processed. Be proud about that. It’s not easy.

Understand that no matter what anybody has done or said to you, that you have value and worth as you are. We do not have to be perfect to have value. Then learn boundaries even if the only one you know is: a hard line in the sand. Then, you have to get out of your head, stop making excuses, and get into your body and listen to it. Trusting your intuition is of the utmost importance here.

When you feel physically sick around someone because they treat you like shit, I don’t care who it is— your aging parent, your own adult child, your boss, neighbor, etc… you need to limit contact, go no contact, quit your job, move, etc. Just be willing to prepare for and do the next right step for you. AND know that sometimes we also have to feel things deeply and not make a move right now. We can’t always make big changes just because we feel hurt and offended. Don’t get into the lane of extreme everything and immediate gratification too easily. Don’t quit your job because your boss is a douche canoe if you’re a single parent. Be smart about things. Learn to be an AND person.

Know that respect is a two-way street and forgiveness is not necessary to move on, have a good life, or be a good person. Although forgiveness is the one F-word I don’t use, I tend to do enough work surrounding the hurtful issue that forgiveness no longer feels necessary because there’s nothing to forgive.

Forget your diagnoses. Let go of their labels. And categories (and subcategories) that humans do with absolutely everything. Toxic is toxic. Focus on you, and your healing. And yes, you can do that even if you can’t make a bold move right now.

Don’t hope they call, or apologize, don’t fantasize about telling your boss to go screw himself, it will keep your wheels stuck in the mud. Change you. Taking all the blame creates a victim. Not taking any blame creates a narcissist. Stay in your lane. Take whatever blame is yours and shove the rest back into your perpetrators lap and be done with it. They don’t have to know what you’re doing. Get out of your head and stop ruminating. Stop believing your feelings as facts. They are not. Stop with all-or-nothing thinking and catastrophizing. Just stop.

When we say that we can’t stop this abuse because this person is so significant in our lives, or we don’t know where to start, we are saying that we are not significant enough to fight for, or smart enough to figure it out. Not true. You’re stronger and smarter than you know. Acquire some strong, healthy coping skills, and use them even when you find it to feel foreign and uncomfortable. Follow your heart, but take your head with you. Instead of drinking away your problems Friday after work, take a bath, and go to bed early. Sure, it may feel weird at first, until you fall in love with loving yourself and realize you’re the one you’ve waited for all this time!

And get into therapy. Seriously. There’s no excuse not to. I’ve been in therapy throughout my lifetime; from a teen at a runaway shelter, to a single-mother on welfare and food stamps, to a single-mother working as a nurse, to now; a menopausal woman in her mid fifties. Therapy is more assessable now, than ever before. There’s no excuse that should keep you from getting help. There is no shame in needing guidance on what to do next, getting some feedback, or needing a sounding board. Therapists will arm you with the language, coping skills, and validation you need to continue on your journey of healing. And, if you’re still going to say you can’t do therapy because of whatever reason, get a notebook and a pen. The best therapy you can do is to talk it out in the page. I have tons of filled up notebooks! Your intuition knows the answers you need. We are our own best counselor if we just stop with excuses.

When we’re focused on what people think or we’re worried if they judge us for leaving, staying, standing up, or getting therapy, we’re taking our eyes off the road and distracting ourselves with shit that does not matter. People don’t know your life. Let them think what they think. Not everybody needs a response and we don’t have to have an opinion about everything. You will get your energy back when you’re no longer in fight or flight mode and responding to every barking dog along the road.

Focus on yourself. Not what they did. It’s okay to tell your story, it’s okay to out the abuser, but then decide to get over it and use that situation to make yourself better. Flip the script. Learn from it. Why do you think this specific thing is happening? Your intuition knows the answer!

Know this: People who abuse are making a choice to do so. Just like we make the choice not to abuse. Contrary to popular belief, this is not something caused in childhood, and to continue to perpetuate that falsehood is to keep many survivors in danger and in projected empathy that can get them killed, create dis-ease, or cause them to harm themselves. This is a choice.

Also, contrary to popular belief, narcissists do not love themselves. Sounds sad, and this sounds uncaring and crass, but it’s not your problem. No self-respecting person would treat another person the way they do. They have their own work to do and are trying to offload pain and using you as a whipping post. They also need to find other ways to cope. Untie yourself from that post and walk away. What they do and how they act has nothing to do with you. Wish them well and go about living your life.

I know it looks like some are better at healing from this than others. Not true. Some are just further along in learning about this cycle and have integrated what they’ve learned and we are reporting back what’s up ahead. My education in this has been super expensive, not just financially, but it’s taken a toll on my health, my marriage, my looks, my weight, my family, my connection to spirit and community, and my sense of inner peace.

I beg you to stand up when it’s safe to do so and when it won’t cause you further distress or harm. This cycle of abuse that is so prevalent in families and society can kill us unless and until we learn to advocate for ourselves say, “NO MORE!”

If you are reading this, and you’re struggling; wondering how in the world you get off this twisting, winding, bumpy dirt road, with no overhead lighting, know that if you just keep going, a little at a time, you’ll snatch your power back. You just have to make the choice to do so. I know you can do it.

Sit with your notebook and pen, and ask, “What’s the next best step I can take?” Our inner guidance system knows the answer.

Pull off the road
Take a deep breath
Compose yourself
Put your blinker on
Press the gas pedal down
And steer your car back into the middle lane.
Keep your eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel, and keep going. You’ve got this. 💪🏻💥🥊🚀

If you’d like to connect on my book page for Steel Town Girl, go here.

If you’d like to read my first memoir Steel Town Girl about my childhood with two narcissistic parents, you can buy it here

I’m currently writing my second memoir, which for now, still remains unnamed.

Moms and the Enabling of Toxic Masculinity

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I watched a video the other day where a mother had won a Youtube award by building her channel to over 1 million subscribers and was so excited to share about it she did a Q&A with two of her three adult sons. By the time it was over, I was pretty angry. By the time I read the comments under the video, I was so irritated I was sweating.

In the video she talked about why she started her Youtube channel. It was something she started as a way to find her purpose during the initial stages of the empty nest, which she admittedly confessed she wasn’t dealing with very well. She told her audience (mainly women her age) about the pain of the empty nest and how painful it was for her. I totally understood.

Instead of being met with compassion and understanding for sharing her transparency and truth, she was met with grievances about her; how annoying she was, they made fun of her, mocked her, imitated her, dismissed her, were not really supportive of her, and called her reaction where she described an incident of falling to the ground in devastation after they left home, “Dumb.”

When she turned to explain how painful it was for a mother to give everything, and then nobody need her anymore, he said, “So we’re to blame?” — First, she’s dumb for having the feeling at all and when she pushed back and explained herself, he accused her of blaming them. — No, they are called feelings. Talking. Not blaming. We have feelings and we are human. We are allowed to talk about them.

At one point, as the mother says she will hang the award in her office, the youngest son throws it off to the side. — Nice.

Next, they talked about diet. She told the audience about her diet and said that she ate very… “clean.” As she was searching for the word “clean,” the other son said, “horrible.” He said he’d like to visit and have more than kale and sprouts to choose from to eat. Mind you, he’s out of the house on his own…— Belittling her and being dismissive of her feelings wasn’t good enough, he needed to disagree and insult her lifestyle and diet and expect the house to be stocked with food to his liking even though he doesn’t live at home anymore.

When she asked what else annoyed them about her, one son looked at his watch and asked, “How much time do we have?”

The other son chimed in and mocked her use of reading glasses attached to her cell phone calling them a monocle. They all laugh and he added, “She has the vision of someone well past her fifties” knowing how important it is for his mother (who has a channel about beauty and staying young) to be thought of as beautiful and youthful. The other one says, “God forbid you go out without these (glasses) and we must read the entire menu to her.” — Oh, I’m just busting a gut here… I hope people are as kind to them when they are older.

Then, they accused her of not having “boundaries.”

Wait for it. Because she “never got out of asking them how their day was since their elementary school days.” — Wow. What a shitty parent. How dare she?!

She explained how she loves asking about their lives, their days, their friends, because she cared about them and still does. The one son said, “we’re just out there trying to be men.” — Yikes.

First of all, this kid doesn’t know what a boundary is. It’s some real stretchy, crazy-making behavior from him trying to compare a lack of boundaries with someone caring about you. Not even close to the same thing.

Secondly, the type of “man” who does this, is actually gaslighting you. This type of behavior needs to cease to exist in the future and that will not happen when moms (and dare I say, dads) don’t call this hurtful banter out for what it is: toxic masculinity.

She talked about her parenting and how someone once told her when she was a younger mom to light up like a Christmas tree when she saw her children. She said she loved that idea and has done that ever since. The one son says, “So, you were just ticking a box, not giving us genuine love.” She explained that she thought about how it would have made her feel as a kid if her parents would have done that and because she would have liked it, she always remembered to do it and therefore incorporated it into her parenting. The other son says, “light up like a Christmas tree… so fake.” They accused her of being a liar, a fake, of scarring them and said that the entire video wasn’t for the award, but to prove one thing: “that they caused her pain.”

There’s that narcissists epiphany they talk about.

They talked about the nice notes she used to put in their lunches. And… of course, instead of feeling grateful and appreciative, they remembered how they had to try not to let the other kids see the notes, and said that while all the other kids were trading their goodies with one another, they had apples, and carrots that no one wanted. — Oh, poor bebes. What trauma.

My blood was hot. It was all about them.

Then, I read the comments under the video. And I was beyond aggravated.

“Watching this was sheer joy.” someone wrote. (Not if you know what you’re looking at!)

“Remember when the boys in school threw rocks at us? That’s how boys show love.” (It’s not 1923 anymore, grandma.)

“When boys are comfortable teasing their moms that much, there is nothing but love there.” (No, that much… is too much. I can bet this mother can’t say anything or it gets real bad.)

Eight to ten years ago I would have thought watching another mother with her adult sons teasing and bantering back and forth was cute too. Then, I woke up to “toxic masculinity” and the “enabling” a mother in love with her sons actually does to perpetuate this behavior. Where did I learn this? In therapy.

I’ll be clear here: I thought I had confronted this behavior many times before in my own life with my son. I later learned I hadn’t. When you seriously address this behavior, in a non-joking manner and instead say, “I’m not going to take this hurtful behavior from you anymore,” you will likely forfeit a relationship with your child. And… it gets worse after you address it. How dare you hold them accountable. They will rage like a toddler. Which is why most parents continue to allow the hurtful behavior to continue. Boy, do I get it.

Therapy for both parties; preferably together is best to talk about this harmful relationship dynamic. But, good luck getting that together… it will most likely be a wife and a court order that makes these types of men eventually go to counseling.

At one point in the video, the mom says that she isn’t going to allow her feelings to be hurt anymore because she thinks it hurts her growth. My heart broke for her. — I used to be her. Until I decided that I was tired of swallowing down my pain, smiling for the camera, and showing the world what a “great” family I had, when in fact, it was only great when I was catering to everyone’s needs, was fun and easy to be with at all times, and said nothing about my feelings.

Fuck that. That mother doesn’t live here anymore. And I make no apologies. Feeling alone inside your own family; the one you’ve nurtured and cared for for decades is the epitome of feeling invisible and taken for granted.

Anyway, I wasn’t going to write a comment out under this woman’s video because I wasn’t going to ruin her moment of joy sharing her award by being odd woman out. I wasn’t willing to go head to head with people that have nothing better to do with their time than argue with me about what I’m seeing. I don’t have to defend myself, because I’ve lived it. And, because I’ve been there and done that, I know there’s nothing I’m going to say to this woman about her son’s treatment of her that’s going to open her eyes as to what she’s dealing with until she learns it for herself. It’s an education you get along the path of learning about narcissistic abuse and it’s an education that takes a very long time to get, understand fully, and then incorporate into your life. This woman strikes me as the type of mom that would rather have a toxic family than a fractured one in various stages of healing and understanding.

Here’s what I know this many years after dealing with this kind of behavior:

  • Things said in a joking manner are said for a reason. Those things needs further investigation from both sides. And let’s be clear: joking doesn’t mean it’s funny. A mom, wife, sister, aunt, grandma, friend that’s a girl; may smile and laugh now, but that biting comment will ricochete around in her mind for a very long time. People can only take so much and moms are no different. Learn not to say the biting thing.
  • Behavior like this starts in childhood; usually in teens, and is usually perpetrated by some other toxic male they are mimicking or parroting. Hmm? I wonder who that could be? This woman has three sons all watching the behavior of the other. It makes me wonder how the dad is? I dealt with this behavior each and every time it was exhibited; usually after visitation weekends when my son was a teenager, but kids grow up and become who they really are regardless of our parenting. Soon enough, we have adult males who think dismissive, belittling, devaluing language toward their mother, or women in general, is acceptable, and attractive. — It’s not.
  • Explaining yourself to boys that act like this, isn’t going to work. Our instinct to over-explain for validation of our feelings is a trauma response from our own childhood. Don’t do it. It antagonizes their rage and they blame-shift their accountability. Narcissistic abuse is an addiction to ego. Unless they are pathological, (have antisocial tendencies) they will come to their own realization they need to change in their own time. Nothing you say or do will make them get it sooner. That may mean we have to let them go to face their consequences, grow up, and come to some accountability on their own accord. Hard to do, but necessary.
  • When you learn about narcissistic abuse the first thing they tell you, is to listen to the words toxic individuals use. You’ll realize that in many instances they project onto us what they feel about themselves: “Dumb,” “Liar,” “Fake.” “No boundaries.” “Not getting genuine love.” “Scarred.” — All things the boys are being, doing, or don’t have for their mother. Pretty eye-opening.
  • It is high time we stop telling our daughters and granddaughters that when a boy throws rocks at her that this means he likes her. It’s abuse. Not like. Not love. This is an antiquated idea about how love starts and works that is perpetuated by an older generation who thought this kind of behavior was “cute.” That kind of love doesn’t work in this life anymore. Period.

It’s not a joy to watch a mother squirm, smile and giggle for the camera as she’s being belittled and devalued by her adult sons. If you’re not uncomfortable watching something like that, please educate yourself on toxic masculinity, narcissistic abuse, and enabling behaviors.

Teasing is one thing. I myself, love to banter, and for years I had that same innocent bantering relationship with one of my sons, but it’s important to watch for escalation in hurtful behaviors and boundary crossings. Having your feelings dismissed, being called names, being mocked for who and how you are, is not funny.

It’s time that mothers who are being devalued learn boundaries. (That means with our adult sons as well as our daughters. Yes, there’s a lot of toxic femininity, too) Stand up and say, “no more!” Take up space and do not tolerate disrespectful behaviors as something that is “cute. If they no longer want you as their parent because of this, that’s their choice. But know they are throwing a tantrum. Let them go.

It’s also time for fathers to stand up and say that belittling women; even in a joking manner is not okay. By saying nothing, you send the message that you’re fine with it.

When your adult male child doesn’t change after being told this kind of treatment hurts you, and doesn’t respond to correction, it means they don’t care and they don’t respect either of you. And yes, I know that hurts to hear, but that’s exactly how our adult kids can grow up to treat us. Even after we packed love notes in their lunchboxes and lit up like Christmas trees when we saw their face.

Our kids go on to have many more influences in their lives than just us.

Many of them can be toxic.

It’s time to write ourselves love notes and light up when we see our own faces.

Photo by George Milton on Pexels.com

All the Turbulence that is Marriage: Please Fasten Seatbelts

Through a conversation with my hubby the other night, we stumbled upon the title for the marriage memoir I’m hoping to write.

When you’re retired; which means tired all over again, you lounge and talk about the good ole days, even when they meant you were the most tired you’ve ever been in your life. We both even dream of doing our old jobs in our sleep.

As if we’re not tired enough…

My husband is a man of few words. But, he lights up and loves talking about his air traffic days, his love of weather patterns, and his thirty-four year career. He says he never dreaded going to work and loved that no day was exactly the same. It’s an intellectual job, not a lot of physicality to it, but he’d come home each day exhausted from the mental acuity and shift work it required. Once home, he was far from wanting to control anything.

That job was left to me: the Charge Nurse. The parentified child in childhood. And that worked for a very long time. Until it didn’t.

Please fasten seatbelts.

As he was describing correct phraseology as an Air Traffic Controller; something I’ve heard him recite for almost twenty years now, my ears perked-up like never before hearing this one phrase.

“Wait, what was that phrase again?

When he said it again, I yelled, “That’s it! That’s the title for our marriage memoir!”

I won’t tell you what it is now, [enter dramatic music,] but it’s a ridiculously good title for my third book based on all the turbulence that is marriage.

If you’d like to listen to my husband controlling air traffic, you can listen here.

The video/audio is called a “tape talk” where he was being evaluated by a supervisor for proper phraseology. It’s from his ATC communications from approximately the late 1980s or early 90’s.

He was a controller in the Air Force just before the strike of 1981, and was hired by the FAA in 1985. He worked at O’Hare tower (ORD) before working at Cleveland Air Traffic Control Center (ZOB ARTCC) in Oberlin Ohio. He retired in 2014.

I love when you’re doing something else; swimming, painting, riding biking, talking… and out of the blue, the Universe throws you a crumb. Thank you! 🙏🏼

Now, if I could just finish book two.

Currently, I’m still writing, but deciding where to stop the second memoir. In my opinion, a great memoir is about a superb ending that brings it all around on itself again. And sadly, sometimes the story we set out to write isn’t the one that gets told.

It’s a huge job to figure it all out, but one that I love dearly. I’m in love with trying to control the narrative at first, only to have it take on a life of it’s own halfway through when you become more of a receiver and less of a writer. It’s thee most fascinating process, ever. And I’m grateful I have the time to do it.

If you’re interested in part one, you can buy it here.

If you’d like to see the book trailer my hubby made for me on iMovie, you can see that here.

Errr. This is your Captain speaking, You may now move about the cabin freely.

Just kidding!

Coming up for Air: When Self-Help Becomes Self-Abuse

Reading self-help and attending counseling for a lifetime can start to feel like abuse-of-self after awhile. With each new book I crack, my body asks, “When are we going to be okay the way we are? Why are we never enough? Why is it that we have to change?”

I thank god for the privilege I’ve had to self-help books and counseling throughout my lifetime, even when I was poor and on welfare.

But, excessive reading and searching for something outside our own inner knowing only reinforces our less-than opinions that others have liberally applied to us, and not always in childhood.

So, I chose to read for pleasure. On a pool day.

Self-help and growth as a human is wonderful, but it should also involve play and coming up for air from time to time. Constantly rolling in the deep, and diving deeper and deeper with little rest doesn’t make us stronger, faster. It can weaken us and take us under, drowning us.

Some myths about a water drowning:

*Drowning people yell for help.
*Drowning people wave and thrash about wildly like in the movies.
*A drowning person is capable to assist in their rescue.
*Drowning takes a while.

These are also fitting signs for other types of drowning.

— Drowning in trauma we rarely talk about.
— Drowning in self-doubt, we’re embarrassed to bring attention to.
— Drowning in grief that society expects us to “get over already.”
— Drowning in fatigue from a lifetime of trying.

Trying is good. But, excessive trying can make us weaker, sicker, and can take us down faster. ILL health is the result.

So, on days your body is asking you, “When are we going to be enough?”

Say, “Today, sweetheart, today.”

Float. Find pleasure. Play.

It’s all part of the process of becoming.

Maybe even do a handstand?

Abandon Logic: Save Yourself the Overwhelming Grief of Trying To Fix the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

If you don’t know what to do, because you don’t know what you did wrong…

and you’re always tired and confused…

and going crazy with the mental anguish of wondering what more you could do to fix the situation…

and you feel that there is nothing more you could have changed about yourself to be accepted and loved…

and the grief of this is consuming you…

you’re either currently being narcissistically abused, gaslit, and manipulated…

or you’re just waking up to the fact that you are or have been.

Please know this:

You don’t know what you did wrong because you did nothing wrong. You can’t fix things because you didn’t break them. And you won’t ever change yourself enough to be accepted and loved by those who can’t accept and love themselves.

The grief will consume you if you continue to approach this situation with logical thinking and continue to deny patterns. Narcissists and those with any Cluster B personality disorder are the most illogical, irrational people you will ever have to deal with and their patterns repeat again and again and again…

The mental anguish you’re feeling is understandable. You’ve been through a hell that no one understands unless they’ve been through it. But no amount of making excuses for them, allowing yourself to be taken in by the love-bombing and future-faking will ever make them change. You will never get an apology. And you will never get changed behavior.

When we are being abused in any way, all we can do is: 1) accept it, or 2) make plans to stop the situation by leaving and, 3) put up boundaries and going No Contact.

It’s simple, yet oh so difficult, I know…

~Robin xoxo