I’m going through old photos while working on my second memoir and found this memory today.
This one is from a trip to Las Vegas in 2001 where I visited Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. I am a huge fan of Oprah, so when I ran into her that day, of course I let her interview me for my upcoming best-selling book. Lol! 😂
I was writing my memories out by hand back then for the book I wanted to write someday and was filing them away in my 3-ring binder.
I used to sit and watch The Oprah Show every chance I had at 4pm and still have the notes I took on the episode where she interviewed authors of memoir on how they approached their writing process.
This exercise of looking back at old photos is helpful for reconnecting to our old selves to see how far we’ve come, and to see how much further we have yet to go. It’s also helpful for abuse survivors who have endured decades of psychological abuse to help us reclaim who we’ve always been at our core, before toxic people projected who they are onto us.
This photo reminds me what I’ve known all along. I’ve lived authentically and genuinely from my heart. I’ve approached my big, convoluted, noisy, messy, busy life with a huge sense of humor, a love of life-long learning, the strength and dedication to keep my word to myself and follow through on my commitments, while showing up for my roles and responsibilities and continued to dream big!
And here I am. Still smiling and laughing. Still learning and growing. Still strong and doing. Still keeping my word. Still showing up. And still dreaming big!
I’m also still very realistic about what a long way I have yet to go, to get to where I dream of being. But, the most important thing about this is I kept my word to MYSELF to write that first book! How is that for learning self-trust, self-love and self-acceptance on your own?
Don’t allow the community that teaches about narcissistic abuse tell that you don’t know how to teach yourself or can’t. If what you see is good and you’re happy with that, keep doing that. If it’s not, have the guts to change it.
And, don’t let narcissistic family project onto YOU who they think you are, or should be, in order to make them comfortable and to keep you in learned helplessness. Be defiant! Be a force to be reckoned with! They’ll get over it. Or they won’t. It’s their choice to make.
In 1995 I had just graduated nursing school and was hired at a nursing home as a charge nurse. The resident doctor who did my pre-hire physical that August warned me that although I would be protecting myself with Universal Precautions and PPE, I would probably get sick on and off for months, or get one really big flu that lingered that fall/winter. (Flu shots weren’t discussed, because they weren’t pushed yet, nor would I have taken one.)
In November that year, the nursing home was hit with the Asian flu— (that’s where it originated, so that’s what it was called) — and twelve of my elderly residents died as a result.
By December I ended up getting it, and got sicker than I’ve ever been in my life, missed two weeks of work as a single mom, and got three months behind on bills as a result. Not one person cared. No one called me a hero for doing my job. No one shut the country down. And no one helped me pay my bills.
I love that the world is trying to become more compassionate, considerate and caring, but the blame game and the extremes that go on in society in order to feel superior about absolutely everything is so old and exasperating, I can barely stand it anymore. If you view everything we’re seeing on the line that is narcissism like I do, you see just how quickly both the left and right side of that line can become toxic.
If your mask makes you feel safe, by all means wear it. I’m not going to ever try to talk someone out of their fear and I can’t know what underlying issues they may have that puts them at risk. I’m not going to demand they do anything different than what they’re already doing. And, if someone else chooses not to wear a mask, I’m doing more harm to my immune system by getting angry, irate and superior about it than if I just minded my own business and stayed away from them.
We can never, ever, ever, control what someone else does or doesn’t do. If we embrace that concept and understand that what others do or don’t do has nothing to do with us personally, our immune systems won’t be as run down, our adrenals won’t be jacked up with cortisol, and we’ll be healthier as a result.
We can learn everything there is about toxic people of every kind and know something about every kind of personality disorder — and still get duped.
We can prepare in every way possible to never allow ourselves to be used, abused, or manipulated again, but that’s not real life. When we’re keeping our hearts open, living our lives and not isolating ourselves for protection behind impenetrable walls, those things can and will happen.
Believing that everyone who hurts us is purposefully toxic or disordered, and that healing from them is a one and done, is both naive and harmful. Harmful to us to think we should never be duped again if we just learn these simple rules. And harmful to others for pigeonholing everyone as “toxic” or “narcissistic” who may hurt us.
The world has gone crazy with all this narcissistic 101 crap. Everything I see is about it is from one extreme to the other: all good, or all bad; with no in between. That’s called borderline personality disorder. So, whatever you do, learn to see shades of gray.
I’ve tried all my life to walk the midline of life and have still hurt others inadvertently, or been harmed by others. I’m not going to stop living my life and trying again with new people. Making everyone we meet pay for the sins of another is not growth. It’s just another form of superiority.
Yes, we need to learn our boundaries, yes, we need to learn the signs of toxicity in others — and then— we need to liberally apply some common sense to the whole situation and realize that each time we engage with others there is a possibility that we could get hurt. Anything other than staying open is not living.
Because my husband and I are both the scapegoated black sheep in our families of origin, we put our heads together and came up with a list of things NOT to do to keep the peace at home for the holidays.
For parents of adult children:
•Keep your opinions to yourself.
•Give advice only when asked.
•Don’t play favorites.
•You don’t know everything so don’t act like you do.
•They’re adults, treat them like that.
•No “just joking” comments or back-handed compliments.
•No comparisons, just acceptance.
•No pressuring or guilting.
•No pitting children/adult children against the other(s). That means, no talking about children that are not present.
•No gossiping about other family members.
•Don’t force people to get together and get along with one another for the sake of the holiday. Divide time or split days to accommodate different families and personalities.
•No blaming others for your problems.
•No discussing financial issues or inappropriate talk and/or behavior with your children.
•Don’t allow alcohol into the family holiday as this is a huge gateway to problems.
For adult children of narcissistic, toxic, or emotionally immature parents/siblings:
Remember, you are in control. If you start to feel uncomfortable at anytime, it’s time to restate your boundaries calmly and clearly. If your boundaries are ignored and things escalate after that, then you politely excuse yourself and leave. Keep your emotions in check, your volume down, and try not to take what your family says or does personally.
We know it feels personal, but it’s not about you. Their behavior is about them.
I read an article by Dr. Perry of MakeItUltra Psychology about How to Have Boundaries with a Toxic Person, and although I agree with his tips when it comes to healing from the trauma pathological narcissists leave in their wake, I don’t necessarily agree they should be incorporated immediately with anyone that we deem “negative,” which is basically anyone speaking out about the bad behaviors of others lately. Reading the comments under that post proved interesting.
One reader said, “I refuse to interact with negative people! As an empath, they literally make me sick!” — Ugh! People like this make me sick. And good luck living in your bubble.
Then, there was the person that said they “ignored them and went mute.” — Yeah. That’s called “gray rock” and is a survival tactic used by those healing from abuse when they have to interact with their abusers and ‘no contact’ is not an option for their healing. Used outside of this context, these people appear to be self-absorbed and rude, aka: as an asshole. Great look by the way.
And, my favorite comment — was the manager — who chimed in saying that the employees she managed were toxic because they complained to her, therefore, drawing her into the negativity and draining her. — Uh, that’s called your job, so people are going to naturally come to you with problems, you know… because you’re the manager… yikes, really?
I just finished listening to Dr. Christiane Northrup’s new book on Audible, called Dodging Energy Vampires, and although I know energy drainers are copious; I’ve dealt with my fair share of them, and we do indeed have to check them at the door after a while — I see an emerging trend happening where people are becoming far too superior to anyone in need of talking things through. And the trend I see is it’s typically the abusers who’ve done the wrong, and then want to prohibit the victim from talking about it thereby calling them “toxic” when the conversation points to them taking accountability for their actions. They are flipping the script and calling this “having boundaries.” —No, you’re a bully that abuses and then gaslights your victim. Let’s not get it twisted. —
Boundaries are for victims to protect themselves from more harm. Not for abusers to be able to abuse more.
There are two people in a relationship: When one person in that relationship is no longer allowed to have a reaction to shitty behavior, and nothing you do, say, think or feel, after being abused is allowed— in the name of the other person “having boundaries” — you are in fact dealing with a narcissistic bully. When that person tells you whatever the hell it is they want to tell you, no matter how hurtful, and then pulls the, “you’re negative,” “it’s not about you,” or “it’s not personal” card, when you want to talk about it, what they are really saying is that they want free reign to abuse you, yet fog their intentions by calling them boundaries.
The subtitle of Dodging Energy Vampires is, “Evading Relationships that Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power.” Evading relationships? O.k? But at what point? Apparently, “the second one deems someone is negative,” is the answer. If my son calls and asks me how I’m doing, and I say I have a headache — according to him and his millennial generation, that is negative and now — I’m always sick. So, that has become a reason for not coming home for eight Christmases. Li.ter.al. The message is: I have to be fun, and easy to be with at every second, never mention anything about myself, and when he asks me anything, lie. No thanks. Don’t come home then.
And, really… what relationship doesn’t drain us after a while? Solution: I’ll just evade you. Nice. Restoring our health and power is not about being armored up sitting high upon a throne in our untouchable superiority. Evading and shutting people down is a rigid, angry behavior and is abuse in an of itself when done to someone you’ve just abused. This behavior of cutting people off at the knees and evading others in pain is what Jeff Brown calls trauma-bypassing and is a learned patriarchal behavior.
“Be Here Now”! We can’t. We have too much trauma in the way. “The Power of Now”! Sounds good, but first, we have to deal with the “Power of Then.” Worst things, first. It’s easy enough to talk about being in the “now.” But what we are we even talking about? Now through the mind? Through the heart? Through the body? What does it even mean to be fully present? Most of the people teaching nowness are head-tripping, meditation addicted spiritual bypassers. What do they really know about presence? The truth is that we are all trauma survivors, and that includes every spiritual teacher I have ever known. Almost every one of them has confused self-avoidance with enlightenment, blaming the mind for all that ails them while conveniently sidestepping their wounded hearts. Bottom line- we can’t be in the present, because our emotional and physical body are tied up in trauma knots. Some, many, perhaps all threads of our consciousness are still back there, locked into the originating wounds. If we want to truly BE HERE NOW, we have to be there, then. We have to untie the knots and heal the core wounds. Then, and only “then”, will we know the true power of NOW.” — Jeff Brown
I’m all for boundaries against toxic people, but before labeling someone toxic, don’t forget people are human and looking for connection. Part of being a friend is listening and holding space for people. We’ve forgotten this. Giving people the benefit of the doubt first, with some compassion and empathy may work wonders on someone feeling heard. If someone is toxic, maybe we haven’t heard them out? If that’s your take on someone immediately, maybe you’re projecting? We live in a very literal society anymore. It would be nice if people had some sort of tolerance level before cutting people off, lest they become the toxic person themselves.
I’m not saying that we must become a welcome mat for people to wipe their feet on, or that we should tolerate people chewing our ears while we should be working, or that we need to be tolerating bad behavior year after year and calling that a relationship… let’s not be so literal and disclaimer-y to the nth degree, k? But, let’s use some common sense. We pretty much know in our heart of hearts the difference between someone venting, and someone toxic, am I right? When someone wants to mend a relationship by talking about the past so it doesn’t repeat itself, and that of someone smearing shit everywhere toxic. I certainly understand the difference. Venting is a once in a while thing, and toxic is all the time. Discussion about pain is altogether different and should be a back and forth, honest dialogue between two people who reciprocate listening, asking questions, while having respect for one another.
Life is hard. Be kind. Come back later and let someone know you care before you decide someone should be written off as “toxic.” Think of that word, “toxic.” It means waste, very bad, unpleasant, harmful. Not something I’m willing to do on a whim. And, I’m not saying that we have to keep taking it and taking it to prove our love to people either. This is a balance thing. You can be soft and kind and still have boundaries like a mofo.
Thankfully, when I was dying on the vine, I was able to put myself into counseling when I didn’t have a shoulder to lean on or an ear to talk to about my pain. It made all the difference in the world to help me stay another day. Think! Some people may not have that resource. And why are they trusting YOU with their story!?
We want world peace, but we don’t want to talk. We want to break generational curses and patterns but we want to evade doing the work. That’s not how any of this even works.
Be an ear. A shoulder. Have a heart. Have boundaries, but don’t forget your own humanness for toxicity. Don’t be so quick to write people off. Take breaks, but go visit your heart and check in with what you really know. It knows the truth. Anything else is toxic.