Sunday, 28 December 2014


A lovely post & so important to consider in the healing journey...

Our bodies are built for connection. Not just a casual hug or hand on the shoulder.
We’re built to thrive on love, and intimate touch is a natural physical manifestation of love. And by intimate touch I mean the kind that says ‘I’m right here, fully present with you, in this moment,’ rather than intimacy which is just about genital contact. It’s an intimacy which can be shared with anyone we love, not just sexual partners. Studies have shown that the cells in our bodies expand when they feel love and contract when they feel its opposite, and our ability to use our touch to transmit that energy to another is an innate gift which we all carry.
Modern society is moving further and further away from touch as a natural, integrated part of everyday life.
To fill the gap, we have created services that people buy and sell, but it’s not that same and we’re losing touch with our own natural ability to bring healing and pleasure to those close to us.
“Massage is needed in the world because love has disappeared. Once the very touch of lovers was enough. A mother touched the child, played with his body, and it was massage. The husband played with the body of his woman and it was massage; it was enough, more than enough. It was deep relaxation and part of love. But that has disappeared from the world. By and by we have forgotten where to touch, how to touch, how deep to touch. In fact touch is one of the most forgotten languages.” -Osho from ‘Hammer on the Rock’
Reawakening that ability for loving touch can be one of the simplest and most beautiful gifts to ourselves and our loved ones. At its most basic, just showing up and being willing to touch someone with the intention of bringing healing or love can be a comforting experience for another. And sometimes it’s as easy as that. We may shy away from placing soothing hands on an aching back or stroking a tense head, thinking drugs or a doctor are more efficient, or not wanting to spend the time. Surprisingly, though, it can be all that’s needed to shift a mood, lighten discomfort, or unlock a deeper emotional layer that’s ready to be cleared. More importantly, touch connects people and increases that sense of trust and love in the world in a way that doctors and drugs struggle to do.
In essence, reclaiming our ability to lovingly touch another—whether child, friend or lover—can be as straightforward as practicing the following four qualities. The more often we practice them, the deeper our touch can go.
Clear intention.
Be clear about why you want to touch another and stay focused on that intention. Are you intending to create a sense of well-being? Or pleasure? Or comfort? Whatever it is, be clear in your mind about it before you start. As an experiment, ask a friend to close their eyes and try two variations of the same touch—stroke their arm once while thinking of your favourite movie and then a second time while intending that they feel your love. Then ask if they noticed any difference.
It sounds simple to say ‘love the one you’re with’ but it’s not always that easy to access a feeling of love for someone at the drop of a hat. So find another way in to the energy—twiddle that internal dial until you find that feeling of love somewhere inside (try music, or the face of a lover, or the memory of a warm summer’s day). Use your mind or senses to find a catalyst that can bring you back to a deep feeling of love, then refocus the energy on the person you’re with.
You can’t hear what another’s body is trying to say to you if your mind is busy, so bring that mind fully into the moment! Focus on the sensation of touch, or on synchronizing your breathing with the person you’re touching, if you need to have something to keep the mind busy with. Being present brings a stillness, and intuition reaches us through that stillness.
Trust that you can bring a sense of well-being and love to another by touching them. Trust that somewhere deep inside, you know how and where to touch them. Then follow your instincts, get on with it and see where it leads you.
Feelings of pleasure and well-being aren’t just for the lucky one who’s being touched, either.
The beauty of feeling another opening under your touch and discovering the depths that can be hidden in the body brings with it a deeper connection to the mysteries of life as well as a sense of profound gratitude for this simple gift.~

--Freya Watson


Sunday, 17 August 2014


Prayer for All to be Comforted

by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

May all those souls lost, rest in peace 
and those who are called, remain near us 
and help us from their spiritual home now. 

May those who have suddenly lost 
precious loved ones, be comforted 
not just by human beings, but by the angels 
who also 'look like' human beings, 
and by those angelic forces of nature,
of creatures, weather and winds
that ever come near to comfort the grieving. 

May all see signs of their loved one's
in beautiful ways. 
May all be given the time to mourn 
and be wrapped in fire walls
and protected in their mourning times. 

May all who question, why 
people still laugh in the halls
when there is so much tragedy
in one's own life,
why there is still the sun shining
when it is so cold and dark
from loss of one's loves,
why the moon can possibly still rise
when there is no light left inside us...

Please know that in these 
Great Beings of life rising
again and again, in innocent laughter,
in the beauty of sunlight,
in the magnitude of the moon 
those places and sights
are being held for us, 
held for us by others
living them, seeing them, cherishing them--
until the day that we will ourselves
emerge from walking and wandering
in the land of the dead, 
and come back to life again. 

Laughter and sun and moon
are the promises kept that 
our hearts one day, will be light again,
that our hearts will be in sunlight again,
that our nights will have beauty 
and reflection once again. 

"Prayer .... allows a huge river, an endless river within us, to flow and flow to all streams, all creeks, all artesian wells, all water tables-- 'out there'... all of which, we can help to fill daily, ESPECIALLY for those who come to the water daily, consciously or unconsciously looking to be washed, healed, thirst for life and means for life, sated for one more day. Ours is not to qualify who drinks from the water. Ours is just to cause the water to continue to flow." ~ Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes (same posting)

Image: Art by Duy Huynh

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Being Highly Sensitive & Dealing With Narcissistic Abuse

One of the really big issues for me in dealing with Narcissistic Abuse & working towards recovery, has been to make sense of why I have felt so bad for so long, without relief. After 25 years, I am still so debilitated & highly life!! 
But in the last few months I have come across 3 or 4 profoundly useful teachings & concepts that have really, really helped me.
The first, is the fact, that I now understand that I am a Highly Sensitive Person.

Caroline at The Happy Sensitive is amazing & she puts it this way:
"Have you always known there was something “different” about you? Does the world seem to bombard your senses? Have you intuitively known things that others didn’t? Is it all pretty awesome EXCEPT: you’re so worn out, overwhelmed, emotional, stressed and maybe even medicated that you wonder how you fit in? (and how you fit into your life?"

 I knew I was on to something really important for me the second that I read these words.
Then, when I completed this short & simple self test quiz found here & I scored maybe 25 out of 27 I thought "oh-oh this really is me!" (there's a quiz for kids too here).
Apparently, one in 5 of us may, in fact, be some kind of Highly Sensitive Person.
Here I read that: HSPs can be extremely health challenged.
here, that "The characteristic of being a highly sensitive person is often inherited - a sensitive nervous system that affects every aspect of the HSPs life."

"The sensitive nervous systems of the highly sensitive people mean that they have strong emotions and empathetic natures. HSP intensity can make relationships difficult. Their desire for deep conversation can be uncomfortable to non-HSPs.There is some evidence that trauma may be a factor in HSP sensitivities. David Ritchey's H.I.S.S. questionnaire documented the prevalence of emotional and physical abuse among "anomalously sensitive people" his term for highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron warns that HSPs are more affected by a difficult abusive childhood and need to take special care to heal their wounds. HSPs do not heal that easily from wounds sustained in a relationship so relationships can be a challenge, and many HSPs chose to limit their relationships."

I am beginning to understand why my nervous system has been so overwhelmed by things that other people just take in their stride. Why, I'd love to have a cup of tea with you (anyone) & chat for an hour or so & that's all lovely, but if you come & stay in my house for days & want to chat again & again..I get overwhelmed & stressed & want to hide away on my own in the garden.
And most importantly, why it's taken so long to heal the wounds of my life...because the traumas were so many & diverse & sustained AND I am an HSP!

So when I read at The Happy Sensitive that 

"You..the intuitively gifted, emotionally perceptive, astutely sensitive and sensorily overstretched. I am like you, and it took me quite a while to figure out what that was exactly. You see, it all gets a lot better when you figure out what that sensitivity is exactly, how it works, and how you can best work with it, in your own unique way. There is nothing wrong with how you were built. It’s just that, you were likely told you were a mountainbike, when in fact, you are a less sturdy but very agile and fast racing bike. You’ve been driving yourself down muddy tracks and wondering why things felt so wrong. So here’s why, your way of relating to the world is different, your way of traveling through the world is different, and your way of knowing the world is different. You are definitely a bicycle, just a different type." 

I thought...oh phew, it's not just me!!

So....couple HSP with Narcissistic Abuse & you have a really sticky mixture, especially if the highly sensitive person is a child who lost her mother before the age of 6 & remains with the cause of that loss..the narcissistic father.

Caroline gives a very helpful reflection here:
Empathy vs Narcissism
Outwardly, there are some similarities between HSP-ness and narcissism. Internally, the difference is huge though.
While narcissists also appear “sensitive” they lack the needed introspection to see the need to change internally. So instead, they perceive all their own issues as a direct result from other people’s actions.
HSP’s on the other hand tend to blame themselves for a lot of things that are not their responsibility at all.
For HSP’s the combination of being self-blaming with hanging out with someone who is other-blaming (aka, narcissistic) often leads to a very negative downward spiral.
That’s why it’s super important for HSP’s to get knowledgeable about narcissism, how narcissists function, how to spot a narcissist and ultimately, how to heal ourself.

The thing is, the child is defenceless, open, unprotected from the choices or abuses of a messed up parent or care-giver; the patterns of stress, fear of loss & anxiety get set up in those early years & layer by layer, event by event, eventually become the parasympathetic default setting of physical, emotional & heart response in the core of the child. The damaged, sensitised & grieving child remains, even when we have long grown into adulthood. When, all through the years of loss & trauma there is no acknowledgement of the phenomenal losses (yet relentless expectation of high performance); when there is no comfort, touch, expressions of love or assurance that everything will be alright, the soul & heart of that child become indelibly stained with the narcissistic legacies of hopelessness & worthlessness. Life force fades to grey.

How to heal?

That is the monolithic challenge for the HSP child of a narcissistic parent.

In my quest for authenticity & meaning it wasn't long (18) before I was immersed in a new family dynamic that did not serve me well either. The "family" of Pentecostal Church was a catastrophe for a damaged HSP emapth like me. The messages of no right to be myself, must surrender all that I am: die to self!, only Christ in me matters, others always come first, loyalty to leadership no matter what or ostracism will follow, do not ever think for yourself or question the teachings, obedience is paramount...never trust your own understanding, forgiveness is my duty, always; never share your real feelings, giving is mandatory but receiving is not to be expected & on & on it goes....for 30 years.

If I do not know myself or like myself, if I am not valued, safe or loved I cannot even begin to love others well.

So, no matter the family of dysfunction I will never be well & thrive if I do not find my own voice & learn to like & accept every part of who I am....only than can I begin to love.

I remind myself again of this: (by Kaleah Roche) 
..."The clear answer is to get away from that person. The common thought is when you are no longer engaging with the narcissist in your life, you can make a speedy recovery. What people don’t often realize is that narcissism is like a virus that takes hold in your psyche and won’t let up. It is the toxic gift that keeps on giving. You can’t seem to get away from it; even after that person is long gone. It is as if the narcissist projects and dumps into your energy field all of his toxic garbage and then cuts off from you and moves on before it can catch back up with him, or her. You are left holding the bag! You are left recovering from the virus and it is a sticky virus. It is a long journey to recovery.
The journey involves post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive thinking, low energy, lack of vitality, heartbreak, betrayal, deception, feeling devalued and discarded, feeling abandoned, feeling replaced, feeling lost, crazy, frustrated, insecure, needy, and addicted. You may be feeling guilty as if you were to blame for it all. You may be feeling deep grief and sadness, emptiness, and loneliness. You may have lost your will to live. You may feel invisible, like you don’t matter. You may even feel you don’t exist at all. You are most likely feeling the lack of closure. You may feel a strong desire for revenge; wanting that person to pay for his or her sins against you. You may have lost everything, including your children, your home, your livelihood, your money and your health. You may feel that God has it out for you and possibly even lost your faith that there is any kind of God at all. You may be going through a dark night of the soul; a descent into darkness deeper than anything you have ever experienced. You may have dreams and nightmares about the narcissist in your life and feel haunted by the mere thought of him or her. You want nothing more than to get away but there is no place to run. You are plagued by a constant state of anxiety that won’t go away. You may have tried everything you could possibly think of to alleviate the symptoms and bring you some kind of peace.
Life as you know it is over. There is no going back to what once was. There has been a death; a death of a part of yourself it seems the narcissist has taken from you. You have lost a big piece of your soul and you want it back. You feel tied to that person through an invisible psychic cord that is very difficult to cut. Each time you try it seems the narcissist comes back either energetically or physically. Your energy is constantly being vampired; your life force energy; your lifeblood, sucked dry."

The next profoundly helpful teaching is an ancient concept: that of the Chinese Five Elements & the different personalities. I will write about this soon.   

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Negativistic Passive Agressive Personality Disorder

Rob's father was a highly ignorant, argumentative, belligerent & pessimistic person who, around mid adulthood developed an avid nazi obsession.
He was born in to poverty in East Grinstead, England in the late 1920's & lost his father around the age of 12. At 18 he decided to avoid conscription by running away with two older brothers to Kenya.
It was while there that he met Rob's mother, who had also emigrated from England , incumbent with unresolved, messy upperclass background. She settled on this man & chose to marry him, since a better offer never came along.
It was the very worst decision of her life.
The consequences have been utterly disastrous.
He was extremely destructive within the family setting.
I have come to believe that this man suffered from negativistic passive aggressive personality disorder.

Dr Sam Vaknin describes the traits of the order this way:

"Some people are perennial pessimists and have "negative energy" and negativistic attitudes ("good things don't last", "it doesn't pay to be good", "the future is behind me"). Not only do they disparage the efforts of others, but they make it a point to resist demands to perform in workplace and social settings and to frustrate people's expectations and requests, however reasonable and minimal they may be. Such persons regard every requirement and assigned task as impositions, reject authority, resent authority figures (boss, teacher, parent-like spouse), feel shackled and enslaved by commitment, and oppose relationships that bind them in any manner.
Passive-aggressiveness wears a multitudes of guises: procrastination, malingering, perfectionism, forgetfulness, neglect, truancy, intentional inefficiency, stubbornness, and outright sabotage. This repeated and advertent misconduct has far reaching effects. Consider the Negativist in the workplace: he or she invests time and efforts in obstructing their own chores and in undermining relationships. But, these self-destructive and self-defeating behaviours wreak havoc throughout the workshop or the office.

People diagnosed with the Negativistic (Passive-Aggressive) Personality Disorder resemble narcissists in some important respects. Despite the obstructive role they play, passive-aggressive's feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated, and misunderstood. They chronically complain, whine, carp, and criticize. They blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as martyrs and victims of a corrupt, inefficient, and heartless system (in other words, they have alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control).

Passive-aggressive's sulk and give the "silent treatment" in reaction to real or imagined slights. They suffer from ideas of reference (believe that they are the butt of derision, contempt, and condemnation) and are mildly paranoid (the world is out to get them, which explains their personal misfortune). In the words of the DSM: "They may be sullen, irritable, impatient, argumentative, cynical, skeptical and contrary." They are also hostile, explosive, lack impulse control, and, sometimes, reckless.

Inevitably, passive-aggressive's are envious of the fortunate, the successful, the famous, their superiors, those in favour, and the happy. They vent this venomous jealousy openly and defiantly whenever given the opportunity. But, deep at heart, passive-aggressive's are craven. When reprimanded, they immediately revert to begging forgiveness, kowtowing, maudlin protestations, turning on their charm, and promising to behave and perform better in the future."

This was him absolutely except the craven aspect.
Interestingly passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism!
Notes borrowed gratefully from here.

Family life went along fairly well while they lived in Kenya. Two sons were born to them & the father had work. As the years went by, there was steadily increasing violence & unrest in was the time of The Uprising & soon it became evident that the family was no longer safe to live there & so they emigrated to New Zealand by ship in 1963.
They eventually settled in West Auckland, an eccentric & odd little family that now included the mother-in-law, who had escaped the hostilities & her much younger drunken French husband, by traveling with them.
As a young married couple Rob's parents were to face the reality that the father was suffering from ankylosing spondlytis (even after extensive treatment back in England & leaving his young wife to give birth alone in Nairobi) he was to break his back by throwing a wheelbarrow in an act of rage at the "Blacks" & suffered in great pain with rapid & continual deterioration once living in New Zealand.

By now there was a third son, the mother became a born-again christian & simultaneously became an irresolute Religious Passive Aggressive Controller. Having realised that her rebellious act of marriage had brought about unforeseen & difficult consequences she went about setting this "right" by loving & defending her sons & husband with an unconditional love that refused to allow the slightest criticism of them or their behaviour or attitudes. She unswervingly believed God would transform them all (sons) in to wonderful men & make them all Pastors that she could be so proud of. He would also save her husband from himself!
In those early years, in their new home with their young sons & mother-in-law living downstairs, the father birthed an interest which became an obsession, in all things nazi & third reich. He admired & worshipped their might & prowess. Over time, he secretly sent for & imported nazi memorabilia which he stored in a shrine up in the apex of the house; a windowless space that was only accessible by clambering up through the linen cupboard in the hall. He indoctrinated his three sons in hatred, bigotry, racism & every pessimistic & negative attitude: including rebellion to authority. 
The eldest son left home at 16 & went to sea, eventually captaining a survey ship (ultimate control) practicing extreme martial arts & marrying a prostitute. Her son was to kill himself by drug overdose at the age of 22 & her demise was messy, long, painful & also thoroughly premature. The mother-in-law adored this woman & was devastated at her death, yet rejected her other two daughters-in-law entirely; going on to spread lies, cast aspersions & create division amongst us all over decades. Somehow she could only relate to the broken & just have to see the "beautiful people" inside.
The youngest son became a rebel, a Westie & a drug addict who was never the full picnic & eventually broke his own family by buying into the maternally schooled religious deception that God was in charge, he didn't need to "own" anything, think for himself, apologise ever or change in any way. God would fix everything for him, given time. This was The Will of God & mustn't be doubted.  
The consequences: an entirely broken family, an appalling & destructive legacy that sticks like poo & a struggle for freedom of soul for Rob that has been debilitating & painful & almost destroyed our marriage.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Gently Healing..It Takes Time

When we have been deeply wounded, especially when there has been trauma in those first crucial (crucible) years of life, the wounds go deep & sit in the cellular memory, we may not have any conscious idea as to why we react the way we do or even how we really feel about particular things. I always recognised my own misery & voicelessness but I had no idea that I was also trapped in grief...literally grief-stricken. At first I lost my mother (brutally & abruptly) & simultaneously my core family of origin. I had no idea then, that from the age of 6, I would struggle for survival, to be me for the next 47 years. The losses continued, marriage after marriage (fathers), "home" after home, my brother's marriages-his wives, my friends- abruptly gone. All gone forever. Connection broken...
I was lost.
Realistically, this kind of damage, (let alone the compounded insult & impact of narcissistic abuse), are very difficult to recover from & healing will take a very long time.

My awakening this week was to realise that I am worth nourishing.
All those years I was starving, starving of real food, emotional support, acknowledgement or love; desperate.. for simple touch, assurance & a sense of belonging. I needed to know that I was safe & wanted, but that never arrived for me. Never given.

Even when wounds- emotional or physical- are cared for tenderly, the healing takes time, & poking at the injured place in our heart or on our body to see if the healing is "done" just inflames the injury & slows healing. When we trust that healing will happen, we can be patient. When we feel no such trust, we may need to lean into the experience of others whose seeing is not coloured by pain right now. We are built for healing- and I wonder sometimes if the time it takes is. . . .purposeful, a chance to learn how to treat the injuries in ourselves, others & the world with tenderness, nourishment & compassion. ~Oriah (Pic by the wonderful SimpLee Serene )

"When you choose self-loathing, you separate from the­ essential self and cut yourself off from the truth that flows naturally within you. Your connection to the source of your inherent goodness dries up and you lose the insight to the path of your highest good. This separation causes a feeling of powerlessness, an inability to act in alignment with your most authentic desires. You lose yourself and the ability to love the one you are.  In energy medicine terms, you literally disconnect from your heart center and form a separate identity fueled by pain, fear and self-loathing."

"When you first start to wake up to the ways in which the conditioning from your childhood has influenced who you think you are, it's easy to fall into blame and judgment of your parents and others who influenced you when you were young. Yes, it's helpful to illuminate these patterns so you recognize that many conditioned behaviors are either the mirror of your parents or a rebellion against them. Underneath this conditioning lies the authentic YOU.

Once you realize where these patterns came from and stop identifying with your conditioning, you loosen the grip of how these patterns play out in your life, and this frees you. But you'll fall into another kind of prison if you start blaming those who conditioned you. Instead, open your heart. Realize that your parents were just as imprisoned by these conditioned patterns as you have been! They inherited them from their parents and passed them on to you, not because they're bad people or you were bad, but because they're unconscious. They know not what they do.

But you are blessed because you are no longer unconscious, so you now have a responsibility to break the patterns.

Adyashanti calls these conditioned patterns "generational suffering"- the anger, depression, addiction, abuse, resentment, bigotry, hatred, and anxiety that gets passed on from generation to generation. Adya says, "One of the interesting things to note about generational suffering is that it's not personal. In other words, it's more like a virus that infects the people within a family. It's a way of suffering that infects the family and then gets passed on, almost like the flu or a cold, through future generations. When you're born, without even knowing it, you're actually being handed this generational pain. In response, you will complain about it, think it's terrible, and otherwise resist it. But by doing so, you will come to see that denial or complaints about this pain only makes it sink more deeply into your being."

The good news is that you don't have to infect others with what has been passed to you. When you do the personal and spiritual growth work to heal from this suffering, you heal not only yourself; you cure the virus. You end the lineage, heal your family, and raise the vibration of the planet in doing so.

This requires radical compassion. It's so much easier to blame and judge those who hurt you than to forgive them. But by holding onto the resentment, you keep yourself in prison. The choice is yours. Will you choose to heal?

You can do this, darling. Your heart is that big. As Sara Bareilles sings, "Show me how big your brave is." You've got this. We believe in you."

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Right To Be Here...

Since I set my intention to "bloom" at the beginning of this year, my life has been plunged in to the deep. Many times, I thought that I might drown, but in this moment I have come up for sweet, fresh air..
& I breath deep & slowly.
It is often reflected that in the struggle & the places of pain & confusion that we go deepest & learn the most; I feel certain that this is true. 
Having not found the answers, release or support all these years in the conventional places, I have cast my net wider in these last months & gathered in knowledge & understanding that is beginning to look like genuine hope & give me tools that I have never had before.
Just yesterday, when I opened a page & saw Susan Brown's "Eve"...I was so moved & startled that I burst in to tears. I saw myself looking back in the soul, my essence.
I have now come to understand that you get really, really messed up when you are the child of a narcissistic abuser. I have been looking at myself reflected in the mirror my father held up, all these years. What I saw was his disgust & disdain. I have been washed & washed with his anger, rejection, dumping & blame & most of all, I realised this week...I was trained & conditioned to carry a sense of guilt about almost everything..EVERYTHING!!! It's hardest of all, I believe, to escape the prison the narcissist creates when you are a daughter. When you are in a romantic relationship with someone as an made that choice to enter in to the liaison & even wives can come & go; but a daughter schooled by a clever narcissist is in an untenable & very painful position. There are no divorce proceedings for father/daughter relationships. Divorce or the ending of an adult relationship provides a barrier, a buffer, a justification for your distance, boundary settings & new choices. In the parental trap...the power was never yours, you never had a voice & you didn't believe, deep down that you had the right to exist, so you are nothing. 
As I have struggled with my feelings of self-disgust & hating the little girl..I couldn't even look at her & I felt no compassion..why?? Was I so awful, so terrible, so unlovable? Why did I see her as ugly & feel disgust & dis-passion? Because I had been conditioned, systematically through 50 odd years. All the private abuse sessions listing all my wrong doings...out of nowhere, unprovoked, unbidden, unjustified. I was fat & that was disgusting, I was thoughtless, I wasn't a team player & I didn't pull my weight. I was lazy & I should have known, I was useless & stupid & let everybody down............   
Not one word of love or affection, not one kind touch or gesture.
And never, ever through all the apology.

But no more.
No longer will I look in that mirror..
allow myself to be perpetually locked in the cupboard of shame.
I have the right to be here, 
to be me,
just as I am.

These snippets below have come to me today.
They strengthen my truth & understanding.
I am not alone.

Elan Golomb's book..
Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists & their Struggle for Self 
In this compelling book, Elan Golomb identifies the crux of the emotional and psychological problems of millions of adults. Simply put, the children of narcissist -- offspring of parents whose interest always towered above the most basic needs of their sons and daughters -- share a common belief:

 They believe they do not have the right to exist.

"Empathy, Pity or Emotional Contagion? 

Empathy is distinct from sympathy, pity, and emotional contagion. Sympathy or empathic concern is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. 

Pity is feeling that another is in trouble and in need of help as they cannot fix their problems themselves, often described as "feeling sorry" for someone.

Emotional contagion is when a person (especially an infant or a member of a mob) imitatively "catches" the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening."

An excerpt from Kaleah Roche's book Healing Narcissistic Abuse & finding your true self 

"Most people don’t understand that recovery from narcissistic abuse is a traumatic experience. The one thing I hear more than anything else from my clients is “nobody understands my pain; not even the therapists I have seen.
If you are suffering from such a trauma, people will tell you “just get over it already!” Therapists will work to help you with your self esteem but most often won’t address the trauma. Ironically your therapist will often be the one who tells you the person you are struggling to overcome is a narcissist. Your therapist is often the one to diagnose you with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But how do you really cope? That remains a mystery for sufferers and therapists alike.
The clear answer is to get away from that person. The common thought is when you are no longer engaging with the narcissist in your life, you can make a speedy recovery. What people don’t often realize is that narcissism is like a virus that takes hold in your psyche and won’t let up. It is the toxic gift that keeps on giving. You can’t seem to get away from it; even after that person is long gone. It is as if the narcissist projects and dumps into your energy field all of his toxic garbage and then cuts off from you and moves on before it can catch back up with him, or her. You are left holding the bag! You are left recovering from the virus and it is a sticky virus. It is a long journey to recovery.
The journey involves post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive thinking, low energy, lack of vitality, heartbreak, betrayal, deception, feeling devalued and discarded, feeling abandoned, feeling replaced, feeling lost, crazy, frustrated, insecure, needy, and addicted. You may be feeling guilty as if you were to blame for it all. You may be feeling deep grief and sadness, emptiness, and loneliness. You may have lost your will to live. You may feel invisible, like you don’t matter. You may even feel you don’t exist at all. You are most likely feeling the lack of closure. You may feel a strong desire for revenge; wanting that person to pay for his or her sins against you. You may have lost everything, including your children, your home, your livelihood, your money and your health. You may feel that God has it out for you and possibly even lost your faith that there is any kind of God at all. You may be going through a dark night of the soul; a descent into darkness deeper than anything you have ever experienced. You may have dreams and nightmares about the narcissist in your life and feel haunted by the mere thought of him or her. You want nothing more than to get away but there is no place to run. You are plagued by a constant state of anxiety that won’t go away. You may have tried everything you could possibly think of to alleviate the symptoms and bring you some kind of peace.
Life as you know it is over. There is no going back to what once was. There has been a death; a death of a part of yourself it seems the narcissist has taken from you. You have lost a big piece of your soul and you want it back. You feel tied to that person through an invisible psychic cord that is very difficult to cut. Each time you try it seems the narcissist comes back either energetically or physically. Your energy is constantly being vampired; your life force energy; your lifeblood, sucked dry."

“While much psychology emphasizes the familial causes of angst in humans, the cultural component carries as much weight, for culture is the family of the family. If the family of the family has various sicknesses, then all families within that culture will have to struggle with the same malaises. There is a saying cultura cura, culture cures. If the culture is a healer, the families learn how to heal; they will struggle less, be more reparative, far less wounding, far more graceful and loving. In a culture where the predator rules, all new life needing to be born, all old life needing to be gone, is unable to move and the soul-lives of its citizenry are frozen with both fear and spiritual famine.” 
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Root Chakra Affirmations:
I feel deeply rooted.
I am connected to my body.
I feel safe and secure.
Just like a tree or a star, I have a right to be here.
I stand for my values, for truth, and for justice.
I have what I need.
I am grounded, stable, and standing on my own two feet.
I nurture my body with healthy food, clean water, exercise, relaxation, and connection with nature.
I am open to possibilities.
I am grateful for all the challenges that helped me to grow and transform.
I trust in the goodness of life.
I make choice that are healthy and good for me.
I trust myself.
I love life.

The root or base chakra is the place of anchorage & grounding & I bet it is in real chaos when you are a narcissistic abuse survivor.

"Anger always seems to be directed towards another individual but the real truth about anger is anger is not angry at anyone else besides self.  (concerning narcissism at least)

We are angry at ourselves for being gullible and naive. We are angry at ourselves for being deceived, taken advantage of and hurt. We are angry at ourselves for trusting and believing even when the signs were pointing in the opposite direction. We are angry at ourselves for not taking a stance and making a difference when we should've; we are angry at ourselves for lacking courage and determination.

Forgive yourself for being naive, forgive yourself for being blind, forgive yourself for being gullible, forgive yourself for lacking courage, forgive yourself for all of your shortcomings so that you are finally able to be free. Free from the anger that is held within, free from the anger that you believe is caused by another individual when the real reason why that anger hasn't been released is because it is directed towards self. Self is being blamed for not protecting itself (you) the way it should've, for not seeing the obvious when it should've, for not helping and making a difference when it should've, for not having the courage and determination when it should've. Free yourself from all the anger and hate directed towards self. Don't be deceived that the anger you hold within is directed towards another individual, know that you are angry at yourself and let it go by forgiving yourself."

Oluwaseun Simoné

"The back stabbing and smear campaign. Again just a few comments on this phenomenon that a narcissist plans out so carefully to administer more punishment, cover up their abuse, destroy people's character, use as a "woe-be-me" line to suck in new supply, and many other reasons to carry on their psychopathy to be all they can be in their battle against the world. My point is how many times have you heard the narcissist say that they have never said a bad word about you to anyone, but yet you have proof of their destruction coming at you from every possible direction, even in writing. Then they counter it with comments that we should move on because we are scorned, obsessed, seeking attention, and trouble makers - that's the kettle calling the pot black. I would always get mentally ill, or I was the one that had affairs, or my narcissist was praying for me, etc., etc., etc., added to the list. Well of course we all know they are quite possibly the biggest liars in the world or even the universe, and there is no way of getting around what they lie about because in their heads it is carved in stone. They could open a conversation with a list of how we are probably the worst person in the world and debase us to our face, but in the next statement say they have always talked kindly about us and NEVER EVER in a negative way - then say "tell your family I said hello." Indeed, that is what my family wants to hear as if the narcissist totally forgets that they abused them as well. Along the same lines we are left to deal with the back stabbing/smear campaign, while they run off like the cowards, even crying more about how it was us that was abusing them with the one or two supporters that believe their BS. First off (in my case) one person could never be everything my narcissist made me out to be, or they would have put me away years ago. Second, they are actually projecting what THEY have actually done to us, and we know they are the guilty ones here, but we end up damned if we do or damned if we don't deal with their integrity assassination - either way we will seem guilty by association. In reality it is best to completely step away from these monsters and let the chips fall where they may because we can't pick up all of the pieces because we generally never know who or whom they have spread their vicious lies to and what they said. In their delusional world there are no rules or laws they abide by, so they generate an incredulous story about us and even believe it - they forget this even when they talk to us and tell us their made up stories like we don't know the truth. Generally we have lived on this earth long enough that most people know our characters well enough to walk away from a narcissist that shows signs of being rabid, and these are the people that count in our lives, not the ones that get charged up with the narcissists destruction. I go back to the statement above that a narcissist lives in a disordered world full of convoluted lies and delusions about us and especially about themselves and that is written in stone in their heads - you can't make them any part of your life or think they will do anything but continue to abuse us if you allow them to. I learned many moons back that NO CONTACT was the only way to get them out of your lives - unfortunately until I learned this I had to endure a few months of crazy making - but I processed it in a manner that help me define the psychopathy and find out the truth about this person. If I could offer one piece of advice it would be this; from the moment you know they are a narcissist go no contact and never look back - it is so much better on the other side!!! Greg" from the Facebook page After Narcissistic Abuse There is Light, Life & Love.

"Regarding the critical injury to adult children with narcissistic parents. Interestingly, many such people have no problem finding "love."

But deep affection does not satisfy them unless accompanied by the granting of "voice" by a powerful person. As a result, adult children of narcissistic parents often go from bad relationship to bad relationship in search of "voice."

For parents, the implications are clear. Love is not enough. Client after client has taught me this unequivocal lesson:

If you want to raise emotionally healthy children, you must give them the gift of "voice."

(About the author: Dr. Grossman is a clinical psychologist and author. )"

"One of the most profound lessons of narcissistic abuse is getting over the loss of our true voice (our essence) being transgressed by the over-controlling, over-powering, reality dominating, and identity replacing projections of the narcissist."

Monday, 17 March 2014

Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents: The Echoes

Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents: The Echoes

The term narcissist is often used to describe someone who is self-centered, conceited,
vain; or simply an insensitive, egotistical, know it all. As a personality trait, there is a notion that
a mild case of narcissism can actually be healthy, that it helps people cope with life‟s ups and
downs; while an intense or severe case is harmful, primarily to the narcissist themselves. The
understanding that severe psychological damage can be done by a true narcissist, to the people
who love them, is not widely understood or addressed; in many cases narcissism is minimized as
a form of mental illness. In an article about Narcissism in Psychology Today, Carl Vogel writes:
Intensely narcissistic people often live tumultuous lives, as few people can tolerate them
for long. But having a milder version of the personality type comes with many side
benefits. Subclinical narcissists are happy. They are less likely to be depressed, sad or
anxious, and rate their subjective well-being more highly. They're less reactive to stress and recover more rapidly from it. (Vogel, 2006)
How does one determine whether the level of narcissism present is mild or severe? A true
narcissist stays off the radar; in fact they are model citizens: they pay their bills on time, mow
their lawns every Saturday, attend church on Sundays, and are active members of the PTA.
Narcissists may be annoying, hard to get along with, ego-maniacs, but there is a certain level of 
cultural admiration for the tyrannical, workaholic, CEO who came from nothing and built an
empire. They may be a jerk, but a successful jerk nonetheless, and their antics to be endured if 
one wants to get ahead. Whether the tyrant is a boss or a spouse, psychologists advise their
clients to treat the narcissist as if they were temperamental children, to
“butter them up, let them
 be the center of attention, don‟t expect much, don‟t cross them, keep a sense of humor”
(Vogel, 2006)

This is very good advice if you‟re an adult, but what if the narcissist
happens to be your mother, father, or primary care giver? A parent who manipulates a child into meeting their own emotional needs is no longer “charismatic, charming, exasperating or downright ludicrous“, but cruel and abusive; the effects of which are rarely diagnosed or treated in the children or adult children of narcissists. The symptoms of a narcissistic family system are exactly what make a
diagnosis so difficult everything seems so "perfect".
 The emotional damage done by a narcissistic parent can, in many ways, be even more
devastating to the healthy ego-development of a child than overt abuse, because it is so insidious.
Although many of the same symptoms occur in the client‟s life that stem from the incest family,
the alcohol troubled family, the physically abusive family, and so forth, none of those issues
were present in the narcissistic family. In fact, the family of origin seems to have functioned
quite well—at least on the surface. Like “a shiny red apple with a worm inside”, the narcissistic
system hides its dysfunction, even from the people who grow up inside of it. This masking is
what makes treatment so difficult; you cannot heal what you do not understand.
The term narcissist is derived from the story in Greek Mythology about a beautiful young
man named Narcissus who was so infatuated with himself that he fell in love with his own
reflection in a pool of water. He grew so frustrated that he could not have the object of his
affection (himself) that, to end his suffering, he plunged a dagger into his heart and died. There is
another character in the story that is often forgotten: Echo. According to the story, Echo was a
beautiful, but overly chatty, nymph who was cursed by Hera so she could no longer form her
own words, only repeat what others said. When she falls in love with Narcissus and finally hears
him say “I love you”, she can finally tell him that she loves him too. She does not realize that he
was declaring his love for his own reflection, not for her. The story of Narcissus and Echo
exemplify the narcissistic family system. Narcissus is the self-centered parent who looks for their
idealized image to be reflected in everyone and everything around them. Echo symbolizes the
child, who is a mirror for the narcissistic parent, and must reflect back their idealized image in
order to hear the words “I love you”. The child never learns to develop a separate “voice” that
expresses who they are or what they need. What they do develop, however, is an uncanny ability
to know who their narcissistic parent wants to be, and what they need. In a narcissistic family
system, the parent-child roles are reversed: if the child can correctly meet the emotional needs of 
the parent, then maybe, just maybe, they will be loved in return.
In a healthy family, parents are able to see their children as separate individuals they allow
them to express their own opinions and feelings; to make mistakes, to grow, and discover who
they are as people. John Bradshaw, the author of Healing the Shame that Binds You, writes:
What a child needs most is a firm but understanding caretaker, who needs to be getting
his or her own needs met through other adults. Such a caretaker needs to have resolved
the issues in their own source relationships, and needs to have a sense of self-
responsibility. When this is the case, such a caretaker can be available to the child and
 provide what the child needs.”

(Donaldson-Pressman, & Pressman, 1994, p. 94)
A narcissistic parent, however, is incapable of giving their child this understanding and
freedom. Just as the echo child needs someone to reflect in order to exist, the narcissist does not
exist without a reflection and that reflection better be flawless or it will make the parent look,
and feel, like a failure. The parent‟s emotional needs are met by appearing perfect; they will
spend their lives striving for superiority in order to mask their deep feelings of inferiority. Alfred
Adler wrote:The fundamental dynamic of human striving is a constant movement from a felt "minus"
to an imagined "plus". The striving is influenced by: the type and intensity of the "minus"
feeling (inferiority or insecurity); the degree of activity; the strength of the feeling of 
community; and the particular goal of an imagined "plus". (Stein, para. 15)
What exactly goes on in a narcissistic family on a day to day basis that makes it so damaging?
If an overtly narcissistic parent is an alcoholic dad who, in a rage, breaks furniture during the
sleep-over, or a neglectful mom in short shorts at the casino cussing like a sailor, then what does
a covertly narcissistic family look like? Unfortunately, it looks more like Joan Crawford with
drawn on eyebrows, and giant shoulder pads chasing little Christina around screaming, “No wire hangers!”

 In Christina Crawford‟s memoir,
 Mommie Dearest, she exposes the abuse that went on behind closed doors, shattering the façade of the loving family with perfect children that her mother had so carefully manufactured. On the surface, Joan Crawford‟s four adopted children
were clean, well dressed and obedient. The house was beautiful, Joan Crawford was a successful
movie star and she bought the kids the best money could buy. After the memoir was published, a
few people who knew Joan believed what Christina said, but most of those closest to the family
denounced her as a spoiled brat who was trying to make money off of her dead mother. Bette
Davis was outraged by the book:
I was not Miss Crawford‟s biggest fan, but wisecracks to the contrary, I did and still do
respect her talent. What she did not deserve was that detestable book written by her
daughter. I've forgotten her name. Horrible. What a vile way to cash in on her mother‟s
name. Miss Crawford wasn't my close friend, but what her daughter, who I understand
was adopted, did was absolutely vile. To do something like that, who saved you from the
orphanage, foster homes, who knows what. If she didn't like the person who chose to be her mother, she was a grown up and could choose her own life. (Chandler, C. 2008d.)

Christina Crawford‟s story is a perfect example of the Echo child. It was her duty to unconditionally love her mot her, but her mother‟s love was always conditional. In Christina‟s book, she explains this role reversal beautifully: The image was of a bottomless pit into which you could pour years of loving kindness, and attempts at reconciliation, without visible results. It failed to erase the one
mistake…there just wasn‟t enough love in the world to fill her need…She demanded
constant reassurance of devotion that she left no room for love. It was impossible to love
her. (Nathiel, 2007, p. 45) To a narcissist, love equals performance and performance equals love. Their thought process is: “If you love me, you will make me look good, and when I look good, I will love you.”
 However, the expectations of a narcissist change constantly— what pleased them yesterday may
incur their wrath the next, depending on the circumstances, or who they want to impress. The
secret and deep seeded fear of every narcissist is that they are truly worthless— that if they are
not better than, or at least as good as, everyone else, they are inferior, and therefore unlovable.
They are empty vessels needing continual reassurance, and their child can never be good enough,
for long enough, to be loved. Unfortunately, this failure to please is almost always interpreted by
the child as a result of their own inadequacy.
Since the parent‟s approval or disapprovalis arbitrary and unpredictable, the Echo child can
never quite let their guard down. To trust, or feel safe, in a moment of peace, is to be
disappointed when the calm turns quickly into a storm, seemingly out of nowhere, and for no
apparent reason. They learn to not trust as children and, as adults, “they may want to form close and loving relationships, but have difficulty letting down the barriers to trust they have erected” (Donaldson- Pressman & Pressman, 1994, pp. 13).
To survive somewhat emotionally intact, these barriers were necessary to the child‟s psychological and physical safety.The need for psychological and physical safety as essential building blocks for the
development of trust is an elementary stage described in most developmental psychological systems (including those of Erikson and Maslow). In a narcissistic system, children learn to distrust their own feelings, perceptions and self-worth; this skewed reality follows them into adulthood, affecting every area of their lives. “When one is raised as a reactive/reflective being — as an Echo— one has not been taught the skills necessary to live a satisfying life. (Donaldson-Pressman, & Pressman, p.18)

Communication in the Narcissistic Family System
There are rules in a covertly narcissistic family; elements that keep the narcissist feeling in
control, but keep the rest of the family in a constant state of wary anxiety.
The purpose of these rules is to insulate the parents from the emotional needs of their
children— to protect and hold intact the parent system. Therefore all of these unspoken
 "rules for maintenance‟ of the narcissistic family system discourage open communication
of feelings by the children and limit their access to the parents, while giving the parents
unlimited access to the children. (Donaldson-Pressman & Pressman, 1994, p. 32)
How old is a child when the parent begins to sees them as a threat? Does it start as soon
as the baby comes home from the hospital? On the contrary, for the first twelve to twenty four
months, they are able to meet the infant's, physical and psychological needs, so that some level
of trust is formed between parent and child. When children are younger, their behavior is more
rewarding to the parent— they coo and giggle as infants, so that meeting their needs is more of a
task that requires very little emotional maturity on the part of the narcissistic parent. As the child
grows, however, and begins to develop a unique, and separate identity, their opinions, and
healthy need for individuation causes the parent to feel threatened, and rejected. In a healthy
family, a toddler‟s constant questions, and defiance can be somewhat annoying, but to be
expected. For a narcissist, this natural curiosity, and independence is interpreted as being
intentionally hurtful.
Somewhere between infancy and adolescence, the parent loses focus (if they ever had it)
and stops seeing the child as a distinct individual with feelings and needs to be validated
and met. The child becomes, instead, an extension of the parent. Normal emotional
growth is seen as selfish or deficient, and this is what the parent mirrors to the child. For
the child to get approval she must meet a spoken or unspoken need of the parent;
approval is contingent on the child meeting the parent system's needs (Donaldson-
Pressman, & Pressman, 1994, p. 30).
The echo child learns, the hard way, to keep their feelings, problems, mistakes, questions, and
opinions to themselves, or face severe disapproval, rejection and punishment from their
narcissistic parent. If they do share their true selves in a moment of unguarded honesty, they may
find those intimacies thrown back in their face at a later date. The communication style of the
disapproving narcissist is indirect because they fear clear, and honest confrontation. Instead of 
Mary, will you please take out the garbage?”One hears:“It would be nice if someone besides
me took the garbage out once in awhile, do I have to do everything around here? Mary, I thought
you said you were going to do this, you let it get too full and the dog got into it! I suppose you‟re
on the phone with that girl who you said was skipping school. Well, go ahead, if you hang out
with losers long enough you‟ll end up one too.”
The simple request to take out the garbage is not about the garbage at all— it is a loaded gun of communication. Indirectly, the narcissist has used
the garbage to: (1) elevate themselves as the only one who cares and actually does "everything‟— 
insinuating that nobody else does anything; (2) singles out someone to blame forthe dog making a mess; and (3) brings up a previous confidence shared by Mary about her friend skipping school, and equates Mary, the friend, and the full garbage can to Mary ending up a loser. In this scenario, Mary may have just gotten home from school, or been helping the neighbor lady find her cat, but that is of no concern to the narcissistic parent. Mary's feelings are of no concern to this parent either, and to express them, or try explaining why she did not have time to take the garbage out, is pointless.
A child that finds themselves in a similar situation to Mary‟s will respond to the parent in one
of two ways: fight or flight. To fight back is perceived as rebellious, selfish and disrespectful. To
choose the flight option will be mistakenly seen by the parent as compliant obedience. Either
way, the narcissist believes they are right, and the children was wrong— end of story. The
garbage is not just the garbage; this whole situation is another opportunity for the narcissist to
reassure themselves that they are not a failure as a parent; they are, in fact, a good parent by
pointing out how irresponsible Mary was. On the surface, that sounds like a reasonable
explanation that few would see as "child abuse‟, but it is. To cloak shame under the guise of  caring is precisely what causes such psychological damage to the Echo— they do not understand
why, if they are so loved, do they feel so worthless and unlovable? They conclude that what
mom or dad said about them must be true, that they really are ungrateful and lazy.
Another ineffective communication technique used in narcissistic families is triangulation.
The narcissistic parent uses a third party to talk through— a dog, a child, or even the other parent,
to create a buffer against intimacy, and to not accept responsibility for what they say or how they
say it. A more common and destructive form of triangulation is to use one person against another
to form an “alliance” with the narcissist. This is sort of a “divide and conquer” technique where
the narcissist positions themselves so other family members cannot form relationships with each
other. The narcissist needs to be the center of attention, and sees close relationships within the
family much like a jealous child would: “If they love each other then they do not love me.”
The parent will gossip about one child to another, share intimacies about their spouse, betray
confidences or even make up lies in order to remain “in the loop”.
The concept of intimacy being established because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the way a narcissist tries to feel in control. In other words, they believe: “If they do not like each other, then they will have to love me”.
A narcissistic parent is essentially an emotional child who relates to their own child as a“peer”— another adult who is trying to compete with them, or deliberately wants to make them look bad.
To a narcissist there is no “us”, there is only“ them or me”. They live in a world that is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad; if someone else is right then they must be wrong, if someone else is loved then they are unloved, if someone disagrees with them, that means they are trying to make them look stupid, and so on. Every feeling or experience of another is somehow a reflection of the narcissist‟s worth and value— whether it has anything to do with them or not. For example, if their child gets in trouble at school because they forgot their homework and feels bad about it, the narcissistic parent's first thought will be embarrassment— now the teacher will think they are a bad parent— they should have made sure the homework was done. Instead of being empathetic, or using this as a teaching moment, they are angry. The child is not permitted to express regret. The parent has already grabbed the situation, twisted it around, pulled it to close to them, will manipulate the child into feeling guilty for making angry. The narcissist has taken the focus off of the child‟s needs and placed it on themselves.
The discouraged child is now expected to comfort the parent so they don‟t feel bad anymore.
When this form of emotional co-opting occurs repeatedly, year after year, a child not only
stops telling the parent anything that may upset them, they stop being consciously aware of their
true feelings at all. To feel is to be disappointed, so the protective walls go up, creating emotional
safety from the narcissist and from feeling hopeful. Why desire intimacy and closeness if it
means being rejected? Why bother just to be humiliated and emotionally abandoned? Trust leads
to pain; therefore, trust becomes synonymous with pain.
The process of building a protective wall around the heart is not a conscious one; it is the
magnificent brain's clever rewiring that helps the child survive a narcissistic system of emotional
abuse and neglect. Unaware that this rewiring has occurred, the adult child of a narcissist has
trouble figuring out why they have trouble with intimacy; why they lie when the truth would be
easier to tell, have anxiety attacks, or find themselves in abusive work situations over, and over
Although the process of healing is difficult, it is possible for the Echo to find their voice and
live a healthy life. If their therapist or counselor is familiar with the narcissistic family system, it
is not difficult to spot an Echo client who displays ACOA symptoms, but whose childhood
seemed “fine”.What prevents someone who was raised in a narcissistic family from becoming
one? It is the presence of an adult in their life: a teacher, parent, aunt or neighbor, who,
knowingly or unknowingly, loved, and accepted them. If there was one person who did not get
mad if they made a mistake, or did not expect anything in return if they did the child a favor,
then through this healthy“mirror”, they could see themselves reflected as valuable, unique and
loveable. They could experience being“ good enough”, just as they are. It is this same positive
parent-child model that will help heal the adult child of a narcissist. Not tough love, not behavior
modification or psychoanalysis, but a healthy, truthful mirror of the client‟s inherent beauty that
is not based on what they do, but who they are. The beauty is flawed, imperfect, and prone to all
sorts of mistakes, and miss-steps; but these are to be accepted, and learned from, not feared. That
is the truth that will finally set the Echo child free.

Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents: The Echoes
Beth McLarnan
Adler Graduate School
Blame & Guilt

Am I to blame for my husband's/child's/parent's mental state and behaviour? Is there anything that I can or should do to help him or to reach him?
Self-flagellation is a characteristic of those who choose to live with a narcissist (for a choice it is). Constant feelings of guilt, self-reproach, self-recrimination and, thus, self-punishment characterize the relationships formed between the sadist-narcissist and the masochistic-dependent mate or partner.
The narcissist is sadistic because, early on, he was forced into expressing his own guilt and self-reproach in this manner. His Superego is unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary, judgemental, cruel, and self-annihilating (suicidal). Externalising these internal traits is a way of alleviating internal conflicts and fears generated by the narcissist's inner turmoil.
The narcissist projects this "civil war" and drags everyone around him into a swirl of bitterness, suspiciousness, meanness, aggression and pettiness. His life is a reflection of his psychological landscape: barren, paranoiac, tormented, guilt ridden. He feels compelled to do unto others what he inflicts upon himself. He gradually transforms his closest, nearest and dearest into replicas of his conflictive, punishing personality structure.
Some narcissists are more subtle than others. They disguise their sadism. For instance, they "educate" their family members or friends (for their sake, as they present it). This “education” is compulsive, obsessive, incessantly, harshly and unduly critical. Its effect is to erode the subject, to humiliate, to create dependence, to intimidate, to restrain, to control, to paralyse.
The victim of such "edification" internalises the endless hectoring and humiliating criticism and makes them his own. She begins to see justice where there is only twisted logic based on crooked assumptions. She begins to self-punish, to withhold, to request approval prior to any action, to forgo her preferences and priorities, to erase her own identity – hoping to thus avoid the excruciating pains of the narcissist's destructive analyses.
Other narcissists are less sophisticated and they use all manner of abuse to domesticate their kin and partners in life. This includes physical violenceverbal violence (during intensive rage attacks), psychological abuse, brutal "honesty", sick or offending humour, and so on.
But both categories of narcissists employ very simple deceptive mechanisms to achieve their goals. One thing should be clear: such abusive practice is not a well thought out, previously planned campaign by the average narcissist. His behaviour is dictated by forces that he cannot master.
Most of the time the narcissist is not even conscious of why he is doing what he is doing. When he is self-aware – he can't seem to be able to predict the outcomes of his actions. Even when he can foretell them – he feels powerless to modify  his behavior. The narcissist is a pawn in the chess game played between the structures of his fragmented, fluid personality. So, in a classical – juridical sense, the narcissist is not to blame, he is not fully responsible or aware of what he is doing to others.
This seems to contradict my answer to FAQ # 13 where I write:
"The narcissist knows to tell right from wrong. He is perfectly capable of anticipating the results of his actions and their influence on his milieu. The narcissist is very perceptive and sensitive to the subtlest nuances. He has to be: the very integrity of his personality depends upon input from others… A person suffering from NPD must be subjected to the same moral treatment and judgement as the rest of us are. The courts do not recognise NPD as a mitigating circumstance – why should we?"
But, the contradiction is only apparent. The narcissist is perfectly capable of both distinguishing right from wrong – and of foreseeing the outcomes of his actions. In this sense, the narcissist should be held liable for his misdeeds and exploits. If he so chooses, the narcissist can fight his compulsive inclination to behave the way he does.
This would come at a great personal psychological price, though. Avoidance or suppression of a compulsive act result in increased anxiety. The narcissist prefers his own well-being to that of others. Even when confronted with the great misery that he fosters, he hardly feels responsible (for instance, he rarely attends psychotherapy).
To put it more plainly, the (average) narcissist is unable to answer the question: "Why did you do what you did?" or "Why did you choose this mode of action over others available to you under the same circumstances?" These decisions are taken unconsciously.
But once the course of action is (unconsciously) chosen, the narcissist has a perfect grasp of what he is doing, whether it is right or wrong and what will be the price others are likely to pay for his actions and choices. And he can then decide to reverse course (for instance, to refrain from doing anything). On the one hand, therefore, the narcissist is not to blame – on the other hand, he is very guilty.
The narcissist deliberately confuses responsibility with guilt. The concepts are so close that the distinctions often get blurred. By provoking guilt in responsibility-laden situations, the narcissist transforms life with him into a constant trial. Actually, the continuous trial itself is the punishment.
Failures, for instance, induce guilt. The narcissist always labels someone else's efforts as "failures" and then proceeds to shift the responsibility for said failures to his victim so as to maximise the opportunity to chastise and castigate her.
The logic is two-phased. First, every responsibility imputed to the victim is bound to lead to failure, which, in turn, induces in the victim guilt feelings, self-recrimination and self-punishment. Secondly, more and more responsibilities are shifted away from the narcissist and onto his mate – so that, as time goes by, an asymmetry of failures is established. Burdened with less and less responsibilities and tasks – the narcissist fails less. It preserves the narcissist's sense of superiority, on the one hand – and legitimises his sadistic attacks on his victim, on the other hand.
The narcissist's partner is is often a willing participant in this shared psychosis. Such folie a deux can never take place without the full collaboration of a voluntarily subordinated victim. Such partners have a wish to be punished, to be eroded through constant, biting criticisms, unfavourable comparisons, veiled and not so veiled threats, acting out, betrayals and humiliations. It makes them feel cleansed, "holy", whole, and sacrificial.
Many of these partners, when they realise their situation (it is very difficult to discern it from the inside) – abandon the narcissist and dismantle the relationship. Others prefer to believe in the healing power of love or some such other nonsense. It is nonsense not because love has no therapeutic power – it is by far the most powerful weapon in the healing arsenal. It is nonsense because it is wasted on a human shell, incapable of feeling anything but negative emotions, which vaguely filter through his dreamlike existence. The narcissist is unable to love, his emotional apparatus ruined by years of deprivation, abuse, misuse and disuse.
Granted, the narcissist is a consummate manipulator of human emotions and their attendant behaviours. He is convincing, he is deviously successful and sweeps everyone around him into the turbulent delusion which he consists of. He uses anything and anyone to secure his dose of Narcissistic Supply and discards, without hesitation those he deems "useless".
The narcissist-victim dyad is a conspiracy, a collusion of victim and mental tormentor, a collaboration of two needy people who find solace and supply in each other's deviations. Only by breaking loose, by aborting the game, by ignoring the rules – can the victim be transformed (and by the way, acquire the newly found appreciation of the narcissist).
The narcissist also stands to benefit from such a move. But both the narcissist and his partner do not really think about each other. Gripped in the arms of an all-consuming dance macabre, they follow the motions morbidly, semiconscious, desensitised, exhausted, concerned only with survival. Living with a narcissist is very much like being in a maximum security prison.
The narcissist's partner should not feel guilty or responsible and should not seek to change what only time (not even therapy) and (difficult) circumstances may change. She should not strive to please and to appease, to be and not to be, to barely survive as a superposition of pain and fear. Releasing herself from the chains of guilt and from the throes of a debilitating relationship is the best help that a loving mate can provide to her ailing narcissistic partner.