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.   

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