People who take your 'self' away from you

An acquaintance of mine, Sarah, wrote this beautiful post about the self...or the lack thereof. One part of it really stood out to me:

I am depressed overly dramatic
I am hungry gluttonous
I am tired and overworked lazy
I am sick weak
I have anxiety lack faith
I need affirmation whine too much
I need privacy am selfish
I need to be respected punished

I do not deserve to have needs.

I think fundie-ism and narcissism have a lot in common. At least, they have similar effects on children growing up in those environments. One could even say that there are a lot of narcissists in fundamentalist circles.

  • They're both about projecting a false front of perfection to protect their egos. Anything that threatens that illusion is dangerous and must be quashed.
  • Children are merely an extension of the parent(s), instead of having their own identities. Children do not have their own self, because that's dangerous to the illusion. What if they have their own minds? They might tear down that false front--the horror!
  • The narc parent(s) must think for the children, and train the children to think the way they do. The more they act like an extension, the better the narc parent(s) will feel. Or the fundie parents.
  • Children do not have their own needs, in the narc parent(s) minds. They exist to serve the parent(s). If they do not, then they are bad.
  • If the parent(s) repeat the mantra that their children are bad when they do not support the false-front egos, then the children will internalize it and learn to accept it. How parents talk to their children become their inner voice, and it is exceedingly difficult to re-write that. It takes a lot of therapy.
  • Yes, if the child is depressed--they aren't actually depressed.  Otherwise depression might hint at just how dysfunctional or harmful the narc home is to children. And that threatens the illusion of perfection--and the parental ego. That's why the narc parents actually believe that their children that they are lazy, not depressed. Spoiled. Selfish.
  • The narc person's version of the truth is whatever is not threatening to the false-front ego. There is no other version to them. If you disagree with their version, you are dangerous, and they will try to convince you that you are crazy, that you are horrible.
  • You are only horrible to the narc because you dare to exert your own identity, your self. They don't actually want you gone--they want a better narc supply for their ego. If they cut you off, that's probably because they want you to try to quadruple their narc supply.
  • If you do not go along with this, you will be cut out of their lives, like a gangrenous limb. In fundie circles, you will also be branded as evil or a dangerous sinner, and shunned. The narcs will make up or trump up reasons to explain why you are so awful to them in order to maintain their illusion of perfection.

Regaining the self after losing it to a narcissist is difficult. It is much more difficult if your self is actually formed in childhood BY a narcissist. This means that instead of returning to a healthier state of being, you have to create a new, healthy state of being. I think that healthy interactions with others outside of the narc home can really help cushion the child against the damage by providing some patterns and healthy pathways to make healing easier.

In fundamentalist and even homeschooling circles, outsiders are often deemed dangerous, and children are much more heavily supervised in their interactions with others, leaving them with little chance to learn healthier relationship patterns. They get much more enmeshed with the narc parent, making it harder to break free.

Even now, I still struggle with that internal self-critical voice. It takes practice being kind to myself, and sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail. Lately, it has been far more critical than helpful.

I suck.
What's wrong with me?
I'm awful because I didn't write those emails/reply in a timely manner
Why am I depressed? I have no reason to. Maybe I'm just horrible.
I'm so awkward. I'd dampen that gathering. I shouldn't go.
I have no energy to walk, run, ride my bike, do yoga. What's wrong with me? I suck.
I need to get over it. People think I need to get over it. Why can't I snap out of it? I suck.

And as Sarah's post shows--it's easy to start hurting oneself when you believe you're so bad. Either through cutting, overeating, anorexia, bulimia, alcoholism, drug use, skin-picking, hair pulling, etc--it's a way of making an external outlet for internal pain, either consciously or subconsciously. Sometimes it provides relief. Often it doesn't, but that hope of relief drives the habits or compulsions on.

It really is hard to rewrite that internal voice and make a healthy self for once. It takes a lot of validation, encouragement, positive assistance, kindness, and persistence to rewrite the negative thoughts and rewire the cognitive processes.

This is the lasting consequence of having the self taken away by a narcissistic parent.

Filed under: Abuse

Leave a comment