This weekend I was asked who my ideal clients are and I responded easily, "The adult children of a narcissistic parent; to my mind, they are the most damaged."
This morning I was catching up on my Facebook. For professional reasons, the Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse page is among my See Firsts, up there with Two Drunk Ladies and Karin Slaughter. Hey, I have eclectic tastes. Anywho, the first article I saw this morning was about the ageing narcissist. The author, a victim of narcissistic parenting herself, suggested that if a narcissist lies alone on their deathbed without a hand to hold, that is Karma, God having the final say, or - her preference - pay back (sic).
I say she, the author, needs some serious healing.
Imagine being so bitter and angry that you cannot find clemency for a dying person. My heart breaks for all involved. No, not pity - to me, that requires a feeling of superiority that I just can't muster - but a level of compassion that I wish the author could. Was her parent a manipulative, hyper-critical, self-centred monster? I will assume yes. I can sympathise with the author not wanting to be present at her parent's deathbed, but to want them to face death alone, to say that they deserve to face death alone, tells me more about the author than her parent. Isn't she herself being exactly the person she is accusing her parent of being? Critical, passive-aggressive, and monstrous in her own right?
The easy argument is that her narcissistic parent conditioned her, programmed her, trained her to be that way. My question to her is, "Is it not possible that your parent, too, was also conditioned, programmed, and trained?" Other than sociopaths - whose characteristics can overlap with those of a person with narcissistic personality disorder, it's true - people, especially our parents, do not set out to deliberately hurt us. They are simply living in reaction to the way they themselves were raised. We were all narcissists when we were kids, like between toddlerhood and our teen years, the early years as we strove to get our needs met - my nephew Devin's, "How 'bout me?" - and couldn't understand the needs of other people, and the latter in our struggle for independence and self-identity. We grow out of it unless we ourselves suffer a trauma that stunts us somewhere in that window of time. Left unhealed, it shows up as temper tantrums, lack of empathy, dogmatic judgmentalism, and a need for ego-stroking into/throughout adulthood.
What if we could find compassion for the child they were or for the person they could have become if they hadn't been wounded in some way?
This weekend I worked with a man, let's call him David, whose father was abusive towards him, towards his brother, towards his mother. Now David has already done some great healing work. It was necessary for him to move his young family out to Alberta and his father's influence. Over the past quarter century or so, David has forgiven his father - not his behaviour, but the man. That only fully settled in inside of the past month or so, since he began with hypnotherapy, and has brought some peace into his life, but its residual effects are still pretty strong. Mostly those present as anxiety, mistrust of others, and an emptiness inside of himself.
On the weekend, David went on a little journey in his mind. He met his father's child-self and intervened on his behalf, protected him from being beaten by his father. David was able to look at his grandfather and tell him, "No! You will never raise your hand to this child!" And David and his father walked out of that house and into a park, where David was able to say to his young father all of the things he wished he could have heard from him when he was alive. He hugged him and told him that he loved him, that he was proud of him, and that he was a good boy. He also vowed to protect him from harm.
David watched his father grow up until they were the same age, the approximate age his father was when David last saw him. Dad looked different. There was no anger in his eyes, only love. The hard lines on his face had softened. The two middle-aged men played in the park together, happy, equal. And a small piece of the void inside of David was filled. He got to feel compassion for the boy his father had been and connect with the man he could have become. It was beautiful to be a part of.
I'm not going to take you through our entire session, but there's another piece that I am incredibly pleased with. As I mentioned, David struggles to trust people, so I asked him to begin our journey by imagining himself inside of a Manhattan apartment and to visualise a door with seven locks on the inside of it. I invited him to undo the locks. After a few minutes, and in a fearful voice, he asked, "Who's on the other side?" A fair question, right? I reassured him that it was just me, and he relaxed visibly and undid the locks. I mention this because, at the end of our session, I had him go back into the apartment but to find that there were only five locks, but he corrected me. "No, there's only one." And a dinky one at that! This man who has been walling himself off for over fifty years was able to feel safe behind one simple lock. Maybe next session he'll be able to leave the door open.
So, if you find yourself angry or bitter enough toward someone that you wish them ill, just remember that that is you coming from a place of pain. Your peace will be found when you uncover those wounded inner parts of you and heal them.
Leave the world better
Oh, shoot, there is one other part of David's story that I want to share. See, David was given a sign with his family name on it. His relationship with his father was so bad that he even hated the name, didn't even want to attach himself to it, so the sign got relegated to a spot under the couch. The problem is, David has a son and a grandson who share that name, let's say Smith. No, not Smith. That makes no sense. Something a little more unique, easier to plant his flag in... Crouch. Yeah, that'll work.
After having done a lot of that relationship repair work with his father, David was no longer embarrassed by the name Crouch. In fact, he began to embrace it. He leaned into the love he has for his son and grandson, and his pride in the name began to swell. More importantly, so did his sense of self-esteem, his love of and pride in himself. Crouch wasn't just his father's name; it is David's. And his son's. And his son's. And those Crouches will never feel ashamed of their name. Not on David's watch.
The three of them are hanging the sign this week.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Christie Morden is Calgary's premier mental health coach. Her unique and revolutionary Quicknotherapy, a blend of hypnotherapy and coaching techniques, helps her clients achieve results fast and get the healing that they and their families need to break the cycle of generational emotional trauma.