The Power of Personal Responsibility

March 15, 2017

“With great power comes great responsibility.” –Unknown

“With great responsibility comes great power.” –Ven

What’s the difference between a victim of circumstances and an overcomer of them?

Responsibility. Personal responsibility. The victim avoids owning up to his or her contribution to an experience, but the overcomer does not. An overcomer not only “owns up to,” but also owns his or her experiences, rather than attempting to avoid responsibility for them.

It may well be that the person in question had little or nothing to do with the actions that led immediately to the painful event. It may be that the person was an “innocent bystander.”

No matter what the circumstances were–however little you think you had to do with the event–you will never be able to get over it and move on until you realize and accept your own responsibility to deal with the reality of it: its results, the broken pieces, the outcome.

A man standing on a curb who gets wiped out by a speeding car might not have caused the accident (although he was, after all, standing by the road), but he now has to deal with the results of the accident: the injury. No one’s body can heal but his own. No person can feel the agony but himself. He might try to avoid the pain and ignore the injury–maybe by overusing addictive drugs–but in the end, if he wants to heal as well and completely as possible, he will have to take responsibility for his own recovery.

Responsibility brings power. Avoiding responsibility brings victimhood (lack of power).

Why is “power” important, in the sense that I’m using it here?

Power is the difference between a victim of life and an overcomer of life. Power, in this sense, doesn’t mean the Naricssistic ability to harm or control others. It doesn’t mean the stoic ability to not let life affect you in negative ways. POWER means the ability to roll with the punches of life without getting stuck or bogged down in its frequent difficult situations.

Like Mark Twain said,

“Life is just one damn thing after another.”

What shall the “damn things” of life do to you? Shall they make you or shall they break you? Will you rise and accept and learn and grow from (even unwanted) experiences, or will you cower and succumb to their undying onslaught?

Aside from those situations when we seem to be innocent victims of circumstance, as adults we are perhaps far more often participants in the creation of situations that cause us to suffer. It’s very common among us (and even acceptable!) to shift blame (to deny or avoid responsibility).

“What, you’re 40 and you can’t read? Can’t swim? Can’t play music? Aw, fie on those foul fiends who have done you harm for no reason! You can never be better! You can never learn! You can never grow! You have to suffer NOW because of something somebody else did to you long ago. You are doomed to bear it for all your days; you must wait for someone else to free you from your pain; you cannot unburden yourself because you didn’t put the load there.”

Bullshit. We all have the power to unload pain from past experiences. We might not have placed the load there, but we certainly have the ability to remove it from our own shoulders. More often than not, we did help to create the circumstances that put the load there–but even when we didn’t, if we want to heal we have to act as though we DID.

We can pretend not to have responsibility for our own lives, but that doesn’t relieve us of having to live the consequences of our experiences anyway.

We are the ones living our lives. We are powerful, whether we know it or not. But our power is hidden, blunted, sabotaged. We are blind to what we are missing. We cannot see that we have to own our experiences if we wish to move on and live better. This gives us back our power–or, rather, it lets us see the power we already have but have been denying to ourselves.

We have to accept responsibility for our part in creating our experiences, and for the consequences of events that befall us–ALL of them. This is the only way not to be a victim of life, in life, for life.

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The Moment Narcissistic Abuse Finally “Broke” My Codependency

March 30, 2016

I’m posting this here for future reference, and for others who wish to know more about healing from core trauma and releasing emotional baggage from past painful experience, which we all have.

I have a lot of experience doing this, and I’ve written much from the aftermath of these healing releases, but not a whole lot from within them. 

This was the first time that I wrote publicly, IMMEDIATELY before and after having one.  (In case you’re wondering, this just felt right, genuine, and authentic to do.)

As I felt it coming, I wrote the following as a status update.  This was January 12, 2014:

I look to the near future with trembling and anticipation,

for I feel that a great reckoning is about to transpire

as the deep past wells up within, seeking release

and, in the process, granting freedom at last

from yet one more barricade to the Soul.

I had the feeling all day that I needed a song to take me back in memory/feeling to my earliest childhood, before the toddler years, to “contact” what I was feeling near the surface, but I couldn’t think of a song early enough and meaningful enough to do so.  A few minutes after posting the status update above, I was walking in the yard when the song suddenly hit me:

“Kumbaya”, the song my teenage mother used to sing to me as I slept in her arms as a baby.

I stopped in my tracks, giving this thought my attention, and feeling around inside myself.  The thought immediately brought tears and grimacing, so I knew the moment was close.  I dropped to my knees right there and waited for it to come.  (In these moments, nothing is more important.)  It didn’t come all the way out–didn’t go deep enough–so I got up, put my dog in his pen, and took the next step.

I went inside and looked on YouTube for a woman’s voice singing “Kumbaya” without music.  NO LUCK.  So I thought of my grandmother–my mom’s mom–singing it in her sweet voice.  That started to “poke the bubble,” bringing more tears, but it wasn’t enough to pop the bubble.  I thought of calling her and asking her to sing it (since my mom is dead), but that wasn’t really an option.

So the thought came to me: You’ll have to sing it to yourself. 

I didn’t like the idea, but I accepted it and decided to do it.  I never got to the words, though.  Having to sing a lullaby to myself brought an extremely pitiful, lonely feeling and that in itself popped the bubble.  The pain bubbled up immediately.

I surrendered and gave myself over to it, and it had its way with me.  For about 20 minutes I became, emotionally, myself as a baby again.

Mentally, I was still my adult self, and from the vantage point of my present adult mind I watched and managed the experience–as I had not done, and could not have done, when I “acquired” the pain as a small child.  This is key to understanding the experience.

Deep release occurred here.  As it subsided, I wrote these comments:

For some things, the only cure is to feel deep inner anguish–your own, not somebody else’s.

Do not ever stop your baby from crying.  Or your child, or your sweetheart…or yourself.

[Here, my friend Alice posted: Yes. Sit with it. Lean into it. Feel it. Acknowledge it. Give it regard. Then, let it go.  And cry a river! I continued:]

And cough, yell, scream, vomit, grimace, clench, grit, growl, snot, and run completely out of breath getting it out.

Ever see an infant cry so hard you think they’ve stopped breathing, and then they inhale and cry even harder, shaking uncontrollably?

Like that. Cry to the heavens for cursing you, feel regret for being born in this dirty, corrupt, filthy, broken place, only to suffer.

FEEL this, don’t think it! Surrender to it, let it topple you, let it bring you to your knees! Claw the earth, the floor, grab the carpet in your fists, beat the ground with rage for the injustice life has dealt you.

None of this is NOW, but it’s happening NOW. It’s happening NOW because it didn’t happen THEN, years ago, decades ago, when then was NOW and your mama was still a girl singing “Kumbaya” to you as you slept in her arms, when the whole cruel world could–and DID–do to you whatever it wished.

THAT is how to cry. THAT is the way to freedom. THAT is how to break free from the past, from pain, from heartbreak, from addiction, from regret, from depression.

THAT is what I want the world to know. On the other side of THAT…is freedom, the only freedom that matters–freedom to be yourself again.

Weeping like a pansy has done me very little good in my life. Regurgitating evil from within my core has done wonders…

and when laughter comes afterward,

it comes from a deeper well than before,

and it echoes mightier within.

 

(Originally written in January 2014 and titled “Notes on an Experience of Deep Emotional Release and Healing”)


7 Signs That “Radical Acceptance” May Be the Next Step in Your Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse

March 11, 2016

According to many therapists and psychologists, a healthy, functional long-term relationship just isn’t possible when one partner suffers from a “Cluster-B” personality disorder.

In other words, you cannot have a healthy, functional relationship with someone who is incapable of having a healthy, functional relationship. If you’re the partner of a disordered person, it’s not even up to you!

It’s not within your power to change another adult’s personality.

Narcissistic abuse is a freqent outcome of trying to have a healthy, functional relationship with a personality-disordered person over a long time. It’s a disordered person’s reaction to having a close relationship.

One of the first steps in recovery is “radical acceptance” of the reality of the situation.

Unfortunately, “radical acceptance” is often misunderstood—and, therefore, misapplied. This confusion can hinder recovery and unnecessarily prolong or even worsen the abuse.

Before someone else’s apparent inner condition can be “radically accepted,” though, the nature of that condition has to be understood to some degree. While a professional diagnosis is probably the most reliable and accurate way to identify a personality disorder, studies show that the vast majority of disordered people are never diagnosed.

In the absence of a diagnosis, then, a relationship partner is frequently left to his or her own judgment. Here are a few signs that I’ve identified as indicators that a relationship partner might have a personality disorder.

1. You find yourself explaining their own behavior to them. You might say, “Why in the world would you think that’s okay?” They seem not to understand why what they’re doing doesn’t work, why it’s hurtful, or why grown-ups don’t act that way. You feel like a parent with an overgrown, disobedient, rageful child who never seems to learn how to “act right”—or even why it matters.

2. You find yourself explaining logical reasoning to them. You might say, “No, this isn’t true. If this isn’t true, then that can’t be true, either!” They accuse you of wrongdoing, based on how they feel or because of some unrelated event. They ask questions out of the blue about your whereabouts or activities, which seem to have no bearing on your actual life. Then they might condemn your truthful explanation as suspicious. In an argument, they form illogical or emotion-based conclusions that end the conversation—defying rational debate, leaving you frustrated and speechless.

3. You find yourself arguing with them about what really happened. You might say, “No, that’s not at all how it went. I was there!” Even if you were present to see some event, their recollection of it is wildly different from yours. When challenged on their memory of it, they may react defensively and accuse you of lying about it. They might even accuse you of making them doubt their own memory, as if you were deliberately trying to brainwash them. (This is projection, since it’s what they actually do to you on a daily basis.)

4. You find yourself defending your own character or intentions. You might say, “How do you not know me better than that?” You find yourself being questioned when you do something completely innocent, or with the best intentions. You might even be accused of some sinister ulterior motive for, let’s say, moving the salt shaker to the other side of the table. It’s as if you were being observed constantly under a microscope with a cracked lens. It feels like continually being painted in the worst light possible, suspected for anything and everything, for reasons you don’t understand.

5. You find yourself re-hashing the same argument…again. You might say, “Why are we still talking about this? Didn’t we resolve it months ago?” Disordered people never seem to forget, move on, let go, or forgive (someone else’s) past mistakes. It’s as if wrongs (or perceived wrongs) that were (supposedly) done to them are done not just once. They’re done continually—on and on, over and over again, forever…in their minds. Their “suffering” never ends. There is no moving on. The past never recedes for long. It continually becomes the present, and it gets resurrected repeatedly during arguments. On the other hand…

6. They immediately forget wrongs that THEY have done. They might say (about something that happened literally yesterday), “Why are you bringing that up? That’s the past! I thought we were moving forward!” Then you’re made out as if you hold every little mistake over his or her head. Double standards rule with disordered people. What applies to others and what applies to them are two different realms…and they’re the ones who decide.

7. They do even ONE horrible thing that “normal” people just don’t do. These actions are deal-breakers. They are definite signs that someone is just not worth being close to, and may be dangerous:

Killing your pet. Calling your workplace to sabotage your job. Calling the police on you for no reason. Accusing you publicly of something criminal, wrong, or embarrassing that you didn’t do. Lying about you in court. Telling your family that you abuse your (or your partner’s) children. Destroying, damaging, or dismantling your vehicle. Threatening to do any of these.

If this list sounds familiar, it may be time for some radical acceptance. This doesn’t mean “radically accepting” that you will forever be someone else’s emotional punching bag or toxic waste dump. It doesn’t mean “radically accepting” that you need to get better at walking on eggshells.

It means “radically accepting” that the person you’re close to IS the way that he or she is; that he or she may have a practically incurable personality disorder; that he or she likely will never change; that the relationship probably will never improve (and may get worse over time); and that it’s up to YOU to decide what YOU will do in (or out of) the relationship.

“Radically accepting” the reality of your situation may be the first step in ending and recovering from Narcissistic abuse. What you choose to do afterward is YOUR choice—and knowing this may be the most important healing step of all.


On Suffering and Healing

December 1, 2011

I want nothing more than to understand the best way to live my life, and to do my best to live it that way. This has been the driving desire of my life since I was a teenager. Much of my time since then has been spent in the pursuit of understanding, with the intention of living my life as well as possible—that is, as truly and correctly as possible.

What does that mean?

Is there some standard by which I am to conform, as I was taught to believe as a child? Is there a potential for growth (whatever that means) which I should try to achieve—some inner mold I should try to fill to capacity so that I’m fulfilled someday? Or am I truly to enjoy every moment as fully as possible, or perhaps simply to appreciate the gift of being alive, no matter the circumstances?

If so, to whom or what do I direct my appreciation, if anywhere?

I’m moving toward the idea that the ideal is acceptance of life events and circumstances, without fighting the often uncomfortable or painful changes that they bring. This does not imply a powerless attitude and submission to fate, but rather a shortening of the healing process by immediate acceptance of change.

Healing begins with the process of adjusting one’s thoughts to change: realigning one’s concept of reality with reality itself so that there is no conflict, no suffering.

It’s a strange fact that experiences often seem extremely intense and emotional while they’re happening, even though years later we can talk about them without feeling any emotion at all.

Why is this? 

Perhaps with time and experience we are able to put past events into a context and see how the events have affected our lives since then, which takes the “sting” out of the events after the fact. We see later that things weren’t as bad as they seemed at the time. This implies that, at the time we are going through a difficult situation, our negative reaction to the situation is caused by our fear of the possible negative effects that the situation will have on us, rather than by the situation itself.

In other words, in the present extreme circumstance we fear loss, harm, pain, or death—we suffer. Suffering means fearing the loss of our own survival potential, which includes our ability to enjoy our life, since our emotional state is intimately linked to our ability to survive and thrive.

Suffering is the mental and emotional state that results from our belief that we have lost, or will lose, something necessary to our survival potential and/or enjoyment of life.

Is it possible to experience every life event with the same lack of emotional involvement and attachment that we have years after the fact—that is, without suffering? If indeed we suffer because in the midst of difficult circumstances we fear losing our survival potential, and if our fear is itself a reduction in our future survival potential, then what good is suffering in the first place?

It isn’t rational.

Is there a way to thrive, meeting life openly, yet without suffering when difficult events happen? Is this even a desirable goal, or is the process of suffering and healing an integral part of the human experience? Is “suffering-and-healing” the essence of human life, or is it a major problem to be solved and prevented? Answering this question seems to be my next task in unloosing the threads that keep the secrets of life hidden from my view.

The Buddha already answered this question for himself, with his Four Noble Truths about suffering and his Eightfold Path that describes the way to end it. I intend to see if he was right.

(Written in 2008 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

What Is Joy?

September 10, 2011

A life with no Joy is not a life. Joy makes life worthwhile. Joy is a measure of how well you are living. If you are “doing it right,” you experience feelings of Joy, not frustration. Frustration is the opposite of Joy.

Joy comes with realizations, with insights, with revelations of who you are and what you should be doing.

Joy lights your path so that you know your steps are sure. Joy lights your face so that others wonder what you know—and what they don’t! Joy is a beacon to others.

Joy comes and goes. Joy comes in moments of clearer perception and goes when you return your focus to routine. Joy comes more as you grow.

Joy isn’t what cheerleaders have at a touchdown, or what gamblers feel when they win a bet. Joy brings you up, but doesn’t let you down.

Joy is the great green light, the GO signal that tells you you’re on the right path.

Joy is Love’s companion. Love eradicates negativity,  and Joy tells you that it’s gone. Joy is both a messenger and the message.

Joy comes when you open your eyes.

When you feel Joy, you shout, “Hallelujah!” whether you believe in God or not. Rejoicing is a sign of a true spiritual person. Joy indicates spiritual growth.

Shout with Joy, laugh with Joy, bounce and skip with Joy! Joy makes you truly alive…or, rather, when you learn to truly live, Joy will show herself in you.

Joy can be faked, but the Joyful see through the fakery. False Joy is a very sad sight. It’s also a sign of someone who doesn’t get it.

Open your eyes and you will know Joy. You will rejoice!

(Written in 2004 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)


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