Four years of a narcissistic leader means four years of being told that what we see shouldn’t be believed. It means that blame has been placed everywhere, on everyone, except on the person who is to blame.
And obviously lots of lies.
And evasion and twisting words and defending indefensible behavior and yelling and projection and criticism and confusion and division.
Expecting special treatment, which only goes one way, except to those who bow to the gaslighter.
And nary a concern for anyone else.
Oh, did I mention playing victim?
But, this is not a political rant. Not today; the day after hope has been restored for our nation; the day that we can all breathe a sigh of relief to be out of the abusive relationship.
I can’t tell you how many times I have said to myself, my friends, my mother, “This feels exactly like living with my ex.”
Here’s the thing, there is a gift of having lived with my ex for oh so long and then being under the dark cloud of a narcissistic leader:
I can spot it a mile away.
And better yet, I can walk away from it rather than get sucked into the whirlwind of deceit and confusion that leaves a recipient lost and questioning herself.
The sad thing about it is seeing just how many people in this world are gaslighters.
I have had a few experiences this last year that, in the past, would have left me reeling; questioning my every word, every action, every thought.
I spent 20 years doing that. I spent what has felt like 50 years undoing that.
I’m not 100% cured. After a couple of these run-ins, I have wasted spent more time than I should rehashing the interactions. But, as I rehash, I always come to the same conclusion…
“That was bullshit.”
And I walk away.
“I thought you loved me for who I am,” leads to immediate reassurances that I do love you for who you are, that quickly turn into the reality of, actually, I don’t.
Because your behavior sucks.
Because you’re fucking gaslighting me.
“You don’t appreciate all that I do.” Oh yes, I do, and thank you thank you thank you.
But wait, you haven’t done shit, so never mind.
Having had so much experience with super-narcs has given me a leg up when dealing with what I consider to be amateur narcs.
When an encounter feels a bit hinky, I ask myself, “Can I hear these words coming out of X’s mouth? Out of our President’s mouth?”
If the answer is yes, then my answer is no.
I walk away. I walk away like I wish I’d been able to during all of those long years of mental undermining and self doubt.
I am proud of myself for being able to set boundaries. I give myself a pat on the ass each time I say, “Enough.”
I’ve cut off a few friendships this year; friendships that go way back, running the risk of losing other connected relationships. It is painful to do, but knowing that the twisting of my reality will stop is worth any other pain.
Sometimes, it’s not difficult at all; the relief is so great, so relieving, that I don’t give the relationship a second thought except to say, “Whew, dodged a bullet there.”
And that brings peace that is far greater than any loss.
And just like I have worked so very hard to no longer succumb to fucked up, detrimental, confusing, abusive behavior, our country has decided to also set a boundary.
We have decided as a collective that enough is enough.
Someone said today, “Yes, this is horrible, but people are saying it was a racial thing and I’m not sure I’m buying that.”
I’ll spell it out:
Yesterday’s attack was not directly racially motivated like, say, kneeling on a black man’s neck. The focus was instead, aimed at our country as a whole.
But the people who carried out this insurgence were predominantly white; as we all could see since no one had on a mask. Many are members of white supremacy groups who fly confederate flags and threaten BLM supporters. They carry Kek flags and have KKK tattoos on their grossly soft midsections that they somehow feel we need to see.
They support and are supported by a man who has proven repeatedly that he himself, is a white supremacist, a racist.
And a lot of other things too, but we are sticking to one topic here.
So if you look at the bigger picture, keeping their person in the position of power allows those rioters to maintain their positions of power as white men.
That was certainly behind yesterday’s attack.
But the most blatant and frightening display of discrimination was in the response. No one can seriously deny that if that crowd had been full of dark skin, it would have looked very different.
More violent. More deadly. More horrific.
So think about it: either systemic racism really is a thing, or the cops were in on it.
Next day, I get a facebook friend request for this:
(Person) spent 3 years at The University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism (sufiuniversity.org) developing her Healing Skills and Psychic Abilities. She has since gone on to deeply study various energetic Healing Practices in a variety of modalities and with a wide range of teachers. She has explored Shamanic Healing, Angelic Channeling, Psychic Studies with the Berkeley Psychic Institute, and reading The Akashic Records. She currently studies and practices Divine Light Transmission with William Lewis (williamlewishealer.com). She now uses the panoply of healing skills she’s gained to serve her private and group healing clients, as she is directed to do so by the client’s system, and the Divine itself.
(Person) is thrilled and excited to support you in developing yourself and your work and hopes to meet you soon!
TAM said someone’s name in passing the other day; a name I’ve said myself at least 5,000 times, but when he said it, I shook and snotted and sunk.
My reaction was so strong that I couldn’t rein it in. I crawled into bed and cried for two solid days. To be honest, a couple of weeks later I’m still not quite back to okay.
I understand that part of my reaction was because I don’t want my old world showing up in my new world. And in a town this size, just like Mr. Prine told us, there is nowhere to hide.
There are many overlaps that I have had to navigate – from friends on facebook, to co-workers, to shared social activism. I have managed to weave these bits and pieces into the background of my psyche – not allowing them to get me riled. Some of the connections have actually been blessings in disguise – offering opportunities for healing and reconnection.
Who knows why this one conversation, which was really about nothing except for a pair of children’s snow boots, should set me off the way that it did. But it did.
And the outcome…
HDD, get your ass into therapy.
For like, the 53rd time.
On a recent visit to my canyon refuge, an old friend declared, quite enthusiastically “I love EMDR!”
So maybe I will too.
It has taken me some time to find a therapist who, practices in Colorado, does EMDR, works on Zoom, is affordable, a woman, and normal.
I had one conversation where I dumped it all only to have the therapist on the other end of the phone refer me elsewhere. That was rough, and rather unprofessional if you ask me.
It certainly made me more anxious about doing it again.
But yesterday, I did. I am determined to get some help. I have an amazing community of friends but it’s not support that I so deperately need – it’s full on HELP.
I need fixing.
I sat on TAM’s bed for my first Zoom therapy seesion. I’ve barely used Zoom – maybe twice, so my inexperience and lack of knowhow added to the angst. So did staring at my own face for an hour.
All I could think was, “My eyelids are really droopy.”
She was great. Perfect as a matter of fact. Showed up in a fleece jacket and jeans, not feathers and flowing scarves and crystals. I thought that I could be friends with her in another reality.
We talked about everything but. We discussed my health and my family relationships and the pandemic. I was doing okay leading up to the real reason that I was there. As we got closer, though, my fingers began to tingle and my armpits began to pour liquid in a steady stream down my sides. Each breath got more shallow and my ability to pay attention to her was weakening.
And there were my fucking eyelids.
Honestly, just writing about this is making me shake.
One more indicator that in therapy is exactly where I need to be.
We got to the point where we’d discussed everything but IT, so it was time.
I am sweating and my eyes are welling up right now.
I gave her a bullet list of the key events that took place in that three-week stretch three years ago. Then there is a sublist of all that happened in the aftermath of those three weeks that I also shared. I left much out because we only had an hour – not a hundred hours.
I told her that I feel as if there is a dark, goopy, tangled ball of shit stuck inside of me that I can’t manage to shed.
After naming it all and hyperventilating in the process and telling her that I beat myself up for letting everything still have so much power over me, she got to speak.
“You never had the time or space to process any of these events. Everything still strikes you as freshly and painfully as when it happened.”
Then she said, without me having referenced the incident with TAM at all, “Sometimes even the mention of a name can trigger a devastating reaction.”
Yeah, I burst into tears again at that moment.
She said, “We can deconstruct this. We can take out the charge, the sting. You will still have painful memories, but they will be just that. Not triggers that send you into a tailspin.”
Tears are flowing down my face.
Can I really get some relief?
Is it really possible that my reactions, my feelings, my pain, are understandble, explainable, and not a sign of my weakness? Am I hanging onto this because I haven’t had the opportunity to heal, not because I am a puss?
Do I get to drop my feelings of shame around my continued grief?
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?
Was it really that much, that bad?
I think I really periodically need the reaction of “Oh holy shit” to remind me that it really was horrible and too much for anyone.
It validates me. And it makes me so sad.
In all of my perseverating and reliving and breaking down, I have come to see that there are mulitple layers to my grief.
As there usually are.
I am so pained and angry about what happened to me.
But on a deeper level, I need to grieve what happend to me.
I functioned; I worked, I moved. I supported my son through his post accident trials. I shoveled snow and camped on the slickrock. But I was on auto-pilot. I did what needed to be done to not completely evaporate into nothingness. I couldn’t vanish because my children were also going through the shit – I needed to be there for them.
But I wasn’t here. I was shattered into a million little pieces. I felt no stability within myself. My world was small and dark and confining and excruciating.
I can barely write right now.
I have been so hard on myself for letting it all affect me still. I feel as if I continue to give the negative all of the power rather than reveling in the goodness that is my life now. I despise when my past impacts my interactions with TAM and my interactions with my entire home town.
I hate that I have trouble trusting my child again. Or anyone else for that matter.
I have been trying to muscle my way through all of this and brute strength has proven to NOT be the answer.
This woman, this therapist, made it okay that today, I have all of those feelings still. And, she reassured me that I can get some relief.
She didn’t get off the call as soon as I told her about my innermost demons.
There is hope that the charge will be taken out of the picture – that names and places and dates and any other connections will no longer be triggers that send me into a panicked tizzy that leaves me in tears under my pink comforter hugging on my sweet little dog scarfing down massive amounts of chocolate.
I’ve never done EMDR but I understand that it is super effective in dealing with trauma so I am holding out a lot of hope, although not expecting miracles.
Step one, accepting that yes, I suffered trauma.
Step two, stop beating myself up for still suffering.
A new study has found that some popular forms of spiritual training — such as energy healing, aura reading, and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation — correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority.”
An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it allows its adherents to distance themselves from their egos, and thereby from things such as the need for social approval or success. By encouraging self-compassion and non-judgmental self-acceptance, spiritual training should presumably make people less concerned with such things.
But as a new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. Namely, spiritual training might in fact enhance people’s need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser write.
The first study to measure spiritual superiority
No previous studies had specifically examined this topic, which prompted Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser to investigate. Their new paper, “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement,” appears in the European Journal of Social Psychology.
The authors developed a new measure they call “spiritual superiority.” It measures whether people feel superior to those “who lack the spiritual wisdom they ascribe to themselves.”
The measure’s questionnaires ask people to respond on a scale of 1 to 7 to a series of statements, much like would on typical psychometric tests. Example statements include “I am more in touch with my senses than most others,” “I am more aware of what is between heaven and earth than most people,” and “The world would be a better place if others too had the insights that I have now.”
Spiritual guidance, supernatural overconfidence, and self-worth
The authors also created three scales that they hypothesized would correlate with spiritual superiority.
The first scale, “spiritual guidance,” relates to how much people try to help others acquire the same wisdom they have acquired. It includes statements such as “I help others whenever possible on their path to greater wisdom and insight,” “I gladly help others to acquire my insights too,” and “I am patient with others, because I understand it takes time to gain the insights that I gained in my life and my education.”
The second scale is “supernatural overconfidence,” and it encompasses self-ascribed abilities in the paranormal domain. Example statements include “I can send positive energy to others from a distance,” “I can get in touch with people who are deceased,” and “I can influence the world around me with my thoughts.”https://37648ed37e8369244a9efa3e3dfde506.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
The third scale, “spiritual contingency of self-worth,” measures how much a person’s self-esteem is derived from their spirituality. Sample statements include “My faith in myself increases when I acquire more spiritual wisdom” and “When I gain new spiritual insights, this increases my self-worth.”
In the three studies described below, the researchers found that their scale of spiritual superiority is a valid instrument. Moreover, it correlates significantly with the other three scales. It also correlates significantly with narcissism, self‐esteem, and other psychological variables. Finally, it also correlates, to varying degrees, with diverse forms of spiritual training.
Assessing spiritual superiority
For the first of the three studies included in the current paper, Vonk and Visser recruited 533 participants. They found them by contacting schools and spiritual centers that offer courses in subjects such as mindfulness and energetic training.
The participants in this first study were about 75% female, with an average age of 51. They indicated that they were currently following some form of spiritual training. The types mentioned included mindfulness, meditation, energetic therapy, reading/healing aura, haptotherapy, reiki, and others.
The respondents filled in the questionnaires described above, and also answered questions about their age, sex, education, religion, and spiritual training.
The researchers found that “spiritual superiority” correlated significantly with self-esteem, mindfulness, supernatural overconfidence, and spiritual guidance.
As the authors predicted, these correlations were strongest for participants following forms of “energetic” training. These participants rated higher than the mindfulness/meditation students on all of the superiority-related scales, especially on the scale of supernatural overconfidence.
This makes sense, the authors write, as energetic training is meant to develop supernatural skills. This likely attracts students who already believe they have talents in this area.
Likewise, the training itself might further enhance their confidence. This is because no objective performance standards can conclusively demonstrate they are not in fact paranormally gifted.
What about people who don’t follow spiritual training?
The second study broadened the pool of respondents to include people who are not currently undergoing spiritual training. The goal was to compare their results on the spiritual superiority scale to those of the spiritual training students.
For this study, the researchers recruited 2,223 participants via a Dutch popular psychology magazine. Of these, 1960 were women. Their ages ranged from 15 to 82, with an average age of 41.
About a third had never followed any spiritual training; another third had followed mindfulness or meditation training. About 10% had followed some form of energetic training (including aura healing/reading). Another 10% had followed other kinds of spiritual training.
The result of this second study also showed that “spiritual superiority” significantly correlates with all the other measures. Furthermore, it also found the same pattern in Study 1. Namely there was a gradual increase in spiritual superiority as one moved from the “no spiritual training” group to the “mindfulness training” group to the “energetic training” group. And again, the results for the “energetic” group were much higher than for both the “mindfulness” and the “no-training” groups.
Correlations with narcissism
Study 3 tested the hypothesis that spiritual superiority is related to narcissism. As the researchers explain, past research has used the term “spiritual narcissism,” but none those studies empirically measured it.
For this study, the authors did not measure “agentic narcissism” (for example, “I am more special than others and deserve special privileges”), but rather “communal narcissism,” which describes people who think of themselves as more nurturing and empathic than others. Example statements that characterize this trait include “I have a very positive influence on others” and “I am generally the most understanding person.”
This study recruited 965 participants via various channels. These included a Facebook page about psychology, spiritual schools, and participants who were not able to participate in the previous two studies due to a lack of space. The final sample included about 88% women, aged 19-79, with an average age of 46.
The participants answered the questionnaires for spiritual superiority and spiritual guidance, as well as several existing scales related to humility and overconfidence, a short 7-item version of the Communal Narcissism scale, and a three-item self-esteem scale.
The researchers found that the correlation between spiritual superiority and narcissism was 0.47. This is significantly stronger than the correlation with self-esteem. And once again, the same pattern emerged in terms of the type of spiritual training that the participants followed. The weakest correlations were among subjects with no spiritual training, and the highest for those who practiced energetic training. The mindfulness/meditation group was in between, though it was considerably closer to the “no-training” group than to the “energetic” group.
Why the link between spiritual superiority and narcissism?
The authors argue that the lack of objectivity in the spiritual domain plays a role here. “Like religiosity, spirituality is a domain that seems like a safe and secure investment for self-worth,” they write. “One’s spiritual attainments allow lots of room for wishful thinking, thus easily lending themselves to the grip of the self-enhancement motive.”
And because spiritual matters are generally “elusive to external objective standards,” that makes them a “suitable domain for illusory beliefs about one’s superiority.”
The results of these three studies do not imply any casual direction; the authors suggest the causal arrow may work in both directions. On one hand, people may use spirituality as a self-esteem booster: it allows them to see themselves as special, and they can achieve progress in the spiritual domain relatively easily, as there are no objectively measurable outcomes (in contrast to, for example, sports, academic success, or wealth accumulation).
On the other hand, spiritual training may attract people who already feel superior. And the “extensive exploration of one’s personal thoughts and feelings” that spiritual training encourages “may be particularly appealing” to narcissists, the authors write.
Towards genuine spiritual growth
The people who agreed to take part in this research might not represent spirituality students in general. “The question is whether a truly enlightened person would even participate in our studies,” the authors write. “Would such a person be interested in or even capable of answering all these ‘me’ questions?”
In any case, the researchers hope that future research can “reveal more insights into the effects of spiritual training, and possibly the conditions and personality characteristics that facilitate genuine spiritual growth.”
For a day that had the potential to go many different ways, this Christmas will go down in history as one of the great ones.
I know that I am blessed. I know to not take it for granted.
After all of the running around and stressing about money and worrying about my mom being alone and listening to Pavarotti missing my father, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be laughs or tears.
It was both. In every good way.
About halfway through Christmas Eve – after hitting the Dollar Store at the end of my road TWICE, and realizing that I couldn’t clean my house because there is a handi-wipe lost somewhere within the multitude of hoses on my vacuum cleaner and having to call TAM’s daughter and her partner to let them know that my gift will, in fact, NOT be arriving on time – I was suddenly filled with joy. I let go of all the stressors and wishing that things could be different and decided to revel in the fact that I am loved and that I love those in my world deeply.
My father loved Christmas. I love Christmas.
TAM and I had a magical Christmas Eve complete with tequila and tamales and tenderness. We cozied up, thanked each other for our shared love, and slept like babies.
Yesterday, ALL of my children came over; Boys 1, 2, and 3. Girlfriends, dogs, TAM.
We masked up in the living room to exchange gifts then headed out for a socially distanced hike in the canyon. How fortunate am I to live in a place where I could safely and gleefully share the day with my family?
How fortunate am I that my children are willing to indulge their mommy by getting out of their PJ’s and driving all this way to wander amongst rocks and sand?
I adore being in their presence. Their laughter and teasing and hugs fill me up. Watching them embrace TAM because he is embracing me, embracing them, as part of one big family is the best thing that I can imagine.
At points, I lagged behind (not because the younger ones moved faster then I could;)) to enjoy watching them together. They all lead their own lives now. They no longer all live together. They don’t all get together very frequently, so it was a treat for them as well as for me.
I am not close with my brother – he doesn’t like me very much. One of the most important lessons I tried to teach my children was the value and preciousness of their relationships with each other. Watching them, listening to them, hearing their mixed laughter…priceless.
Two out of three of them have brought girlfriends into our little world. The girls couldn’t be more different, but they are each perfect for my boys. My sons are happy and in love. They are tender and caring and loving with the women they have chosen and who have chosen them.
Maybe growing up in a “broken home” has taught them the value of real, respectful, supportive love. Maybe they just lucked out.
But I lucked out too. If I have to share my boys’ attentions with other women, I am grateful that I have J and J because they are not only lovely but they wrap themselves around me as well as my boys.
My boys are happy. They are healthy. They are persuing dreams – making shit happen. They are kind, funny, affectionate, warm, open, and loyal. After all that my family has been through in the last few years, there is nothing that warms my heart more than to have all come out on the other side…
I hadn’t seen my boys in months. I was grieving. Two out of the three are moving away this spring and I couldn’t bear for that to happen without seeing them.
But we made it happen.
The only only only thing that would have made the day more complete would have been to have TAM’s kiddos with us too.
I went from a traditional, husband-wife-two kids family to a cluster of misfits: The Mexican, the Mormon, the Homeless, the Felon, the College dropout, the mildly-unstable mom, and the incredible, twice divorced, super sexy single dad who stepped right in, stepped right up, and embraced the hodgepodge.
I wept with joy multiple times yesterday and I am welling up as I write this.
After all of the shit that we have been through – as individuals and as a whole – it’s a wonder that we not only landed on our feet, but did so with strength and resiliency and gratitude and determintaion and compassion and love.
I will be forever grateful for these oh-so-special human beings.
On days when life seems like more of a struggle, I will have yesterday to lean on, to remind me of all of the goodness that I have in my life.
My heart is full.
I feel a peace that I haven’t exxperienced in years (and years and years).
And I have renewed hope that one day, eventually, all will be right in the world again.