September 15, 2010 More Helpful Tips–For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) With A Narcissistic Parent–Part 1
Hi everyone. As highly sensitive people, many of you are struggling with how to cope with your relationship with your narcissistic parent and your unsupportive siblings and extended family. First of all I want to tell you that I understand your pain and how hard it is. There is very little support in our society for not having a relationship with ones’ parents no matter how negative and destructive they are to you or were to you in your childhood. Many people have difficult parents but they tolerate them and seem to get by okay so why can’t you, right? The pressure is very real. But let me help you understand the difference between you (an HSP) and everyone else with some more helpful tips that are very important for you to know.
1. Know that your greatest gift is your intuition.
As highly sensitive people (HSPs), we were naturally giving and loving and trusting as children. We had high hopes for ourselves and others including our parents. Those of us with loving and supportive parents are living lives full of vitality and creative fulfillment and healthy boundaries to keep negative, manipulative, harmful people at a distance naturally and sharing our unique gifts with others. (Taylor Swift is an INFJ). These people don’t feel guilty about not getting along with everyone–they just “know” there are some people who are unhealthy and dangerous–they pay attention to their natural instincts. But those of us with a narcissistic parent were taught at a very young age, even from birth not to trust our own instincts, our own intuition. The horrible thing about that is, that was our greatest gift, “our sensitive intuition”, and it was used against us.
2. Know that you repressed a terrible trauma from your childhood–the loss of the knowledge of your gifts.
If you had an N parent, then part of your sensitivities were seen as a gift for “them”. They could control you easily because of your trusting nature–so often they used fear to get you to be quiet, anger to get you to obey, and shame to keep you from feeling independent and strong. And it worked. We trusted them and needed them to take care of us and protect us from a world that overwhelmed our sensitive souls so we…experienced a trauma that caused us to shut down our true selves and become what they want us to become. Something happened that was “the last straw” for our fragile but wise self that was developing. Typically it happens around age 5 or 6, according to Alice Miller (Author of The Drama of the Gifted Child). After an incident that we can’t remember because we have repressed it, suddenly, we are obedient and sweet wanting only to please. And please them we did. And that is why it is so hard for them to let go of us now. We took care of them. Completely and amazingly. They felt loved by us and validated by us filling a void inside of them that was caused in their childhood. It is as if we were the loving parent that they never had. That is how gifted you were. Those gifts of intuiting the needs of others are still there–they were just misused and abused by your needy and narcissistic parent. Those gifts of being a loving and giving and caretaking soul were mis-directed.
MY TRAUMA AT AGE 5: (As for myself, I was able to finally gain access to the memories of my trauma after much journaling, support, and inner grief work. I had always had the vivid memory when I taught myself how to read at the age of 5. Before I even entered school, someone taught me the letters to my name (not my mother) and I remember saying them over and over in my head when I suddenly realized how it worked–the letters had sounds and they fit together to form words!!! I remember it vividly–the grass outside on our lawn where I had been playing, the details of the interior of the house, and running excitedly to tell my mother! And that is where my memories ended. It wasn’t until in my thirties when my Mother casually said, remember that time when you were 5 and we couldn’t find you?…and we searched for you all day and finally found you asleep in the closet. Pouring out my emotions writing in my journal soon after that, the memories and emotions came back to me. The pain of telling my mother the wonderful news and having her laugh at me and shame me saying, ” You can’t read! You are too little to read! That’s ridiculous!” I remember the rage I felt, the exasperation, the unbearable emotional pain! I ran and hid in the closet determined never to come out. I heard them later looking for me and I hated them all so badly. It was the last straw for me. I felt like I was dying and I was. I gave up being “me” but with the last disobedient act of my life–I was determined never to come out of that closet on my own. I don’t remember if I fell asleep in there or pretended to be asleep when they found me but I was forever after…changed. I believe I repressed my wise and intelligent soul and voice so completely to please my mother that I convinced everyone and even myself that I wasn’t too bright. They ignored the fact that I got straight A’s easily in school pointing out the fact that I was a worry-wort and anxious. Oh yeah, and the story goes from my siblings that my mother forgot to send me to kindergarten that year and that a neighbor noticed and made my mom send me to kindergarten. I was the baby of the family and she wanted to keep me forever her “baby”. I remember going to kindergarten a few months before the end of the year and the first day being mortified because I was the only one who didn’t know how to use scissors. The great thing was I remember that I caught up to everyone in every subject and I was so proud of myself at the graduation ceremony–there is a picture of me just beaming with happiness in my graduation gown after I recited my little poem (we each recited a 4 line poem). And I remember how the teachers beamed and told my family how well I had done catching up to all the other kids. But then I remember after that it all changed immediately after the ceremony because my mother was angry about my happiness at my graduation and the mean looks she gave me caused me to regress again… in fear and self-doubt and anxiety.)
3. Know that your N parents are the cause of your anxiety, self-doubt, post traumatic stress, and co-dependence issues.
As you grew up and tried to do some of the creative endeavors that were driven by your soul, your parent probably did not support you because they selfishly did not want you to leave them or stop taking care of their emotional needs or they just liked controlling you. As narcissistic parents with no conscience or guilt, it was easy for them to manipulate you, so they did. The pain of your original trauma at the age of 5 or 6 would come up for you each time you tried to express your true self and these outbursts of emotion were shamed and punished by your parent and made you give up each time. This is the beginning of the post traumatic stress that still plagues you today. ” Why do I over-react in these explosive ways”, you may have asked yourself. This is why. Your true self and all your repressed feelings and desires from childhood still want badly to be heard and understood and validated and “loved”. Your narcissistic parent was not capable of giving you this love and still is not and never will be. Your love needs are still unmet. You searched for love from others but sometimes, because parts of you are still undeveloped and childlike, you end up being attracted to people who seem wonderful and charming at first but then turn out to be needy and manipulative and unable to comfort you when you need it most–just like your N parent.
4. Know that there is hope and you can heal.
So what is a highly sensitive person with an N parent to do? You can heal and learn to love yourself and slowly unblock all those creative parts of yourself that never got a chance to be expressed. You can learn to trust your self and your gifts of emotional intelligence and intuition that were robbed from you and misused and abused. You can gain clarity amidst all the confusion, and hope amidst all the despair. You can learn that it is okay for you to say no to other people’s demands and put yourself first. You need to learn about extreme “self- care” (Cheryl Richardson–author of the book Life Makeovers) and you need a journal to pour into all the feelings from your deepest heart. You need support from like-minded, highly sensitive, safe people to share the pain and grief from the loss of a childhood that was taken away from you. All your desires and free impulses were repressed so that you could survive with an illusion that your parent’s needs were more important than your own. But surviving was not really living your life. Surviving is not good enough. Your survival skills just cause you trouble because they are not driven by your heart, they are driven by a needy inner child trying to please a parent that is unpleasable and without remorse about what they did to you.
5. Know that the answers are inside of you and support is available.
You need to take a new direction. A direction into your own soul. You need to excavate the desires of a child who never had a say in the development of his/her own life! Write it out! Talk it out! Cry it out! Shout it out! You can do this in a journal that is meant for your eyes only. Or you can find a counselor or coach like myself who does inner child healing. It’s important to find support somewhere so you can find your true voice and express it. There are HSP meet-up groups in larger cities. You might also look into Unitarian churches or Unity churches to meet people of a spiritual nature who are not necessarily “religious”.
6. Know that no contact with a narcissistic parent is not just recommended, it is vital!
One of the first steps into this new direction of healing for yourself is ending the old song and dance and unhealthy relationship that you have with your narcissistic parent. That means no contact so that you can move on with the life that you always deserved. The fact that you understand the word Narcissistic is crucial here. We are not talking about a parent that is remorseful about your childhood and trying to change, we are talking about a parent who blames you every time the relationship isn’t going their way–they resent the loss of control over your life that they always had. Control is not love. It is time to cut them off! You do not owe them another ounce of your precious energy. You owe it to yourself to stay away from them, because being around them at all always takes a toll on you, a toll that is much heavier and destructive and stressful and toxic to you than you realize.
There are a total of 12 tips that I have written about here today, but I am going to stop here and give you the other 6 in my next post in two weeks because this is getting really long. I hope that what I have written has been helpful to you. I hope that you can enjoy this last week of summer and get out in the warmth of the sunshine–slow down and feel the connection to God’s love that nature provide’s and really take it in. Walks in nature are a great way to recharge your energy. Your highly sensitive soul and body deserve this special treatment. It’s never too late to start on the path to the healing you deserve. I care and I am here for you.