A friend of mine was feeling sick. As someone who does not like being remotely or even on the verge of being sick, I wanted to offer my support and show that I care. My intention was to make her feel better. When she was telling me what was going on, and I offered some help and support, it was immediately rejected. She became very defensive and dismissive, resulting in being very insular. As a former properly trained codependent, I immediately thought I had done something wrong. I didn’t want to hurt her even more when she was already hurting.
So I continued with the actions that a properly trained codependent would do: I agreed to everything she was saying and tried to “kiss ass” in order to make her feel better. After all, when my narcissistic father was angry, the remedy to keeping the peace (and myself safe) was to kiss his ass. I did that as well with her, until at the end of the day, I experienced what I always experienced after repeating those patterns all my life: I was finally pissed off.
I wasn’t helping her because she didn’t want the help. It is hard being sick, for one, and people react very differently to stress, hard emotions, and pain. It was not anything I was doing, I had to remind myself, it was just how she was handling her situation, and whether it was helpful to her or not, there is nothing I could do about that.
If there are two things that I learned throughout my healing is 1.) You DO NOT have to give people what they want 2.) You ARE NOT who you are received to be.
Allow me to explain. Everyone has different needs, as well as different wants. I was raised by my narcissistic father to give him everything that he needs and wants, or all hell would break loose. So, that is the pattern of interaction that I carried around with other people.
Recently, I realized that I have the power to not be so swayed by how people are receiving me nor does it have any influence on my identity, personality, or character. If I have good intentions in what I saying and doing, then I am, in fact, doing something right. After all, we are all only doing the best that we know how.
If we have had past relationships with narcissists, being doormats is how we learned to adapt and be. Narcissists need someone to always be reacting to them, and most of the time, are the provocateurs of the other persons reactions as a means of control. In that world, we lose sight of reality, and ourselves and became only a vehicle for a narcissist’s judgments and projections. We cope by taking it in and blaming ourselves, because a relationship with a narcissist is a one way street. This is not right or healthy.
A big part of the solution is learning how to let go. Everyone possesses their own free will and is responsible for themselves, which means everyone is responsible for their own words, thoughts, actions, and reactions. There were many times when I would mistake a miscommunication or disagreement for the end of the world: the dismantling of relationship, judgment on my part that I did something wrong, an illusion that someone is trying to hurt me. Knowing better now I see that these are little occurrences that happen almost daily. That we all have our own thoughts, ideas, and reactions and we are the only ones responsible for them. We are all allowed to have them, every individual is different in that way.
At the end of the day, I believe that people that people have good intentions. We are all guilty of taking a bite of the forbidden apple thus resulting in being composed of flaws. There is no doubt that people possess the ability to blame, be defensive, lash out in anger, create defense mechanisms such as always having to be right, and so on. There is also no doubt that some do it more than others- narcissists as one prime example. Though, the trick is realize what is our shit, and what is others people shit. I am always in the mindset that if I had good intentions in what I was doing, then I wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. Maybe the other person was in a bad place, or not ready to hear what it is being said to them, or they are reacting to a situation with their own “shit”.
In order to begin to heal, this is where mindfulness is great tool to incorporate. Mindfulness has been a growing topic of interest and practice for many people. It is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing on ones awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Bring this awareness to your feelings and thoughts, without trying to figure them. You will see through time, different patterns that develop. One pattern for me was always kissing ass to someone if I perceived that I hurt them. Now, with that clarity I am able to offer the best that I can, then let go, and create a healthy space in between the person for the situation to unravel itself. Mindfulness allows you to stop grasping onto your reactions and thoughts and just observe them instead.
We are all different people, with good qualities and bad. In order to live in harmony, we have to respect that fact, in ourselves and in others. By not giving in to everything that others want, as well as judging ourselves for doing something “wrong” we can begin to establish boundaries and hold space. We can solidify our intentions and our identity. And with that, build on the wisdom for showing and receiving compassion for everyone.
Anna (Creator of Echo’s Corner)