Yes, I am still talking about and working through this. Healing and recovery are a process. My sons and I recently had dinner together, with their father and grandfather, which is another freaking miracle- that my dedication to my sons is greater than my resentment of their father’s affiliation with my sister. I officially resolve to no longer allow my female sibling’s initiatives to interfere with our family–by setting aside my feelings for my ex’s willingness, if not enthusiasm, to engage my sister’s agenda; foul for too many reasons to count or list. What she pursues, with my ex, requires our boys to participate in gatherings rooted in betrayal of their mother. I am their rock 24/7 365, their mama-bear. Please let them be. Honor their right to remain innocent. Show some respect.
Also– I must limit my expression of despair to them over this betrayal by my family of origin. I, alone, must minimize the legacy of The Ghoneim (my family name) Shame. This dynamic, for which she has taken charge, shackles my 9 and 10 year old with shame and guilt- although they are not yet old enough to articulate the exact sentiments which stain them–only that “IT makes them feel bad”. I see it on their faces and hear it in their voices when I ask what they have done on weekends with their father and where they have been. They do not feel good about the truth and would feel less good about lying or withholding—also miracles, broken legacies. Lying and withholding are not for us.
My sibling (sister feels like a term of endearment) is not ready to consider that her behavior is damaging, intentionally or otherwise. Her motivation, she claims, to be love for my mother and my sons…. BUT wholesome love is benevolent and does not cause shame and requires no justification. Thank God for my recovery and each of the teachers in my life who continue to help me to develop and model both wholesome love and shame resilience for my sons. Otherwise, addiction and/or despair would 100% claim them as it has others. I choose to break this cycle.
My ex does not even pretend to know better or to be above “this”– and as someone with whom I get to co-parent for the rest of my life– he gets a pass, for the sake of unity(of OUR sons’ parents). Working with him, supports the mental wellness of our children. This does not mean that I am not hurt or opposed– only that I now have a Higher Power–finally enough Good Orderly Direction in my life to focus on and to change the things I can. One WBA reader recently emailed this question: “Are you sure it is not your ego that leaves you feeling excluded and resentful.” My ego is definitely what left me unwilling to move forward with my ex as “partners” in parenting. AND, I choose to exclude myself from gatherings with those who require contraction,reverence or submission-who speak ill of me and to me without amends. And….gossip, casual “joking” about someone else’s sensitive issues, and underhanded diminishing of any other human are sickening to my soul. So—it is my regard for my sons, that drives my angst over their repeated and required submission to ceremonious acts of betrayal of ME, their mother. (My)Boys feel fierce love and loyalty to their mama. It is in their DNA. Forced betrayal/participation in gatherings requiring that they disassociate from themselves is damaging to their spirits and psyches. Hidden abuse is still abuse….Cunning, baffling, powerful….like addiction, the need to numb every day with a drink or two or rx or pot–no big deal, right? so subtle. Few recognize what is happening and why. Addiction is a family disease of relationships, the substance is secondary to the dynamic.
My younger son was given a game called “No Stress Chess” by my sister. While packing for our recent move, I found the game still shrink wrapped and asked if he wanted it or if we should donate it. He laughed and said “No Stress Chess”— From Jilan!!–SHE is the stress. (We call her Jilan over here, because that is her real name and it makes us laugh: Previously Jilan Ghoneim (brown mutt loner—now Catherine Whitney-her ladyship all dressed in white(not smug and judging at all).Hang on, I am nearly finished taking her inventory. Only those in recovery will understand that)) My son asked if he could take it out for target practice with his gun. I told him that his father would probably not
openly approve– and so we dropped it off at Good Will.
We get to be honest and NEVER pretend that the dynamic is sane or kind and that mentally healthy people do not force physical affection and family division (simultaneously!!!). I must clean up my side of the street with my boys by sharing less with them on how much this pains me….because that is selfish; neither helpful nor wholesome. My is disturbance with Jilan’s deceptive involvement of her daughters, my ex-inlaws, and my young sons, in OUR bullshit dysfunction. (She, with this arrangement, has robbed us all, but especially our children and our mother of the opportunity to heal and grow as a family) Because I am blessed with a program of recovery, I am able to reflect on and to amend my poor or hurtful/selfish choices–like burdening my sons with my pain. I strive(striving–not claiming to already be–the striving is WBA) to be a model of healing and grace, not poise but spiritual grace.
My boys and I cobble a lot of good humor from the madness which could easily feel unspeakably humiliating, confusing, and painful. Knowing that we do not cause or imagine the disconnect between the words and actions of others and that we are free and safe to discuss it, is another miracle of recovery. We joke to cope and to heal from what makes no sense. We are not hating, just laughing through the grief and the hardship of me detaching and unlearning literally everything I ever knew or felt in relation to my FOO. My sons and I are collectively grateful for the stark contrasts between my childhood experience and theirs. I am forced to regularly call out when my unfortunate and reactive behaviors are more historic and habitual than wholesome and nurturing. I am a work in progress. I lose my shit. It is true….and then I find it, but only after I own it. It is safe to do so in our home and family. Owning your shit and healing is only for the badass and the wholesome. It is too much for others.
I hope that recovery will get me to a place of compassion for those whom appear to struggle with Narcissistic Characteristics. Reading as much possible helps me to become more informed and resilient….and hopefully more compassionate.
- Don’t take them at face value. Image is everything to narcissists. They work hard to present a facade of superiority and certainty. They like to keep others guessing and operate less than transparently. But it is important to remember that people with narcissism are deeply insecure. Their flashy facade is designed to hide an emptiness within. We can have compassion for narcissists’ pain yet not be taken in by their pretenses. All that glitters is not gold.
- Don’t expect them to take responsibility. Narcissists take credit and give blame, rarely apologizing or admitting fault. Narcissists think they have special status, greater stature, and more rights than others. They have no interest in equality or in owning up to what they do – other than taking credit. Seeking to get narcissists to take responsibility for negative actions can be a waste of time. If you want to point out their role in a problem, fine – but do so because you need to say it, not because you expect them to hear or validate your concerns.
- Don’t try to beat them at their own game. It may be tempting, but remember: most narcissists have spent their lives perfecting their campaign of self-aggrandizement. Many narcissists do more manipulative actions in a week than most people do all year. Narcissists have a mortal fear of losing, feeling inferior, and being exposed or humiliated. As a result, they devote massive energy to maintaining their image and cultivating sources of ego-boosting, generally at others’ expense. Trying to best them in a war of words, get even, or otherwise adopt their techniques is like an amateur going up against a seasoned pro. It won’t feel good and it rarely works. Instead, play your game and be true to your values.
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