I grew up with a narcissistic Mom. I don’t think that was all she was, but she certainly fit into that disorder. She was a bully, psychologically abusive, neglectful, cruel. And having to deal with that coming from her while I was a young girl has shaped who I am in many, many ways.
Even as a young child, I knew the way she treated me was wrong and unfair. And I was often filled with rage and extreme sadness. A friend of mine asked me recently, “How did you handle it? How could you survive being treated that way?” Good questions for sure, but as I told my friend, I just dealt with it. The way she treated me was all I knew from my mother.
Moving through the damaging patterns that came up from her abuse has been an interesting journey.
I have been trying to leave the patterns behind since I was a young woman, but they are all the more meaningful now because of the life experiences I’ve had.
As I approach middle age, I have a greater sense of who I am, and also how my childhood has shaped my life.
For example, some of my relationships have had similar patterns to my relationship with my mother. One man was a bully and would push me out of the way when he was busy “working” in the house. Or he would demand all my attention, like a child rather than an adult, and if I didn’t give it to him he would get very angry and break things.
Another man enjoyed hurting my feelings while being very “nice” to his friends. He liked watching me hurt while his friends believed he was a good man because he was “good” to them.
Those are just two examples, but through them and others I learned that my childhood patterns were being repeated. And as I got older, I came to see these situations as opportunities for healing. Yes, they hurt me deeply and were very destructive for my psyche, but they were also great teachers.
In many ways now, I am much clearer on why I have made certain choices and been in certain relationships, and when I come out the other side of them I see with greater clarity why I got myself into them in the first place.
Sometimes I’ve felt stuck, not believing I had options or choices. And that in itself is something I have needed to work through. It’s very common for children with abusive parents to feel caught as adults because they were as children. I have learned to push through those psychological barriers and leave every one of my unhealthy relationships. I consider this no small accomplishment.
Leaving people has caused me great personal pain, but it has also given me greater courage and understanding of myself. When I look back on the damaging relationships, I’m not sure why I felt I had no options, but because I pushed past those false beliefs and left, I grew as a person.
And now that I’m approaching 50 (but not quite there yet), I have succeeded in standing up for myself often enough to feel I’ve made real progress. I still find it hard to express my feelings sometimes, but I am getting better at it. And more importantly, I feel I have the right to express my feelings, and to me that is great progress indeed.