fear of enmeshment

I have been seeing nightmares lately. They are mostly the same – somebody is pushing themselves on me. I am realizing that it has become time to work on my enmeshment issues.

Many people that have had an abusive childhood suffer from both, abandonment fear and enmeshment. The only problem is that abandonment fear is much easier to notice, because well……it somehow makes more sense. It has taken me a while to understand why I cringe when my boyfriend suddenly touches me. Why I enjoy evenings on my own. It is all a consequence of having lived my whole life the way my mother wanted me to.

My childhood was all about meeting my mother’s needs. I did not have needs. Or well, if I did they were not important. In fact I did not have personality either because I was running all my decisions pass my mother. Any kind of act of not complying to her needs was met with either silent treatment, anger or rage. So I learned pretty fast to no take care of myself, but take care of my mother instead.

Unsurprisingly I have done the same in my relationships. I have tried to mold myself to a person my boyfriend wants me to be. Not to anger him. Interestingly, he has been complaining throughout the relationship that I am not in tune with his needs enough. That I am too ignorant of him.

This is probably true and untrue at the same time. I am escaping when his needs are starting to overwhelm me. On the other hand I have spent years trying to be what he wants me to be. So I have had two main strategies to deal with his needs. Unfortunately I have not had the most important strategy – saying no, instituting borders.

This is what I am currently doing and it is met……well, might I say not with the greatest excitement. I am finally becoming more independent and people in my life cannot hold me hostage anymore.

However, part of becoming independent is also working through my fear of anybody coming close. Right now every person who comes close to me is a potential abuser. I suspect that they want to dominate me and that they want to rob me of my own choices. They want to smother my personality and I would dissolve like I dissolved for 25 years with my mother.

Personalizing other people’s feelings

I am slowly coming to the realization that, I have assumed responsibility for other people’s behavior and feelings my whole life. For instance, I assumed that my ex boyfriend’s inability to express his love to me was connected to me not being good enough. Surely, with someone else he would have been open to expressing his love.

It is a very difficult way of living- you constantly assume responsibility and blame for how others treat you. When someone oversteps your borders, you do not think- well I must just inform this other person about my borders. No, you rather think- what is wrong with me that, they feel they can treat me this way? Why do they assume that I am so bad?

Other people become just extensions of you- they do not have their own will. Hence, their behaviors say something about you and not them.

I have always thought that way and I am only now moving away from this way of thinking. This bias is usually a result of an abusive childhood where you do not develop clear borders between you and your caregiver. It is very common with narcissistic parents, who by definition see you as an extension of themselves. So you do learn that, everything you do, is going to impact the wellbeing of your parents. So when mommy is angry, it must be because you messed up. The world centers around you and other beings reflect your value back to you- when they treat you badly, this means you have low value, not that they are assholes.

Children of narcissists and the obsession to do the right thing

I am at the final stages of my therapy- I can feel it. One of the things still to be adressed is my fear for the world. I am afraid of independent living and I am afraid of the world. For someone who has no experience with narcissistic childhood that, might sound weird. For me it is not weird, it is what the world has always felt.

My boyfriend finds it extremely confusing that I am always obsessed about doing the right thing. I am unable to make decisions because I imagine that somehow my life will be the direct consequence of my decisions. If I only make the right decisions, everything will be fine. This also means that all the bad that happens in my life could be pinned down to my inadequate decisions or more generally inappropriate actions.

I got so used to being held responsible for every angry outburst of my mother. She convinced me that if I had only behaved properly, those outbursts would have never happened. I got scared of doing anything. Usually I could not predict her reactions on my actions, so in fact, inaction was safer…..or running everything through my mother to be sure that there were not horrible consequences for my actions.

I became extremely dependent on her evaluations. I was scared to make anything without having her approval. I was constantly scared of her reactions and convinced that her negative reactions meant that I had messed up once again. I treasured the moments everything was fine between us and I had her approval. Those were rare moments of safety. The rest of the time I was constantly anxious about having done something wrong.

Guess what, in my mind, I am still expecting someone to punish me for some perceived mistakes. I assume that if something goes wrong, it is god sent punishment for being a bad person….for making mistakes.

This is something which is yet to be solved in my therapy..

Children of narcissists and their romantic relationships

I have been struggling really long to find some information about how having narcissistic parents would impact one’s adult relationships. My wish to find information stemmed partially from the fact that I am addicted to information (it feels like power :)) and partially because I just wanted some understanding. Finding someone writing about other people with the similar background struggling with what I am is incredibly comforting. So I finally found this study (https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/831/items/1.0053880). It is a good one, but also nearly 200 pages, so let me just summarize what I picked up from there.

People with narcissistic parents choose a partner who makes it easy to feel insecure in the relationships. This might mean choosing partners who one thinks are better than they are, highly critical parnters or emotionally unavailable partners. Man can I relate. The love of my life was in my mind so above my league that I spent years trying to get to his good graces. He was also quite critical and always left me feeling that I had somehow failed his standards.

The study also mentions that children of narcs (ACON) are usually the ones that breakup and avoid showing feelings of vulnerability in the relationship. This might be connected to the feelings of intense inferiority that these children feel when compared to their partner. Again something that I can relate acutely based on my own experiences.

Thirdly, the study mentions that acons struggle with intimacy in the relationships. It is quite difficult to establish intimacy when one is not really certain who one is. Narcissistic familes namely never allow the child to develop their own sense of self. Furthermore, they also teach children that they need to hide all their negative qualities (feelings) and paint a good face.

One other interesting point that the study makes is that acons get easily bored in relationships. Man, and I thought it was only me and something was terribly wrong with me! One of the reasons is probably found in the saying “I would never join a club that would accept me as a member”. The partners, as soon as they show fondness to acon, get devalued. There is a certain need for that chase which was carried out with parents who never quite gave their love.

Apparently acons also have unrealistic expectations in relationships. My guess is that these children are trying to find in their partners what they never found in their parents (I almost accidentally wrote parents instead of partners, so that should serve as a sufficient proof). Additionally acons seem to make relationships the focus of their lives.

Finally, playing roles and putting on a false mask seems to be the common habit of acons as well. This probably stems from the feeling that one’s true self (if it is even know) can never be valued. Hence acons read the needs of the partner and try to preform according to what they expect their partner to want. This, in long run, of course becomes tiring, so ending relationships might be a strategy used when one feels one can not hold on to the mask anymore.

This was my short summary of the study and I find that it very well describes what I have been experiencing over the years in my romantic relationships. In the future I plan on describing these themes as they developed in my own relationships

 

My experience living together with my narcissistic mother

I found this article https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201311/the-narcissistic-mother and I almost jumped. Seriously, I have yet to find an article that would summarize my mother’s behavior in a better way.

What I have found throughout my life confusing about my mother is that I cannot wholeheartedly claim that she does not care. In fact there was a lot of “caring” in our house. She cared about how I looked, how I studied etc etc. However, for some reason you really do not feel like they care. Yes, they study together with you, yes they choose clothes with you, but you are still left with the feeling, that something is not “quite right”.

Well, the thing that is not quite right is that- actually they care about how they look to the world. All my elementary school teachers knew what my mother was doing for a living. She made sure that I would not embarrass her with my study results, even though I was not particularly bright. The fact that I might not be as smart as she was, was something my mother simply could not accept. She made me learn some things for hours, until I had mastered it perfectly. Every time I got a bad grade I was afraid to go home. It was not that she made a huge deal about my bad grades every time, just when “she felt like it”. But, well in reality, you just never know what to expect, so you start to over-perform in all areas, just to avoid your mother’s rages.

Yes, her rages. I really could not predict those. Sometimes she would come home being totally calm and sometimes she would start yelling at me at the instant she walked in. Sometimes we could actually sit at the kitchen table and talk and sometimes I would have to prepare myself for listening to hours and hours of accusations as to “what a horrible child and human being I am”. There was no way out of the fight with my mother, she was in it for the kill. Some of our fights escalated to the point where my mother kicked me out of our apartment, telling me to go and enjoy life on the streets. She has disowned me for more times I can remember. It took me years to finally go along with it and say- fine, you disown me, I will not bother you anymore.

My childhood was spent in constant fear and wish to keep mommy happy. Unfortunately she never quite was. Unsurprisingly she still is not. However, I am working hard for my own happiness now.