"The 3 Dimensions": DRAMA, DISAPPOINTMENT, DESPAIR
Oh my, the holidays were here...did anyone notice? Feasts, gatherings, celebrations and connections with family, right? But, what if you come from a narcissistic family? Are you still doing a civil connect? Maybe you have gone "no contact". Or for some the narcissistic parents are deceased. Whatever the case, it is difficult for most children of narcissists to go through the holidays without some memories still lurking from the past. "Silent Night?" or "Chestnuts Roasting On The Open Fire?" or maybe more like " Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer!" Did you sleep well or were you thinking the whole time of either calling 911 or your current shrink?
"Do you work dear therapist during the holidays? You should! We may need you. Please keep your pager handy." " In fact, could you just sleep with it by your pillow in case I need to call?"
It seems, as we all know by now, that holidays bring out the family "issues" and also put each person in the family structure in their old position in the family. Are you the baby? The oldest? The middle child? Or, many in a slew of siblings? Without recovery, be prepared to march into the old position and be treated as such by the whole crew.
If you come from a family with narcissistic parents, all of the above becomes enunciated with drama, disappointment and often times quiet, inner, despair. You may be thinking that this year it will be different, wishing and hoping it will change, and this year you will be recognized as a separate, unique individual who has marked his or her place in the world and has much to share with a loving family.
But Pressman and Pressman best describe the reality of narcissistic families in their book, The Narcissistic Family: the "shiny red apple with the worm inside." It looks fabulous to the outside world, but behind that apple (closed door) is a disconnected, disengaged group of people who do not know how to do emotional connect. The house may be shiny, clean, and pretty and the gifts wrapped with elegance, sparkles and bows. Maybe there are lights everywhere and soft candles with sweet scents filling the house with warmth, but love, real love...is emotional connecting, empathy, interest, authentic conversation, and true caring about feelings and each person's life. It is cheering on the successes and having empathy for the failures but truly caring for the people we love.
In loving families, the children are treated with utmost importance. They are not a hassle, their excitement and magical thinking are honored, and most of all their feelings are listened to with great, wise intent and wisdom. Each moment with the children is respected as a teaching moment and a time to guide them towards connecting with real family time. If their list for Santa, is composed of 65 things and they have emailed the entire family...we smile, love, and simply share that we are proud of them and will look forward to seeing which things on their creative list will become realities for them. We don't lecture them on how selfish they are. We don't talk about the "economy" and how tough it is. We definitely don't use the "be good or Santa will not bring gifts, instead he will bring coal to that stocking!" I'm not sure our little ones today would even understand the "coal" thing, eh?
As we enter the new year of 2010, I send good wishes to all and a special prayer that adult children of narcissists are working hard to overcome the legacy of distorted love with their newly created families and own children. Of all the goals and new years resolutions...this may be the most important one to consider!