Well, this is not a pleasant topic and almost sounds like an oxymoron. But, in reality, we need to be aware of our connections with others and work to ensure that we have healthy connections. I’ve always been a bit stunned by how this gets played out in female relationships. Even though the feminist movements have assisted in encouraging women to gather together in the sisterhood, female conflict seems to occur more than we would like to admit.
In the narcissistic family, we learn the wrong definition of love. Love in the narcissistic family is defined by either “what you can do for me” or “what I can do for you.” This legacy of distorted love is a set up for either dependent or co-dependent relationships and deeply affects those adult children who are raised by a narcissistic parent. Discovering what determines healthy connections and being able to sustain our part of the dyad is worth investigating and investing effort.
Adult children of narcissists are accustomed to reactivity because of the way they have been treated. Their job in relationship is not only choosing the healthy person with which to interact, but also to work on themselves and practice active efforts in kindness, empathy, listening, and responding without getting triggered. Without recovery work for adult children of N parents, this is difficult to do.
My co-host, Dr. Pat Covalt, interviewed Dr. Michael Nichols, author of, The Lost Art of Listening, in our last radio show on “Good Enough Rocks Radio.” He thoughtfully explained that one must know and accept themselves and understand what they react to and then practice listening without reacting. Dr. Nichols said we often listen to respond rather than to understand.
Because empathy and active listening is such an important aspect of recovery for adult children of narcissists, it is important to learn this skill of true empathy and listening to those we care about. I believe that doing this for children is the greatest gift we can give them. My challenge to you is to think about how many times you listen intently with the desire just to understand in your love relationships, parenting, and with your dear friends. This is a great weekend to practice as Memorial Day weekend is usually one filled with family, friends and time to interact with those we love.