When you decide to take the road less traveled, it often means voting against the family party line. Basically if you are dealing with a narcissist, you are playing a game you can never win, so you might as well give up and go home. Fear and rejection are the bottom lines for most ACONs—Adult Children of Narcissists. I was invited to join such a group this week and my mind is still reeling from the humanity.
I used to think a narcissist was a slick dude who wore fancy clothes and looked in the mirror a lot, but I leaned narcissism is actually a spectrum and we all have a bit of ego. The problem comes when people become obsessed with the survival of the fittest mentality and selfishly try to harm and control other people.
Talk about emotional carnage. The survivors of narcissistic abuse are spread across the wasteland of the dysfunctional family landscape and the picture is devastating. Narcissistic family members never own their mistakes; they play the victim and make you their scapegoat. They will stop speaking to you and spend their energy trying to convince the rest of your family that you are evil, wrong or bad. And sometimes they will manipulate their flying monkeys into bashing you as well. Over and over I heard nearly the same story with few variations.
There are narcissists who want to control their adult children’s money, narcissists who don’t want their adult child to get married or fall in love, narcissists who want to control what their children believe about God–even religious narcissists who need to prove themselves right all the time. One woman even took out a full page newspaper ad to discredit her daughter. Some people not only suck the life out the room, but they spend hours promoting fear because they want their children to be as miserable as they are.
When I hear people discussing their narcissistic parents, I can often see their issues clearly and I feel like yelling for them to forget about their parents and move on, then I am reminded of all the stuff that’s stifled my own progress. Fear lies at the heart of it all.
After my trip through the twilight zone of dysfunction, I watched some refreshing DVDs* by a couple of Christian doctors (one a psychiatrist) that discusses the statistics and health related results of childhood abuse and neglect.
If you have ever been taunted for speaking of the pain in your past, if you have ever been told it’s all in your head, then these DVDs will blow your mind. But don’t bother to share it with your narcissist; they don’t care how much they hurt you, they just want you to shut up.
The bad news is the fear circuits are increased in people who were neglected and abused in childhood. The results can cause poor health emotionally, physically and spiritually. The good news is that dwelling on a loving God can calm these circuits. That’s why I write this blog. I have experienced peace from knowing God is love. I believe there are thousands of ACONs who can benefit from knowing this, but first we will need to dispel the lies they’ve been told.
How can people trust God when their parents beat them in the name of God? Who can trust a God who will burn you alive forever if you don’t comply with his wishes? When you grow up with narcissistic parents and the church gives you a picture of God that looks like a narcissistic father, what is there to draw you to God?
The lie that God is like a narcissistic parent who wants to coerce us has been fed to millions of Christians, but it’s far from the truth. God’s love is revealed in Jesus who was self-sacrificing and other-centered. This is the model healthy parents emulate and the God we can trust.
Like the prodigal’s father, God asks no questions, has no expectations and never asks us to meet his selfish needs. He simply comes running to meet us the minute we turn our hearts toward him. But he patiently waits until we turn toward him because he respects our choices. Then he comes to us with arms wide open in acceptance and love.
If you are an ACON and you have trouble trusting God, I don’t blame you. The church has been teaching lies about God for centuries, but you can examine the evidence for yourself. For starters check out Genesis 3:1-10 where Adam first said he was afraid. His fear came after the snake lied to Eve about God. God has never changed, but the human family has continued to listen to lies about God for centuries. We’ve lost our connection with God and that’s why we’ve all been afraid at some time.
Science now reports that focusing on prayer and a loving God can heal us from our fears, but one Bible writer (who knew Jesus in person) put it this way 2000 years ago—”Perfect love casts out fear.”
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.
If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment,
and this shows that we have not fully
experienced his perfect love.
-1 John 4:18
Here is a mantra to remind yourself when fear is sucking you dry–
Faith Over Fear
If you are still unsure about God–even if you only have a little bit of faith, Jesus says that’s enough. My God’s peace come to you!
*You can get a free copy of some great DVDs about healing the mind here.
Here are a couple articles about the effects of abuse–