It's funny, in real life, I've devoted an enormous amount of time and energy reaching for the reset button...trying to reshape and rewire my reactions and the way I think after discovering my father wasn't just a lousy Difficult Parent, but one afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
On this blog, however, I haven't spent a whole lot of space exploring how to get over an n-parent, probably because I'm not an expert and what may have worked for me may not work for others.
There are several issues and concerns that readers repeatedly raise...many of which I continue to struggle with...so I'd like to begin taking a look at them. If you've encountered the problem and have worked to overcome it, please share how you tackled it and how you feel about the results you've achieved.
ISSUE NUMBER ONE: SOCIALLY....HUNG-UP
Here's what an anonymous commenter wrote:
This is something I remember and only now am seeing how the incident deeply influenced how I relate/struggle to relate to others. I was 13 and had written a letter to my best friend back home. I left the letter on the bookshelf by the door to be mailed. The next day I noticed an envelope with my father's handwriting addressed to my friend, stamped and ready to be sent. I thought it was strange and decided to open it. Not only had my father opened and read the letter but he had added his own sarcastic and mean remarks in the margins and empty spaces. This was very confusing for me. After all he was my dad, and he was really smart so the letter must have been stupid, right? I am 35 now and fiercely protective of my privacy, unsure of myself socially, and always worried about seeming stupid. I guess sometimes I feel empty because I'm afraid to let my guard down. I can handle feeling numb and empty, I've had plenty of practice. I have no idea what to do with kindness and love and the fear of being hurt is greater than the pain of emptiness.
In real life, I suspect most people would be surprised to hear that I spent most of my life feeling socially unsure of myself because I am an extrovert who can pretty much talk to anybody.
However, for most of my life, I used my outgoing nature to cover up the fact that I felt very uncomfortable in many social situations...especially those involving large groups. I am best one on one. When I was child, I never felt like I fit in...always on the outside looking in. That feeling persisted through my teenage years into young adulthood. It was only until I moved far, far away from my parents that I was finally able to relax a bit and enjoy the company of others.
My best time, socially, was in my mid-thirties...in my role as mother of two young daughters. This role gave me the opportunity to meet other parents at school, at the park...pretty much everywhere. And I loved it! We had things in common...something to talk about. (I'm not advocating having kids for expanding your social circle...it just happened that way).
There's also something funny that happens when you're forty...something rather surprising and nice and totally unexpected. I seemed to care less about what other people thought of me. I seemed to relax in my own skin. When I encountered somebody who didn't seem to like me, it didn't bother me as much. I no longer went out of my way to win people over. I learned to listen more and talk less. I suspect I used to talk too much...nervous chatter...to disguise the fact that I felt uncomfortable. When I stopped doing that, I was better able to connect with others.
Here's a funny admission...but it's totally true. I began to observe how my teenage daughters behaved in groups of people. I noticed they don't feel compelled to drive the conversation...they can, well, just "hang." I've never done that well very. It seems to work very well for them. When they do talk, what they say is how they really feel (or it seems so)...their reactions are authentic and have range and depth. So at my advanced age, I began to practice it. I'd ask myself...how do you really feel about what the person just said...or did...and reacted accordingly. Basically, I had to dig deep to find out how I felt. I have to say it was pretty successful. I was amazed that I could retrain myself.
Please feel free to share your experience!!!