There is still so much that triggers me.


Even after a year in intensive psychodynamic therapy, various (and some kind of crazy) self-therapies before that, spirituality, and blogging for two years, there are times when I feel like I’ve made no progress at all.

So many things still upset and trigger me.   I’m still hypervigilant, even to the point of paranoia at times; hypersensitive to criticism, don’t have a very good handle on my crippling anxiety and depression; and am envious.  I’m still socially awkward and avoidant; and terrified of rejection, abandonment, and disapproval.    I don’t handle other people’s anger very well, and often find myself automatically jumping on the defensive, even when there’s no reason to.  I still apologize for things that weren’t my fault, and take things too personally.   I still fret about what other people think of me.   I still have very low self esteem and feel like a complete loser much of the time.   I still do and say things that tend to self-sabotage and keep me from moving forward.

At least I know now where all this comes from, and at least I’m aware these feelings are just feelings and not facts.  They were part of my programming in my toxic family.  But knowing this doesn’t stop me from being triggered easily and resorting to primitive and self-sabotaging defense mechanisms.

But some things really have changed.    While I still have difficulty regulating my emotions sometimes, I don’t feel emotionally “dead” as often as I used to and I do regulate my emotions better than I did before I acquired that thin protective narcissistic defense layer (which I think accounted for the “dead” feeling).   I also don’t have as many (or really, any) scary and disorienting dissociative episodes anymore (those disappeared along with the emotional numbness, which is interesting).  I’m less angry than I used to be and I don’t act out against others the way I used to.  I don’t drink too much, do drugs, eat junk food compulsively, or otherwise try to “self-medicate” the way I tended to years ago.   While I can still be envious, it’s not as painful or crippling as it used to be–it’s something I can handle now.  I have more motivation and feel like my life might actually be leading somewhere.   I feel like I’m not completely useless and don’t think of myself as a “bad person” or a “useless person” anymore.

I’m also seeing the good qualities I’ve always had that I either couldn’t see before or didn’t think were good qualities.   After losing the thin protective narcissistic layer (“fleas,” I guess) that disconnected me from my own emotions, I realized I actually have a great deal of empathy.   That surprised me.   I never thought of myself as particularly empathetic before.  Part of the problem was also that I was always so focused in on myself and my turbulent and constantly changing emotions that there was simply no room left for me to care about anyone else.    I have a great sense of humor, which fortunately is something I never really lost and the ability to laugh at things might have kept me from going completely insane.   Now my sense of humor has gotten even better and is less bitter and cynical.   I’m open-minded and don’t think I’m very judgmental at all.     I’m also coming to realize that my innate sensitivity– which I used to be so ashamed of–is really a great thing once you know how to use it.

I’ve come to accept that I may never be completely healed (after all, it took my whole life to get that way), but I think I can live with that.  No one is perfect.  So I’ll just keep working at getting better and try to be the best I can be.  That’s all I can do.  That’s all anyone can do.



Grieving and progress.


I’m so depressed I had to call in sick at work and set up an emergency therapy session this afternoon.  I couldn’t sleep last night at all.   I spent the entire weekend crying.   This after so many years of not crying enough. This is more than just my SAD acting up.  That never got THIS bad before, even though it’s probably contributing to it.  I have no idea what set it off; it seems like everything’s a potential trigger.   Maybe nothing at all did; maybe this was inevitable.

I think last month something inside me really did “shift” and the initial response was happiness when I had no need of my defenses.   But I’m unable yet to reconcile living without them with the harshness of real life.   My therapist thinks I’m grieving and this is a necessary process but it’s excruciating.

He thinks I’ve slammed headlong into the “void” and have not learned how to fill the hole yet without my defenses protecting me and that’s why I feel like I’m losing my mind.    In Borderline Personality Disorder (and other PD’s) and C-PTSD this is called the “abandonment depression.”  Mentally, I know this is  good and means I’ve made more progress but emotionally it’s hell.    I have to keep telling myself this is not permanent and is necessary part of healing.    It does feel like a grieving process.  It’s hard to function.  But what exactly I’m grieving I’m not sure.  That’s what I’m going to find out.

I did see this post this morning and it made me feel a tad better.   Maybe it can help someone else too.

Depression Is Happiness


I also saw this.   It’s a little judgmental and “scolding” in parts, but also there’s a lot of truth here.

Fear of joy.


There was another thing my therapist and I talked about last night, which I forgot to mention in last night’s post.   Another reason why I might have become sad and depressed is because while the inner peace and quiet joy I felt upon returning from my vacation felt wonderful, the pathological part of my mind–the one that obeys the “narrative” I was expected to adhere to for most of my life–fears the emotional openness that joy requires, and also the freedom it makes possible.  That part of me feels “safer” staying confined within its gloomy prison of defenses and avoidance because it’s all it ever knew.

There’s a kind of sadness inherent in intense joy.*   This is very hard to explain, but I think it’s because the emotion is so “big”–bordering on the spiritual.  Maybe “sadness” isn’t quite the right word, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed by too much joy if you’re not used to it.    It’s like looking into the face of God if you haven’t prepared yourself first.  An example of this that many people remember (and found funny because it was) is that guy who made that viral Youtube video of the double rainbow and broke down in sobs because he couldn’t handle how beautiful it was.

To someone who has felt too little joy, and has spent most of their life running away from authentic connection with other people, with your authentic self, with the world, with nature, with the creative impulse, or with the divine (all things that lead to joy), suddenly finding the door to your soul–which has always been safely locked and kept you from being able to experience any emotions other than the survival ones (anger and fear) or the ones having to do with shame (self hatred, shame and guilt)–  flung wide open with the sun streaming in can be overwhelming and even frightening.    It’s a kind of emotional agoraphobia.  I think it’s related to our fear of the unknown.  The type of joy I experienced recently was intense and seemed to have some sort of profound meaning.  I couldn’t decipher what exactly what it all meant, but I knew it was big. Being able to feel something so intense and spiritual required being completely open and vulnerable in a childlike way, something I’ve long protected myself against.

My therapist thinks the defensive, disordered part of me rejected it because it was afraid of its mystery and unknowability–and the requirement of allowing so much childlike openness and vulnerability.  It’s part of the unhealthy narrative I was programmed to adhere to:   Never take emotional risks, don’t walk blindly into the unknown, always know exactly what you’re doing at all times.  Don’t trust. Don’t love anyone or anything too much. Don’t let yourself be too vulnerable.  Keep the door locked tight.  It’s too dangerous not to.

So when the internal narrative finally had enough intense positive emotion and kicked back in to guard against it, my inner child felt grief stricken at the loss of those glorious  feelings and believed the lie that she could never feel that way again because what she had thought was real was merely a bizarre and dangerous delusion suddenly dropped into an otherwise constricted, unfulfilling, but “safe” life.


* There’s also a kind of joy inherent in certain types of sadness (NOT depression), but I won’t elaborate on that in this post.

Clarity (or, through a glass, darkly).


I had a mindblowing therapy session tonight. I meant to post about it earlier, but when I got home, I lay down for a nap and slept for over 5 hours.

First, a confession. Even though I make every effort to be honest on my blogs, I always feel guilty posting about something “negative” because I feel like I’m supposed to be “inspirational” or something! (How narcissistic is that?) Sometimes I do feel like there’s this certain “image” I’m supposed to keep up because the honest truth is, when people tell me I’ve inspired or helped them I do feel validated and even “important” to some extent! I don’t do this all the time, obviously (there are plenty of negative, depressing posts here), but sometimes not wanting to be seen as “negative” gets me away from my true goal in blogging, which is using my ability to write as an adjunct to therapy–and that means talking about both the good AND the bad! Please understand that this does NOT mean my positive posts aren’t sincere and honest, because they definitely are, but I’ve been shying away from posting anything negative, which doesn’t help me or anyone else. It’s the “negative,” less happy posts that people sometimes relate best to, and the ones that make any blogger seem more human and authentic.

So, about what happened in therapy tonight. I feel so much better now. I got a lot of clarity on why I’ve been feeling so down and empty.

My therapist thinks that there are times (like when I was on the beach in Florida a few weeks ago), when everything is going well, that we’re more open to the truth about ourselves and about life, and it’s at those times we actually become free of whatever disorders we have that are blinding us.   For a short time, we become who we really are and drop all the pathological defenses. This happens more often when people are on vacation or in other situations where “real life” isn’t getting in the way.  It could happen at other times too, such as at church or when meditating, or when engaging in something creative or anything else that brings you joy.   He says we are not our disorders (that’s why he hates labels); we just HAVE a disorder, but most of the time it takes control over your real personality.  But there are those rare times when it takes a back seat or even disappears for a little while, and your real self can shine through.    It’s at those times we can feel genuine joy.   Joy doesn’t mean jumping up and down glee (that can be annoying!)–it means feeling so comfortable with yourself that you are open to the world, open to feeling everything in all its fullness, and become appreciative and grateful. It’s at these times we can even become open to the divine or the spiritual. It’s a quiet kind of joy, a feeling of well-being and feeling at peace with yourself and with the world.

That’s why the song I posted last week, “Beautiful Day,” (U2) has so much meaning to me. That’s the kind of feeling that song evokes in me and I think the lyrics do well at expressing.  Only in the song, that feeling of authentic joy can be had even when everything else has been lost.  It can happen at any time you’re open to it.  You don’t have to be “on vacation” to experience it.

This is what happened to me.  For a week or so, especially when I was sitting in the Gulf waters just appreciating nature all around me and feeling so much quiet gratitude, I was temporarily mentally, spiritually, and emotionally free. My disorders took a vacation!  For a short time, I was just me, the way I was born to be. That’s why I could feel the sublime emotions of quiet joy and inner peace.

That feeling lingered even after I returned home.   I didn’t become depressed or saddened right away.   My therapist thinks this in itself–the fact that I was able to experience those authentic feelings at all–means I was (and am)  making progress. A window opened–or perhaps even a door–allowing me to see through all the mental/emotional fog and defenses, and I was able to actually step out of it and see what’s real and true, instead of the lies I tell myself that I’ve been programmed to believe. He thinks what happened was “reality” got back in the way, and my defenses went back up. But I already knew that. There’s another reason too, and this is what almost shocked me with its clarity.


He said I have a voice in my head (not a schizophrenic type of voice, but more like an internalization of my disapproving MN mother’s voice) that tells me feeling this way–feeling joyful and at peace with myself and the world — is NOT OKAY! It’s not a conscious voice; it’s one I’m programmed to listen to and obey. It’s my mother’s voice continuing to dismiss and diminish me and dismiss my truth as a lie or as stupid.   I can remember she always said things like, “don’t get your hopes up, because it’s not realistic” or shaming me: “you should be ashamed of yourself” or “you need to be realistic and not be so gullible because it’s just your imagination and not real” or “stop living in your fantasies,” or even “get real” (rolling eyes dismissively).    My mother never did let me embrace or learn to love my real self. I’ve been slowly learning to do that, in baby steps and fits and starts, but it was during my vacation that I actually became free of that nagging, disapproving, shaming voice that told me all those lies.

Returning to the humdrum realities of everyday life shocked me back into listening to that disapproving  and judgmental voice again, the one that always tried to make me feel guilty or ashamed for feeling happy for just being who I was.

I also realized why my happy memories always seem to get clouded and contaminated with sadness, shame or guilt.  The happy memories I have, the memories of experiencing life in all its vivid colors without the filter of defenses twisting everything into something sinister, evil or bad, are still visible to me, but it’s as if I’m seeing them now through a dirty window. The door or window that was open before slammed shut, and though I can still see out of it, it’s a dirty, darker view, touched by shame and sadness.   Sullied by the constant narrative that none of that was real.  That’s why I have so much trouble remembering happy times without feeling a sense of great loss–because I tell myself it isn’t real, when the truth is, it’s the ONLY thing that’s real.  I tell myself other lies too, like the one that says  I can never feel that way again because what I felt wasn’t real and will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak.   These are all lies, part of the narrative I learned from my shaming parents, especially my mother.  It’s my internal, shaming, negative voice that tells me these feelings aren’t valid that is the big lie.


As I listened to him compassionately explain what he thought was going on, something inside me broke, like a wall that had been breached and finally collapsed–and silent, cleansing tears started to pour down my face.   I’ve been able to cry lately in therapy.  This is a very good thing and he agrees. I no longer feel ashamed or afraid to cry with him.  I have enough trust now.  I cried because what he said really hit home and I knew it was the truth.   I’ve wasted so many years living and believing a lie and rejecting the truth — and the truth is that happiness has always been there, free for the taking, but I never grabbed i because I thought it was a lie.

My therapist wants me to find things that give me that feeling — even though it’s harder when real life gets in the way — and find things that bring me to that state, even if only for a few minutes. Music and spending time in nature do this for me, I also get that feeling sometimes in mass.  I need to learn how to internalize those happy, peaceful feelings and reject the shaming ones that tell me that kind of joy is not real or something to be ashamed of.

It’s time to let the sun shine in and illuminate what’s real.

Sometimes I wonder.

Sometimes I wonder,

“Why the fuck am I doing this?  Why in the name of all that is holy am I paying good money that could be spent on something enjoyable or at least useful (and that I can barely afford) on a process intended to cause me to face my shame and fears and submit myself to deep, dark wells of pain and hurt, a process that has never been proven to work and will probably take months or years to have any real effect, a process where there is no guarantee of healing at all?   Have I gone mad?”

And the answer always comes:

“There is no way in the universe you would not be doing this.   Before this, you had no hope.  You weren’t living life; you were existing. Ignorance was not your friend; knowledge and awareness is.  And it’s conscious awareness about what happened to you and what it did to your mind and soul that will make healing not only possible, but likely.   This is an adventure –not always fun, sometimes scary, sometimes devastating–but often very beautiful too.  Look!  You’ve already changed and are making tentative attempts at real connection without the defenses.  It’s scary and exciting and beautiful.  Keep going. Don’t ever give up or become complacent.”

What is real?


I noticed I’ve been posting more on this blog lately, because so much is going on with me right now, and it’s the sort of stuff I prefer to not to post on Lucky Otter’s Haven due to its extremely personal nature.   This blog feels more private to me than my other one.

I just got home from my therapy session.   Today I still had that feeling of something in me having shifted.  I feel quite vulnerable, fragile and emotional, but not in a bad way at all.  I just feel sort of…raw.  It’s a melting kind of feeling, like my usual defenses are not working properly.  But it’s okay.

I talked about this with my therapist. I told him I think something happened to me when I was sitting alone in the warm waters of the Gulf two weeks ago, feeling the water gently rocking me as I sunk into the soft silt-like sand beneath me, and little fish swam around me as if protecting me from something.   I said it felt like I’d been reborn.

We talked about a lot of other things, but mostly about my childhood.  I told him about the way my malignant narcissist mother used to scare me with nothing more than a hard, cold stare or one of her famous silences.  I could see through her mask when I was as young as 4 or 5.  She used to scare me so much and I felt so powerless and small in her presence that the only way I knew how to escape from her was to turn inward, becoming lost in my own mind.   I call this “going inside.”

When I’d “go inside,” no one could get me to come out until I was ready.  I didn’t respond to my environment normally and didn’t seem to hear people when they spoke to me.  I imagine it appeared to others that I might be autistic (I actually thought I was an Aspie for a long time), but I know this was actually an early form of dissociation, the only way I knew how to escape the harsh reality I faced at home.

Whenever I’d “go inside,” my mother became enraged, because it was the only place where she couldn’t get to me.  And she knew it.   She ordered me to stop acting “spooky.” But I couldn’t help it; these dissociative trances weren’t something I willfully decided to do; they just happened whenever I felt threatened.   I had no control over them.  She used to scream at me and punish me for acting “spooky,” sometimes slapping me hard across the face.  Sometimes her fingernails scratched me and once or twice even drew blood.   There was no longer any escape from her cruelty, because I knew whenever I “went inside,” I’d be punished or slapped for it.

“That must have felt so horrible,” my therapist said. “She should have sat you down and asked you if anything was bothering you, and then listened to what you said.”

“I know,” I whispered.   I bit my lip.  I was close to crying.  All my emotions have been so much closer to the surface the past couple of weeks.

“I’m so sorry she couldn’t appreciate you,” he said, pulling his chair up closer, from about 3 feet away to only about 2 feet away.  He was watching me closely.   Maybe he expected me to cry.  I really wanted to.  But if I didn’t, would I disappoint him?  And if I did, would it be genuine or would it be a performance because it’s what he seemed to expect?  I really didn’t even know.

“Why was she so mean?” I wailed. “Why  couldn’t she have been a normal mother? Why did she have to be different?” God, I sounded like a whiny 5 year old.


“Your mother had an illness, but that doesn’t mean what she did was right.   Not allowing you to feel or express your feelings and then getting angry at you for doing the only thing you knew how to do–go inside yourself–was wrong.  Belittling your feelings and calling you spooky was wrong.  So wrong.  I am so sorry.”  He looked like HE was going to cry!

Tears welled up and I buried my face in my hands.

“I’m so sorry.  I really am. You deserved better.”  He leaned forward.

Okay, it was happening. I was crying and it wasn’t a performance.  This was real.  It felt good because it felt real.

“It was terrible,” I sobbed.  “She was terrible.  People like her shouldn’t have children.  All she cared about was the way I made her look.  And I always made her look bad.”

“But only because you didn’t mirror what she wanted you to reflect in her.  It wasn’t your responsibility to do that.  You were just a child.  There was nothing wrong with you.”

I wiped my face and looked up.  “But you know, my dad wasn’t really that bad.  I know he really did love me, even though he drank all the time and hit me sometimes.   He loved that portrait of me, that one that no one knows what happened to.  He was so proud of that and it hung on the mantel for years.”

“I just noticed something.”

I looked up.

“I hear you, and we’ll talk about your dad too, but I also think you just attempted to change the subject so you wouldn’t have to feel the pain of your mother’s rejection of you.”

I thought about it.  He was right.  It’s true I felt somewhat victorious that I was able to shed tears in front of him, but crying also made me feel so self conscious and vulnerable that I unconsciously changed the subject to something “happier” or at least less traumatic.  I realized that I do this all the time.  I always unconsciously change the  subject or get “distracted” or make a joke whenever I start becoming too emotional or things start getting too painful or uncomfortable.   I never was aware I did this before.

“You know, you’re right.  I really do want to stay with this emotion, I want to feel this pain.  I know I have to.  It’s real, and that’s what I want. I want things to be real.  But it’s hard, you know.  I can get there, but I can’t keep it going.”

“Reality is difficult.”

“But that’s what I want.”

“Do you feel like you need more direction, to stay on track, and not go off on tangents when things start to feel too real?”

“Yes.  Please.   Direct me.  That’s your job.”

We talked about some other feelings I’m having.   I talked to him about the way I project onto others, like my step mother and her “hatred” of me, and this  feeling of something shifting inside.  I started getting emotional again.

“What’s happening?”

“I don’t know!  But I feel real again and I want more of that.”

“You’re already real.  You always have been.  Your defenses aren’t blinding you to what’s real as much as they did.  I can see incredible progress. But our time’s up for this week.”

As I was leaving, I blurted out something I couldn’t believe I heard myself say.   “I feel like running over there right now and giving you a hug,” is what I said.

Mortified by my outburst and feeling like I’d completely lost control of myself, I quickly turned around and started to open the door to leave.

“Wait,” he called.  I turned back around and saw him standing there with his arms open.  I stood there staring stupidly for a second, and then ran gratefully into them.  He patted me on the back during the embrace.   I pulled away first.    It’s the first time there was ever any physical contact between us, but there was nothing at all sexual about it and under the circumstances, I think it was perfectly ethical.    I trust his judgment in these matters.  And that hug felt real.



How to build a covert/fragile narcissist.

Some families have one child who is both scapegoat and golden child. It’s especially common in families who have an only child. You can imagine how crazy-making this would be. As bad as being a scapegoat is, at least there’s predictability–you know you’ll ALWAYS be treated badly, ALWAYS punished, ALWAYS criticized or diminished. In a family where one child fills both the SG and GC roles, they never know if they’ll be rewarded or punished for the very same thing from one minute to the next. Such children are held to impossibly high expectations (Golden Child) but are not allowed to outshine the narcissistic parent.  If they do so, they will be viciously devalued or punished.

There are two “solutions” to this problem, from the child’s point of view (outside of suicide or straight up insanity). Of course the child is never consciously aware they  are doing this.

1. The child will develop BPD.
Such an unpredictable and chaotic environment doesn’t allow the development of a proper “false self” and the child never learns to regulate their emotions because they never know how anyone will react to anything or what will happen in any given situation. They are forced to become emotional chameleons and are at risk of becoming codependent to malignant or high spectrum grandiose narcissists.

2. The child will develop Covert/Fragile Narcissism.
If the child is expected to fulfill some unrealistic standards (typical of the GC) and at the same time doesn’t dare to outshine the NPD parent because of the negative consequences they’ll face if they do, the child has to find a way to “bridge the gap” between the impossibly high expectations put on them and the simultaneous expectation to always be in the NPD parent’s shadow. Becoming a covert or fragile (“victim”) narcissist as a defense against this type of psychological abuse would explain their sense of entitlement and seething resentment and envy of others that can only be expressed passive-aggressively and never directly,  co-existing with feelings of unworthiness, self-hatred, and shame.   This type of narcissist can become codependent to a more aggressive or overt/grandiose narcissist.

Whether a child develops BPD or a covert/fragile form of NPD may have to do with innate temperament, or they may shade into each other, since they can be very hard to tell apart.  In the U.S., most covert or fragile narcissists are diagnosed with something else–most frequently BPD, PTSD, Social Anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome/high functioning autism, or Avoidant Personality Disorder.

Interpreting last week’s dream.


Last week I had a bad dream which I described in this post. I typed it out when I was still half asleep because I knew it was important and didn’t want any of it to fade away. I emailed it to my therapist and asked him to print out a copy for our session tonight because I don’t have a printer.

I didn’t hear back from him and wondered if he had got the email, but tonight I saw a copy sitting on my chair in his office, and he had printed out a second copy for himself too. We spent the next hour talking about it. It’s funny the way a dream can seem to make almost no sense, but therapy can bring so much clarity to it. How did I not recognize what was so obvious?

I’ll go through it here, one paragraph at a time, and explain what we found out.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

This part I already knew. At age 22, I had another therapist I experienced a strong transference with, and spent 2 years with him. I quit out of frustration because I couldn’t handle my powerful romantic feelings and at the time, I had almost zero insight. But his manner, in many ways, reminds me of my current therapist. They are both attractive men of approximately the same age (at the time of my seeing them). In my dream, they both represent a Hero/Parental archetype.

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

He was touched by this and told me so. He kept wanting to go back and talk about it, but this is the part that was most awkward/uncomfortable for me to talk about because it’s me at my most vulnerable/open/unguarded (which means it’s very important NOT to avoid!). He pointed out that the woman who wept with someone else in the dream was the “real me” and therefore I do have the capacity to empathize with and connect with others. He wanted me to remember some times in my real life I actually felt this way. I tried to remember; it was hard because there have been so few times. Most of the time when someone opens up to me I find myself pulling away. The last time I felt really open and emotional with another adult was in 1986. But that was with my ex, who betrayed my trust and wasn’t at all who he seemed to be. Still, I want to feel that way again because I want to be able to connect on a deep and meaningful level. In the dream, I was open and vulnerable, but not in emotional pain at this point.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

The art complex represents creativity and vision. But this is destroyed by what my therapist says which triggers familiar feelings of “the other shoe is about to drop because the world is dangerous and people are untrustworthy.” I have opened up to my Hero and made myself vulnerable and tapped into my creativity but my Hero is about to drop a bomb that will destroy all of that and destroy me.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Mind games. Playing with my emotions. Tormenting, goading, sadistic teasing. This is exactly the sort of thing my narcissists did to me all the time. In the dream, my Hero becomes someone else out to destroy me. No one can be trusted.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come

The costume party represents the fakeness I see in everyone around me. No one is who they appear to be. I’m not a part of it; I’m left out. I can’t cry because to protect myself, I’ve shut off my emotions again. The wall is back up.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

The raku vase is probably a minor detail, but could represents the creative urge I’m trying to hold onto (I almost drop/lose it). I call him an asshole because he has played with my emotions and seems to be doing it deliberately by refusing to fully explain what he meant but making me wonder and worry. The crying is angry, hurt crying, in contrast with the tears of openness and empathy early in the dream. I attempt to hide this because I no longer feel safe being vulnerable.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

My Hero has become a disapproving, narcissistic, uncaring parent who is only concerned with his own feelings and is punishing me because I criticized him, and finally abandons me. This is what my parents did to me and is at the center of my mental illness.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

Shame of who “I” am and for expressing my feelings. Being abandoned makes me feel like I don’t exist.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

Everything is a sham, fake and cheap. My Hero, who I trusted, doesn’t care. He’s abandoned me and has joined with all the other fake and cheap people. He betrayed me, just like everyone else. Abandonment and betrayal makes me feel dead.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

Self protection; defense mechanisms come into play. To protect myself from feelings of nonexistence, shame, and abandonment, I become fake too, to fit in with the fake world and all its fake people. The ridiculous costume would be my “false self,” ridiculous because it’s not me at all. It’s familiar because I’ve seen it before, on the people who raised me. I still want to die because inside I still feel as empty and abandoned.

None of this was really new to me, but I feel liked everything’s been spelled out for me now through this dream and I have a better idea of the issues I need to work on the most. It would be natural for me to trust no one since the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally were untrustworthy. I also feel like I’m no longer alone in figuring all this out.

Projection, anger, and emotional distancing.


Last week my therapist asked me how I’d feel about coming to meet him in another office downtown on a different night. Feeling slightly panicked by this (I hate change), I told him that no, that would not work for me. All week I’ve played that short conversation over and over again in my mind, imagining that my saying “No, I don’t want to do that” made him angry. I imagined I saw an angry look on his face, and decided to bring that up in tonight’s session.

I assured him that I didn’t think he was really angry, and I realized I was probably just imagining things, but that all week I had been obsessing over being “displeasing” to him and maybe even making him dislike me (which turns out not to be the case at all, but I’ve always been a codependent people pleaser).

I found myself doing what I always do whenever I imagine someone’s upset or angry with me: I emotionally shut them out. I’ve gotten good at this, WAY too good at this. It’s why I find it so hard to connect with anyone, because the moment things aren’t perfect (and they will never be perfect) and I imagine any anger or negative emotions toward me at all, I tune out and convince myself I just don’t care what they think (even though a part of me is aware I do care, very much).

I started talking about all this, and then my therapist asked me something that made my jaw drop.  He asked me if the real problem was that I was angry at HIM for daring to suggest we change our time and place (it turns out we don’t have to). It was like being splashed awake with a bucket of ice water because suddenly I could SEE.  It was so obvious! I realized that I HAD been angry at him, but not able to own my anger, and so instead I imagined that HE was angry! (He wasn’t). I never realized I used projection as a defense mechanism before, but I do, all the time! Once I could see the mechanics of how projection manifested in me, I couldn’t believe that I never saw it before. Suddenly, everything made sense.  It was like having lived your whole life seeing everything backwards, inside out and upside down, and finally seeing the world the right way or the first time.

This changes everything, because now whenever I start getting paranoid or worrying about the harsh or negative judgment of others, I can simply ask myself if the reactions and emotions I’m imagining are really real, or if they’re actually my own emotions that I’m trying not to own.

I’m thrilled because this is another skill I can put in my mindfulness toolbox. I would not have been able to see this at all if I were not already pretty good at mentally stepping outside myself and seeing myself as others might see me.

Come closer…go away.


I finally saw my therapist last night, after two very long weeks that felt almost like two years. But our session was anticlimactic. I don’t feel like we had a very productive session, but that wasn’t his fault, it was mine.

I had sent my therapist an email containing a poem I wrote last week (“The Gift,” which is about growing up with narcissistic parents) and it was one of the first things he brought up. He seemed to want to talk about what it meant and what I was feeling when I wrote it, which makes sense, given that I had sent it to him. But when confronted with it face to face, I felt too exposed and vulnerable so I kept trying to deflect attention away from it. I giggled nervously, talked a mile a minute and said I didn’t remember it too well, which is partly true, but not completely. I just didn’t want to talk about it because talking about it was making my old shame feelings come up for some reason. I know I need to deal with those feelings but I just…can’t. Not yet.

I do this sort of thing a lot. It’s almost like a kind of teasing. I had also given him the link to my primary blog (not this one yet–yikes, not ready to do that!) but then when he told me in our last session he had looked at it and seemed to want to talk about some of the more personal posts in it, I had a similar I-want-to-sink-into-the-floor-right-now moment. But I had given him the link so even I couldn’t understand my feelings of shyness and shame over talking about it.

We did talk about that. I talked about the way I “tease” (unintentionally though) and then retreat. I desperately want to talk about a lot of painful things I don’t have the courage to actually take on. I want to get into the specifics and talk about my pain and shame an vulnerability and fears, or at least try to figure out what emotion I’m feeling (because sometimes I don’t really know), but often when the opportunity comes, I can’t do it. I want to cry in front of my therapist. I definitely can’t do that. I actually told him I wanted to do that, and he told me I could. Once again I changed the subject.

He asked me if by reading my blog he was invading my boundaries. I said no, of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t have given him the link to it (which is true), but then I asked him to please not talk about what he had read in front of me, and keep whatever he saw to himself. I joked that maybe he could find out things about me that could help him treat me, if it didn’t confuse him to death. I think what I’m doing, the “teasing,” is part of the “go away-come closer” behavior so common in borderlines. It’s not intentional though. I can’t help it. I want “closer” so badly but I get so scared when it’s right there. I always self-sabotage.

Last night was bad. I felt like I was less open than usual and holding back and “cloaking” a lot more than I have been lately. I kept deflecting attention away from deeper, painful issues onto frivolous things, like the weather, a book I’m reading, and my blog stats. I can get very narcissistic and grandiose when I’m trying to avoid talking about certain issues. I didn’t realize this until after I got home, and went back over our session and cringed at how much I sounded like I was bragging when talking about how many views I get and how quickly I mastered the WordPress learning curve. Why was I talking about this in my therapy session? I was avoiding my issues, definitely not something I want to be doing in therapy. We’ve established a strong rapport; why do I still feel so wary sometimes?

I’ve gotten good at mindfulness though and that’s made me able to look at myself objectively most of the time, even if it’s sometimes after the fact. I’m glad I realized later on how much I wasted last night’s session on bullshit because I want to stop doing this. I’m not going to ever get well if I don’t confront unpleasant or painful emotions. I think this is what I need to talk about next week.