6 “useless” emotions that aren’t useless, and 2 that really are useless.

Originally posted on July 10, 2016 on Lucky Otters Haven

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I get tired of the positive thinking brigade who tells you you always must be happy and that there’s no place for “negative” emotions.   Not only is it obnoxious to wear a pasted on smile all the time even when you’re not feeling it, it’s not natural or healthy.   Of course, being a positive person who thinks positive thoughts is a good thing, but when it’s taken to ridiculous extremes (and it certainly is in my family, where “negative” emotions are not accepted or allowed) it can be soul-damaging.   Following is a list of unpopular (or “useless”) emotions that definitely have their uses (when they’re not excessive).  There are only two emotions I can think of that have no uses whatsoever, and I’ll describe those last.

1. Guilt.

My father always used to tell everyone that guilt was an unhealthy, useless emotion, but I couldn’t disagree more.   True, excessive guilt is bad for you, but the right amount of guilt separates people with a conscience from the psychopaths. I pointed out this to my father once, and he became enraged.   Hmmm, I wonder why!   The ability to feel guilt keeps us civilized and mindful of the feelings of others.

2. Sadness.

Sadness is a normal reaction to a loss.  It also connects people in those times of loss.  We have socially sanctioned rituals that promote and even encourage the expression of sadness (funerals) but otherwise, people are uncomfortable with the sadness of another and are always trying to cheer you up.   If you’re crying, people always want you to stop. Why?  Feeling sad and crying can be healing; if sadness is repressed it can lead to something much worse–depression.   People need to just shut up and let you be sad and cry if that’s what you need to do.

3. Anger.

There are times it’s appropriate to be angry.    Anger, though toxic both to yourself and others when excessive,  helps you survive.  If you feel threatened or feel that someone close to you is threatened, you are going to fight back.  The only other survival option is to flee (which I’ll talk about next).   Otherwise you’re just going to stand there and let yourself or your loved ones get attacked or treated badly.    Excessive anger, of course, leads to hatred, and hatred is not only useless, it’s dangerous to the soul.

4. Fear.

If you can’t fight (sometimes you can’t), you can flee danger.   Like anger, fear is a survival emotion.   It can be excessive, leading to anxiety disorders, but fear in normal doses is both healthy and appropriate reactions to danger.   It’s important to distinguish whether it’s better to flee (fear) or to fight (anger).

5. Jealousy.

I’m not talking about envy here, an emotion often confused with jealousy.  But they are not the same.   Jealousy refers to the fear that someone is taking something you love away from you; envy refers to wanting what someone else has.  There are similarities though. Both are bitter, painful emotions, hard to deal with.  Sometimes they lead to people attacking the object of their jealousy or envy to “even the score.”   But jealousy has its place.   It’s another survival emotion, similar to anger mixed with fear, that warns you that something that belongs to you is in danger of being taken away.   The problem is jealousy often crops up when there is no real danger of that happening, and that leads to all kinds of problems.  Excessive jealousy can actually be self-defeating and drive what you love away from you — the most obvious example is constantly asking someone you’re in a relationship with if they are seeing someone else, or snooping in their things to find out.  That sort of behavior will eventually drive the other person away.

6. Envy.

I hesitated to put envy here, because on the surface it really doesn’t seem to have any useful purpose.  I almost put it as one of the “useless” emotions I’ll be describing last.  But envy does have one useful aspect.  If it’s not excessive, it can be a motivator, making you take action to improve your own circumstances.   When it’s used that way, it’s really more akin to admiration than envy.   The problem with envy is it can so often turn so bitter that it saps all your energy and lowers your self esteem, making you LESS likely to improve your circumstances or achieve the things you want.

The Two Emotions That Really Are Useless.  

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1. Worry.

I heard a great saying once:  “Worry is useless because if what you dread comes to pass, then you’ve lived through it twice; if it never happens, then your worry was in vain.”  I took those words to heart because of how true they are.   Worry is absolutely useless.  If faced with a potentially bad or dangerous situation, worry won’t help you.  If something can be done to prevent the situation from happening, taking action will help,  and once you take action, then there’s nothing more to worry about.   If there’s no action you can take, then worrying about it is a waste of time.  Better to plan how you will deal with it when it happens, than to sit around wringing your hands, pulling out your hair, and making yourself sick over it.

2. Shame.

Shame must be distinguished here from guilt.  Guilt refers to something you did, while shame refers to the person you are.  Guilt is useful because without it, there would be no apologies or amend-making for bad behavior.   People would just go around doing whatever they want, regardless of how it makes others feel.   Shame, on the other hand, is useless because it means feeling sorry not for something you did, but for who you are.  If you were the family scapegoat, then you were the receptacle for all the family shame, and were made to feel like you’re worthless and don’t deserve to live.    Shame is the one emotion that is at the core of all the personality disorders and every case of complex PTSD generated by familial abuse.  It’s incredibly toxic–probably the most toxic emotion there is, and it has about as much usefulness as a bicycle does for a fish.

For more about shame vs. guilt, please read Carrie Musgrove’s article about the important distinctions.

I still always seem to screw up friendships.

Yesterday I did something that gave mixed messages to a friend, and the friend was understandably confused and hurt by this, which I can’t say I blame them for. I probably would have been just as upset if someone did that to me. I would think they were a hypocrite and I wouldn’t have been able to trust them. I’m sorry but I can’t get more specific than this.

When I gave the mixed messages (the first seeming to contradict the second–the second one being personally insulting to my friend), I wasn’t thinking. What I should have done was clarified the first message which would have explained the second and made me seem like less of a hypocrite. Then everything would have made more sense, I think. Or at least I might have been able to explain myself without being blocked by my friend first.

Fortunately I’m able to email my friend and try to straighten things out. Her friendship means a lot to me, and I felt like we could trust each other. It didn’t even occur to me last night that the mixed messages (and the insulting second one) would have been a problem. I feel like I’ve broken her trust and feel terrible about that. I still feel like I can trust her, though.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve sabotaged friendships because of stupid shit like this. As a borderline, I’m often confused and conflicted. Although I’m much better than I used to be, I’m apparently not free of self-sabotaging and friendship-sabotaging behaviors that I’m not even aware I’m doing. Mindfulness, apparently, only goes so far.

I’m hurt about my friend blocking me, but I’m more upset right now with myself — because I know I was wrong and I didn’t even see this coming. I still have such a long way to go, and am still blind to much of what I say and do.

Maybe things can be repaired, or maybe not. I hope they can. But in the future, I’m going to be a lot more mindful about the kinds of messages I”m giving to people that might be sabotaging my relationships with them.

Clarity (or, through a glass, darkly).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

afraid-to-be-happy

I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

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Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

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And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.

Introverts fear confrontation.

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I came across this individual’s forum post on The Personality Cafe in a weird way. My article “Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims,” (which has become my most viewed article ever and is still gaining momentum on the web), was linked to by this writer and there was an excerpt from their own post left in my comment folder. The blurb was intriguing enough that I decided to read it, and holy cow! It sounds like my own life story. In fact, I am going through this situation with a friend even as I write this. (If you’re a friend of mine reading this it’s not you–this “friend” doesn’t read my blog or even know I have one). I don’t want to be friends with this person anymore (who I suspect is a malignant narcissist who likes to “play” with me and make “jokes” at my expense) but instead of confronting them and telling them I want to end our friendship, I’m just avoiding this person, hoping they get the “hint.” I do that sort of thing all the time. Confrontation terrifies me, but what happens is my anger becomes seething resentment and has to come out eventually, so after weeks or months of pretending everything is fine, I’m likely to explode and say things I regret. It also comes out in other ways, like acting passive-aggressive. I’ve gotten better but it’s still a problem. Anyway, here is that article. The writer is an INFJ like me and wonders if this is common in INFJs. I’m also an Enneagram Type 4/5.

If we need to slap a psychiatric label on this sort of behavior, it’s a common symptom in people with Avoidant Personality Disorder and Covert Narcissism (which I still suspect I am, even though my therapist has said I’m only “on the spectrum” but not NPD). I think people with BPD are also guilty of this.

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Has anyone else had this problem in the “social environment”?

As of recently I have made a personal discovery about the origins of how and why I have a certain fear. And it also ties in with the Enneagram 4 labeled fear “that they have no identity or personal significance”. Generally, with “friends” (both close and acquaintance) I tend to hide away or become afraid of sharing my true thoughts and being completely honest with them if there’s a problem (unless they manage to hurt me to the extent that i just cut them off). I become fearful of their reaction before it even happens, so i withhold my thoughts and continue acting as if everything is okay. It’s not only the fear that they will be upset at my honesty, but the fear that I would also begin to hate myself afterwards as well. I didn’t realize there was a term for this as well (even though i knew it as a common term i never understood its meaning). And that term is “Shame”. And while shame is the major factor of why i feel guilt for wanting to speak out, as well as feeling it for not wanting to speak out, I had also come to realize this was also connected to my upbringing. I learned in the article mentioned below, that most scapegoats have high empathy and sensitivity at an early age, which causes them to absorb all of the projections of their parents, thus causing the birth of self hatred/possibly depression. It also informed me that as they continue to go into social relationships, that they will also absorb the projections of what other people think of them as well. For me this explains a helluva lot, of why i fear getting close to certain people and their impact on me if i either

A. Do something wrong.
Or
B. Be honest with them.

I’m personally terrified of being completely honest with someone i’m not sure of, as any kind of minor negative backlash towards me can cause me to go in a state of guilt for a long time. So instead I internalize everything that bothers me about them, and I simply play my part in this “friendship” until i have a reason to avoid them or doorslam. And this is different from constructive criticism, i’m talking about the consequences that may occur if they end up being hurt by my honesty. While their take of it may not be my problem afterward I still hold the shame of what I have done to another human being, even if it was the “right” thing to do rather than continue being dishonest with them and put on the fake persona. I fear hurting them..but I also fear hurting myself. It’s a double edged sword and the ending remains the same regardless of which way i act. I’m fearful of absorbing any new projections one might have of me (specifically negative) which has caused a spiral of paranoia in 2/3 of my friendships, even if they may not take it personal. And before I end this, I am not intentionally hurtful when i’m honest, as I still try to be polite and respectful of the person that i’m talking to. I am also aware that they can be positive in their response, but i’m practically crippled by my fear, especially because of social experiences that didn’t go well.

Read article on The Personality Cafe here.

Narcissists and shame, embarrassment and guilt.

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Narcissism is a shame-based disorder. This may seem impossible, since narcissists (at least the grandiose type described in the DSM) seem so full of themselves and incapable of shame. But narcissists became this way because they were usually shamed for being their true selves during childhood in some way. They internalized this message and became so ashamed of their emerging self that they created a false self to take the true self’s place. Overt narcissists developed a grandiose, arrogant and entitled false self which is an overcompensation for the shame they felt for being so vulnerable as children because they were made to feel ashamed of being that way. In a covert narcissist, the mechanism is a little more complicated. They also have the attitude of grandiosity and entitlement, but it’s covered over with a shy and unassuming demeanor so their narcissism is less obvious. But when supply is abundant, they can act just as entitled and grandiose as an overt. They can still act quite entitled when injured or supply is lacking, but usually without the grandiosity and arrogance. People who have a “martyr complex” and wallow in self pity are usually covert narcissists.

Guilt and shame are frequently confused but are not the same thing. Shame is the belief you ARE a bad person, while guilt is an unsettled feeling arising from knowing you have done something wrong. Guilt is much healthier than shame, unless it’s excessive or you feel guilt over things that aren’t in your control or that are not your fault.
Embarrassment/humiliation is similar to shame, but without the moral aspect. It’s a feeling of being exposed as defective. I think all Ns struggle with all three of these emotions, covert Ns especially because we feel so defective anyway.

The irony is now that I’m self aware–although there’s a deep shame involved in knowing I’m on the spectrum–I’m actually happier with myself now because I can see what I do and therefore stop myself before any harm is done.

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I’m one of those people who’s constantly feeling humiliated and ashamed. I also struggle with a lot of guilt on top of that. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my existence. The tricky thing now is distinguishing what I should feel guilty about and what I shouldn’t. I also need to learn how to distinguish normal guilt feelings from shame for being who I am. And what I really am is not my false self.

I think the presence of shame and guilt separates us from people with Antisocial Personality Disorder, who feel no shame or guilt over what they do or who they are, at least not in any conscious way. I don’t think AsPDs get embarrassed easily either (I know my psychopathic ex doesn’t!) I don’t really understand too much about AsPD or what makes them tick, and I can’t relate to the way they their minds work. Narcissists are also less likely than people with AsPD to act on impulse, but impulsivity is something AsPDs share with Borderlines, a disorder that dogs me as well. I used to be much more impulsive when I was younger. The older I get, the easier it is to control my BPD symptoms. Age seems to have a calming effect on BPD. The narcissistic traits tend to stick around and are harder to see in yourself.

On the idea that all narcissists are hellbound demons

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What I’m about to talk about may be controversial but honestly, I don’t care because I think it’s an important issue. I know some might even think me evil myself for even attempting to understand the dynamics I see going on in the narcissistic abuse community, especially online.

Since I became self-aware I’ve been doing a lot of posting on a support forum for self aware (mostly covert) narcissists and borderlines who hate their disorder. To my surprise, I’ve noticed a LOT of guilt among some of the narcissists (some of who, admittedly, may not actually be narcissists at all but think they are–which could be the case for me too). Frankly, at first, this surprised me. I expected a bunch of trolls and bullies and generally nasty people (due to how pervasive the stereotype of all narcs being evil is).

Overall, the guilt and remorse I’m seeing among the narcissists on this particular forum is a good thing, because it’s caused some of them to try to do something about it–make up for the wasted years, make amends to the people they have hurt, and in some cases, even try to change behaviors or heal from NPD. The presence of guilt means some them still have a conscience. Narcissists who have no remorse or shame probably wouldn’t be posting there at all, or if they did, their attitude would be in stark contrast to most of the posts there. (In fact, the ASPDs and malignants seem to like to troll the forum and make snarky jokes about how stupid and pointless they think all the guilt is–and a few even like to “rub in” the fear of hell and hopelessness, just to be sadistic).

But I’ve also noticed a lot of fatalism and hopelessness–some narcissists on the forum seem to think they’re evil to the core (even though they have a guilty conscience) and are hopeless and destined for hell. It’s as if some low-mid spectrum narcissists (and probably some non-narcissists who think they are) have drank the Koolaid some of the extreme victims are dishing out about all Ns being demons or monsters with no human emotions at all. I find this disturbing and I’ll get to why here in a minute.

I believe in No Contact and not associating with narcissists if it can be helped, and I definitely believe there’s a spiritual dimension to this disorder (and that includes all the Cluster B disorders). I also think that narcissistic behaviors are evil and what’s more, unlike other mental illnesses, narcissism can infect victims and eventually even turn them into narcissists themselves. So, yes, it’s a very dark disorder involving a decided spiritual element. They can be very dangerous. That’s a fact. So if someone is a known narcissist, it’s in your best interests to get away from them. The damage they can inflict is very real. It happened to me.

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But as for the narcissists themselves? I think in most cases, they are still human. I don’t agree with some that God has forgotten those who sincerely want to get better and do the hard (and it is hard!) work necessary for healing or change. I think the stigmatization of Cluster B disorders, narcissism in particular, is damaging because those who want to change and are willing to go through the necessary pain to do so, are told they’re hopeless and to forget it. Even therapists don’t want to deal with anyone with an NPD diagnosis or even a BPD diagnosis.

This attitude has even extended to people who try to understand narcissism and the abuse that led to it (even though they don’t condone or approve of it)–abuse victims and others who make an attempt to understand NPD or even BPD are dismissed as being as bad as narcissists themselves and accused of enabling, being narc-lovers, and even siding with the devil. While I do understand the attitude of those who demonize, especially because of the horrific abuse some victims were subject to, I still think it’s a form of splitting and damaging to people with Cluster B disorders who are not high on the spectrum or wanting to heal.

This attitude also fosters a culture of fear and hatred, and that isn’t good for victims either, because how can you heal from abuse when you’re consumed with terror and loathing? It’s as if they’re allowing the narcissists who abused them to still continue to abuse them–from inside their minds. Even if they’re NC with their abusers, they keep dwelling on the victimization and can’t move to a place of healing or ever becoming happy, whole people.

I do think there are truly evil people (malignant narcissists and unrepentant psychopaths and sociopaths) who do seem to lack any semblance of humanity or any self awareness or willingness to change. I’ve seen the “black eyes” some victims talk about. I used to see them on my ex. It’s real and very frightening. But I don’t think all or even most narcissists are that far gone, and the ones who have become self aware and want to change have become that way for a reason. The “point of no return” has not been crossed. So I think there is hope for some.

black_eyes

There’s one blog I really like. It’s not specifically about narcissism, but the blog owner, who is a Christian pastor, writes about narcissism every Friday. Unlike many of the victim sites, he attempts to understand narcissists from a spiritual perspective and doesn’t spew hate and fear, while at the same time he doesn’t condone or encourage enabling of the things they do.
https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/

I think this is an important issue because of all the splitting and black and white thinking and stereotyping going on the web (which is in itself very narcissistic or at least borderline). I think it’s possible to be a narcissist who can change. I also think most the narcissists posting on the forum I’m speaking of aren’t anywhere near as bad as they’ve been painted to be. If there’s guilt and remorse present, then it follows there’s a feeling human being in there somewhere. Narcissists who have become self aware–especially those desiring to change–didn’t do so for no reason except to torment themselves with guilt and shame.

A few others have noticed the trend too. Sam Vaknin and Spartanlifecoach (Richard Grannon) recently collaborated on a video that discusses the demonization of narcissism–once considered merely a mental illness–to mythological, even biblical proportions:

Is there a such thing as healthy shame?

joseph_cook

Yes, there is. It’s called guilt. Excessive guilt, of course, is never a good thing if it isn’t warranted. It’s stupid to feel guilty for something you didn’t do. People who wallow in excessive guilt and shame might as well be crawling on the ground wearing a “Kick Me” sign. And of course if you do that you will be kicked to death.

But guilt over things done wrong indicates the presence of a conscience. Maybe guilt (along with other prosocial emotions) have been buried in narcissists, but with self-awareness also comes the ability for narcissists see themselves the way others see them. You can’t change until you can see yourself realistically instead of through the horse-blinders of a false self. The only problem I see with this is that for some newly self aware Ns, they assign too much blame to themselves. Some “trasgressions” just mean you’re human. Just because you’re a narcissist doesn’t mean everything you do or say is evil or has some sinister hidden motive. It’s sometimes hard for a newly-aware N to distinguish their toxic, manipulative actions from those things anyone would do in a similar situation.

I’ll give you an example. Yesterday someone cut me off in traffic. Only tailgaters make me madder. This guy almost caused me and several other cars to wreck–but he would have been clear and probably gone on his merry way, uncaring about the wreckage behind him that he caused. (Sound much like narcissism?)
I felt my blood boil and flipped the guy the bird.

Is that narcissistic? It could be, if the guy wasn’t really cutting me off and I just imagined he was, or if it didn’t really bother me and I just felt like flipping him the bird because I was in a bad mood and didn’t like the bumper stickers on his tailgate. But no, the jerk did not signal and cut about 2 inches in front me, causing me to slam on my brakes which could easily have catalyzed a massive pile up. I was angry alright–I was righteously angry.

gotye_cuthimoff

But for about an hour afterwards, I was beating myself up over that. “How could you have been such a narcissistic bitch?” I chided myself. “Maybe he was in a hurry.”

In a hurry? No. He should have left earlier. He didn’t need to be cutting me or anyone else off in traffic. He could have killed someone. So for that, beating myself up with guilt was unnecessary.

But if I’d flipped him the bird just because I thought it would be a fun thing to do, and felt shame afterwards, then that just indicates a conscience exists there somewhere. And if humans didn’t have a conscience, we’d fall into anarchy and even barbarianism. Conscience, indeed, is what makes us human after all.

This type of “shame” isn’t the same as the kind of shame wrought on all of us as kids (which taught us learned helplessness and forced us to built our elaborate defense mechanisms)–it’s a healthy kind of shame, because it gives you the impetus to want to make changes, instead of just whining and bitching to everyone about how “bad” and “hopeless” you are. Healthy shame or guilt is proactive: you do something about it to make it right (which relieves your feelings of distress at the same time).

Pathological shame leads to personality disorders in adulthood. If a child feels secure the mother will come back and give them a hug and forgive them, they learn that shame isn’t the end of the world. They are then free to develop normally and feel shame based on actions rather than character.

A disordered child (attachment disordered until adulthood) with emotionally abusive parents learns that THEY are unacceptable, not just their actions. This forms the matrix of narcissism (and other PDs). “Knowing” they are so unacceptable and must be a horrible person, they are forced to develop a false self which overcompensates (or some other maladaptive defense mechanism). Ironically, narcissists have TOO MUCH shame, even though they can act like anything but. They’re overcompensating, believing deep inside that they’re worthless and bad.

I hope this gives hope to some narcissists who think they have none, or lets some non-narcissists see that we’re not all hopeless.

Only 5 things are really needed for change–
1. self awareness
2. ability to tell right from wrong (only those with psychoses or cognitive challenges can’t actually tell the difference) — even psychopaths can tell right from wrong, but only a minority choose to do what’s right.
3. willingness to change
4. willingness to be vulnerable.
5. willingness to experience some pain but also have a lot of insights
They work in that order.

That’s it! 😀

I can’t relate to narcissists who love their disorder.

android

I read this post at Psychforums written by a person who sees their narcissism as a huge advantage.

I spent all my life trying to figure out why I felt so different from other people. A few months ago I was researching in detail narcissism for my master thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray when I suddenly realized that I fit perfectly with all the criteria to be assessed as a high functioning, cerebral, covert narcissist. I immediately felt amazing about it. Not even for one second I believed that there is something wrong in me, but I soon realized that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to agree with my view.

The idea that my malignant tendencies have a reason to exist empowers them, and all the studies I have read on this topic instead of making me feel like I have a mental illness that should be cured provided me with the tools I need to expand my narcissism and use it in my favor. I guess this sounds like I really am sick, but bear with me: why would I, as a narcissist who feeds upon the desire of being special and unique, have a problem with being diagnosed as such? It makes me different from others for real. I am not going to stand in line with all those narcissists who fear themselves, who punish the way they are. Becoming self-aware opens infinite doors to the great potential I have.

I always deeply enjoyed manipulation, now I know why, but I also know that I have the power to bring this skill on a higher level and the more I master this “science” the less people will realize what I am doing to them. I don’t have a problem letting people know that I am a narcissist, but they never believe it – they still see me as a caring, loving, trustworthy girl who would go out of her way to help, too nice and interesting to be classified as “evil”. This discovery has given a great boost to my self-esteem which used to be pretty low. But it was low because I didn’t embrace and accept who I am. Knowledge is power. I am more functional now than before, I test my potential daily to see how far it can go, how much more I can get from it. Why would people ever want to heal from this?!

They say that a lack of empathy is a terrible thing. I don’t even know what empathy is, so why would I be concerned about owning it? They say I will never be happy with the way I am, but, let’s state the truth, people are never satisfied and fully happy anyway; they live for unhappiness because hope is far more enjoyable and stimulating. They say I cannot have fulfilling and real relationships, but that’s not true: given the right partner I can make him feel like he is the most special person in the world. Of course, all of this is done primarily to make myself feel like I have total control over them, but it can still provide them with some good things for themselves. It’s twisted, but I find unconditional love far more twisted. Self-awareness helps me regulating my depression since now I understand that it’s triggered by a lack of NS, so I just need to adjust that to feel back on track.

And when a NS is not readily available I feed my ego by trying to achieve success and praise in my work or studies. The more difficult and stressful it is, the larger my ego grows when I get there. Have you ever felt a proper ego boost? When it feels like there is something extremely warm in your chest which is expanding throughout your body? I live for that feeling.

I always wanted to become a teacher, but I was scared that I wasn’t good enough for that. Right now it has become clear that this is the only thing that I can do successfully. What’s better than a group of people who you can manipulate on a daily basis without being perceived badly? And here by manipulation I don’t mean in a bad way: you can convince them that they can be and do whatever they want in life. And they will repay you by making you feel omnipotent.

That’s a fair deal to me. Last but not least, being a narcissist made me finally forgive my mother for all the years of psychological and physical torture I had to endure. She made me the person that I am today, for better and for worse. I let go of all the grudge and hate and established a far better relationship with her.

I am human, but if my being a narcissist means that I am an evil human being, I can totally accept that and carry on. I would rather be good and be a hero for others, but I always found villains much more charming and true to themselves.

android2

This is an example of ego-syntonic narcissism and is common in high spectrum grandiose (classic, not covert) narcissists whether they’re self aware or not. It seems psychopathic to me. While on an intellectual level I can understand the logic behind it, and yes, I’ll even concede that it is possible to be devoid of empathy or a conscience and still choose to be prosocial (people with NPD and even ASPD can tell the difference between right and wrong, but usually won’t choose to do the right thing, only what suits them), I simply cannot relate to this way of thinking. It seems very machine-like to me, almost a parrot-like existence.

Sure, without a conscience you don’t suffer from guilt and shame the way most people do, but living this way just seems so cold and sterile to me. I spent years unable to feel much of anything, and am recently beginning to discover my softer emotions and wouldn’t have it any other way. Even sadness adds depth to the experience of being alive. How can a person like this be able to experience higher emotions like love, empathy or real joy? A machine can’t experience joy, sadness or love, all they can do is fake it. To me, this seems like a sterile, joyless way to live, an imitation of being a human, and I want no part of it. How can you really enjoy life when everything and everyone becomes nothing but narcissistic supply? I’m sorry, but I’m a person, not a parrot.

That being said, high functioning/high spectrum narcissists do seem to like their narcissistic traits, because they tend to be beneficial in the selfish and narcissistic society we currently live in. The enormous popularity of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of selfishness as a virtue attests to this. But such a world, run by people who feel nothing and get high off their own perceived power and superiority, is deeply frightening to me.

The huge irony that comes with self-awareness.

Woman Looking at Reflection --- Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis
Woman Looking at Reflection — Image by © Elisa Lazo de Valdez/Corbis

Once you become self-aware, you can finally see all the ways you mistreated others or manipulated them. All my life I always felt like such a victim (and of course I was, and that’s why I became this way), but I never saw myself as hurting others, just always being hurt. I wore my “victimhood” like a trophy, much the way I’ve sometimes accused others of doing. (I wonder if I was projecting?)

It’s hard to look at yourself the way you really are, instead of through a thick fog of self-delusion, but it’s ultimately freeing. Yes, there is guilt–a LOT of guilt–but it’s of a different quality than the “guilt” I had before I was self aware. Before, my “guilt” was essentially self-serving, intended to obtain reassurance (a form of narcissistic supply). It was about making sure I wouldn’t be shunned, disrespected, or abandoned, not true remorse. Not only that, the stress of constantly avoiding being shunned, disrespected or abandoned caused me constant, debilitating stress which sometimes led me into black depressions.

Now, I actually feel badly about the ways I’d manipulate and sometimes abuse people–but it’s genuine guilt, not a fake show of “guilt” to attain supply. I feel terrible about hurting people that have been gone from my life for years, so there’s no way that my guilt could be to attain supply, since there’s no way I could ever contact those people to make amends. It’s just an inner feeling of, “That was just so wrong,” without any desire to get reassurance that maybe it really wasn’t wrong or that people don’t think less of me.

The huge irony is that all this guilt I feel now–genuine guilt, not self-serving guilt–is ultimately freeing. Rather than feeling worse about myself, somehow I feel emotionally liberated and even better about myself. Why? Because THAT me–the one who hurt people–is not the real me at all. I wasted so many years trying to be someone–anyone–other than who I really was, but I couldn’t see what was obvious. Seeing myself the way others see me is like being cured of blindness. It explains…everything. Everything.

It’s scary and upsetting to see how badly you treated those you loved, but along with that, I’m getting to know my true self–a genuine, non-fake, real person who never deserved to be hidden away like an embarrassing family secret. Those qualities that embarrassed me so much I had to shove them away into the far recesses of my mind–my sensitivity, vulnerability, desire to feel connected with others, and my tendency to think deeply about life and the world–are qualities I’d be proud to call my own again (tempered with the self control and rationality of of a grownup).

I’ve been working hard to bring this beautiful soul who never had a chance back out into the sunlight. HSP children just don’t know how to use their unique gifts–and if they were shamed for their sensitivity (and they usually are–even if their parents were loving and supportive, they tend to be easily bullied by their peers), they can easily turn to narcissism as their only defense against a world that isn’t kind to them.