An ongoing survival guide.
The holiday season.
It doesn’t take having a narcissist in your family to develop a healthy dread of the holiday season, but it sure doesn’t make the next few weeks any damn easier.
Take a classic narcissist’s preponderance for surface level interpersonal interactions and relentless need to focus on their own ego and needs, your own potential existing emotional wounds from the narcissist in question, and our culture’s orgy of consumerism and feel good platitudes delivered at the end of the year, and you have a big ol’ recipe of emotional invalidation and emptiness on your hands.
Be thankful! Or else.
That might as well be the message so many of us hear.
It isn’t uncommon for some families to cancel a celebration like Thanksgiving or a big Christmas party due to terrible weather, or even a sudden death—everyone understands that under some circumstances, a big festive party is not going to go over smoothly if people are grieving, trapped by weather and circumstances beyond their control. So why can’t we cancel the holidays if our family routinely acts like a bunch of self obsessed assholes?
Somehow, and I don’t claim to know the answer to this dilemma, we as a people have lost the ability to “opt out without guilt” from unnecessary, unseemly, or just plain boring social functions. I don’t understand it, and I am going to assume it has something to do with our need for connection, our homo sapiens desire for closeness and community in the depths of winter.
Do I think opting out will win you any new friends? No, probably not, but if the problem is the event itself, then remove yourself from it. If you spend Thanksgiving or Christmas or Festivus alone and you still feel miserable, then the problem might just be with you and not anybody else. Therapy can help if that’s the case.
For some adult children of narcissists the holidays are the one really big event of the year that requires their attendance, and for so many reasons any attempt to repair or work on the relationship with the narcissist is going to be harder than ever.
The holiday season is the biggest, most time consuming social event of the year for most of us, and for narcissists it can be the ultimate platform to prove to themselves how awesome they think they are. So, they have an agenda, and the surface level feel good thankfulness of the holidays plays to the (at times) charming, shallow personality of a narcissist looking to make themselves feel more important than they really are.
Because narcissists are really bad at seeing other people as people instead of mere objects, a child or anyone involved in a relationship with a narcissist may find it hard to identify what their own values might be.
Narcissists don’t encourage those around them to contemplate, let alone acknowledge, their own values. That is bad. The effect it can have on you is also bad. If you want to experiment with what you value, then the holidays is a great place to start. Do something that you enjoy. Do so without regrets. You are allowed to celebrate who you are.
So, what’s the final word? The holidays are meant to be something to feel good about. Something to celebrate. If you aren’t celebrating the holidays for you, and your own sense of comfort and peace, then what are you doing?
It’s never too late to start new traditions. That’s how all new religions get started after all. So, start your own celebration to appreciate you and your own values. If you don’t start it, who else will?