The Therapy is Dandy Guide to Having a Parent for a Narcissist. Chapter 25.
This is the blog where I tell you nothing is free. If you want to improve your relationship to your own feelings and your relationship to people in your life—narcissistic parents, or loved ones, or your favorite bartender—then it is going to take focus and concentration.
This week lots of people have been focused on eating an ugly bird and shopping. And it is commonly heralded as the beginning of the most stressful part of the entire year.
And that’s entirely our fault.
Focus and concentration.
Do we address the real needs of the people in this world, or do we want to buy a cheap toaster oven? Do we learn to talk about our feelings with our loves ones, or do we hide at the bottom of work, petty distractions, sports events, or some addictive behavior?
Holidays are a tough time for adult children of narcissists. It’s even more difficult to focus on finding joy and pleasure when navigating toxic family memories and our own hastily constructed boundaries and defensives.
So, the holidays are full of shopping and eating, Henry. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that for many of us shopping and eating become secondary rewards. Rather than get the emotional understanding or peace I am seeking, I can eat this lasagna and get instant gratification. And buying that new suit will temporarily make me feel pretty good. So we keep shopping and eating. Meanwhile our self acceptance rarely improves. And based on the obesity and bankruptcy statistics for America, we don’t know how to stop eating and shopping before it gets out of hand. A pretty vicious cycle.
It would be great if we could track our own progress of mindfulness and mental clarity like the way they do in video games. If it was just a linear progression of leveling up skill points and character traits, well, I would know exactly how much work I needed to put in to this mindfulness crap before I got to level 5. It would be so easy!
But this is not an episode of bad TV where tech geeks decide they know what is best.
Because this is a big topic and I clearly am just brushing the top of it, I am going to have to pull out my heavy weapon and talk about Bruce Lee (again). Bruce was five foot seven and weighted 135 pounds at his best. He argued it wasn’t strength or size that made fighters win, but speed. And he had speed. In the counseling world, I translate his speed comment to reactivity and awareness. How quickly can one intercept negative self talk and vanquish it, rather than give in and eat a third piece of chocolate cake, or buy the expensive gas grill/hibachi combo? When you feel threatened by a comment your patner makes, can you breathe into your fears and respond with an open mind rather than angry words? Bruce Lee practiced every day. And so should all of us.
Here is a cheat sheet of things you should already be doing. You can find these lists everywhere. So, it’s not that no one knows, it’s that no one keeps up with it. Which makes sense. I have a video game I could be playing right now. And you have, you know, other stuff to go do.
Practical steps to self care:
- If it feels wrong, don’t do it.
- Say exactly what you mean.
- Don’t be a people pleaser
- Never speak bad about yourself.
- Never give up on your dreams
- Don’t be afraid to say no.
- Don’t be afraid to say
- Be kind to yourself.
- Let go of what you can’t control
- Stay away from drama and negativity.