Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The DOWNSIDE to the Art of Not Feeling

Everything has its price.

Even emotionally detaching from a seriously toxic parent (in my case, a narcissistic adoptive one).

Last week, when a-dad rendered me invisible for the zillionith time I went into emotional detachment mode. This involves imagining myself in a giant ziplock baggy to ward off the hurt, all the while mumbling, "Let it go. Don't let him ruin another evening."

Well, it worked. By evening, I was able to forget about a-Dad.

Until the next morning.

Woke up feeling like I was coming down with something. Achy and painy with a slight sore throat and really tired and dragged out. I was feeling so lousy, in fact, I couldn't work on the first draft of the book I'm trying to write. For the last month or so, the writing was going very well.

But no, I simply was not feeling strong enough to write. I had no energy. None.

And then I started feeling worthless. Writing makes me feel good. Productive. Now I didn't even have that outlet.

In the meantime, the phone calls with him suddenly started to bother me again. Where before I was able to chat without really engaging, now everything he said hit my last nerve. While he talked, I thought about how much I couldn't stand him. A weird sort of claustrophobia sets in. That's probably due to his narcissism because narcissists are all-consuming and left unchecked, will devour you alive. I've always found him physically repulsive and when I'm near him, I want to run away.

This is my father I'm talking about so all these feelings make me feel horrible and guilty.

Try as I might, all this loathing began to emerge last Friday and continued to seep out over the weekend and by Sunday, no more aches and pains.

Coincidentally, I stumbled across a book by Dr. John Sarno called, "The Divided Mind" which is about psychosomatic pain. Real pain that is triggered by our repressed emotions to divert us from whatever is threatening to bubble up into our conscious mind.

I was so busy emotionally detaching and NOT feeling/numbing and suppressing my rage I suspect I was literally making myself sick. The book seems to confirm my suspicion.

So now what?

My a-dad, by making me invisible, also makes me feel worthless. Like my voice is not important. I get that. But I need a voice to write. Voice and truth are the tools of a writer. So how do I pole vault across this big and boggy ditch?

More later.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Third Mom said...

Hi, Nina, just stopping by to say that I found this post and the last one very interesting. I don't have experience with a narcissistic parent, but I have a few family members whose behavior is (or was in the case of my grandmother) much like you describe. It's incredibly frustrating - and must be much more so for you in the circumstances.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nina,

I think you should stop seeing and talking to your a-dad. It's obviously not good for you. I did it with my own narcissistic parents and it is maybe the most important thing I've done. It gives you more freedom to work on things and see things in perspective. Not easy, because of guilt and stuff, but for me it was very important. Don't know if it's the right thing for you to do, but maybe it is. Parents should not make you feel horrible.


All the best,

Anonymous Bob

2:30 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hey Third Mom! Thanks for stopping by and reading. Glad you found it interesting!

Anonymous Bob: You'll be gratified to hear that your advice just mirrored what my new psychologist (specializing in narcissistic parents-argh) just said. If I could totally disengage, I would. And I will cut him back AND attempt to change my submissive behavior toward him. The only thing that prevents me from cutting him off entirely is that I have Power of Attorney and feel a moral obligation to make sure he's properly cared for...so some contact is necessary. And you mentioned GUILT. Yep. That's what keeps me in line and my dad knows how to make me feel guilty.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Celera said...

At some point, you will be able to disengage emotionally, so that you are not repressing feelings -- you are just not having feelings. Some part of us just has to learn that we can't expect people to respond appropriately to us, because they are just broken and aren't able to do it. The more you feel sad, but also tell yourself this, I think, the more your feelings will sort of pass over you and be gone, instead of making you feel sick.

I read a book years ago called "Feeling Good." If it is still available, you may find it helpful. It is all about talking yourself through difficult emotions -- not to deny them but to keep them from overwhelming you.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nina,

You have a very wise therapist! So it seems you are hopelessly outnumbered here, and you should cut your losses and lay down your sword right now. Or do you want me to call Alice? ;)

But seriously, are u *absolutely sure* that the moral obligation, the guilt and the power of attorney is not just another word for the pathological bonding of children to their narcissist caregivers? The same old same old?

(I'll stop nagging after this one, I promise.)

-Anonymous Bob

4:43 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Celera, That you for your kind and thoughtful words. That's what I aspire to...and need to work on. I may have seen the book you mentioned in the store yesterday...or some title like it...and almost picked it up. I'll see if I can get it. Sounds great!

Anonymous Bob: Hah! I'm NOT sure about anything regarding this topic! My therapist kept telling me I need to spend more time worrying about me and my health and not fussing over my a-dad and his being all alone in the world. The guilt I feel is TREMENDOUS...I'm just coming to grips w/that. And pathological bonding is the only explanation, really, for staying in a relationship that is so unhealthy. A-dad is 81 so maybe I'm hoping nature will take its course and end my misery. SEE! I feel evil for just thinking that.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Andie D. said...

My asis AND aparents are all NPD. The arents are out of my life, but I hung on to my asis in part because she's the only one in my life who's known me since I was a small child.

I just recently got up the nerve (AKA became fed up/angry enough) to tell her what I really thought and set up some boundaries. She surprised me by admitting to some wrongs. Doesn't mean anything will change, but DAMN IT FELT GOOD.

P.S. I "unplugged" from my arents in part because of some stuff I read in the book "Toxic Parents".

(((NINA)))

9:08 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Andie,

GOOD FOR YOU! It's interesting that your a-sis was able to admit some wrongs. Sometimes, they surprise you that way. A-Dad this week admitted he'd been lying after I confronted him. I was MUCH better off when I was living FAR away from a-parents...before they got old and sick and needed more time and attention. Mmmm. Back then, they had little use for me.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Ooops, I forgot to say...THANK YOU, ANDIE!!!

1:39 PM  
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