Repetition Compulsion

One of the key philosophies of Feeling is Healing is that fact that the natural state of our bodies is one of health and wholeness. Our bodies are always trying to give us opportunities to lead us back to that state.

When we experience some kind of traumatic event, it leaves an imprint in our nervous systems if it is not processed properly. Our bodies are always trying to find ways to resolve this. In terms of relational trauma, we will subconsciously seek out people who are similar to the person who originally caused the trauma. Subsciously, we want to replay the same scenario, but with a different result.  No matter how much cognitive awareness we have, the subconscious pull will magnetise us towards certain individuals and certain circumstances. This is known as repetition compulsion.

For example, if I grew up in a home in which I was blamed for everything that went wrong, I am likely to be subconsciously drawn to relationships where I am blamed for everything. This won’t be an obvious or a conscious choice.  During recovery I have been able to see how these experiences, painful as they are, can be very useful in making us aware of wounds that we still need to heal.abusive relationships

For example, a few years ago I felt attracted to a man whose hurtful behaviour towards me caused me pain.jealousy narcissist This brought up a very strong urge in me to want to fix him so that he could then love me. It also showed me that I have a strong inner conviction that I need to believe that I have the ability to change someone in order to feel safe, even though I know cognitively that this is not possible. This is very common for people who have grown up in homes that were unsafe. Believing that one can change one’s own parents to make them love them is a very strong coping mechanism to survive an unsafe and inescapable environment. 

Once we are able to see and acknowledge the patterns in our relationships, we can process the underlying feelings and release them from our bodies. We are then free to attract healthier relationships into our lives.

Why is Closure so Difficult?

relationship closureThose of us who end up with narcissists are often highly empathic people. We have a strong desire to know the truth and for the truth to be known. We care about the other person’s feelings. We absorb the feelings of those around us and we feel their pain. We want to caretake others and to rescue them from their pain. Although these are great qualities to have, they can be taken advantage of by narcissistic individuals. A narcissist will typically target empathic types. This is because empathic individuals provide them with narcissistic supply. The narcissistic also knows that they are likely to be able to use the target’s kindness to manipulate them.

This dynamic of the empathic person wanting to caretake and rescue the narcissist, who in turn wants to manipulate and control the empathic person, means that we find it very difficult to walk away from these relationships. We may feel as though we are going around and around in circles, with no way out.

A narcissist is able to sense when we have had enough and are about to leave. This will prompt the narcissist to turn on the superficial charm. We say to ourselves, “Perhaps this time it will be different??”

No! The REAL truth is that the narcissist is not going to change or to see the errors of their ways. Sadly they believe that manipulating others is the only way to be safe in the world.   Deep down we know that if we approach the narcissist again, we will be hurt, and the cycle will start over again.drama triangle

This can be described as the drama triangle. When I take a step away from the narcissist after he has done something unacceptable, he plays the victim. This leaves me feeling as though I am the persecutor. Therefore I want to rescue the narcissist from this position. However he then moves into the position of persecutor and I am victim. There is no one rescuing ME from the victim role. Therefore the only way for me to get out of the victim role is to leave – and stay away!

drama triangleThe bottom line is that this situation is never going to turn out well for you. By rescuing the narcissist, you are effectively sacrificing yourself. The narcissist will always be the winner, for no better reason than the fact that they lack a conscience and so there is no limit to how low they will stoop in order to get what they want. A narcissist cannot function in a healthy relationship. They need to steal energy from another person in order to feel alive and therefore they need to create chaos!

If you give the narcissist another chance, they will not thank you for it or treat you any better. In fact, their respect for you will decrease and they will know that they can get away with treating you badly.  You show them your standards by your actions.

Your only option is to not play their game. Do not be fooled by their act. It is the narcissist’s choice to hurt others and there is nothing you can do to change that. The best hope you have is to shine by example and focus on your own health and wellbeing.

Please comment in the box below to share any experiences you have of struggling to gain closure. What obstacles have you found and what have you found helps?

Digesting Our Emotions

human body When we are troubled by an emotion, we need to ‘digest’ it in the same way that we would digest our food.

We acknowledge the presence of the emotion. Next we work out what the emotion is trying to tell us. Journalling may help here.

We can then work out what we want to do as a result of acknowledging this feeling. There may be an action we need to take, or there may be a change that we want to make in our thinking or approach.

Here’s an example: The other day I was feeling relaxed and at peace. By the end of the afternoon, my serenity had gone completely. I left work and went to the supermarket. While at the supermarket, I felt BAD. I felt fearful, as though I was about to be punished somehow by the universe for being BAD.

What had happened between the morning and the afternoon for my mood to switch so drastically?

  1. A colleague on my team had left a lot of work for me to pick up that she should have completed the previous day. This was the second week running that something like this had happened.
  2. A second colleague shamed me for speaking up for myself.
  3. I had to deal with another difficult issue that the colleague on my team should have dealt with the previous day.
  4. I started to feel shooting pains in my arms from the volume of work and the repetitive tasks that had been left for me.
  5. I sensed myself feeling irritable and had started to self punish and shame MYSELF for being irritable, as though feeling irritable was a flaw. I ended up sitting at work with a sense of doom, as though the world was closing in on me and as though everyone was looking at me with contempt.

In fact the feeling of irritability was a signal from my body that was trying to make me aware that I was being pushed around.  My feelings were telling me to question the colleague who had left the work. However my thinking mind kicked in and told me that I would not look like a good worker if I spoke up.  The irritability increased to anger over the course of the day and I had no outlet for it.

The end result was that I had turned it in against myself and was now in the supermarket, carrying the feeling that I deserved to be punished. Once I recognised this, I was able to realise that I was automatically replaying a childhood pattern. As children, we have an innate sense of injustice. If I ever dared to speak up to my primary caregivers against a perceived injustice as a child, I was punished.

Being able to recognise that my present reaction and behaviour was a survival pattern that I no longer needed, I was then able to relieve myself of the feeling that I deserved punishment. The emotion of fear was then able to leave my body and I could relax.

This is where getting in touch with our inner child helps. Instead of berating myself for how I had failed to speak up and deal with the situation at work, I could take a self compassionate approach. I saw it as a learning opportunity, which had been sent to me, to help me clear the childhood wounds that have been causing me pain. Next time a situation like this occurs and the same feeling of irritability and injustice comes up, I will be able to recognise that I have choices in how I respond. I can analyse the situation and work out what the best course of action is for me to take. This will be a way for me to regain the innate power within myself.

Fierce Allegiance

Fierce AllegianceI got the idea of ‘Fierce Allegiance’ from Pete Walker’s book, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. He makes the point that we have been conditioned to attack so many normal parts of ourselves that we need to develop a fierce commitment to self-champion ourselves. This serves as a good reminder to gives ourselves permission to take care of our own needs. If we have been brought up in an environment where we were not ‘seen’, then we are likely to ignore our own needs.

This is a great lesson that comes out of narcissistic abuse. We learn the profound truth that it is not “selfish” to take care of our own needs – in fact we display “self-responsibility” in doing so. Narcissistic abuse is a massive wake up call, showing us that expecting someone else to meet our needs and waiting for that to happen, does not produce good results in our lives.

Thy Shalt Not Judge

Judging a narcissistA key factor why narcissistic abuse can be so devastating is because it is so insidious. The abusers are likely to have brainwashed us through gaslighting with the belief that it is wrong to “judge” others. However we do need to be able to “discern” the character of another person in order to protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe.

If you have been in an abusive relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, you will know the feelings of isolation, desperation, despair, confusion, frustration, coupled with feelings of low self worth and feeling misunderstood. You will also likely have felt that there must be something wrong with you and that you are losing your mind.

We must be able to name abuse and to call it out for what it is. Anyone who is unable to acknowledge that they have been abused will be a ticking time bomb, constantly trying to repress anger and rage.

Assessing when someone is not trustworthy allows us to set the appropriate boundaries that we need in order to feel safe.