INTRODUCTION PART TWO
We’re currently living in an epidemic of narcissism that began in the 1970s. Which means each year more and more children are being raised by pathological narcissists. They suffer from the grave misfortune of being born into an environment where they contract an infection. But, their parents don’t take them to the doctor. Instead they give them the same maladaptive coping skills that their parents inflicted upon them. It’s one hell of an inheritance.
I don’t know where we go from here, but I do know you can’t cure disease by spreading it to more people.
Regardless of my experiences with those who wish to do us harm, I still believe that people are good at heart. Maybe those we consider evil or wicked are simply lonely, in a great deal of pain and lacking in love.
I know it’s boring, but please, try to remember at least a little bit of the background. Maybe in between chapters remind yourself that I didn’t come from a bad neighborhood. In fact, I’ve lived in some of the world’s most exclusive and expensive zip codes. I’m not part of the minority, I’m a cute little blonde haired, blue eyed, white girl. This disease doesn’t discriminate against race, ethnicity, gender or socio-economic class.
Throughout my childhood and well into my adult life though, I lived in a state of self-deception among their shadows because sometimes an inconvenient truth is dulled by denial.
I chose to believe that the illusion our family presented to the world was real. I lived the lie and then I became the lie. A piece of fiction woven so deeply into the fabric of my false identity that it became difficult to distinguish where it stopped and I began.
Ok, maybe we were less like family and more like strangers who just happened to know each other very well. But, it appears that the less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to break.
The most violent crimes are always the ones we commit against ourselves, aren’t they?
The façade of my fake family wasn’t brought down all at once with a wrecking ball. It took countless hours of therapy. And it began with a small crack in the dike that slowly spread until the dam broke and flooded the valley below. It took years.
And perhaps some resiliency. Recent studies on resiliency have pinpointed three factors that make you more likely to bounce back from trauma – extroversion, optimism and a belief that you control your own destiny. So, at the very least remember to always be the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.
Perhaps the sheer fortitude of that dam merely proves that the greatest enemy of truth isn’t the lie, but rather … the myth. As the dam began to break, more and more of my true self was revealed. It was as though the more I accepted the fact that I had been orphaned long ago, the more real I became. And once the pressure to be someone I wasn’t was relieved, I could finally become who I had been all along.
In order to enter reality, all I had to do was give up the fantasy. It may sound easy, after all, everyone gets to an age where they have to stop believing the fairy tale. If you want your dreams to come true, then first you have to wake-up.
The difference is, when you were listening to fairy tales, you knew they were fiction. Whereas, I was forced, actually conditioned, to believe that my “family” was real. I denied that any abuse took place and pretended to be loved. That was the easiest way to survive.
For me, it took the realization that life should be about more than just surviving to walk across that bridge. And the disappearance of that divide marked the distinction between avoid death and living life.
I could avoid death better than anyone I know. I’ve had a lifetime of training in that arena. I am a gladiator in that arena. Escaping certain death requires no secret enchantments, it was merely training. Avoiding death, that was my comfort zone. But, learning how to live and figuring out how to handle the uncertainty of life, that was going to take a miracle.
So, here’s the good part…
I may have stumbled onto some truth as I discovered like many who have gone before me that only great pain is the ultimate liberator of the spirit.
As a child it’s easy for me to escape (at least a little) culpability for some of my experiences, however, everything after I turned 18-years-old was much harder for me to accept. Those traumas I brought upon myself with my own actions and I could have changed and made different decisions and choices at any time. I brought it upon myself.
Our subconscious likes to relive early traumas as we try to change the endings and I spiraled around the same drain many times surrounded by fog and lacking self-awareness.
Owning your role in creating your circumstances and accepting that you are the cause of much of your suffering isn’t easy. But, the reality of life is where all the growth is and once you do, that’s when it starts to get better. While some characters have recurring roles, the common character in all of your stories is you and that means you are the one who has the power to change the story. All you have to do is become more yourself.
The world hadn’t changed, only my perception of it. But once it did, it was so crystal clear, I was confused – why couldn’t everyone else see it too?
I soon discovered that the truth isn’t available to all men, but only to those who seek it. Like most parents, mine would say they did the best they could with the skill set they had at their disposal and a troubled child. They would tell you that they lived in faithful service to that unwritten commandment that says we shall give our children better than we ourselves received. They would say they strived towards a code buried deep within their humanity that beckoned them not only to read Torah, but to be Torah. And they instilled these same values deeply within me. Though their capacity was limited by their own trauma, they would say they gave us everything they had to give and I would believe them whole-heartedly. For while we all sustain bumps and bruises along our journey through life, I ultimately turned out pretty well and I cannot deny their contribution to that final outcome. Ultimately my deliverance came with the realization that the source of my wounds is exactly the same as the source of my power.
It turns out real power is silent. And it’s hidden. It’s like those ruby red slippers, it’s been with you all along. It’s not a commodity that can be gained or lost. It’s just who you are.
I succumbed to the realization that I needed to take a journey, even if it was a blind one. I left the character I played and the rest of the cast behind. And I chose life. And it was terrifying.
It’s hard to explain to people who have experienced a childhood void of trauma that being authentic to myself was scarier than being raped or emotionally abused or smacked around or threatened within an inch of my life. But, it was.
At that point, learning to just be myself was the scariest thing I had ever done. People always say the truth will set you free, but they seem to forget to mention that you’re going to have to endure the labor pains of birthing it first.
The path itself was hard to find, and harder still to walk upon. How do I explain what walking down that yellow brick road was like? It was the epitome of faith – like walking down a long winding staircase in complete darkness. I stumbled at times and my arms became weak, but thankfully they always stayed by my side. I tripped down a few stairs once and twisted my ankle. More than once, I tumbled head first down an entire flight of stairs. Afterwards, I’d either freeze up completely or start racing down the stairs two at a time straight into the darkness determined not to be dissuaded or frightened. Other times, I’d spit blood from my mouth and weep. For he who does not weep, does not see.
I don’t know how long I’d sit there, but sometimes there was definitely an inner debate about whether or not to go on. (More than once.) I mean this piece of the dark staircase seemed like as good a place as any to pitch a tent and call home. I didn’t have to go any further if I didn’t want to, right? Fate has every power over us but two, it can’t lie and it can’t control our free will. So, I could stop if I wanted to, right here. I could give-up and live alone in the darkness.
I wish I could tell you what it was that made me keep going. I wish I had some single piece of wisdom, some life-changing advice that would help you get through your own dark times. But, the truth is, there was no single answer. The thing that made me keep going was different every time. Sometimes I was just restless. Sometimes I told myself, “if you’re going through hell, keep going”. Sometimes I shamed myself into continuing. (I don’t recommend that one.) Mostly though, the motivation to keep going was that I didn’t want to die without ever having lived. A lot of times I just promised myself that there was something better. That it would get better.
Spoiler alert: it might get better, but it never gets any easier. On the bright side though, you do get better at it. I’m sorry, but I don’t have a happy ending for you. The unilateral truth seems to be that life is difficult – but it’s also one beautiful grind.
I grew-up as a vagabond warrior forced to fight in someone else’s army, constantly on the brink of war and self-destruction. I was never even entirely certain why I was fighting. We are all imprisoned by our own burdens. We may even buckle under the pressure from time-to-time, but the key to unlocking that steel door is universal, it’s always acceptance. All Atlas ever really had to do was shrug.
That’s how I broke free. And then, I started learning how to rule. The fairy tales got it all wrong you see – a queen isn’t made, she is born. And as you already know, I was baptized in blood a long time ago. There is no kingdom to inherit, but rather a secret, a single constant. You take whatever you have … and then you fight like hell, to keep it.
I’m still healing. I’ve accepted the fact that some of us never get to go home, instead it’s just a place we carry within ourselves. And in my search for truth, I found not only answers, but redemption.
It is my hope that this story will bring to light how this epidemic of narcissism is effecting our children and also our society as a whole. It is my hope that it will give people something to talk about and perhaps even something to unite behind as we continue to battle a common enemy. Because right now, we’re fighting a war against narcissism (which I believe is the worst plague of the 21st centaury) — and we’re losing.
But don’t worry, we haven’t lost yet. Plus, we’ve got science on our side – so I like our chances.
No matter what happens though, it is my most sincere hope that my story will help others who are struggling; to find not only solace, but salvation.
So, come closer, cross your legs, rest your elbows on your knees and put your chin in your hands, just like you did during story time as a kid … because I’m about to tell you one hell of a story. But try to stay with me. And please, try to remember. It’s not the story of the girl who survived. It’s the story of the girl who learned how to live.
Because, yes, much of my life has been painful and ugly, but it’s mine … and just like you, I only get one.
Check back next week when the story begins and we dive into Chapter One
The goal is to shed light on the current epidemic of narcissism in our country. It is also my most sincere hope that this story will help people who are survivors of abuse or suffering with mental illness to find not only solace, but salvation.
Bonus points if it also sparks a national dialogue about how the prominence of this destructive personality trait is shaping future generations, altering the fabric of our culture and impacting our society as a whole.
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