Is Your Family Narcissistic? 12 Ways to Know (PsychologyToday.com)

Read: “The Narcissistic Family Tree” by Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Does your family…

  1. Keep Secrets (Never air your dirty laundry.)
  2. Focus on Image. (What would other people think?)
  3. Give You Negative Messages.  (You’ll never be good enough.)
  4. Lack of Parental Hierarchy.  (You are made to parent, become the emotional support for your parents, etc.)
  5. Lack of Emotional Tune-In. (Parents have told you that they don’t need you or don’t care what happens to you, etc.)
  6. Lack of Effective Communication.  (Triangulation/Gossping, see last post).
  7. Have Unclear Boundaries. (Personal space invaded. Perhaps even identity stolen, literally and figuratively.)
  8. Have One Parent Narcissistic, the Other Orbiting. (Leaving children with no other source of support)
  9. Discourage Siblings From Being Close. (Does it feel like your siblings are in a constant competition with you or between themselves?)
  10. Negate/Displace Feelings. (What feelings? Who has them? Why are they necessary? J/k…but this is what it’s like).
  11. Give You “Not Good Enough” Messages. (Whether spoken or unspoken, you learned that there was/is/will be a way to match the ideal that your parent already is.)
  12. Thrive on Dysfunction—Obvious or Covert. (Was emotional, physical, sexual abuse a regular part of your life…but no one seemed to know it…even your own siblings?)

Triangulation: Don’t be a flying monkey…

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Self-portrait: Today. (May, 2015)

Somehow I missed the fact that April was National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month in the US–do they even have such a thing in Italy? I ought to find out.

As I prepare to return the US next week, especially to my family’s home, I have been reflecting on family and communication.  To be specific, I have been trying to strategize a method to deal with pervasive triangulation.

What is triangulation? Simply put, it is a method of communication that is passive-aggressive, such that information is rarely stated directly between the two (or more) people involved . In a real life family situation, it would sound something like this:

Sister: “So, I heard from Mom that you took her car without asking. Didn’t you know that she would be upset?”

Brother: “Well, I heard from Dad that Mom told him that you didn’t do well on your last exam and that you’re just a failure waiting to happen.”

In other words, information that should be stated directly from “Mom” and “Dad” to the “Sister” and “Brother” is instead being communicated just between the siblings. Neither Mom nor Dad state their (negative) feelings to their children, rather they have the children do it for them, which in turn tends to create disharmony between the siblings.

This method of communication is standard in families where narcissistic tendencies feature actively in either (or both) parent.  Triangulation serves to control communication, foster distrust between siblings, continue drama and undermine self-esteem.  The idea that parents can be trusted to maintain privacy is annihilated, and a lesson is learned that information is a useful weapon.

I’ve experienced three decades of this type of communication…enough to know that there is only one person who benefits from it: the parent(s) with narcissistic traits/tendencies/personalities.

Approximately 10 years ago, I decided not to get involved in it anymore.  When family members approached me to listened to “what so and so did,” I declined the conversation and redirected the person to speak directly with that person instead of me. I have no interest in being a flying monkey for anyone.

What pray tell is a flying monkey?  Well, let’s do it this way:

You know you’re a flying monkey if…

  • You listen to gossip about others and then spread it (usually from a family member about another family member).
  • You take up arguments on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You bully others on the behalf of someone (usually a family member).
  • You feel a sense of belonging when you gossip/argue/bully others for someone.
  • You take an intense interest in keeping tabs (spying) on the doings of others for someone, and then spend time gossiping about the “failings” of the people upon whom you have spied.
  • You are invasive. When visiting other people’s homes, you will go through their belongings and then report back to someone about it, particularly focusing on what the home lacked.
  • You are inauthentic in your dealings with other people. You seek out information from them to share it with someone else…and you are more than likely to use it against them.

I could go on with this list, but let’s leave it here for now.

I imagine some people wouldn’t even know themselves if they stopped being flying monkeys or stopped using triangulation, etc. And not knowing yourself can be a very scary experience.  Still, if you are either instigator of triangulation or complicit by acting as a flying monkey and perpetuating this type of communication, please work to find another way.

It is possible to speak directly to someone about your feelings.  You don’t have to use others to do your bidding.  At least, know that you are choosing to triangulate, especially using your children or other family members, you are engaging in an emotionally abusive act.  Children, particularly, need to learn how to express their feelings in a direct way.  This type of communication breeds secret-keeping, low self-esteem, and a compromised ability to trust self and others.

It is possible to allow other people to do their own dirty work.  It’s not your job to speak on someone’s behalf (unless that person is a child and is somehow unable to speak).  It is never your job to engage in aggression for someone else.  Why should you? Why would you want to?

Just to wrap this up (finally), please, take a moment to consider your method of communication today. Do you triangulate? Or are you on the receiving end of it? Or do you foster it?

Until tomorrow,

D.

Vlog | Mother’s Day in Garbatella & Travel Tips

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Join me for a quick look at Mother’s Day in Garbatella, where I attended the weekend market, tried to play soccer, experience a bit of nostalgia, and give my tips on where to stay (and why) while visiting Rome.

How to be a ghost without really trying… (+ FibroArt Monday)

Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn via CC Flickr

 

Happy Monday! 🙂 (Hope your day& mine is pain-free)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my tendency towards silence.  Actually, let’s back that up, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I am as I am and how to change some core self-beliefs.  Seriously, ask yourself right now, Why am I me?

Some of us tell ourselves that we are too busy to think about such nonsense.  Some of us know that it would be better for us to think about it, but are afraid of what we might learn.  Some of us have asked the question, but have no answers. Some of us chuck ourselves into therapy, but with no intention finding answers, etc., etc.

You get the idea. It’s not an easy question either to consider or answer. Still, this is a question that I believe that we should try to answer throughout our lives.  This brings me back to my original statement about being silent.

Just over a week ago, I moved into the place where I’ll be staying until I leave Rome on the 21st.  My landlord is an amazing science fiction author, who reminds me of a cross between Bukowski and a much slimmer Santa Claus. Yesterday, he said to me, “So, is everything okay with you? I’ve not seen you for the past 10 days.”  Mind you, I’ve been at home.  Still, he was right. He hadn’t seen me.  I had made sure of that.  It wasn’t because I wanted to avoid him, but because disappearinghidingremaining unseen is second nature to me.  I erase my presence, even when actively in the lives of others, which may be related to my object permanence issues.  That, however, started way before the memories I can access.

What I do know is that growing up, my silence and lack of presence was something that was valued in my household. I did not stir the proverbial pot.   When I did try to express myself, I was often shutdown and compared with others who I understood had undesirable qualities.

In other words, I was encouraged not to share my thoughts, express my feelings, interact with the world around me, have friends, and generally be a socially-adapted member of society.  I’m lucky that I decided to become a therapist because I learned many of the interpersonal skills that I ought to have when I was younger.

Yet still, I have yet to unlearn that core household rule, which has become an unsettling self-belief: I must erase my presence.

And why must I erase my presence? The answer is rather simple, because the statement comes from my childhood thought: I should not speak or my family will hate me even more and I will have no home.

So, how do you undo the belief that being “present” in the lives of others means that you will lose whatever place you have?  Well, I have no definitive answer, but I’ll let you in on what I am doing.  😉

What I am doing is actively giving myself permission to:

  • Exist – I have the right to take up space on this planet, even if it means that others may be discomforted by that.
  • Speak – I have the right to speak my personal truth, even if it dispells the myths of others.
  • Love – I have the right to love and be loved just because I exist. My loving or being loved is not synonymous with my forfeiting my identity and goals in life.
  • Dream – I have the right to create goals for myself separate from the desires of others. I can dream as big or as small as I want to about my life.
  • Feel – I have the right to my physical and emotional experiences, even if they counter the needs of other people.  If I think the sun is freaking hot today, then it’s hot. If I am sad, then I am sad. It’s that simple. No one can dictate my feelings to me.
  • Be – I have the right to be whatever I am and whatever I am not.  It is my choice.

I could go on for a bit longer with the list, but there you have it. This is my first step.

Perhaps this may be helpful for someone else, especially if you grew up in a highly narcissistic family environment, or what I might call a house of non-self mirrors.

Take a look at yourself today. Smile at who you are, love who you are, acknowledge you are here and no matter what you have the right to be.

Until next time,

D. 

   

Hey, It’s Mother’s Day, But…

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I’m burnt out.  Absolutely.  Utterly. Completely. My entire being is spent.  I assure you that this is far from the ideal way to begin either Mother’s Day or a blog post. Still, this is where I am physically and emotionally.

So, beginning with the obvious: I’ve not been writing. Period. Full stop. End of story.

The fact is that when I am this drained, it is enough just getting through the day. Still, this isn’t about my being drained. The point is that I am sorry for my inconsistency as it goes against my own goals and (possibly) your expectations as my readers…then again, if you’ve followed this blog over the years, then you already know about my consistent inconsistency.  🙂

I’ve already apologized to myself and so to you, I’ll state it again, “I am truly sorry.”

I shan’t go into the details of why I am so burnt out, but I will give a summary here: 3-month visit of my mother, 3 moves, decision to leave Rome, health issues, work issues, life issues, etc., etc.

Still, it is Mother’s Day–which I already celebrated last Sunday, believing it was Mother’s Day–and I plan to spend it doing what I think is most important on this day: being a good mother to myself.

I think oftentimes we forget that we need to ensure that we have internalized a “good parent,” especially if we lacked that growing up. In my case, I didn’t really grow up in a family, and lived a total of perhaps 12 years with my mother and never with my father (at least not in my memory).  To add to that mix is the fact that I have older siblings, who are twins. Unfortunately in my experience, living with twins who were significantly older (6 years) meant that I was on the outskirts–they had each other and I could not relate to their experience.

Growing up without parents and without siblings can be and was challenging. To be frank, I have zero concept of what family means in a real sense (of course, I understand it technically), much less have any particular feelings around Mother’s Day or any other family-related days (birthdays, marriages, etc.).

It’s a sad thought to have on this particular day, especially when I have my mother so very close by, which is not something I had for the most part of my life. So…

Where does this leave me? Hmm…back to the understanding that on this day, Mother’s Day, also means taking care of one’s self.  Regardless of your situation, remember that to enjoy this day means enjoying and celebrating who you are, what you have done in your life, and recognizing those who have supported you towards those ends.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Please, take good care of you. 🙂

 

FMS | Challenge Yourself to Do Less: Expect Nothing, Celebrate Everything (Fibromyalgia)

8f304-blackwomansick1Being in pain, bedridden, forgetful, and generally low-spirited can seem to be the name of the game when it comes to having fibromyalgia–It doesn’t have to be.

It’s super-easy to get bogged down in the reasons why having fibromyalgia sucks: you can’t do this, you can’t do that, etc., etc.

Well, how about focusing not on the moment that’s sucking the life out of you, but the possibilities of the next moments?

I’m usually big on being mindful to moment, but let’s be serious: there are some moments that it’s just not worth it. And reflecting on the past can be a double-edged sword. You can begin to mourn who or how or what you used to be, instead of focusing on the positives of the past.

So, it might just be useful to look forward to the unknown future. Allow yourself to dream your possibilities, and then…

let them go.

Yes, let them go.  Whatever you imagine that you can or will do and that you can or will be, let it all go. Why? Because in letting go of having to do or be something, you begin welcoming freedom into your life.

Imagine not having to live up to anyone’s expectations, not even your own. Imagine not having to live in the shadow of your past self or in the pain of your present self. Can you imagine that? I can and do.

Now, when I imagine what I can/will (a.k.a. should be able to) do something, I take several steps back, and tell myself two words: do less.

For example, If I tell myself I can/will do 10 minutes of yoga, then I tell myself I shall do 5 minutes of yoga. If after 5 minutes, I can actually do more, then that’s a bonus.

In other words, challenge yourself to create opportunities for success.

Everyone needs that, especially we who have fibromyalgia.

Take small steps. Expect nothing of yourself. Celebrate everything that you do.

D.

Natural Hair | Let’s Talk: My Nappy Naps Hair Journey (Type 4C)

DSC_00812Not too long ago, I posted about where to buy hair products for afro-textured hair in Rome. Today, I thought I would share a little about my hair.

I began wearing my hair in its natural state in 1997.  I kept it in braids (extensions) for two years while allowing it to naturally loc.

Thereafter, from October 1999 to October 2013, I wore my hair in dre’d loc’s. Until November 2010, I wore them hip/waist length.  As an act of mourning, I cut them to chin length.

For a long while I thought about removing them completely, and continued to cut them to chin/shoulder length.  Finally in October 2013, I sat down with a bottle of conditioner, a pair of scissors, and a random comb leftover from a relationship.

 

It’s strange: although I’ve worn my hair natural for so many years, having my hair in a loose instead of loc’ed state really freaked me out.  I didn’t know what to do with my hair.  I felt panicked and self-conscious.

Another thing: I didn’t just cut off my loc’s and call it a day. I unraveled them, which was a terribly frustrating but freeing experience.  Also, at the end of the process, my hair was different lengths all over–and I decided to keep it that way.

My lengths varied between 3-5 inches.  I cut my hair a bit more just before the summer to take care of some parts that seemed to be damaged. Now, my lengths range between 7-9 inches.

So, why have I told you all this?  

Well, because I’ve decided to learn how to style my loose hair properly, rather than relying on braids or my usual hair wraps (not that I’m going to stop wearing my hair wraps).

What will I share?

How I take care of my imperfectly perfect hair: products I like (commercial and homemade/natural), styles, and lessons learned.

Perhaps it will be useful or interesting for someone out there. Either way, it will help me embrace a new understanding of myself. 🙂

Until Tomorrow?

D.

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Vlog| Travel & Fibromyalgia in Italy: What I Learned Moving to Rome.

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Travel and fibromyalgia–from everything I heard and knew before I moved to Italy, travelling was something that I probably wouldn’t be doing a lot of because of the potential negative impact it could have on my body.

Still, I decided to do it. 😉

In these videos, I talk about my decision to move to Italy, how I prepared and what I have experienced while living in Rome and dealing with my fibromyalgia symptoms.

Thank you for watching! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me! 🙂

Until Tomorrow?

D.

Part 1: Why I did it | How I did it.

Part 2: What I Learned | What I suggest.

Travel | Cheap Vintage Shopping in Rome (Like Goodwill, But More Expensive)

It took 4 years, but finally I found out where there is a real second-hand store in Rome…and it happens to be in my backyard. 😉

Before I left the US, I was pretty much hooked on spending part of my weekend in the local Goodwill or Salvation Army. I have a thing for anything vintage and I am ridiculously cheap frugal, so shopping second-hand leaves me in bliss.

When I first moved to Rome,  the “vintage” stores here left me thinking Oh, Hell No!

Seriously, the prices were (still are) enough to induce cardiac arrest.

Luckily, my friend Sammy introduced me to Ex-Novo on Saturday.  Although the prices are still considerably high in my book, they are still significantly lower than the vintage stores that you will find in Rome’s historic center.

So, if you’re in Rome, or planning to travel here, and love vintage, check out Ex-Novo in the San Paolo Basilica area. It’s just a few steps from the metro.

Ex-Novo

Via Corinto 12, Rome

(San Paolo Basilica Metro)