Endurance Is A Virtue

Endurance is a virtue.

While “patience,” rightly, gets this treatment fairly often, let’s admit patience is often not possible. Sometimes – usually, even –  we feel impatient with whatever awful we are going through. Or feel worse feelings than impatience, right down to despair.

This is why I want to take a moment to advocate for endurance – because endurance does not come with the baggage of often-impossible “supposed to” feelings. It doesn’t say that while everything is hellish you don’t, or shouldn’t, feel like hell, or like you are in hell.

It says: okay, this is hell – hang the fuck on anyway.

Endurance is an underpraised quality. A partner to frequently-misunderstood courage. Courage is sometimes wrongly painted as a synonym for “fearlessness.” Fearlessness is not courage – it is either the absence of any cause for fear, or likely a serious glitch in the nervous system of a person in the presence of a threat.

Courage is often, accurately summed up as “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” That is why courage is something laudable, something extraordinary. I have no fear of toast, or that the toaster is going to do me harm. There is nothing courageous about me making toast, because I fearlessly make toast.

If doing what I believe is right is likely going to result in some harm to me, or will require that I continue to experience something that is already harmful, painful, difficult, and those are things I fear, and I act according to my principles anyway, then I act courageously.

It is the presence of fear that makes an act courageous, that makes courage remarkable.

Endurance is living in the bad, the painful, the harmful, the frightening, the difficult – maybe sometimes feeling courageous, maybe not (though I would argue it is possible to be courageous without feeling or thinking of yourself as courageous – just as it is possible to be a person behaving decently, or behaving cruelly, or many other things, without necessarily being aware of the truth, or while denying the truth), and not giving up.

Endurance is pretty much always possible. Even when you cannot see an end to what is troubling you. Even when what you feel (putting aside for the moment whether or not your feelings are an accurate representation of the quality of your actions) is weak, or despairing, or defeated.

Endurance, while you are feeling whatever awful it is that you feel, is a show of strength. Strength is what is required to accomplish what is difficult – and when you have been hurt, when you are suffering, when you feel – or are – alone with your pain, when your energy has been sapped by huge and/or prolonged challenges, doing anything at all can be enormously difficult. Doing anything at all, in such a state, is a show of strength.

Including simply carrying on.

Give yourself due credit for the strength required to endure your difficulties, even on the days where you just don’t have the energy to take any constructive action, or where you can’t see what constructive actions you might take, or when there are simply none you can take. (Those additional obstacles mean your endurance is a sign of greater strength being exercised than in their absence, not less.)

I am not advocating denying your own agency, your ability to act, but there is some shit you really can’t – in the proper meaning of “can’t,” as in, actually not possible, rather than difficult, or not desired – do anything about.

Like when you are rejected, or a feeling is not reciprocated, or you regret something you have done, or when you lose someone you care about, whether because they walked away, or you did because their behavior was harmful or dangerous, or because they died. You cannot make someone feel something they don’t, you cannot make someone else’s choices for them, you can’t change someone else’s behaviors, you can’t change the past, and you can’t resurrect the dead.

You also cannot wish away grief, or make it end by trying to suppress it.

In my experience, the only feelings we can fully shut off for any prolonged period of time are some of the positive ones, usually as a side-effect of trying to shut off the ones we wish to mute, the painful feelings, which can only be turned down slightly – and which also prolongs them indefinitely.

And what we bury inside of ourselves, we carry with us everywhere.

We can’t leave what is in our own minds behind us, much as we might wish we could. And our internal burial grounds are straight out of “Pet Sematary” – that shit does not stay dead and buried, and if we won’t dig it up and deal with it, what inevitably claws its way out tends to be a much uglier, more destructive form than what went in.

You don’t have to see some deeper meaning in the moment in order to endure. You don’t have to know “the sun’ll come out tomorrow,” or have a reason to go on, in order to endure. You don’t even have to be able to pull yourself out of bed today to endure. You just have to keep drawing breath, keep doing the bare minimum to keep your body alive. And that, for some, on some days, in some circumstances, can be in itself something so difficult it requires enormous strength to accomplish.

Given enough time, bad feelings not buried, but felt and expressed, tend to abate. Given enough time, your odds are better that some unexpected, helpful person or idea or opportunity will show up. Given enough time, you are likely to do some healing, to gradually gain in energy to act, and maybe even feel hope.

It is okay if you can’t conjure a picture of what any of that might look like. It is okay if you can’t imagine a reason to hang on – because you don’t need any of that in order to hang on. You can hang on anyway. I know this from much and long and awful experience in my own life – you can endure through all kinds of hell, without any clue of how or when or if you will ever know anything else, without any conscious reason why you are hanging on in the midst of misery.

Unconsciously, at least, I think we all want to know, to live, to feel, something else, something better, something good, even if we do not allow ourselves to believe it might be possible for ourselves. And somewhere, however deeply buried it may be, I think all of us know we deserve things not merely to be better, but we deserve things that are good. (If we didn’t, I don’t imagine we would suffer in the absence of those things.) And the only way we might ever get there, to the possible-better, to the deserved-good, when our now sucks all kinds of ass, is to give ourselves more time, is to live to see the future, when none of us knows what might happen.

The future is always uncertain, is all possibilities, including some good ones.

Endurance is a virtue.

Please don’t give up.

Hang the fuck on.

Gaslighting

At some point, when I am not fighting off a brain-fuzzing sinus issue, I will probably write about this topic at some length, but having come across a couple of relevant pieces, just want to share the links immediately, lest I forget later (as ever, sharing with the caveat that I am not a mental health professional, and whatever linked material I share is on the basis of personally, as a non-professional, having found it to be useful, and any other comments not referencing source material in some way are my own opinions and observations drawn from my personal experiences):

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/02/abuse-prevention-how-to-turn-off-the-gaslighters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/11-warning-signs-gaslighting

For now, I will settle for sharing the links, and the following caveats: neither piece is comprehensive, as, I would argue, none could possibly be, given how varied the specific behaviors and nuances of such abuse can be; and that I think one form of gaslighting I have never seen detailed, but I believe is one of the most common (and most harmful) occurs when a person does something damaging, while maintaining a pleasant/cheerful/friendly demeanor, a passive-agressive but unsubtle signal for the person who suffers the damaging consequences of the behavior to go along with the aren’t-we-all-just-happy-and-getting-along bullshit. Polite assholes, I used to call people who engage in such behaviors – psychological torturers is a far more accurate name, I now believe.

(And while I have addressed the subject elsewhere, I strongly suggest any person who is interested in the subject, or, though I hope you are not, suffering such abuse, look up “narcissistic abuse,” especially descriptions of individual experiences of survivors, as a lot of the abusive behaviors associated with narcissitic abuse have relevant overlap with – or are themselves examples of – gaslighting.)

Do Something Else Instead

Yesterday, a friend found out they had lost a friend of theirs to brutal violence.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about my own experiences with violence, and the experiences of people I have known, many of whom I have loved – all having suffered violence, some also inflicting violence on themselves and/or others.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

I am too tired to say very much that is coherent about those personal experiences, or the broader problems they are representative of.

At the moment, all I can really think of is how desperately I wish I could sleep, and about Fred Rogers, when he talked to Congress in defense of funding PBS, and quoting the lyrics of one of the songs, from “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” about being mad, and how when you are thinking about doing something wrong, you can change your mind, and do something else instead. “What do you do with the mad that you feel?…It’s great to be able to stop, when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong. And be able to do something else instead… ‘I can stop when I want to. Can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop, anytime. And what a good feeling to feel like this.'” And how much I wish more people learned that lesson early on in life, so fewer people would externalize their pain by inflicting pain on other living beings.

 

 

And about how just because someone did not learn how to cope with their emotions in a healthy way in childhood does not mean they cannot learn, however much violence they may have suffered, or done, however old they may be.

And about how we all experience difficulties, and how exponentially more difficult they become to handle as they pile on. How unfortunately easily the human mind can be, and often is, overwhelmed – and how deeply the human spirit can be wounded, and how difficult it is for the social animals we are to heal without the support of other people.

If Mr. Rogers’ words don’t speak to you, for whatever reason, or if they do and you are so inclined to listen to someone else speak (with the warning that this speaker is explicit about his own experiences of being abused as a child as well as having engaged in violence toward others as he grew older), maybe Sammy Rangel’s words will resonate with you. He is a man who lived both sides of violence, suffering it being inflicted on him, and causing others to suffer by inflicting it on them. He has changed. He is no longer a person who engages in violence. He has started an organization called the Forgiveness Project.

 

 

Not unlike Christopher Piccolini, who used to be a part of a violent hate group, and who now helps other people leave such organizations. I have watched several of his talks, and he does discuss violence in some detail, at times more explicitly than others, and at the moment I do not have the wherewithal to watch again, but in any case, again, please only watch if you feel able to hear violence discussed in some degree of detail.

 

 

Eve Ensler also suffered a great deal of violence in her home as a child, and while her experience was not one in which she also engaged in violence, that I am aware of, she, too, grew up to work to help other people who suffer from violence. As with the above talks, there is explicit reference to violence, including sexual violence, so again, please, if that is something you feel unable to engage with in the moment, don’t watch.

 

 

To my knowledge, Scilla Elworthy did not suffer violence in her childhood, but she did grow up to be a person who has spent her life working for peace. Her talk (aside from its praise of Aung San Suu Kyi, who at the time was known primarily as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has since become the head of a government whose army is engaging in a genocide, a saddening, unfortunate change in perspective on who that particular person is) is wonderful in that she addresses a question of, as she phrases it, how to deal with a bully without becoming a thug. As with all of the non-Mr.-Rogers talks, there is some discussion of violence, and no reason anyone who does not feel able to handle the material at this time to engage with it if that is the choice you wish to make. (Also, on the TED site, the talks they have posted typically have transcripts available, if perhaps you find it easier to read such material than to listen to it discussed.)

 

 

I wish everyone the strength and support to handle difficulties, however great or small, and the sense of self-worth to ask for help from those who are able/qualified to do so; whether you need help because of being hurt, so that you can be helped to find a way to safety; or you need help because you are thinking about hurting someone (whether yourself or someone else), so you can find your way to decide not to do it, and do something else instead.

I am not a person qualified to provide that kind of help by a long mile, but there are resources available which are operated by people who are. An internet search can help you to find a helpline, warmline, hotline, support group, mental health care provider, or whatever other form of help might be appropriate to whatever your particular circumstances are.

The only other thing I can really say is please remember how precious life is – not just your own, but everyone’s.

Life is precious, and fragile, and uncertain.

Please treat it like it is.

 

 

How To Find the Opt-out for WordPress Analytics

WordPress tells you, if you look, that they use analytics that you can opt out of, and vaguely mention the opt-out can be found in your settings. That is the extent of the how-to.

Well, you won’t find the opt-out just by clicking on “settings.”

After you sign in to WordPress, click on “My Site,” then scroll down and click on “WP Admin.”

On the left of that page, click on the little human-from-the-shoulders-up icon, which is where you find the submenu for “users.”

Click on the icon, then, in the list that shows, click on “personal settings.”

On the left of the page that brings you to, click on “privacy.”

On the page that opens, drag the slider next to “Share information with our analytics tool about your use of services while logged in to your WordPress.com account” to the left to turn it off.

It is so easy, no wonder they very vaguely sort of almost but not really tell you where to find it.

 

 

Every Day

Today has been pretty good.

Maybe not by anyone else’s standards; maybe not even by my own, in somewhat less bullshit times.

But pretty good.

Every day, every fucking day, do at least a little of what you love, if you can.

And I mean can.

Not if you feel like it.

Not if it is easy.

If you are able.

If you have three seconds and the minimal physical capacity necessary do whatever it is.

Fucking do it.

Life is a journey; death is a destination.

Keep moving.

Square Breathing, Stress Relief, And Assorted Tangents

I thought I would put this out there, as it is something I have found helpful: square breathing, also sometimes called four square breathing, is a technique that is, as I understand it, useful for calming anxiety and panic attacks, as well as a really simple, no-mantra way to meditate.

It is basically just breathing in for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, holding your breath on the inhale for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, exhaling for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, holding your breath after the exhale for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4, inhaling for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4…and repeating. Sometimes I have seen it suggested this be done for four minutes, but I find even if you repeat it for a shorter time it can be helpful. You can always try for longer, too, I suppose, if it suits you. I would also add I think it is a good practice even when you aren’t feeling especially stressed or triggered or anxious. (I think overall since you are briefly stopping your breath between inhales and exhales it helps to slow your breath even if you are breathing rapidly and counting fast.)

There are plenty of descriptions out there, if you want to read a set of instructions that might be more clear to you, or find out why this is recommended, or what other people’s experiences have been; searching either “square breathing” or “four square breathing” should bring up relevant results.

This also reminded me, tangentially, of Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, because one of the things she addresses is research that suggests that helping someone else when you are stressed out can reduce its negative impact on your health.

 

 

I don’t know if it is applicable here, since I am not even sure this will ever be read by anyone at all, and maybe it is simply the stress-relieving effect of doing something that requires concentration (which Guy Winch discusses in one of his talks, I believe the one I will share the link for here; but the reason this occurred to me to write about was waking up and being too anxious to fall back asleep, and now I feel calmer and might be able to sleep, so I am not really prepared in the moment to rewatch a long video – if I fucked it up, I will try to remember to change it later on), but I feel better now than I did before I started writing this.

Granted, I generally find writing can help, especially when ideally there would be a person to talk with and there is not, but I don’t know that everyone would feel the same. I tend to like writing, anyway. Could be some people would find more relief in doing some other activity they enjoy.

 

 

I hope this is helpful to someone – like a lot of things, though square breathing is not something I have just learned, it would have been helpful to me to have known about it earlier on in my life than I did. Maybe I can help someone else find their way to something useful sooner than later in their own experiences that might be helpful on their journey. And I think both talks are worth watching, as both provide some information on strategies for dealing with stress and other uncomfortable emotions.

Should you be more of a non-verbal mind at the moment, I will throw in another link, this one to a long version of Marconi Union’s “Weightless,” which a friend suggested to me not too long ago when I was looking for lyric-free music for relaxation/sleep.

 

 

Now I am going to try to get some sleep. Best of luck to you.

*   *   *

No dice on the sleep, unfortunately, but aside from being tired, I still feel better than I did when I woke up.

I do find myself thinking I wish I had better equipment for taking and editing photos at the moment, and for digital drawing, because I do miss this being a more art/visual blog; and for the people who enjoyed that aspect, I can understand the reversion to the much-earlier word-based blogging might be a let-down.

That is not to say I am not going to carry on with the writing – being considerate is one thing, self-abnegation another. But at some point I will either resign myself to lower-quality images, or repair or replace some equipment when I am able, and there will be visual art again. It has been a long, long, long series of…well, decades, really.

I wish I had more resources to get past the current tidal wave of bullshit and spend more time and energy on artwork. Visual art is certainly another thing I have found useful in getting through the worst of times. I don’t know whether that is something that might make for general advice – again, a thing I enjoy anyway, so I can’t even claim my own experience to be a strictly therapeutic one.

I can see where it could be a general-use stress-relief practice, provided a person is not painfully self-conscious about how well or poorly they believe they can draw or whatever. I have personally made a lot of shit even I didn’t particularly enjoy the look of, and the work I have liked I am sure many people could find fault with. The end product can be alright, but for me, the real joy is the process – and typically the pieces I like best in the end are those I most enjoyed making.

Again, I’m not really feeling like reviewing something I have watched previously to summarize it in detail, but this talk seems relevant, insofar as the speaker talks about a lot of the benefits of idly drawing, and I think it applies whether or not you think of it as art, or yourself as an artist, or believe you have any particular skill:

 

 

Personally, I think all of the limitations people try to put on what gets to be called art or who gets to be called an artist is mostly people doing what many people who are injured, insecure, and immature often do – trying to dictate a set of “rules” that include themselves where they wish to be included, but fear they don’t belong, while simultaneously excluding a lot of others. Both because of projecting their own insecurities and self-loathing onto other people, and wanting to limit the in-group to themselves and people who have qualities they envy or admire or both, with whom they wish to be equated – the unhealthy, ineffectual practice of trying to counter insecurity by seeking to associate oneself with others with admired qualities, thinking those will then be seen as belonging to oneself, while simultaneously seeking others to feel superior to, others I tend to think are perceived as possessing the very qualities the person who feels insecure feels insecure about. And before I digress into subjects I have already discussed and provided links to related material about, I will just throw a link to that piece here, if anyone feels inclined to follow the digression elsewhere:

https://lisamariehurley.com/2019/02/23/three-topics/

I think if you create something, without doing harm, with honest intention, expressing truth as you understand it – not trying to mess with people’s minds to sell a product or a candidate or a belief – with some honest feeling behind it (for the sake of the artist, I hope some enjoyment in the process), then calling it art and the person creating an artist seems well fair. That doesn’t mean everyone (or anyone) will like the end result, but that is rather my point. You don’t have to let someone else decide if you are an artist, or what you make is art. If they don’t think so, well, no one is obliged to agree with you. And you can still think so. In short, I guess, I see artists very broadly as creators. I think there are artists in every non-harmful profession and pursuit.

I also think I am just one person and not the be-all, end-all, and someone else’s definition of art might be different from mine and just as valid, provided, from my point of view, that it is not exclusive based on superficial bullshit.

You don’t have to go to school for art to be an artist, you don’t have to use certain materials, you don’t have to be an adult, you don’t have to be a “fine” artist. You don’t have to be getting paid to be making art, any more than you have to be getting paid to be doing work. There is nothing, I think, inherently pretentious in calling yourself an artist or your pursuit art, unless you are a person who fits the selfish, insecure, exclusive-of-others model I described above.

Pretentiousness comes, I think, from believing oneself to be the arbiter of something that is bigger than oneself. “Oneself” being a deliberately chosen word here. One self. One individual.

There is no one living (no one at all, I would argue) who can claim to be the originator of art as a pursuit or a concept. Art has been around for a lonnnnnnngggggggggg part of human history. Long before there may have been a word for it. Hell, I would have to look up whether estimated times for the origins of language predates estimated times for the origins of visual art. One could even argue that a lot of what defines us as human, as we think of that word today, is creativity, is art, whether the earliest simple tools made by our ancestors, or cave paintings, or the oldest sculptures. (Which if I recall correctly are “Venus” figures. My trivia-brain is coughing up “The Venus of Wallendorf,” but whether that is correct I will have to look up. I think it was last I studied the subject, but that was probably twenty years ago, and even if it was the oldest known piece then, could be there have been new finds…

Did a quick search, turns out I was nearly right. Ish.  I was one letter off, the Venus of Willendorf is probably in the vicinity of 30,000 years old; but there has been a more recent find, in 2008. That figure, known as the Venus of Hohle Fels, is estimated to be 35,000 to 40,000 years old. And based on Wikipedia-quality evidence –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Hohle_Fels

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Willendorf

– so, you know, probably double-check the information if you are looking for a reference for some scholarly biz. No offense to Wikipedia. It is supposedly generally as reliable as print encyclopedias, at least according to my recall of a description given by Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture – which is an actual lecture he gave, and a book based on the lecture, worth watching and/or reading, in my opinion.

 

 

Pausch was a Professor who took an old teaching practice of some professors giving lectures based on what they imagined they would talk about if they knew that it would be the last lecture they’d ever give before they died, but minus the hypothetical aspect, since he knew he had terminal cancer. At some point in his career he was asked to write an entry for an encyclopedia, and he explained what he wrote was what was published, that it seemed that the publication process was simply to hire experts and trust they knew what they were talking about.)

There are plenty of people who work in all kinds of arenas who might call themselves artists. I can think of people of my own acquaintance who I would say are artists in the work they do, paid or not, as aestheticians, as cooks, as parents, as teachers, as friends, as healers, as technicians…

Maybe you express your creativity in the food you make, or the way you keep house, or the way you love. I think everyone is an artist in something, though maybe not everyone acknowledges their artistry, or even allows themself to engage in the work they love.

Writing that, I have to say, I think loving is an art form itself, one too few people really appreciate as such. Love is not just a feeling, love is an action verb. It is how you behave toward people. It is caring about another person beyond your self-interest. About someone else’s happiness, even if their happiness may not involve you. And really, as I am writing, I also think love is integral to art – I think artists are generally people who love what it is they do.

And I do think joy is pretty constantly an element of art – even if it isn’t fireworks-y or high-energy, joy nonetheless. Isn’t that what “flow” is, as a psychological state? I suppose there is another way of defining art in a different terminology – art is wherever we find ourselves in a flow state.

Or art is non-destructive work performed with honest joy and love.

Or art does not have a single, simple defintion…which makes sense, since creativity is essentially conjuring, making something new, something that did not exist before. Kind of hard to narrowly define a process that involves unpredictability and the unknown.

So also, art is peaceful coexistence with temporal reality (because even the next fraction of a second into the future is always an unknown – probability is not the same as certainty, and even if our expectations are fulfilled, it does not change that there was and is ever the possibility they would and/or will not be).

Or artists are all human beings, when we are engaged in non-harmful pursuits we love.

Probably going to hang it up, at least for the time being, since I am not getting less tired, and while I enjoy a good tangent as much as anyone, I still like my assorted tangents to make what is, at least for me, logical sense, and I am probably getting past the point where I can construct comprehensible sentences. But happily got to experience some flow in the writing – and the state known as flow is as purely happiness as anything else I know.

Not bad for a morning that started with waking up before the sun, already feeling stressed out. And so my circle of tangents ends where it began – because this wasn’t just a series of suggestions for possible stress-relieving practices and musings on art, it was a process of finding stress-relief in an artistic pursuit.

Practicing what I preach, and whatnot.

Not bad at all.

 

 

Three Topics

There are a few topics I think are worth looking into, for people generally, and probably particularly so for people who have been traumatized or are dealing with some form of dysfunction.

I am just going to name them and maybe throw in a couple of links as starting points if anyone is interested.

(I am not a mental health professional, these are just things I have personally found valuable in understanding some things I have experienced, as well as understanding some people of my acquaintance. I can’t vouch for the quality of the material I have personally found valuable in terms of how a person with a professional understanding of the subjects would evaluate them, just offer that they explain these things in pretty clear terms, from my perspective.)

The first topic is compulsive repetition of trauma (and its relationship to PTSD and CPTSD).

 

The first link is to a survivor’s blog with a brief piece on the topic:

https://ptsdme.blogspot.com/2005/12/betrayal-bonds-trauma-repitition.html

 

The second link is to an article by Bessel van der Kolk, a psychiatrist who has done a lot of work on PTSD. It is a little longer and more clinical in its discussion than the previous link, if that is something that might be of interest to you:

http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk/

 

The second topic is narcissistic abuse. (In learning about it you will likely also come across information about narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder, and less often, it seems, histrionic personality disorder, which can be confusing to distinguish. They used to be categorized together as “Cluster B Personality Disorders,” but I believe that has changed recently. And depending on the source, it also seems like the term can apply to these behaviors even when the person has one of those disorders other than narcissistic personality disorder. And in my opinion, narcissistic abuse seems like a predictable set of behaviors that are psychologically/emotionally abusive, so just from one human being to another, even if a person is not engaging in the full array of behaviors, or does not fit a diagnosable disorder, it does not mean you have to dismiss the behavior as not abusive. And in any case, learning about psychological/emotional abuse more generally might also be useful. Lastly, I would add that whatever the most prevailing narratives might be, abuse is not limited to certain kinds of relationships. Could be a parent, a sibling, a child – whether a young child abusing other children, or the adult child of an ageing parent; it could be another family member, a spouse, a friend, a member of the clergy, a healthcare provider or caregiver, a roommate, a family friend, a stranger, an employer, a government official…not by any means a comprehensive list of possible relationships, but just bear in mind that abuse is about the behavior, not the person’s title.)

 

 

There is a lot of material out there, and reading pieces written by survivors is particularly illuminating, I think, but for a summary introduction, a portion of the Wikipedia entry (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_abuse) on the subject seems like a good starting point. Narcissistic abuse also happens to children (“Parental narcissistic abuse is where parents require the child to give up their own wants and feelings in order to serve the parent’s needs for esteem”), but I chose the excerpt about adult relationships because it goes into motive somewhat, defines narcissistic supply, and gives examples of some of the specific abusive behaviors:

“Narcissistic abuse may also occur in adult-to-adult relationships, where the narcissistic person tends to seek out an empathetic partner in order to gain admiration of their own attributes and feelings of power and control – narcissistic supply. The narcissist creates a dynamic abuser and victim relationship through a cycle of abuse resulting in traumatic bonding that makes it hard for their partner to leave the increasingly abusive relationship.

People with codependent-type traits may seek relationships with narcissists.

The narcissists’ relationships are characterized by a period of intense involvement and idealization of their partner, followed by devaluation, and a rapid discarding of the partner. Alternatively, that scenario can loop, with ghosting (ceasing communication with the codependent) and hoovering (luring the codependent back) instead of discarding. At the beginning of a relationship (or its new cycle) with a narcissist, the partner is only shown the ideal self of the narcissist, which includes pseudo-empathy, kindness, and charm. Once the partner has committed to the relationship (e.g., through marriage or a business partnership), the true self of the narcissist will begin to emerge. The initial narcissistic abuse begins with belittling comments and grows to contempt, ignoring behavior, adultery, triangulation (forming any relationship triangles), sabotage, and, at times, physical abuse.

At the core of a narcissist is a combination of entitlement and low self-esteem. These feelings of inadequacy are projected onto the victim. If the narcissistic person is feeling unattractive they will belittle their romantic partner’s appearance. If the narcissist makes an error, this error becomes the partner’s fault. Narcissists also engage in insidious, manipulative abuse by giving subtle hints and comments that result in the victim questioning their own behavior and thoughts. This is termed gaslighting. Another common abusive tactic is underhanded public humiliation, when the narcissist says something seemingly neutral but offensive to the victim and enjoys the emotional reaction. This is called dog-whistling. Any slight criticism of the narcissist, whether actual or perceived, often triggers narcissistic rage and full-blown annihilation from the narcissistic person. This can take the form of screaming tirades, silent treatment or quiet sabotage (setting traps, refusing communication, hiding belongings, spreading rumors, etc.).

The discard phase can be swift and occurs once the narcissistic supply is obtained elsewhere. In romantic relationships, the narcissistic supply can be acquired by having affairs. The new partner is in the idealization phase and only witnesses the ideal self; thus once again the cycle of narcissistic abuse begins. Narcissists do not take responsibility for relationship difficulties and exhibit no feelings of remorse. Instead they believe themselves to be the victim in the relationship as because of their self-debasing projections, their partner can only ever fail to meet their expectations.”

 

There are more MedCircle videos on YouTube on this and related subjects; there is also a channel called “Surviving Narcissism” that has a variety of clips on the topic, as well:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIELB1mz8wMKIhB6DCmTBlw/featured

 

The third topic is a strategy advocated for by some survivors (I have no idea what, if any, mental health professionals endorse the idea) of narcissistic abuse referred to as “gray rock.” Whatever its actual value or not as a survival strategy, I think its description is pretty useful in understanding some of the relationship dynamics involved around  narcissistic abuse.

https://www.thriveafterabuse.com/going-gray-rock/

I hope some of this will be useful to someone, whether just in being aware of some things should they ever cross your path, or that may be relevant to someone you care about, or because you are already experiencing some form of abuse (maybe the often-hard-to-pin-down kind of abuse that is psychological/emotional), or because you might be living with a personality disorder yourself.

For those fortunate enough to have access to mental healthcare, a lot of the mental health professionals whose work I have read or watched talk about therapy both for people with personality disorders, and for people who have been in abusive or otherwise dysfunctional relationships. If you have experienced abuse or other trauma, whether or not you also engage in abusive behaviors, and the option is available, you might find it helpful to choose a provider who specializes in trauma, as such a person might be more competent in dealing with a person with such a background in a sensitive manner – whatever the profession, its practitioners are only human, and have human limitations, including some not be great at everything, and some just being bad at their jobs, or having unhelpful biases. You don’t have to give up if your first attempt is not a good fit, it is okay to change providers and find someone you are comfortable with so you have a better experience.

I am neither condoning abuse in any circumstance, nor am I condemning all people living with such personality disorders as abusers. (If there is any such data available on the overall rates of abuse perpetrated by people with these types of personality disorders, I have not come across it yet; but I have seen it mentioned repeatedly that such people are often victims of abuse themselves at some point in life. And again, the latter does not negate such behavior as abuse when committed by a person who has also been victimized.)

For those people I have known who have been diagnosed with one of the formerly-Cluster-B disorders, or those I suspect would be if they sought treatment and were honest with their mental healthcare providers, I have never gotten the impression that they are particularly happy or at peace. On the contrary, I have always felt those people of my acquaintance seem to be trapped in a pattern that keeps them from experiencing the very things they seem to long for.

And for those who have experienced such abusive behaviors, many seem to have a hard time naming the abuse as such (and that has seemed to be the case both in those who seem to have in turn engaged in such abusive behaviors toward others, as well as those who have not). And often people who love the people who are engaging in abusive behaviors wish to help them, as the pain behind such behavior is often obvious , though it really does seem to me that it is only a mental health professional who is really going to be of help in that regard. I believe the impulse to help and focus on the suffering of the person engaging in abusive behavior, rather than the suffering caused by the abusive behavior, as often seems to happening when the person suffering abuse has experienced such abuse in the past, often prolongs and worsens a person’s experience of being abused. And it is just damned difficult to communicate if the other person is dishonest and/or manipulative.

This is a strictly-in-my-own-non-professional-opinion bit: I have noticed, over the course of my life, that many people who engage in behaviors that fit the description of narcissistic abuse in adulthood still seem to also be susceptible to being abused in that manner, whether by those people who are presumably the source of the abuse in their formative years (and the root of developing such behaviors in themselves), often parents or other relatives with whom they maintain relationships, but also with peers or partners.

In my experience, those who engage in such behaviors seem to primarily focus them on one or a few people, and mostly maintain a facade with others; and as the abuse seems to tend to be focused around perceived disparities in power, the person tends to focus the abusive behavior on a person or persons whom they perceive as weak or vulnerable relative to themself, but when they come into contact with a person who engages in similarly abusive behaviors they perceive to be stronger or more powerful than themselves, they can revert to the role of being the person suffering the abuse. I have not seen any mental health professional discuss this as of yet, but I am just adding the observation in the event that there is a person you have a difficult time viewing as abusive when they engage in the behavior because you have witnessed them being subjected to similar abuse.

I would also add, again, just in my opinion, that I would guess that virtually everyone in this former-cluster of disorders, as well as those prone to being in relationships with such people (like sufferers of similar abuse in childhood), likely would be diagnosed as having PTSD (or, in my opinion, likelier still,  CPTSD, where practitioners recognize that as a discrete diagnosis). And I take issue with some aspects of how what is defined as “codependency” is addressed, but that is a topic for another time.

I certainly wish I could offer the professional level of insight and advice here, but as one human being who has lived through some shit (and loved a lot of people who have been, too), whoever you are, whatever you are going through, I hope you will reach out and find some help, and allow yourself to believe that you can change your life for the better with the right help, some hard work on your part, and enough time.

For those without access to adequate mental healthcare, I would imagine good starting points might be some hotlines, like the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY); The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which explicitly states it is “…for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals,” so keep it in mind that if you are not actively suicidal, or you are concerned about someone else in your life who may be, it is still okay to call); and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). These calls can be made anonymously (not that they won’t appear in your phone records or call logs, though), so also a plus for those who are hesitant to share with people they know, or who might find their own possible support groups negatively impacted by a person engaging in abusive behavior of the “smearing/sabotaging” kind.  These hotlines also have websites, if you prefer to look around that way, they all seem to offer some other informational resources, as well as alternate ways to contact them:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is at https://www.thehotline.org/

They offer a live chat feature, though as all organizations that deal with abuse tend to do, the first thing their site shows is a pop up “Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.” So proceed with due caution if you are concerned a person who is abusing you might have access to your computer, whether physically, or remotely through some form of malware – the latter can also go for your cellphone, unfortunately. (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/05/victims-of-domestic-violence-challenged-by-abusers-using-technology.html)

(Use your judgement. Maybe a phone at a friend’s home, or get a burner phone if you are able – these are strictly my own thoughts, but I would guess a landline that does not belong to you or the person who is abusive, where they won’t see a number on a bill, possibly, or in caller ID, would be the safest bet.)

They also offer additional options: “Advocates who are deaf are available Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) by videophone (855-812-1001), instant messenger (DeafHotline) or email (deafhelp@thehotline.org).”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (They also offer a chat feature: the link is a little easy to miss, it is in the upper right hand corner of the homepage, right next to the phone number, and to the left of the search tool).

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is at https://www.nami.org/

They offer a lot of information and resources; they also have a text option, Text NAMI to 741741, or you can email them at info@nami.org

Whatever it is you may have suffered, or be suffering, be it the sort of abuse talked about here, or other forms, you didn’t, and don’t, deserve it. Even if you have inflicted suffering on another person, you don’t deserve to suffer (though that does not change that those to whom you behave abusively suffer because of it, and they don’t deserve it, either).

I hope you will find your courage (and I know it is there, because to behave abusively or be vulnerable to repetition of suffering abuse both suggest you almost certainly were abused yourself, and here you are, alive and kicking and reading some rando lady’s blog – or maybe not rando to you, in which case, hello, person I know, I hope you are well, and if you are not, I hope you reach out – to me, if I am a trusted person and you are someone who is, in my judgement, safe for me to communicate with; or to someone else who is trusted and to whom you do not represent a lack of safety, whether someone in your personal life, or a hotline, or a mental health professional).

In any case, you are alive.

That makes you a survivor.

You may well have been little and helpless and put through hell, and still, here you are.

That takes strength.

It takes strength to do what would otherwise be small things when your fight or flight is all fucked up and may even be kind of constantly switched on, or alternately, when you may not feel like you can feel much of anything.

It takes strength to admit you are scared or need help, especially when you may have learned early on those things meant danger. Especially when you might have to ask many times before someone helps. Especially when some people, even people in “helping professions,” might be the kind of people who seek positions of power to take advantage of vulnerable people. Use your judgement. Acknowledge when someone makes you uncomfortable. And if someone does exploit your vulnerability, know it is their wrong, not yours. Keep asking for help. Find people who will prove worthy of trust over time. Seek out support groups of other survivors. Find what works for you. Just try. There are loads of resources, and lots of survivors and resources online, too. There are blogs and discussion groups. It is okay to take small steps, to start out where you are just looking at information, not engaging with a person.

It takes strength to admit you fucked up and hurt someone else, especially if you learned early on that you were not “allowed” to fuck up in even the most inconsequential way without being subjected to intolerable pain. Especially when on some level you know hurting someone else is not an inconsequential fuck up. Especially if you have decided what happened when you got hurt was unforgivable, and that the person who hurt you deserves bad things. Hard to admit out loud that you have done the same kind of hurting, then, since by your own rationale you are unforgivable and deserve bad things. But those are feelings, not logic, not reality. Maybe the people you have hurt won’t forgive you – but you can still stop hurting them. You can walk away from the relationship without doing any more harm. You can stop putting yourself back into one role in a dynamic you probably grew up longing to escape. And you can, in that way, finally free yourself from a life with regular violence in it. And you can work with a professional who can help you – but you have to be willing to be honest with them.

If you are able to bear hearing some really specific details of childhood abuse described, and of the violence that child then engaged in as he grew up, I very much recommend Sammy Rangel’s TEDx talk, “The Power of Forgiveness.”

 

 

Or you can look up his organization, The Forgiveness Project (https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/)

He can stand as an example of a person who suffered violence, caused others to suffer – and himself to continue to suffer – by inflicting violence on others, and who found a way to leave violence behind. If you believe your experiences of being  subjected to violence were too extreme – his experiences of being subjected to violence were quite extreme. If you believe you have done too much harm to change – he did a great deal of harm, and has reached a place where he can not only own it, but where he has ceased to engage in violence. Just if you need to maybe see a little evidence, some example, of hope.

It takes strength not to revert to habitual bad behaviors that are the only ways of coping with fear and pain you know – whether they are abusive of others, self-destructive, or both. There are other ways, and you can learn, and those ones don’t cause you or anyone else injury. And they don’t leave you feeling like you are divided inside between the ugly truths and the supposedly pretty lies that cover them.

And just because your nervous system got fucked up and/or you never learned how to relate to people in healthy ways, or got help dealing with your damage, doesn’t change that you are a human being, you being hurt was wrong, and you can try to get help, and learn, and heal.

Treat yourself as worth the effort.

I wish you all the best, and that you find people closer to you than a stranger, and sources of information and assistance better than some rando lady’s blog, to help you on your journey.

And it is a journey.

And the road out of hell can be unpleasantly scenic and winding, and it may bring you through similar territories (or worse ones), but traveling it truly does beat just remaining in the same ring of the inferno indefinitely.

Same pit, different day is no way to live your life.

Even if you start with the teeniest of steps, you are still on your way. Fucking up is not just allowed, it is inevitable. If you accept that, and don’t give up when you stumble, and don’t let yourself off the hook for hurting someone, and don’t blame yourself for being hurt, and get what help you can, I believe you can find your way out.

From my road to yours, I wish you good luck.