Cuddling, narcissistic recovery, and nonsexual affection:

I read a few posts over the weekend that I want to share.

The first is Where Are You in Recovery? on the One Mom’s Battle blog, a post written by Sandra L. Brown, MA, Director of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Pathology Education at saferelationshipsmagazine.com.  The 2016 article written in 2016 addresses not just recovery from narcissistic abuse but the role of narc bloggers:

For instance, of course, one must disengage from the relationship, one needs pathology education to know what kind of relationship they are healing FROM, and one needs to recognize their symptoms of trauma in order to know what to work ON.  But these are first steps in what we consider the ‘early’ recovery level on the path to healing.  75% of survivors of narcissistic abuse develop a trauma disorder like Acute Stress, PTSD or CPTSD. Despite this, many and sometimes MOST survivors never get beyond early recovery.

In the past, I’ve been confused on whether I had PTSD or CPTSD, or if that’s supposed to be for, say, shooting survivors.  But this confirms that I most likely did have such a disorder.

The narcissistic abuse field is relatively young. Many survivors don’t realize that this field is only 11 years old. When you consider how long it took the domestic violence to get up to speed with their theories, and trainings, and therapists trained, 11 years is a drop in the bucket. The first information about narcissistic/psychopathic relationships and abuse was in the 1st Edition of my book ‘Women Who Love Psychopaths’ (Sociopaths & Narcissists) in 2008. There has been theories to work out and research to do and treatment approaches to figure out. We are just getting around to a formalized therapist training in a Model of Care in 2019. There hasn’t been much in the way of trauma therapists that understood these relationships for treatment. But what has been prolific, is survivor’s manning-up with books, blogs, and social media.  Survivors have had to rely on other survivors in the absence of a trained psychology field.  …In the absence of a trained psychology field, most survivors find information in a blog or social media site and stay, never progressing to the next stage of recovery because of so few trained trauma therapists in pathological love relationships (PLRs).

So it’s no wonder that I never heard of narcissistic abuse before 2010, even though I knew the word “narcissist” (as in lover of self above all others) and knew a lot about abuse: The information just wasn’t out there yet because even the psychologists didn’t know much.  And we bloggers have been a crucial part of getting the word out and helping others, because we have firsthand experience with such people.  But so many of us are still “stuck” because, again, even the psychologists don’t know enough about it.

We also hear a lot about empaths and codependents.  Empaths sound kind of New-Agey to me, so I have cast that a wary eye.  Also, codependency seems to make YOU into the pathological one, as if you’re somehow to blame.  So this part was interesting:

A pathological relationship happened because of your personality trait elevations which are part of your hard-wired nature and are ‘targeted’ by pathological partners. Our research with Purdue University on your personality made that abundantly clear, that you have high-normal personality traits that are a perfect fit for a pathological partner. As opposed to what you may read, this is NOT simply about ‘empaths’ and ‘codependents.’ Those labels are not research.  The true research shows you have personality trait elevations BEYOND mere hyper-empathy (and over 60% of you did NOT test as codependent), that are impacting your risk factors called ‘Super Traits.’ Since your personality is hard-wired, and these traits are always targeted by pathological partners, it makes sense that you need to understand your own risk factors and how to guard those traits in the future. Once trauma symptoms are being consistently and successfully managed by you, education on your Super Traits is the next step of recovery.  A mental health professional works educationally with you about the researched and known personality traits and their FACETS that are known to be a risk factor in you. (If they are suggesting you are an empath, you are in the wrong place and they are not educated.)

…We can see that this level of recovery is necessary for prevention of future PLRs because your personality and its risk factors will always be with you. Without understanding HOW Super Traits work in your thinking, feeling, and behavior there is nothing to prevent another PLR when your personality tries to do what it has always done with incoming information and red flags.

One reason many of us are still “stuck” is the lack of trained help:

We are well aware of the scant few trauma therapists trained in PLR Recovery. An online course for their training is currently being developed and when done, will house a database of therapists trained in this Model of Care approach for your use. Survivortreatment.com

I don’t know anything about this institute, so I can’t recommend or endorse it.  However, I hope that this will turn out to be a breakthrough for survivors of narcissistic abuse.

Along with this, came two other blog posts which helped validate my experiences in narcissistic abuse.

The first was Dad Goes Off On Wife And In-Laws After They Tell Him To Stop Cuddling His Teenage Daughter.  He posted on Reddit to find out if he was the a**hole or not; the overwhelming response was that he was not, that there is nothing “sexual” or “inappropriate” about cuddling.  A similar conversation came up over on the Love Joy Feminism blog, when a post about a 19th-century book brought up the question of what was considered normal and platonic behavior and touching (such as cuddling or hugging or stroking hair).

Both conversations made it very clear that the common restrictive view on cuddling in America is neither the rule in the rest of the world, nor healthy.  Supposedly even Americans used to behave a lot more freely, before the 20th century, so when we read a 19th-century book on girls cuddling (or about Frodo and Sam holding hands) we think “OMG GAY” when it’s not.  And some–just as I have in the past–wondered if our lack of cuddling/other nonsexual touching is the reason why people in America have so many pathological issues (such as shooting up schools).

The Love Joy Feminism discussion also touched on the fact that modern Americans get hung up on the idea that close emotional connections must be romantic/sexual, so if two teenage girls become BFFs they start thinking they might be gay–when it’s just a normal, straight friendship.  Not knocking the fact that many people are actually gay or bisexual, but most people are not.

In my childhood, people saw demons and Satan everywhere; nowadays, they see sex everywhere.  Maybe this is also why people have gotten so hypervigilant about opposite-sex friendships, when 20 years ago, the common thinking seemed to be that opposite-sex friendships are normal and jealousy is bad.

Quotes from the comment section:

Single adults, definitely – one (bad) reason that people can end up desperate for a relationship, and cling to unhealthy ones, is that so many of us have a natural desire for touch and intimacy, and we’re only ‘allowed’ to have an outlet in romantic relationships.

 

Platonic yet intimate female relationships make my marriage work. Another reason society would be better if we stopped sexualizing all overt emotional expressions and physical affection. We all have different needs and to expect all those needs to be met by one person in our life is a tough order.

 

Because so many shows right now are really irritating me with that. We get connected to a character that identifies as straight, she gets a good friend, and boom they’re an item. Not every female magically becomes bisexual when they develop close intimate friendships with the same sex. In fact most don’t. I get that they’re trying to increase LGBTQ presence in the media, but it still seems to be developing as a titillating plot point. Not one that represents real life. Which is why they probably don’t do the same with males. Two females kissing is a fantasy for many adult males and that’s why they use it. It also confuses kids way more than helping them. I’ve actually had to help my youngest understand that just because she notices how attractive a girl is doesn’t make her gay or bi. It’s not that I care if she was but she’s not. And some of her friends have actually made fun of her for being supportive of her female friends. Like she’s not allowed to be complimentary or something unless she’s gay.

 

Oh my gosh yes. That’s my only real pet peeve with the increase in LGBTQ relationships on TV. It seems with girls (and only girls, never boys) that once a certain level of intimacy sets in, they evolve to a romantic relationship. And that’s just not accurate in real life. I actually am quite affectionate with my best friend both verbally and even physically. Lots of hugs, lots of I love you’s, etc. My youngest daughter has the same type of relationship with her best friend. Always remarking how cute she is, how much she cares, lots of physical affection. Right now they are both in fits because they have no classes together next year. They’re both straight though. Emotionally intimacy and general physical affection is a lovely thing IMO. Not everything has to be seen through the lens of sexual attraction.

Quotes from the Reddit thread:

This is a result of America’s puritan bullshit and had actually led to “cuddle starvation” across the nation. Look it up. It basically means that people become depressed because of a lack of cuddling and affection since we reserve it for romance.

 

Let me guess, you’re American? Americans always sexualize things that have nothing to do with sex. Why the hell should a daughter not be alowed to cuddle her father if she wants to?!

 

Also sleeping on people while watching a movie is just one of the best feelings in the world. I do it with close friends regardless of gender (and am somewhat well known for my inability to stay away during movies). Ive fallen asleep with my head in a cousins lap during many a post thanksgiving meal football game. If you’re both comfortable with it – why would it be weird?

 

I hate to bring up the concept of “Toxic Masculinity” everywhere but this is a pretty textbook case of the inlaws trying to push it I think. This disgusting idea that men shouldn’t be affectionate is so goddamn damaging on both an individual and wider scale, and sadly we’re still in the stage where normalizing touching and all that is a fight.

I don’t want to rehash why this last part is especially meaningful for me, but longtime readers of my blog will know.  Basically, I have had my motives maligned and sweet, beautiful, platonic expressions of affection turned dirty, and it was very psychologically and emotionally damaging–and abusive.  For a time I had begun to open myself up to others more with physical affection, but this scared me back into my shell.  Meanwhile, I see others do the same thing with friends, or here online I read about them doing that, and it’s okay for them to do it!

But these three blog posts have been very comforting for me the past few days.  And in the current state of the world, comfort is good where you can find it.

 

Reblog: “The Christian Right is Radicalizing White People I Love”

Years ago, I was very disturbed by things I heard from Tracy, Richard’s wife; her views on politics struck me as lacking in empathy and compassion–and very, very misguided (climate change, for example).  She claimed to be a Christian, but I did not see any evidence of this in fruits of the spirit.  It was a relief to cut off relations with her when her abuse of me, her children, and Richard finally became intolerable.  (If not for her being married to Richard, I wouldn’t have put up with her at all, let alone for two and a half years.)

As for Richard, he was a bit better in some ways–He was compassionate toward immigrants, having seen firsthand what draconian border policies do to people.  But he had extremist views of his own that began to get very disturbing.

When I started seeing a couple I knew in college start making similar comments on Facebook, I decided to cut the cord there, too.  I couldn’t make any political posts without this couple making some snide remark.

Lately, however, I’ve been seeing views like theirs showing up more and more on my Facebook news feed, whether people’s posts or their responses to mine.  I’ve already unfriended a few people and changed my settings so I can block another person from seeing certain posts.  But I can’t unfriend family or people I see all the time.

And it’s not just my imagination.  John Pavlovitz writes in The Christian Right is Radicalizing White People I Love,

 

  

There is much more there about watching your loved ones turn into right-wing extremists.  Since I’ve started making political posts on Facebook again after years of avoiding them, I’ve seen comments that make my hair stand on end–from people I thought were better than that.  I’ve unfriended people I had crushes on in school.  I’ve unfriended the mother of a friend.

I’ve wished I could unfriend relatives and friends who see my posts on the treatment of immigrants and say “I’d vote for Trump again” and make snarky comments that mirror GOP talking points.  I’ve heard people say things that seem to come out of left field–then, sometime later, hear those same wacky comments come from some GOP politician or pundit or other right-winger.

And yes, I wonder if this is what it was like for Germans who kept their sanity but watched their friends/relatives/colleagues fall in love with Hitler.

Again, the article is The Christian Right is Radicalizing White People I Love by John Pavlovitz.  Comments here are turned off so you can put them on his blog.

Reblog: 7 Gaslighting Phrases

Shahida Arabi recently posted 7 Gaslighting Phrases Malignant Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use To Silence You, Translated

I found much familiar there.  For example:

First phrase: “You’re crazy.”  I got this one from Richard and Tracy (“you’re not all there”).

Translation: You’re not the pathological one here. You’re just catching onto who I really am behind the mask and attempting to hold me accountable for my questionable behavior. I’d rather you question your own sanity so you believe that the problem is really you, rather than my own deceptiveness and manipulation. So long as you believe you’re the one who needs help, I’ll never have to take responsibility for changing my own disordered ways of thinking and behaving.

There’s also a bit about narcissists provoking jealousy, and “Manufacturing love triangles and harems are a narcissist’s forte.”  I saw this more than once: There was Richard, who I now realize made a habit of provoking people to jealousy, whether it was romantic partners or platonic friends, because he got off from people arguing over him.  He once boasted that he got three best friends to hate each other because he was dating all of them at once.  Then there was Phil, who constantly tried to make me jealous, while then accusing me of jealousy.

Third phrase: “You’re too sensitive.”  I got that one from Richard.

Translation: It’s not that you’re too sensitive, but rather that I am insensitive, callous, and unempathic. I do not care about your emotions unless they serve me in some way. Your negative reactions provide me stimulation and pleasure, so please, do keep going. I enjoy putting you down for having legitimate reactions to my abuse.

Fifth phrase: “You need to let it go.  Why are you bringing this up?”

Translation: I haven’t given you enough time to even process the last heinous incident of abuse, but you need to let it go already so I can move forward with exploiting you without facing any consequences for my behavior. Let me love-bomb you into thinking that things will be different this time around. Don’t bring up my past patterns of abusive behavior, because you’ll then recognize that this is a cycle that will just continue.

The post notes that this is a way of forming a trauma bond:

This form of abuse amnesia adds onto your addictive bond to the abuser, also known as “trauma bonding.” According to Dr. Logan (2018), “Trauma bonding is evidenced in any relationship which the connection defies logic and is very hard to break. The components necessary for a trauma bond to form are a power differential, intermittent good/bad treatment, and high arousal and bonding periods.”

I’ve experienced this now and then; it also features prominently in my work-in-progress, a novel about a time-traveler who puts a young girl in a trauma bond that neither of them can break.

Sixth, “You’re the problem here, not me”:

Translation: I am the problem here, but I’ll be damned if I let you know it! I’d rather subject you to personal attacks as you bend over backwards trying to hit constantly moving goalposts and arbitrary expectations of the way I think you should feel and behave. As you spend most of your time trying to fix your fabricated flaws while always coming up short of what I deem “worthy,” I can just sit back, relax, and continue to mistreat you the way I feel entitled to. You won’t have any energy left to call me out.

I’ve experienced this repeatedly.  There was Tracy, with her constantly changing expectations that it was impossible for me to meet, and my “flaws” which she made up.  There was Phil, who at first was the One, my perfect man–then turned into the abuser, never satisfied with me, always yelling at me for every little thing I did or didn’t do, and then accusing me of being the one with the problem (story here).  Then there was the Avenger, a BBS troll who bullied and abused others (including me) while insisting that they were the ones with the problem, that she was just avenging herself and others.  Then when she discovered I wrote about this on my website, said I had an “interesting perspective” on what happened–basically invalidating and gaslighting me.

Then seventh, “I never said or did that.  You’re imagining things.”  This one suggests that you keep records of everything the abuser does or says, and learn to validate your own perceptions and recognize red flags.  Through all the abuse I’ve experienced from various people, I’ve held onto my own perceptions, which helps keep me from thinking I somehow “deserved” it.

Getting space from your abuser is essential. Be sure to document events as they happened, rather than how your abuser tells you they happened. Save text messages, voicemails, e-mails, audio or video recordings (if permitted in your state laws) which can help you to remember the facts in times of mental fog, rather than subscribing to the distortions and delusions of the abuser.

I’m certain that some of my abusers–Shawn, who complained that I wrote about everything in my diary, and Richard/Tracy, who tried to make me feel like a creepy stalker for saving e-mails and letters to/from friends–did this to try to gaslight me.  If I couldn’t remember what exactly happened or was said, then they could re-write each incident in my head.  But because I held onto my records, I could look back at them later and say no, that’s not what happened!

Once again, the post is 7 Gaslighting Phrases Malignant Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use To Silence You, Translated

Comments are turned off here so you can put them on the original post.

Oh, by the way, also on that website, I found this post by Lenora Thompson.  Seems she hoped her narcissist abusers would find her website on narcissism, so she could confront them without violating her No Contact rule, and–maybe, hopefully–help them see what they did and change their behavior.  Instead of that, she got legal threats.  But it shows me I’m not the only one who wanted to tell her abusers what they did, but in a safe way.  She wrote,

While the debate still rages whether one should or should not inform narcissists of their Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I’m glad I did it and here’s why:

  • I notified them of why I, their “loved one” suddenly went No Contact. I owed them at least that much.
  • I confirmed their narcissism via the “litmus test” for my own peace of mind.
  • I gave them the tools for informing and educating themselves about narcissism.
  • I gave them the opportunity to change and become better people.
  • I gave them the data to diagnosis the problems in other dysfunctional, painful relationships.
  • I loved them enough to share a list of cancer cures.

Whether you inform the narcissists in your life that they are narcissists is entirely up to you. There are a lot of considerations. Are they violent? Are they vindictive? Will they use that information to turn your shared children against you via Parental Alienation? Are there a lot of flying monkeys about?

Are you doing it to benefit them? Do they honestly want to know? Is there a chance for them to change? Do you owe them that chance?

Do you owe it to yourself? Can you live with yourself if you don’t tell them? Can you live with yourself if you do tell them? What does your character demand? What will give you the most peace of mind, the clearest conscience?

So far, I see no evidence that they’ve accepted the “core dynamic,” learned, benefited nor changed. In fact, their continued actions continue to confirm my diagnosis of narcissism. I hope I’m wrong. I still hope against hope. At the very least, I put a bug in their ear. Perhaps, someday soon, they’ll look into it. Perhaps they have already! I hope so.

But, until then, I did what I thought was right and my conscience is clear.

I feel much the same: In the past, I had directly confronted abusers, who turned it around against me, making it fit their narrative that I was the crazy one.  In Richard/Tracy’s case, I still felt the need to confront them with what they did and that it was abuse, that I didn’t deserve any of it, but could see no way to directly confront them–especially after what had happened with other abusers.  My website was a way to get it all out.  And of course, it went badly…and yet I don’t regret it.  My reasons are similar to Thompson’s.

 

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