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.