No, this post is not the ten steps on how to be a narcissist.
Last summer, I was “a little unwell,” to quote the old Matchbox 20 song. Looking back, I feel so much compassion for that woman who was letting every emotion and thought, (my own and everyone else’s) suck me into a vortex of near despair.
My first step in climbing out was to get to the doctor for a physical. I was almost 100 pounds overweight, with borderline high blood pressure, and depression and anxiety to boot. My doctor did start me on an anti-depressant (more thoughts on that in another post) and within the week I determined to try to start losing weight and I am happy to report losing 55 pounds since then, although that was only a part of the equation. Holistic medicine has also become a part of my healing process during the past year thanks to an amazing naturopath that my therapist recommended.
Along with my physical health, therapy was in order. With the guidance of an orthodox priest and therapist, I began working the 12 steps for adult children of alcoholics. I can say without question that this framework has been the most life changing piece for me. For the first time in my life, internal boundaries are being set that are allowing me to see more clearly what is mine and what belongs to others. But it is not an easy paradigm shift to make, much harder and more subtle than altering my diet.
Wanting to help others is a good thing. But often, our “helping” is actually hurting both ourselves and the person we are trying to assist. I can now see that many of my previous impulses to rescue were disordered and based in fear; trying to recreate and heal scenarios that were not mine to fix.
To let go of this need to rescue others, there has to be trust. In 12 step lingo, we talk about trusting a higher power, which IS critical. But we also need to trust others and their ability to find their own answers. Even (and sometimes especially) with our own children continuing to do things for them beyond what is appropriate sends the message that we don’t believe they are capable.
And on a deeper level, when we find ourselves wanting things for others and subtly controlling or manipulating (even showing visible disappointment in their choices), a step back to look inward is beneficial. What need of our own are we trying to meet under the guise of guiding or helping our loved one? Do we need to re-parent ourselves in an area?
When talking to a friend recently regarding the struggles of a family member, she reminded me very clearly that the most effective way to help this person was to continue in my own healing journey. The serenity prayer for ACoA says it so beautifully:
Grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change
The courage to change the one I can
and the wisdom to know that one is me.
Courage on your healing, friends. There is so much light, joy, and freedom if we can just learn to let go and trust.