Being raised by an NPD parent, one of the survival strategies I developed was to show no emotional response to statements my abuser made that were inflammatory and intended to start a “drama.” This survival strategy was far from perfect, as I failed at it may times as my anger at my abuser sometimes got the better of me. As my 20’s turned to my 30’s, I realized that if I constrained my responses to nothing, I was a lot safer, and I may avoid an attack. She has even said, “Why are you so calculated in your responses to me?” To which I give no response.
One of the survival skills I learned is compartmentalizing. What I mean is, breaking down my life into smaller, non-connected cells. This way, I could be the abused child one minute, and a smiling, gregarious son the next, without missing a beat. The catalyst was always fear, based on a real or perceived threat. If I didn’t put on an award-winning performance, I was fucked. Often, though my compartmentalization was complete, and I would not remember the hell that happened right before said Stepford kids moment, mom would not forget. The abusive tirade would pick up where it had left off, as if it has been on pause during my performance.
The moment of “familiness” was soon forgotten…like putting a book back on a shelf.
The blessing of this skill, was that I could have fun, for a while, because I would not dwell on the abuse. To outsiders, I seemed like a kid from a happy family. There were no cracks in my façade!
The curse is that I have utilized this compartmentalization at inappropriate times, and it has been detrimental to my health. My abuser used food (and beating me) as an outlet for her frustrations. Along the way, I also learned to use food for emotional comfort. I have been able to hide away poor eating decisions throughout my day so that I do not see the sum total. The result: my weight problem has not gone away on its own. I am facing this issue right now, and it is hard to undo this way of thinking.
The other curse comes when I have not stood up for myself when I should have. I have been in abusive relationships with “friends” and lovers, and have let things go on far too long. One of the reasons I stayed so long in these relationships is that I fear asserting myself and my feelings (C-PTSD from my NPD abuser), and thus being alone. Also, I compartmentalized the abuse so that I do not see the sum total until it has spun out of control. This has made me appear long-suffering, and/or a complete spineless wimp, depending on the observer. The truth is, it took awhile before I could see the scope of the problem.
I have undone most of the latter, almost too much. I now feel like the new sheriff in the old west walking down a wind-swept dirt road daring anyone to fuck with me. This is not the best stance, but my liberation from wimpdom is new, so I guess I am taking it out for a test drive. Nonetheless, I am standing up for myself…. and the world hasn’t ended.
This blessing and/or curse is one of the many survival skills I learned in that world that do not translate to this world. I will spend the rest of my life undoing these skills and learning new, better ones. The world is an ugly place, home shouldn’t be too.
- The Greatest Fear of All (ukeepwalkingforward.wordpress.com)