When my daughter was a baby and up until last year when I started recognizing and speaking out about my experience with Narcissistic Personality Disorder — I worried a lot about dying. I worried about what would happen if I died, specifically who would take care of my daughter.
I am married and naturally, if my husband survived me, he would take care of her. Even still I worried about who would take care of HER. I’m sure this is normal on some level, but not in the way that I worried. I worried a lot about this often and deeply, almost to the point of panic, because I realized waaaaaaay long ago that my husband/her father would not or could not take care of her emotionally.
Think about what I just wrote — I knew — her self esteem was at stake. That’s CRAZY. He would not build her self-esteem, etc. neither would or could anyone in his family. I am ‘no contact’ with my family, which is its own narcissistic sub-system.
At the time I couldn’t identify the source of my discomfort and concern. However, more recently, through my own self psychological intervention and subsequent self-discovery which has unearthed the reality of my emotionally deficient and damaging marriage, I do realize that I was not necessarily worried about who would raise her, physically. Tarzan shows us that children can be raised by animals in the jungle — I know, that is a bit of a stretch — but almost anyone can butter toast.
My worry was for HER, for her spiritual upbringing and I’m not talking about her religious values.
I was intensely worried about who would nourish and worship her soul so that she understands that she is valued, loved, respected, cared for, heard, understood and accepted EXACTLY as she is. And that she is worthy and must demand respect from others and herself.
I worried about who would love her enough and in the right way to propel her into the world with a positive self image, good self esteem and good self worth so that she can make sound decisions from a healthy perspective, so she knows what it feels like to be happy and can recognize when something doesn’t feel right or when she is sad, so that she can appropriately manage feelings like anger and disappointment.
I want her to understand that she is hardy and resilient so that when things don’t work out as we hoped or planned, and sometimes they don’t, she doesn’t crumble and/or fold. She will need to pick herself up, dust herself off, set a new course, hit reset, and start forward on the new course. And that that doesn’t mean that she cannot or should not grieve disappointment and/or failure, it does mean that she should not quit due to these resistances.
I realize now that these fears panicked me because of our emotionally dysfunctional household. Which, boiled down, is my partner’s lack of desire and concern for fulfilling my emotional needs coupled with my lack of emotional self-awareness until the present.
I was feeling emotionally vacant in my marriage. I was experiencing classic symptoms of emotional abuse. I was being gaslit very often. During the course of our relationship I had gone from a strong, independent, business woman with an expansive social network and family, to dependent, lonely and isolated. By his words to me, and his actions to me and others, he had segregated me from almost every aspect of my previous self. He was so skilled in his manipulation that I actually believe that my decisions were my own because he had shed light on so many “truths” I had never identified in my past.
Eventually — when plenty of damage had already been done — I realized, without realizing it, that I was in trouble. That meant that my daughter, our daughter, was most-likely headed down the same road of emotional abuse through neglect and manipulation.
Here comes my new found anxiety — the stuff that nightmares and panic attacks are made of…
Given the state of our family dynamic, in my mind, if I am not there to nurture her delicate and developing Self — who would take care of her?
HER. Her Self, not the monkey business of tying shoes and washing dishes and laundry. The human business of emotional balance, of meeting and developing her basic human (psychological) needs. There are 6 basic needs — certainty, uncertainty, significance, love/connection, growth and contribution.
Certainty – providing her with a sense of security, safety, predictability and comfort in the world. Certainty allows us to be less fearful, to have comfort in “knowing.”
Variety or uncertainty– teaching her to not only accept but welcome change, adventure, choice, and diversity. Uncertainty or variety provides interest and creates a balance with what is certain.
Significance – teaching her that she counts and giving her the sense of feeling needed.Everyone wants to feel useful. We want to know the contribution we’re making is important.
Love & Connection – giving her a sense of acceptance, love, belonging, support and connection with other people. When we feel loved and connected we learn to feel worthy and lovable.
Growth – encouraging and nourishing a desire to learn, grow and evolve. Emotional evolution nurtures our mind, body and spirit.
Contribution – having the desire to give or give-back to those around us.Exactly as it sounds, we feel good and enjoy greater balance when we are contributing back to the world.
Unfortunately, my spouse is ill-equipped to supply healthy emotional support for me and now that our daughter is a little older and less pliable, or less easily controlled, his inabilities emotionally are more apparent as the hostility presented/applied to keep and/or maintain control have spread to her as well.
Needless to say, this has been a very scary realization for me.