Personal Freedom: An Inside Job

Excerpt from The Object of my Affection is in my Reflection, Coping with Narcissists by Rokelle Lerner

If you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, it’s likely that you’re longing for joy, peace, and personal freedom. However, as someone who has worked with many in narcissis­tic relationships, I know that there’s a tendency to blame the partner as the complete cause of one’s suffering and limita­tion. I’m not disavowing that there’s a high price to pay in these relationships, but personal freedom is a quality we develop internally. No one can give it to you or take it away.

Inner liberation stems from the ability to face life’s chal­lenges without drama, escape, or avoidance. The way to begin this path is by confronting our darkest truths and accepting our reality. Only then can we unshackle ourselves. This doesn’t mean we must condone a narcissist’s behavior and it doesn’t mean that we need to play dead; it means we recognize that these behaviors exist as well as the toll we’re paying for this rela­tionship. It also means that we learn to accept our own faults and limitations as well as our gifts and strengths. The accept­ance of this truth is the forerunner to our empowerment.

Many reading this book (The Object of My Affection Is in My Reflection) have experienced the alternative: we can dwell on all the reasons why we’re too weak, all the fac­tors why nothing will work, all the people we need to blame for our misery, and in the meantime we stay glued to a way of living that chokes the life out of us. This is not to drive another nail into the coffin, it’s to underscore that partners of narcis­sists are dealing with a pervasive and daunting mental disturbance. Of course it’s possible that if you feel weak and miser­able then perhaps there’s some family history or core beliefs that may be impeding you. But be assured, it also means that the narcissistic trance has worked like a charm.

In order to make life-changing decisions, we must listen to our inner wisdom. Wisdom is a combination of intuition, emo­tion, and common sense. It’s not safe to trust only your emo­tions in situations of such great import. And we can’t always make logical decisions in affairs of the heart.

Listening to what some call the quiet, small voice within us often helps to give us our answers. The musician Quincy Jones, when asked how he’d managed to remain in such a tough industry, said, “It’s all about trusting my intuition. To me, intuition is paying careful attention to God’s whispers.” Our inner wisdom speaks to us through instinct, hunches, and the synchronicity of events going on in front of us.

The problem is that if you’ve been in a relationship with a  narcissist for a while, you probably have so many “voices” in your head you don’t know which one to listen to. I’m not talking about schizophrenia, I’m talking about the constant barrage of criticism, bad advice, and anxious ruminations that plague many of us. There’s a line in the film, The Gods Must Be Crazy, when a fellow turns to a stranger and says, “Excuse me, does the noise in my head bother you?” Like this character, the conundrum going on in your head may seem so loud that it does, indeed, seem like others can listen in.

This is where focusing on friends, interests, meditation, regular massages, and other activities will help pull you into the present moment and help you to be the conductor of your internal orchestra.

In a previous chapter, I mentioned that ruminating about your problems won’t get you the answer. It’s only when we can take the time for reflection, solitude, and creative endeavors that our wisdom can emerge. You may find your answers through prayer, scripture, meditation, or any other way that inspires you. Only you and your highest authority can truly bless your choices.

One day it will become exceedingly clear what the best course of action is for you. This truth will be so unmistakable that a sense of peace will pervade you. The voices in your head that have been driving you mad will give way to a deep and profound knowing. But just like expecting beautiful flowers to grow in a garden filled with pernicious weeds, it’s important to clear the way for our wisdom to emerge by employing some of the tools mentioned in this book.

Once we really understand and accept the reality of what narcissistic personality disorder entails, we can alleviate some of our own internal stress and strain. We are no longer bogged down with “what if’s” and “I should’s” and we can deal with the reality in front of us. (Adamec, 1996)

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