As I moved forward in my recovery journey, I often found that life introduced (and sometimes threw) various concepts and home truths to consider, some of which were very challenging. The word ‘acceptance’ was a difficult one to understand or ‘accept’ in relation to healing from childhood emotional neglect and narcissistic abuse. If I accepted what had happened to me did it somehow mean I was giving up on myself? Did it mean I was somehow condoning, enabling or justifying the behaviour of others who disrespected and abused me?
Despite all my misgivings about acceptance, I knew that in order to move ahead I needed to embrace it – enough at least to acknowledge that doing so would likely help in terms of recovering and healing. I knew it was important to experience feelings before letting them go, and if I continued to pretend certain things just didn’t happen, or that the people in my life were someone they weren’t – just because this made reality less raw, then I was only deceiving myself. I needed to be brave enough to look directly at what happened, who did what and accept things for what they were.
Feelings of guilt are common amongst those raised to believe they are not good enough and can never quite be good enough. But how could Acceptance help shift the guilt monster who sat on my chest every time I tried to relax? I began working with Acceptance by looking for a name to call the suffering I often felt and try to find as many emotions as possible to describe it. But this proved easier said than done, and in the end, all I could come up with was, “I just feel guilty”. But this time, instead of berating myself over a perceived lack of insight or intelligence, I took a different direction and simply said to myself, “I accept this is the way I feel”. What followed was a strange kind of release, a ‘letting go’ that I’d not felt before. I was giving myself permission to feel crap, and not only that, it wasn’t being judged.
I would sometimes curl up in a ball under the bedcovers in the middle of the day wishing for some relief from a racing mind and tense, sore muscles. I would imagine the judgements and criticisms coming from my persecutors as I lay in this defeatist state, without stopping to wonder what sort of person would do that to someone who had no fight left in them. As I began to recover, I could see how I too had been condemning myself alongside these others. Now, when I feel tired, overwhelmed or just plain old exhausted, I say to myself, “I accept this feeling will pass but this is what I need to do for now, and it’s OK”.
Those of us who were ignored and devalued by toxic others at key developmental stages of our life, often grow up feeling unloved, unappreciated and assuming we will be unaccepted by others. It’s hard to understand exactly what went wrong/is going wrong, and why our life seems to be more sad and chaotic than the average persons. I started using analogies to help get my head around some of the issues I was facing and although there was no obvious connection between a child raised in a toxic home and a derelict historic building, there was an analogy in there somewhere and it was this:
A unique and historically important building may be stripped bare and modernised to suit the taste of an individual instead of an era, yet, despite the best efforts of others to change it into something more ‘pleasing’ or acceptable, its heart and soul remain.
When I felt lonely or unsupported, I told myself, “I accept all that makes me unique and who I am”.
Here are some other things we can learn to ‘Accept’ on our Healing Journey:
We can begin to accept, without judgement, our feelings, emotions, uncertainties, worries and our anxiety.
Accept that feelings and situations pass – ‘this too will pass’.
Accept the reality of what happened or didn’t happen in our childhood and our relationships.
Accept that the people in our life who were supposed to protect and love us, set about invalidating us to make their life easier in some way.
Accept that the narcissistic abuse inflicted upon us was about another person’s internal dysfunction or personality disorder, and not about us as a person.
Accept that we, along with everyone else, deserve a joy-filled and safe life.
Accept that we are not alone, and it’s always OK to ask for help.
We can learn how to accept our limitations. Along with being shamed for merely existing, the narcissist or toxic caregiver routinely homes in on another person’s flaws, mistakes or limitations and uses them as an excuse to ladle some ‘justified’ shaming. They conveniently don’t accept that being human means being imperfect, and so they feel entitled to bully others. This suits the narcissist because seeing someone else submit to them or suffer emotionally as a result of their words or actions, satisfies their ongoing need (or addiction) to feel bigger and better about themselves.
As we recover, we can set to work on accepting our own unique reality and accepting ourselves on all levels. When I feel different to others or not ‘as good’ as everyone else, my internal affirmation is, “I accept myself”.
I began to accept all my struggles, challenges and achievements firstly by acknowledging them. Writing down all our achievements no matter how small, along with things we’ve had to face or deal with, makes it easier to appreciate what we’ve accomplished, despite the odds. We may for once in our life refrain from jumping to the conclusion we’ve failed yet again and start to think the opposite. To attack ourselves for feeling depleted is the narcissist’s game plan, and we must be mindful to not let it be our own. It’s important to show ourselves the same kindness, consideration and compassion we’d give to a friend going through a difficult time.
Feeling like a bad person when we’re not a bad person, is the toxic legacy left by dysfunctional parents or caregivers and is the one blatant UNTRUTH we need never accept.
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Zoe Livesley is a Registered Nurse, Kinesiologist and Holistic Health and Wellbeing Practitioner. She is the author of, “The Waking Codependent Diaries: Emotional Neglect & Narcissistic Abuse – A Recovery of Self”, which is now available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com.au/Waking-Co-Dependent-Diaries-Emotional-Narcissistic-ebook/
Photo by Jelle van Leest on Unsplash