I’m fascinated by the process of understanding more about the dynamics in your family of origin – and using that to help you understand more about your approach to the world and your relationships. I’ve covered an awful lot of ground in the past week or so, and it has left my head swirling.
The initial seed was the suggestion from my therapist that my mom and my sister both display some borderline personality tendencies. Not that they have the disorder, or anything close to that, but they may have tendencies. That led me to the book Stop Walking on Eggshells, by Mason and Kreger. I wasn’t reading from the perspective of someone who has identified a borderline in their lives – but more from the perspective of someone who wants to learn more about borderline traits. In skimming through that book, it occurred to me that I might have another possible borderline in my life – a friend who recently disappeared from my life completely after we had been lifelines for each other for years. Looking back, the friendship was quite dysfunctional, and not at all healthy for me, and her possible borderline traits definitely played a role in that.
The Eggshells book made a reference to Childhood Emotional Neglect. That was Stop #2 on my tour of psychological phenomena: Running on Empty, by Webb. I won’t attempt to summarize the book here, but it discusses how kids who do not have their emotional needs met by their parents, grow up to be adults who have a great deal of difficulty in managing their emotional lives and their relationships. This isn’t profound but it was the first time I had read something that sort of pulled it all together. And I was amazed by the similarities between the examples in the book and my own childhood experiences. Of particular note was the description of the narcissistic parents, who see their children as extensions of themselves, and judge them very critically as a result.
So…that led me to Stop #3: Daughters of narcissistic mothers, described in Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, by McBride.
At this point, I succumbed to psychological overload and collapsed in a heap, my head a swirling mess…none of which is conducive to my growing emotional health. But I know it’s a process. Try to understand a component, process it, figure out how it applies to my life, then work on making changes. Do that for a while until I uncover something else to research, process, apply, etc. I’m diligent about this work, and I’m good at some parts of it, but it makes me wonder… Does everyone have this level of Stuff in their lives, and in their family histories? Is my family really this screwed up, while most other families are “normal”?
Childhood Emotional Neglect? Check.
Narcissistic parent? Check.
And who knows what this week will uncover!