Hi everyone. April is almost here and as highly sensitive survivors you may be experiencing what can only be described as Easter Guilt. Easter is a family time, when families get together and celebrate God and Jesus and hsps often contemplate very reason for being on the planet. Even for the non-religious, Easter causes many to deeply evaluate our true purpose and our humanity. It is similar to the Christmas holiday when we look at our lives and say to ourselves “Today I SHOULD be happy! Where is my happy extended family that loves and supports me!”
Depending on where you are in your recovery from narcissistic abuse or childhood wounds, you may have started your own new Easter traditions with yourselves or with your own children which are more loving and focused on celebrating Spring, the miracle of nature and new life, and appreciating the ability to renew yourselves by being more loving–you remind yourselves, your children, or new-found friends that God loves you as you are, unconditionally.
Still, the Easters of your childhood may hold onto your hearts this time of year. You may still unconsciously hold down the pain of Easter family get-togethers filled with religious abuse and guilt-inducement, or the pain of no celebrations at all at a time when other families and children seemed to be so happy and loved and celebrating. Holidays such as this can surface feelings of deep loneliness as you realize you are separated from your true selves and true potential because you may have had to manufacture a self that was pleasing to your narcissistic parent, a false self that was superficial and not at all the rich, deep, complex personality that you still feel ashamed to completely step into. You may want so badly to be good, kind, fair, and right with God so you may feel guilt not honoring the commandment that tells you to Honor Thy Father and Mother.
As part of your recovery from childhood wounds, you may want to include reading Alice Miller’s book, The Body Never Lies. I want to share with you a review of this book that I found on her website in order to support those of you who still struggle with guilt if you happen to be needing to enforce No Contact in order to heal from your childhood wounds:
“Norm Lee, May 2, 2005
Of Moms and Moses A Review of Alice Miller’s book, THE BODY NEVER LIES: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting
…. We have to break free of our (internalized) parents’ grip on us, that of the biblical injunction, “Honor (obey, worship,) thy father and thy mother.” Until then we, in a sense, feel and behave and think like the little children we once were; we cannot grow up. Worse, because as children we weren’t accepted and loved for who we were, parents repeatedly punished us in attempts to force us into the imaginary mold they had prepared for us, i.e., what a child should be. Dr. Miller’s message is that our bodies bear a detailed record of every childhood hurt and humiliation inflicted, every spank and slap, insult and indignity. And until or if those internal, psychic wounds remain unhealed, we can expect to continue to pay the terrible price in physical illnesses. Powerless to do otherwise, we suppressed our true and good authentic selves to win the love our emotional survival depended on.
Dr. Miller writes with astonishing and penetrating truth about the connections between childhood suffering at the hands of parents, and the physical consequences of obedience to the Fourth Commandment. The Biblical law, “Honor thy father and thy mother” is here challenged as the source of widespread – even universal – life-long suffering. As children we attempted to free ourselves from our feelings of fear, insecurity and confusion thru repression and dissociation/self-alienation. Whatever the cost (abandonment of our true selves), we persisted in loving and trusting our parents (we hardly had a choice) and strived to earn their approval, (and (thus) to please the Greater Parent in the Sky.)
Today, what stands between our bodies and the healing of those injuries is the hold the Fourth Commandment has on our minds. As we live and breathe, the fear of parental rejection/punishment lurks within that fear. It has to be brought to consciousness and examined before healing can take place. We walk carrying a sack full of personal history, the burden of wounds inflicted by all the punishment and indignities that have ever happened to us. Until we heal those internal wounds, we daily pay a terrible price in suffering, much of it physical illness, and make others pay as well. Those others are most often our own children. The claim so often heard, “I got spanked and I turned out OK,” cannot be upheld when it is understood how the denial of physical and emotional injuries are connected to present illnesses.
“…. Dr. Miller repeatedly emphasizes the tragic effects, in the form of physical ailments, of the body’s life-long yearning for parental love and affection. She touches on the way this suppression is expressed in religion: the command to love God, on pain of punishment when we fail to do so; the absurdity of inventing a parent-like creator, perfect and omnipotent, who craves our love. It is an odd god, an immensely dependent god, a Big Daddy who, if given the love demanded, will reward with an eternity in blissful heaven. (And the teenage suicide bombers of the Middle East are promised the bonus of 72 virgins to sweeten the deal.) Inasmuch as the Great Father is not loved, even worshipped, the alternative is agonizing punishment from now to the “end” of eternity.
We have to liberate ourselves from the propaganda imposed on us – and enforced on us on pain of punishment – by conventional morality. This book calls for a higher morality, as it applies to parenthood. We cannot truly love our parents, she asserts, until we are liberated from the infantile attachment, the idolatry, that trapped us in childhood.
Dr. Miller wants the reader to understand and accept that parents who abused us do not deserve our love and honor, regardless of a Moses-imposed commandment to do so. As we all must know, love is one thing that cannot be enforced. Like Sgt. Joe Friday, the body, in its wisdom, rejects illusions. It accepts only the facts, as higher morality is inherent not in the mind, but in our bodies. She takes to task all those friends and relatives and preachers and therapists who say, “Forgive your mother, forgive your father; they did the best they knew how. She changed your diapers, he sacrificed for you, and above all they loved you.” Miller will not hear it: forgiveness is a crock and a trap, laid to continue the dependency, and preserve the hope, that somehow, sometime, we will finally bask in the love that was so long ago denied us. Reading Alice is like hearing someone whisper, “I know the secret you are hiding in your past, the feelings of hurt and fright and shame and humiliation at the abusive treatment you suffered at the hands of your parents. And I’m asking you – urging you, challenging you – to come out of that dark closet and face up to it.”
In the valley where I live, the #1 fear at whatever age is parental punishment. And among adults, it’s primary defense is Denial. Behind the denial of childhood mistreatment lies the fear of punishment, therefore acknowledgement or recognition of it in adulthood can approach terror. But the price for denial is paid in physical as well as mental illness. When aware of it we see it everywhere: the suffering in the bodies and minds of strangers and of those dear to us. But we must begin with ourselves, confronting the punishing parent within.”
As supportive as this information is, I know how difficult it is to step away from your abusive family ties and go it alone and start a new emotionally healthier life so that you can heal and get stronger. You need support for such drastic actions and I offer you that support through my posts, articles, poems, songs and lyrics, my coaching, and a community here with many comments on my website that I hope lovingly states, “you are not alone, you are in the company of a community of survivors that is growing in number as they dare to come out of their darkness and speak the truth of what happened to them as children!”
As highly sensitive people (HSPs) you have many gifts to offer that are lacking in many of the people around you. Celebrate your differentness, celebrate YOU this Easter and open up to the love that exists from God and from other HSPs like yourself. I believe we HSPs are gifted with compassion and an ability to love deeper so that we can help each other through the negativity and dark energies that do exist around us.
Love to you this Easter season, may you realize your shining light inside of you and shine it on your children, spouse, friends, and especially your self! You deserve a wonderful Easter!
P.S. For more information on Easter Guilt for HSPs, please read my post from last Easter entitled, April 1, 2010 Guilt at Easter Time and How to Cope…
Hi everyone. As highly sensitive people, many of you are struggling with how to cope with your relationship with your narcissistic parent and your unsupportive siblings and extended family. First of all I want to tell you that as a life coach for people with childhood wounds, I understand your pain and how hard it is. There is very little support in our society for not having a relationship with ones’ parents no matter how negative and destructive they are to you or were to you in your childhood. Many people have difficult parents but they tolerate them and seem to get by okay so why can’t you, right? The pressure is very real. But let me help you understand the difference between you (an HSP) and everyone else with some more helpful tips that are very important for you to know.
1. Know that your greatest gift is your intuition.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you were naturally giving and loving and trusting as children. You had high hopes for yourselves and others including your parents. People with loving and supportive parents are more likely living lives full of vitality and creative fulfillment and healthy boundaries to keep negative, manipulative, harmful people at a distance naturally and sharing their unique gifts with others. These people don’t feel guilty about not getting along with everyone–they just “know” there are some people who are unhealthy and dangerous–they pay attention to their natural instincts. But people with a narcissistic parent were taught at a very young age, even from birth not to trust their own instincts, their own intuition. The horrible thing about that is, that was their greatest gift, “their sensitive intuition”, and it was often used against them.
2. Know that you may have repressed a terrible trauma from your childhood–the loss of the knowledge of your gifts.
Possibly, if you had an N parent, then part of your sensitivities were seen as a gift for “them”. They could control you easily because of your trusting nature–so often they used fear to get you to be quiet, anger to get you to obey, and shame to keep you from feeling independent and strong. And it worked. You trusted them and needed them to take care of you and protect you from a world that overwhelmed your sensitive souls so you…experienced a trauma that caused you to shut down your true selves and become what they wanted you to become. Something happened that was “the last straw” for your fragile but wise self that was developing. Typically it happens around age 5 or 6, according to Alice Miller (Author of The Drama of the Gifted Child). After an incident that you can’t remember because you have repressed it, suddenly, you are obedient and sweet wanting only to please. And please them you did. And that is why it is so hard for them to let go of you now. You took care of them. Completely and amazingly. They felt loved by you and validated by you filling a void inside of them that was caused in their childhood. It is as if you were the loving parent that they never had. That is how gifted you were. Those gifts of intuiting the needs of others are still there–they were just misused and abused by your needy and narcissistic parent. Those gifts of being a loving and giving and caretaking soul were mis-directed.
3. Know that your childhood holds the roots of your anxiety, self-doubt, post traumatic stress, and co-dependence issues.
As you grew up and tried to do some of the creative endeavors that were driven by your soul, your parent probably did not support you because they did not want you to leave them or stop taking care of their emotional needs or they just saw no harm in controlling you. As narcissistic parents with no conscience or guilt, it was easy for them to manipulate you, so they did. The pain of your original trauma at the age of 5 or 6 would come up for you each time you tried to express your true self and these outbursts of emotion may have been shamed and punished by your parent and made you give up each time. This is the beginning of the post traumatic stress that still plagues you today. ” Why do I over-react in these explosive ways”, you may have asked yourself. This is why. Your true self and all your repressed feelings and desires from childhood still want badly to be heard and understood and validated and “loved”. Your narcissistic parent was not capable of giving you this love and still is not and never will be. Your love needs are still unmet. You searched for love from others but sometimes, because parts of you are still undeveloped and childlike, you end up being attracted to people who seem wonderful and charming at first but then turn out to be needy and manipulative and unable to comfort you when you need it most–just like your N parent.
4. Know that there is hope and you can heal.
So what is a highly sensitive person with an N parent to do? You can heal and learn to love yourself and slowly unblock all those creative parts of yourself that never got a chance to be expressed. You can learn to trust your self and your gifts of emotional intelligence and intuition that were seemingly robbed from you and misused and abused. You can gain clarity amidst all the confusion, and hope amidst all the despair. You can learn that it is okay for you to say no to other people’s demands and put yourself first. You need to learn about extreme “self- care” (Cheryl Richardson–author of the book Life Makeovers) and you need a journal to pour into all the feelings from your deepest heart. You need support from like-minded, highly sensitive, safe people to share the pain and grief from the loss of a childhood that feels as if it was taken away from you. All your desires and free impulses were repressed so that you could survive with an illusion that your parent’s needs were more important than your own. But surviving was not really living your life. Surviving is not good enough. Your survival skills just cause you trouble because they are not driven by your heart, they are driven by a needy inner child trying to please a parent that felt unpleasable and without remorse about what they did to you.
5. Know that the answers are inside of you and support is available.
You need to take a new direction. A direction into your own soul. You need to excavate the desires of a child who never had a say in the development of his/her own life! Write it out! Talk it out! Cry it out! Shout it out! You can do this in a journal that is meant for your eyes only. Or you can find a counselor or coach who does inner child healing therapy. It’s important to find support somewhere so you can find your true voice and express it. There are HSP meet-up groups in larger cities. You might also look into Unitarian churches or Unity churches to meet people of a spiritual nature who are not necessarily “religious”.
6. Know that no contact with a malignant narcissistic parent is not just recommended so that you can get the time you need to heal, it is vital!
One of the first steps into this new direction of healing for yourself is ending the old song and dance and unhealthy relationship that you have with your narcissistic parent. If you’ve tried everything else and you are still miserable, that means setting boundaries on contact is an important step so that you can heal and move on with the life that you always deserved. The fact that you understand the words Malignant Narcissistic is crucial here. We are not talking about a parent that is capable of being remorseful about your childhood and trying to change, we are talking about a parent who blames you every time the relationship isn’t going their way–they resent the loss of control over your life that they always had. Control is not love. It may be time to cut off contact so you can finally heal. You do not owe them another ounce of your precious energy. You owe it to yourself to stay away from them as you heal, because being around them at all always takes a toll on you, a toll that is much heavier and destructive and stressful and toxic to you than you may realize.
There are a total of 12 tips that I have written about here today, but I am going to stop here and give you the other 6 in my next post in two weeks because this is getting really long. I hope that what I have written has been helpful to you. I hope that you can enjoy this last week of summer and get out in the warmth of the sunshine–slow down and feel the connection to God’s love that nature provide’s and really take it in. Walks in nature are a great way to recharge your energy. Your highly sensitive soul and body deserve this special treatment. It’s never too late to start on the path to the healing you deserve.
(This post is the most viewed post on this blog with over 18,000 views and 146 comments at the present time. It was updated and revised in March of 2017. If you are looking for the original version of this post, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Warmly, Roxanne)
As a life coach I have experience helping HSPs with emotional wounds from childhood often stemming from one or both parents being a malignant narcissist. Emotional abuse is an especially horrible experience for a highly sensitive child. It may be that you felt there was no caring about your feelings whatsoever. You may have felt invisible and as if you don’t matter. …As if your feelings don’t matter! If you were emotionally abused or continually diminished as a child by your parent it’s not healthy to hold that in! Let it out–voice it or write out the truth, acknowledge what happened and then continue to practice letting it go–releasing it–sending it out away from you to be replaced by comfort, compassion, and love for yourself. It’s not healthy to hold onto blame–but admitting it is important and the start to healing repressed and denied emotions.
At under age 2, when we can’t express ourselves with words, we can only cry to get our needs met. A sensitive child becomes obedient out of mortal fear but you can’t tell–they don’t look afraid because they have repressed it. As an obedient highly sensitive child, you put your own needs away and focus on pleasing others–but lying under the surface those unmet needs are still there! Begging for attention! Longing for love! There is nothing wrong with you! You are just afraid to speak up and ask for what you deserve.
And in some families there is no genuine love to be given. And even as a tiny child you know it. As the sensitive child in the family you felt it’s absence and it hurt like hell! And you cried and complained and may have had tantrums of despair in the grocery store! But then at some point it was too much and you stopped crying or complaining and you stopped being …YOU. The fear of being hit or just the mean look from their eyes would feel like a spear of pain through your heart and it would shut you up over and over again until you gave up and became obedient. And that is the trauma! The pain so unbearable to a child that you cannot survive it and so the repression happens. (See Alice Millers’ book, The Drama of the Gifted Child.)
If you experienced this too, the fear you had to repress also held down your true self and all the feelings that went with it. You became obedient and fearful from the trauma but instead of expressing your rage at the injustice of it all, you pushed your feelings down so deep you hid them even from yourself. You didn’t know ’til now that you have such a rich and deep inner life, and a wonderful, loving personality. It was all hiding in fear. Until now.
Now it is safe to come out. For whatever reason, your beginning years were spent in an environment of fear and no love, but there is love out there to be found! Get some support and start a life with stronger boundaries so that you can fully heal. You may need to cut the strings so you can feel safe and free. You deserve to live a life of peace that is free from guilt-inducing manipulations, negative comments undermining your confidence, fear-inducing threats, comments about the rewards others will get for being “good”.
It’s wrong to take care of the feelings of anyone who continually diminishes you in any way at the expense of yourself. It’s difficult but very necessary to set boundaries with malignant narcissists. It’s especially hard being blamed and turned into the bad guy more than anything. It’s excruciating! But you are worth the fight and you must be strong. You have to take care of yourself and your health. You will also feel a sense of exhilaration and freedom and pride in yourself for being honest and no longer pretending like you approve of how they treat you. With support from your new loved ones in your life you can move forward and go for your dreams! You can learn to comfort yourself through the hard times. Know the truth and be strong and hang on ”til the good times–“the sweet tasting good life”… I love that song…”Way Over Yonder. …the sun shinin’ golden, shinin’ right down on me.”
For more on the subjects I have written about today please click on “Recommended Books”. Thank you so much for reading. Please leave a comment about your story. It will help others to know they are not alone.
Way Over Yonder lyrics
Songwriter: King, Carole
Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter from the hunger and cold
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound, that’s where I’m bound
I know when I get there, the first thing I’ll see
Is the sun shinin’ golden, shinin’ right down on me
Then trouble’s gonna lose me, worry, leave me behind
And I’ll stand up proudly in true peace of mind
Talkin’ about a, talkin’ about a
Way over yonder is the place I have seen
In the garden of wisdom from some long ago dream
And maybe tomorrow, I’ll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in the rivers each day
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found, yes it is
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m
That’s where I’m bound, talkin’ about, talkin’ about
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound