I’m reading an interesting book called The Way of the Human (Volume II) by Stephen Wolinsky, PhD. He describes how narcissistic wounds occur when we absorb a shame-based belief about ourselves, often after rejection from a trusted loved one. While we tend to become very externally focused (resentment, obsession, jealousy), the issue is actually internal.
“One of the major causes for the creation of False Self identities is betrayal. It is a form of chaos which is caused when someone we trust is unfaithful, disloyal, or deceives us in some way. Identities are formed in an attempt to handle or overcome this crisis.”
The internal shame message comes from external events. For example:
If someone cheats on you, you might absorb the message: “I must be inadequate. Other people are better than me”.
If someone calls you crazy, you might absorb the message: “I must be crazy. I am bad and need to hide my true feelings / needs.”
If someone abandoned you after your repeated efforts, you might absorb the message: “I can never do enough. I must prove that I can accomplish and do enough.”
As Wolinsky says, we draw a false internal conclusion from the external events that occurred. We spin our mind in circles, desperately repeating the story to ourselves and trying to rationalize the shock that occurred when we were separated from love.
So how do we reconnect with love?
1. Slow down. Stop “doing” and “proving” (AKA disproving the core shame). Typically the shame is numbed out (as emptiness, boredom, numbness, tightness, void, etc) because a false compensator is always working a million miles an hour to distract you and keep the shame out of your conscious awareness. The false compensator can be disguised in many ways.
Turn the focus from external to internal. Accept that your happiness no longer has anything to do with what another person did or didn’t do, but rather because of an internal message that lives inside of you regardless of what others do. Stop repeating the story of “why” or “because”, and instead focus on the feelings inside of your body. Use mindfulness to explore what you feel in your heart, stomach, throat, core. Don’t try to assign stories to these sensations, just let them be there.
Be aware that you are very likely to approach this through the lens of your false core (ie, perfectionists will berate themselves for not doing it perfectly, the worthless will try to make a sad beautiful sympathy story out of it, etc). Build a non-judgmental loving “awareness” that notices how you are trying to heal. That will offer some big clues.
2. Experience the core shame. The feeling your body is always trying to contract, avoid, distract, and disprove. This can take months or years of working on #1. You can’t “think” your way into it. It is a sensation in your body that you must be willing to feel, which actually requires slowing down your thinking. Common shame after narcissistic and sociopathic relationships includes: rejection, inferiority, inadequacy, worthlessness, defectiveness, unlovable, being crazy, being unwanted.
3. Disown the core shame. Wolinsky repeatedly states that you do not heal the core shame, because it is false. As long as we try to heal it, our lives are still organized around the premise that it was true. How can we heal something if it is not even who we are? If we try to heal it, we are accepting that it is a part of who we are, which it is not. Instead, you are realizing that it is not who you are, and “un-being” it.
For example, if you experience a painful sensation of “I am bad”, the long-term solution is not to soothe that feeling or repeatedly tell yourself “No, I am good!” This might have temporary effects, but it will never last because it is still trying to disprove a false message. Instead, we dismiss the entire concept of the false core. It is not who we are, so it does not need to be healed or soothed. It needs to be dismissed from our “identity”.
“Cut the false core, and you cut the knot of the heart, thus restoring your connection with love”.
The shame will hang on for dear life, tricking you and scaring you, to give itself some semblance of control over preventing the shame from ever happening again. But this work is about realizing that the wound wasn’t even true, so there is no further need to organize our lives around preventing it.
Then comes the most interesting question of all: if you are not the shame, then who are you?
More to come in the next article!
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