Narcissus Enjoy this guest post by Transformation Goddess, Reba Linker…

I’ve been working on re-writing my spiritual autobiography as part of my own healing, as part of my forthcoming book, Happiness is a Habit, and as part of what I offer as a coach. (No mountaintop guru here. I lead from the trenches – my journey of self-discovery and self-love is my life’s quest, and I only offer to others that which I have experienced firsthand.)

I understand and embrace the concept of ‘stories’: everything is ‘stories.’ We choose happy ones or sad ones, life-affirming ones or life-denying ones. I get that. Our stories create our lives.

But suddenly, the concept hit home in a pin-pointedly personal way.

I have struggled all my life with feeling somehow out of sync. My childhood home life was difficult, but, odder still, I felt alienated from my own feelings; like being tossed in an ocean wave, I seemed to have lost all sense of which way was up. I ascribed this to the insistence upon pretense, and the demand to suppress genuine emotion – especially pain and sorrow – that was required of me as a child.

This emotion stuffing experience was – as too many have experienced – very painful.

I needed to know: what had happened to me, really? There was no physical abuse. Everyone thought my parents were cool. So what had happened? Why was I in so much pain? Why was life so difficult? What exactly was the ‘crime’ that had been committed? Suddenly, the light bulb flashed on. My story had been robbed!

My parents were both narcissistic, each in their own way. I had heard narcissists described as ‘self-involved.’ Granted, living with someone self-involved can be lonely, frustrating and difficult. But, it seems to me, narcissism was much more aggressive than that description implied.

I realized: narcissists are story snatchers! What was so electrifying about my insight is it depicts the action of what the narcissist does, and this insight gave me the clearest answer so far to my question: what happened to me?

While a self-involved parent might not give a child the time and attention she needs, a story snatcher impacts and impinges on the child’s space. The child’s very selfhood gets usurped and redirected towards the narcissist. Those around narcissists exist only as secondary players in their drama. The roles they offer their offspring – failure or golden child – are less than fully individuated. Both must give up their authentic experience and instead ‘perform’ the parent’s script in order to try to ‘win’ the parent’s love.

As the child grows, she becomes an unwitting accomplice in her own disempowerment by continuing – as she was taught – to place inappropriate emphasis upon the drama of the parent: looking to the parent for approval, embracing or rebelling against the parent’s definition of her as failure or success, focusing upon her parent in therapy, forgiving them or blaming them, etc., etc. She will squeeze her experience to fit into the parent’s script for her, comfortably or not, for as long as she lives – unless she reclaims ownership of her story.

Beyond blame, beyond forgiveness, my past is mine, not theirs; my story is mine, not theirs. In this way I take back my power.

There are several techniques that can help us reclaim our stories. One of the most satisfying results is feeling one’s own power return, after a lifetime of giving one’s power away. Another deeply satisfying result is to newly understand (understand with the gut, not the mind) one’s own being as the central character in one’s drama.

While a narcissistic parent may position a child in a secondary role in his or her drama, and may siphon off the nourishment the child needs in order to develop her sense of self, we can re-write our spiritual auto-biographies and firmly place that same parent in a supporting role in our own personal story. I admit that I love this outcome, and I particularly adore the words ‘puts the parent in a supporting role,’ which is what parents should be in the first place. This is a vitally healthy repair of a torn social contract.

Without our story, life is but a play of shadows, inauthentic and unsatisfying. Narcissists are story-snatchers, and this is what makes living with them so devastating. It is a secret crime. No one outside the relationship will ever know or believe that a crime has taken place, but it has, at the deepest level. It is a crime that jails the victim, placing her within the confines of a narrative that does not fit her authentic self.

For our stories are about as close as we can get to the core of who we are. The story is NOT the self – there is another layer even beneath the stories – yet it is the closest thing to ourselves, closer than our skin, closer than any experience we could have.

Reclaiming ownership of our stories is like stepping out of the shadows and into the sunlight. Everything makes sense in a new way. Perhaps the most beautiful result of all is that the hurt and struggle of the past can be transmuted into a source of power, freedom and pride. Suddenly, what had been a pool of despair and bewilderment can become a source of beauty and purpose.

Now, on the ‘other side’ of this journey, I feel true gratitude for all the experiences that make me, me – harsh though they were, and as ongoing as the process of healing will be. The pain of living without my authentic story taught me its worth. As only a prisoner can know the value of freedom, I know the value of selfhood – a gift beyond measure.  Each of us, in ways big and small, must reclaim our authentic story.

And on the flip side, we can all ask ourselves, even without being a full-fledged narcissist, am I story-snatching? When I judge someone, does my version of who they are take something from them? Am I re-writing their story, and, if I am, am I casting it in a positive or negative light? My beloved teacher, Shanta, always said: “Never judge, neither good, nor bad.” Perhaps this idea of story-snatching illuminates the inner reasoning behind Shanta’s words: to judge – positively or negatively – is, in some way, to lay claim to and perhaps even usurp someone else’s story.

The gifts of my aha moment continue to ripple outward. And I am truly grateful to finally make sense of the questions: ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What happened to me?’

Adopting someone else’s version of the truth is like threading your way through a dark, unfriendly forest: no landmark is secure, no tree looks fully familiar, even the earth does not feel wholly stable. All is made strange by looking at life through the narcissist’s lens.

We can learn to peel off the strange lens that warped our view of our selves and our lives. Reclaiming our experience and taking back ownership of our stories offers a way out of the forest and into the sunlight, where all the landmarks feel true, the trees look benevolently familiar, and the ground we walk on feels, maybe for the first time, real.

headshot2Reba Linker is a coach and author specializing in inspirational books for women. In her books and coaching, Reba leads by example, writing from the trenches, sharing with clients her life lessons in healing from trauma, fulfilling your highest potential, and creating your best and happiest life. Reba is passionate about sharing her story and helping others discover their truth through inspirational writing, coaching, classes and workshops. Her gift to you is her free book, The Little Book of Manifesting BIG!, available at RebaLinker.com

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About Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek

Shann Vander Leek is a Transformation Goddess, Award Winning Podcaster, Best Selling Author, Producer, Podcast Coach and Media Expert. Shann is the founder of True Balance International, LLC, Transformation Goddess, Podcast Bath Media Services, and co-creator of Anxiety Slayer.

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  • Peggy Aug 13, 2014, 8:59 am

    Thank you for sharing your story Reba. Not only are NPDers story snatchers but they are emotional vampires that do they’re best to suck the life out if you. I spent 19 years married to one. The greatest gift he ever gave me was leaving so I could wake up. Xxoo

    • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 9:38 am

      Peggy, I am so thrilled that my story touched you. Experiencing life alongside a narcissist is such a secret. It is HUGE to those experiencing it and absolutely opaque to those on the outside. So it is great to have this topic out in the open where we can find support and validation. Yes, your husband did you a favor by leaving, but you did the real accomplishment of waking up to a greater truth! Much love, Reba

      • Peggy Aug 13, 2014, 11:32 am

        So funny Reba but my friends thought I had the perfect marriage…it was just this massive facade. That’s all an NPDer is capable of. They are fake and hollow and missing some kind of emotional coding. When my ex was diagnosed with NPD I was in for a big surprise – to find out I was Narcissitic Supply (NS) and that’s all I was…life as I knew it kind of imploded. There was a lot of uncovery for me. One thing’s for sure, I’m resilient. This was a long time ago for me…but your post reminds me that my daughters, now 30 and 26, still have an NPD parent…their dad.

      • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 9:21 pm

        Peggy, what an amazing story, I’d love to know more about it, especially your process of coming to understand the dynamics. It’s funny, the outer perfection can be so seductive, even to us insiders – I really wanted to believe in the myth of the happy family, and that need/desire for family is what sucked me into being such a participant in the whole kit and caboodle. I also remember kids visiting my house when I was in H.S. and saying how lucky I was. It was so frustrating because I could never truly convey to anyone what it was like, and if I tried, I sounded horrible and so unappreciative – I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to be a complainer or ‘spoiled,’ so I censored myself. It was a pretty watertight trap. It is amazing that you got an actual diagnosis. That is pretty powerful. I am sure that your awareness will be such a source of strength for your kids. It really helps to have someone see things from a broader perspective.

  • Peggy Aug 13, 2014, 9:01 am

    —note to self – writing comments from your cell phone leaves way too many typos and grammar oopsies—-

  • Llinos Aug 13, 2014, 9:17 am

    I love Reba, she is such a pure soul. I feel her energy in this post. Our stories are so powerful and needed in this world for healing.

    • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 9:42 am

      I love you, too, Llinos! We are on the path alongside each other, both doing the work of spinning straw into gold. That is, we are alchemists, transmuting the pain of harsh experience into the purest spiritual gold. We are story teller/healers. xoxox, Reba

  • Shelley Lundquist (@letmemoveyou) Aug 13, 2014, 9:23 am

    Great post, Reba! Isn’t it funny how we let those narcissists steal our stories! And maybe sometimes we need to so that we can recognize we have to steal them back!

    I’ve often found that we remain stuck when we identify as the victims in our lives instead of seeing that that which has happened to us, was merely that – and we are so much more. when we let go of that identity, we begin to flourish and to step into our own magnificence. And what a walk it is from there! 🙂

  • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 9:45 am

    OMG, Shelley, you so get this! Yes, we need to take back our stories and our power. And, yes, you put it so beautifully: “that which has happened to us, was merely that” – it does not define us! And, yes, what a walk it is when we step into our own magnificence. I am on the threshold, and it is so good to see others who have walked ahead. Love & Gratitude, Reba

  • Joy Balma Aug 13, 2014, 10:53 am

    Story stealing! Brilliant post Reba- filled with important insights that will help many, many people!! Narcissism is hard to detect and understand if you haven’t been educated in its subtleties. The people who live with narcissists feel invisible and lost.

    We are all here to live out our own story filled with our own unique lessons. As you say in your post, “to judge – positively or negatively – is, in some way, to lay claim to and perhaps even usurp someone else’s story.”

    Love this piece!

    Joy

    • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 12:56 pm

      Joy – thank you! Yes, narcissism is – thankfully – a foreign concept for most people. I love what you said: “The people who live with narcissists feel invisible and lost.” That is so true – it is like being stuck inside the wrong movie – or like that fabulous Talking Heads song which says “This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful life!” (I paraphrase.) It feels so great to start to understand all this and wake up and shake it off and get into our own gorgeous movies and our own beautiful houses! Much love, Reba

  • Eva Aug 13, 2014, 12:17 pm

    I totally agree, they are story snatchers! I am married to one of them and trying to keep my sanity is an ongoing effort.

    • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 12:58 pm

      Oooo – Eva – hang in there honey! Sending you SO much love! Remember YOUR story – nobody can take it away from you if you don’t let them! xox, Reba

  • Julia Aug 13, 2014, 8:49 pm

    I love the way your post is so real. As you say you lead from the trenches not the mountaintop and I love the authenticity of that. Although I wasn’t brought up in a family of narcissists but rather one of victims, I think the insights you offer about how we need to realize that our stories are not who we are and reclaim ownership of them are still pertinent. Well done on freeing yourself from your stories and making it through to the other side, and thank you for inspiring the rest of us to do the same.

  • Reba Linker Aug 13, 2014, 9:09 pm

    Thank you so much, Julia. I really appreciate the honesty of your comments. I have a hunch that victims and narcissists may sometimes be one and the same, or the flip side of the same coin. Victims can demand attention through helplessness and weakness, rather than through aggression, and they can certainly suck us into their stories. Do you know what I mean? It is amazing to realize that we may no longer fit the story we grew up with. Even if we hold the greatest love for our parents, we do not need to keep all the ‘gifts’ (ideas, stories, hopes, fears) that they bestowed on us. Well, I just am so fascinated by this subject, I could go on, but I will stop myself and sign off, wishing you so much power, self-love and self-realization – mmm yummy!

  • Minette Aug 13, 2014, 9:59 pm

    Thank you Reba for this inspiring story. I also grew up with a story-snatcher and have realized how disempowering this was and how it stopped me from sharing stories that I needed to share to heal. I love the idea of rewriting these stories with the supportive parent their listening to me in the way that I wanted them to as a child. Great post!

  • Reba Linker Aug 14, 2014, 6:44 am

    Dear Minette, I am so glad the post spoke to you, and I am so moved by what you ‘took away’ from it – something you can use in your own life. I also need to share my stories in order to heal – it is a lifesaver for me. I don’t want to sound like an advertisement, nonetheless, I do want you to know that in my forthcoming book, Happiness is a Habit, I go into greater detail the techniques we can use to rewrite our stories and reclaim our power. I hope you will join my mailing list so I can let you know when the book will become available. Just use any opt-in at http://www.RebaLinker.com Thanks again for your beautiful comment! xox, Reba

  • Brandy Schuster Aug 14, 2014, 7:23 am

    Reba what a timely post for me as I have been thinking alot about my brother who is a narcissist. He is undiagnosed but there is no denying the narcissistic rage when it shows up. I stopped talking to my brother when he started directing it towards my then 2yr old daughter. I teach forgiveness but and he is my Master Teacher for I just haven’t forgiven enough to want to be in the same space as him. I may find myself faced with this at an upcoming holiday function and just may have to use my anti soul-sucking protection sheild. Thank you Reba!

    • Reba Linker Aug 14, 2014, 8:46 pm

      Oh, Brandy – where do you buy those anti soul-sucking shields? I want one! Thank you for the comment, and good luck with this stressful situation! I totally agree, sometimes the only good thing possible is to give the other person the space they need to figure it all out, and at the same time keep one’s own peace and sanity by doing so! Best, best wishes! xox, Reba

  • Christa Aug 14, 2014, 4:45 pm

    Oh wow, Reba! So timely, and what a fascinating way of looking at this…having realised that a key figure in my upbringing is narcissist is still something I am journeying towards coming to terms with. It has been incredible to me how many people, actually, have also experienced this in their life and you are another beautiful light who has. It is a part of what has the potential to shape and colour *so* much – if a person lets it…reclaiming our power, our strength…our story…is such a valuable, beautiful and inspiring thing we can do – for ourselves. Such thanks and gratitude to you for sharing how you’ve found yours. 🙂

  • Reba Linker Aug 14, 2014, 8:55 pm

    Dear Christa, Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad if I can be a step or two ahead and shine a light on the path for others. Good luck with your journey. It can be so difficult to realize that someone close to us, someone we thought loved us, is really a narcissist and perhaps cannot even really see us at all. I think the truth is worth it, though. If it is any comfort, we can have compassion for that person AND still take back our power, our stories, and our truth. Thanks so much for commenting. I wish you the best! Much love, Reba

  • shanna Aug 15, 2014, 6:24 am

    good article, having just escaped from my narc mother, at the ripe old age of 54, I can identify with the story snatchers. However why is it, that no matter what sites I go on trying to find support for children of narc parents, it is always hijacked my people who married one. being a spouse of a narc is not the same as being the child of one. There’s no escape for the children. Where do we go? Who do we tell? How can we make sense of the rages, of the unloved feelings? However awful it is to live with a narc, adults can get away. Adults can be logical and reasoning and work out for themselves that the behaviour is unhealthy and not what they want. A child has no such option. Sometimes it would be nice to not have every article about narc parents taken over by those who married one. Sorry, but it happens every time

  • Reba Linker Aug 17, 2014, 11:08 am

    Hi Shanna, I’m so glad you wrote in. That is such a good point, and I totally agree: it is a very different situation to be a child, rather than spouse, of a narcissist (or two!), for exactly the reasons you mentioned.

    If you write to me at Reba@RebaLinker I would be happy to tell you about one resource I know that may be helpful, though people do occasionally chime in about spouses there as well, but it is still an awesome place. I don’t know much about the field. I never had words to understand what had happened to me until recently. I found Alice Miller’s The Drama of the Gifted Child, which was INCREDIBLE. Reading a book is not the same as a support group, but still, WOW! Even though it was not about narcissism per se, nonetheless, I felt like she was speaking directly to me. Unfortunately, she passed away – she used to respond to emails and many people sought out the comfort of her wisdom.

    Thanks again for adding your comment. I am so glad you have ‘escaped’ – and I am so glad you are feeling all those feelings you probably were never allowed to feel or express as a child. It is painful, and it is not ‘pretty’ nonetheless, it is such an important step on the road to healing. I wish you so much love! xox, Reba

  • Rebecca Aug 17, 2014, 6:31 pm

    Reba, I always love your writing- thanks for sharing your stories to help us weave our stories.

  • Reba Linker Aug 17, 2014, 8:25 pm

    Hi Rebecca, So great to see you here – or at the park! Thank you for commenting, and, yes, that is my exact intention, to say, “I can, I do, and you can, too!” Much love, Reba

  • Shân Aug 17, 2014, 9:55 pm

    Reba,
    What a powerful story you’ve created about taking your own story back. For me, it has also highlighted the importance of ensuring that we don’t place too much of our own expectations on our offspring and to ensure they have the chance to fully discover their own authenticity and what speaks to them in life.

    I’m curious about how one comes to be narcissistic in the first place. I had a narcissistic boss at one stage and that was difficult enough. I honestly hope that this kind of discussion becomes more and more widespread so that those who have narcissistic parents or partners can discover that they’re not alone. It sounds as though it’s exceedingly difficult to recognise by one’s self.

    More power to you!

  • Reba Linker Aug 18, 2014, 10:01 am

    Hi Shan, I am so grateful to you for bringing out that point about placing expectations on our offspring. Absolutely! That is such a valuable insight.

    I see so many reflections of the ‘story snatching’ idea in many ‘every day’ ways – (some brought out so beautifully in the comments).

    You pose such interesting questions! I wish I knew what would make someone a narcissist. Maybe it has to do with the pain of separation from one’s own power, which stimulates a person to impinge on someone else as a ‘proof of power.’ (A bit like a bully.) Since we all experience some separation from our own true power, maybe that is why this story applies, in some small way, to all of us.

    Thank you so much. I also hope this discussion opens up to a bigger audience. A lot of people are, indeed, suffering in silence. Love & Gratitude, Reba

  • Jenny Aug 18, 2014, 12:08 pm

    Thank you Reba, and Shann for this.

    It’s so poignant and so beautifully describes the process of being slowly molded to someone else’s truth so beautifully. I also grew up with a narcissistic parent, and went on to have relationships with narcissistic partners, because the familiarity of that energy was apparently quite intoxicating 🙂

    I can feel the truth of this so deeply: ‘No one outside the relationship will ever know or believe that a crime has taken place, but it has, at the deepest level. It is a crime that jails the victim, placing her within the confines of a narrative that does not fit her authentic self.’

    I love the imagery of the story snatchers – it brings the whole process to life in a whole different way. Beautiful!

    • Reba Linker Aug 19, 2014, 6:15 pm

      Thank you, Jenny! yes, I can only describe it because I experienced it, and thank heavens, I can now also describe shaking off that ill-fitting mold because I am experiencing that, too.

      I love the imagery of the story snatchers, too, and kinda wish I was a fiction writer – it has great possibilities!

      Thank you for sharing your truth here, and thank you for being with me on this path of seeking truth. Love & Gratitude, Reba

  • Sharyn Aug 18, 2014, 10:21 pm

    Thanks you for shedding much light on this subject Reba. I had a relationship in my early 20’s with a narcissist. It never occurred to me that he was one at the time. You hit the nail right on the head when you used the word disempowerment. I was completely disempowered by this person. I emotionally and mentally beat myself up for many years for allowing this to happen to me. As if his emotional and mental abuse wasn’t enough. It has taken me a long time to take that power back.

  • Reba Linker Aug 19, 2014, 6:22 pm

    Thank you for visiting and commenting, Sharyn. Yes, it is shocking when we realize that we have allowed something like that to occur. It is wonderful that you recognize that part of it — that it is within our power to accept or reject any idea at all. Still, no blame! If I may offer these words: practice kindness with yourself first and foremost. We all are doing our best – really and truly. That includes ourselves, and even the narcissists, for if they could do better, they would. They really would, and their lives would be so much happier for it, too. So in their way, they suffer greatly, even if it looks like they have the upper hand and are making others suffer. I hope this makes sense. Thanks again for visiting and for your beautiful, honest comment, xox, Reba

  • Sam Aug 20, 2014, 8:02 am

    What an interesting article. I find myself looking back at my own childhood and my current marriage wondering if my parents, my husband, or even possibly myself could be a narcissist. Either way I love the idea of taking back your story. Thank you!

  • Reba Linker Aug 27, 2014, 9:18 pm

    Hi Sam, Thank you so much for your comment. I love that the article has stimulated you to look around you with a new perspective (and I sincerely hope you do not find too many narcissists hiding under rocks!). Yes, I also love the idea of reclaiming your story – I think this applies to all of us! Thank you! xox, Reba