Mod 3: My story – Dad

I’ve shared with you already how splitting with my dad caused me both rage and fear. But the other emotional symptom that plagued me the most was guilt.

Let’s rewind a bit to something I figured out even before my break with Dad. You know how people tend to think everyone else feels basically the way they do, and experiences life in a similar way that they do? I of course grew up under that delusion too. I figured everyone else was like me in the way I shared in the emotions of others, put myself in their shoes. Like how I hated to see other kids be bullied, and suffered watching it almost as much as when it was done to me. Or never doing anything without thinking first how it would affect others.

I had problems seeing suffering depicted in movies and on TV. I was unable to listen to certain songs that were sad or scary to me, and would cover my ears and hide when I heard them start. I was often a sympathetic ear to others, a good listener who could feel the unhappiness they described.

I just couldn’t fathom how others could be so cluelessly inconsiderate. I was baffled by certain oblivious behaviors: everything from littering, to making a racket in public, to saying things that were insensitive. I felt agony over forgetting to write a thank-you note. It made no sense to me that some others didn’t even bother to say thank you. How did they live with the guilt? It was so puzzling.

Meanwhile, I remained blind to the fact that my father did not resemble me in any way.

I was—as I found out only recently—a Hyper Sensitive Person, or HSP. HSPs are very empathetic and have trouble placing any boundary between their feelings and the feelings of others. They are forever imagining themselves in other people’s shoes. They give others the benefit of the doubt. They are easily moved by sensory stimuli: may cry at the weddings of strangers, be scared by rides or horror movies, can be overwhelmed by emotion at a concert.

You can guess that HSP’s are a special brand of codependent types, ripe for abuse by narcissists. It is terribly easy to get an HSP’s sympathy and likewise a snap to make them feel guilty. A narc barely has to even try.

If you’ve been raised by a narcissist and are an HSP, you may wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg. Well, your guess is as good as mine!

So, let’s go back to examining my break with my father. After my rage at Dad’s unfairness passed, I went back to my normal setting of being an HSP. I often considered the prospects of an 88 year old man, who has a couple years left to live at best, lives alone, and has only a couple of friends and only three living relatives, now estranged. I thought about his life, rejected by his only child, left to die alone, in misery.

I projected myself in my dad’s place and it was horrible to imagine. How could I condemn my own father to such a fate?

You know what really helped me answer that question? After some reading, thought, and work, I embraced the truth that my father isn’t me. Regardless of what fate he deserves (we’re not debating that at the moment), he was not going to feel in the least abandoned. In fact, I believe he was actually glad to be rid of me, because he was made uncomfortable by the fact that I was young and had my full faculties and he really couldn’t compete in those areas that are so important to narcs.

I stopped projecting how I would feel in his place, and recognized that the mental workings of a narcissist are so foreign to an HSP that I couldn’t possibly imagine what was going on there. I remembered how the loss of his wife of 53 years didn’t even faze the man, and in fact he was glad to have her gone because she had stopped being a benefit long ago and become a burden instead.

And the biggest evidence that he didn’t miss me is that he made no effort to get me back. He didn’t know that I was changing, getting over the codependence that made me his emotional prisoner for 58 years. He had every reason to think if he made even the tiniest gesture of reconciliation, I would leap at the chance. I heard from his caregivers that he actually accepted that it was time for his car to be gone, the one bone of contention that had caused the break. But he didn’t care, because he was over me.

This was a situation that was beyond weird, I knew. Certainly it would make no sense to outsiders. I tried to explain to various people with varying degrees of success, but I can tell you one thing: the only ones who grasped it were those who had dealings with narcissists in their own lives. Going no contact with an abusive spouse or lover is acceptable and understandable to nearly everyone; doing it with a family member, especially a child or parent, still strikes most people as horribly against nature.

It is horribly against nature. But the unnatural element in the scenario, I came to know, was not me, but my dad. And the guilt belonged 100% on his shoulders. As an HSP I had to struggle to embrace that, but I got there in the end.

We’ll talk more about dealing with the emotions like these, feelings that work to compel you back to your narcissist, in the Mod 3 Knowledge section.

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