Overcoming Narcissism: an Epiphany
11/14/2014 § 2 Comments
What you need to know: last February I lost a job contract I expected to renew — because I couldn’t finesse a tricky cross-cultural situation with my Japanese supervisors — and suddenly found myself not only out of a job but poised to lose my visa. If I lost my visa, I would literally have nowhere to be.
Worse, I discovered that my passport had expired a year earlier, unbeknownst to me, which meant I was officially an illegal alien. Worse still, I found I was blacklisted by one company for another sticky cross-cultural situation. This was a desperate summer.
I fought and fought till my wrists got numb, and in the end I did done dood it. I got a job, a company sponsor, a visa, a passport, and a back-payed unemployment insurance check. And now Im finally eligible for the permanent visa I’ve had mine eyes on for a long time.
But the job I won was entry level for which I’m way over-qualified for, and its temporary, ending in February. What you need to know is this: that I fought harder than Ive ever fought for anything before, to get a job that isnt very good. And yet, this job is my prize, my trophy. It’s an opportunity to improve my karma and raise my standing, so I had better pay attention to whatever it has to offer.
Quite a bit, it turns out. Working in a Japanese institution is tricky and Id gotten a lot of things wrong up to now. A number of teachers who I couldnt stand working with in the past bnow appear to have made more sense than I gave them ever credit for, and it really pains me to admit it. I must have been a real asshole, even a scant year ago.
In the week after summer vacation, I resumed my struggle to get the teachers to clean up their acts and teach real English, not the crap they actually teach. One day, I come to work to find a complete lesson plan on my desk for a lesson to begin in 30 minutes. Good Lord! There was no time to revise to higher standards. Did they actually expect me to be their sidekick and play along with their parochial ideas of what English is? Using a methodology that has proven itself not to work but they don’t even realize it? I have a moment of crisis; the only way to perform this job is to shame myself.
The moment passes. And then, epiphany. Something in me just suddenly gave it up. “Wait a minute! Raising standards isn’t what they want me to do. What the hell am I thinking?” My default mind seemed to think it has to solve every problem put in front of me. Now, why the hell does it think that?
I can guess. I had to always prove to myself that I was a better person than Mother made me out to be. So in a fog of self-revulsion, I consigned myself to take on the tasks of Sisyphus to gain her approval, all the way into my late middle ages. And to getting myself fired or laid off from nearly every job that ever hired me. It wasn’t good enough for me to be good, maybe I didnt think I could be good, so I required myself to be more than good; to be brilliant! Even though it was my “brilliance” always got me into trouble.
This is how damaged I’ve always been! This is how my NM crippled me. I lived in a bubble that I didnt know was there. Tilting at windmills at every corner. And alienating everyone I worked with.
It began to dawn on me that the ones humiliating me are not these Japanese English teachers, but my Narcissistic family long ago, as if no time had passed and we were still in the House of Yelling in its suburban New Jersey enclave.
The ones who I desperately need to prove my capabilities to aren’t these good people but my crazy Narcissistic Mother from forty years ago.
That the one who wanted me to prance around like an organ grinder’s monkey was in another place, another time, that I’d never really left. Not this place.
My actual, real job here in the here-and-now is to assist them– my job title is ALT– Assistant Language Teacher; and not to connive to prove myself superior to them and thus earn their permission for me to exist. Which indeed my mother withheld.
And that I have never stopped grasping for. EVER. Throughout my long and painful job history of over 30 firings, I had never stopped trying to convince people who had nothing to do with it that I wasnt the person Mom projected onto me.
Yeah, I really did that. I was in a hypnotic state my whole life, trying to convince my NM and myself that I was a different human being than the one she took me for. I acted it out every where and anywhere, in school and in the workplace and shared households– I’ve been frozen for 59 years in a robotic, mechanical, circular nightmare, trying to get her to release me when in fact, as a Narcissist, there was nobody there to release anyone.
I was locked in a self-perpetuating developmental vortex, desperately trying to complete a transmission of power with no living soul present to make the transmission.
I was trapped in a funhouse hall of mirrors with no visible exit. But in reality, I had already exited and didn’t know it.
And now, and now, I know it.
This past month I feel like Ive awakened from a life-long nightmare of sleepwalking through a proscribed regimen for failure: the ones who expect me to indenture myself to my work are my family, not my work colleagues.
For the past ten years, Ive been conflating the Japanese people’s seeming confusion about communicating with foreigners in English with my mothers refusal to communicate with us children on any but her own terms: When I get pissed off by Japanese colleagues who are constantly trying to change the grammar rules and meaning of words, its my mother’s changing of the rules that Im really pissed about, because that’s where my passion resides. This misdirected anger had shaped my entire method of teaching English; I had an Animus towards fixing my familys dysfunctional communication strategies that I acted out through a Japanese student base with their own communication issues.
The Japanese seem to want to reinvent English in their own image rather than learn from us– and largely they have. This has been a hell of a difficult thing for me to negotiate through the fog of my own family’s communication sickness.
So recently, I caught myself doing it againband put a stop to it before it got out hand. It’s not my job to fix things nobody else knows are even broken. It is my job to know when the teacher wants my help and when the teacher doesn’t. I was caught in a limbo in which I didn’t know what was expected of me, so I made up my own crazy rules and became fixated them. And of course Narci Mother had no clue how lost I was.
In recent correspondence with her, I asked her point blank to be civil, polite and considerate when communicating with me. Her somewhat evasive answer was essentially, “No.” And that’s it for me. The spell is broken. No more giving her “one last chance.” She’s attached to me like a junkie granpa who can do nothing for me but drag me down. There’s nothing left to do but to tell her to take a long hike.
Just making this decision has actually released me from my life-long spell of failure and social suicide. I’m doing fine at work. We’ll see. I don’t see anything dramatic happening. I complained to one teacher this week that the usage of the phrase “… and so on” in the Japan-printed textbook was misleading, and bad uses of it were turning up in student compositions. But upon researching my grammar texts I decided to back off; the rules of the phrase are fuzzy and what sounds wrong to me is subjective. Finding where the line is to correct or not correct a teacher is tricky. I have a lot to learn.
ADDENDUM: Just this morning, during meditation, my Spirit Guides came to me and told me I was ready to learn something that I wasn’t ready for before now. I suppose I always knew. It makes sense, really.
The Narcissist’s son is a Narcissist. In recovery.