Be Careful with Your Children

Children are not meant to be tiny clones of us. I’ll say it again, because it’s critical that you get this. Your children are NOT meant to be tiny clones of you! Ouch. That realization can be a painful one at times. You, as parents, want to show your beloved children how to live in this world. You want to influence their decisions. You want to give them good advice. You want them to like the music you like. You want to influence them politically, spiritually, and socially. After all, you have been charged with their care and well-being. Shouldn’t they be formed in your image? These little people belong to us and it’s our job to make sure they turn out right. Not exactly. Your children don’t actually belong  to you. Possessions belong to us. Money belongs to us. Car keys belong to us. But not children.

In order to be a truly great parent, you must realize that your children have their own purpose in this world. Their individual life is sacred and must be supported and validated by you. So many parents get this wrong. They believe that, somehow, these little humans belong to them and that it is the their job to mold the child into what the parent wants the child to be. This could not be further from the truth. Discard this lie. It is, in fact, a lie. This is where so many of us, as parents, go wrong. When we view these small humans as “ours” and as little people who need to grow up to be just like us, we rob our children of the life they were intended to live. Think of your child’s life as a wild flower. You don’t really know what it’s going to look like or be like once it is grown, but you still water it and give it sunlight and love. You don’t try to make the wildflower be a rose or a tulip or a sunflower. You just let it be what it was meant to be. One of my favorite quotes is by poet Kahlil Gibran. Wiser words were never spoken:

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and thought they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”

It is a sacred job to be a parent. Be careful with your children. Think of each person’s life as a sacred spiritual journey. Only the Universe knows what your child’s purpose is for this human experience. Your child’s life is a sacred instrument in the world. Your jobs are to keep them safe, allow them to experience the consequences of life, and to validate their feelings. One example of validation is when a young child comes to you and says, “Adam is being mean.”

Your initial response might be to say, “No, he isn’t. He’s just trying to let you know…” Be very, very careful when your children come to you and express their feelings. You are the person who can most validate their feelings. If you do not validate their feelings, they will grow up lacking strong self-esteem and a solid identity. When you say, “No, he isn’t…” what your child “learns” is that her perceptions and feelings are incorrect and that she cannot trust herself. She then begins to doubt her gut instincts.

A better course of action would be to respond with something like, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. What happened?” This allows your child to feel heard and to learn that you are a safe place to come when the world is hard. Letting her know that you care about her feelings will cause her to open up to you and share more of the painful experience. It’s really what adults do when they pay a therapist to listen and validate their feelings during a mid-life crisis, for example. By validating your child’s feelings, you are allowing your child to express the hurt. Most of the time, children (and adults) don’t need answers. We just need a friendly listener.

Once your child has expressed her emotions and has had the opportunity to explain the details of the painful situation, you may then try to steer them in a good direction or help them see the truth of the situation if the truth is different than what they experienced. In any event, it is crucial that you first are actively listening and validating them. You will not regret it.


Not Like a Girl Loves a Boy

Dreams were wonderful that way — transcending gravity and physics — all confines of the physical world. Kurt’s two-day facial scruff added grit to his demeanor. Stage lights shined hot on his gold locks as he rocked back and forth. A cigarette burn hole was front and center on the ragged too-large sweater hanging on his small frame. Nikki felt the bass in her chest. She could see occasional darts of saliva shoot from his beautiful mouth as the sandpaper angst made its way into the world. She loved him. But not like a girl loves a boy. The love was something spiritual. She could rely on him. He was always the same. He was not afraid to be himself totally. He was not afraid to let the ugly show. He was not afraid to let the anger show. He felt deeply. He lived deeply.

Excerpt from “Paper Girl.” Click BUY NOW link to purchase the paperback or the e-book.

Do you include others?

Regardless of your religion (or the choice to have no religion), it is important to be inclusive in your daily life. You can increase the light and goodness in the world by widening the various “safe” circles in your day. I always try to include others any chance I get. Have you ever been on the other end of this scenario? Have you ever been the new student at school? Have you ever walked past a group of students who are laughing and joining together in a non-inclusive manner? It feels lonely.

Are you a student? When you walk the halls of your middle school or you eat lunch in your high school cafeteria, there are many opportunities to spread goodness. Be brave! Speak to someone who looks lonely or who looks like they might be struggling. Did a student drop their books? Be brave! Help them pick up the books. Share your smile with them. Is a new student looking lost in the cafeteria? Is someone sitting alone at the lunch table? Be brave! Say, “Hi, I’m ______! What’s your name?”

Find a way to connect with people who might not be part of the popular group. If you start practicing this inclusion each and every day, you will become more comfortable doing so. There are so many hurting and lonely people in the world. All kinds of clubs and groups are established for the purpose of grouping us together with people who are the same as us: country clubs, sororities, political groups, unofficial groups of cliches who don’t welcome others. The list goes on and on. Personally, I am uncomfortable associating in these types of groups. I always want to include others who might not have the money to join the country club or purchase the “right” clothing.

As human beings, we must support one another in brave ways. I live in a part of the United States we call The Bible Belt. I don’t typically see Christians behaving in ways of inclusiveness. This hurts me deeply. It’s as if we, as Christians, want to build walls to “keep out the bad people,” or “protect our clean selves from those who are dirty.” You might not be a Christian, but you may know something about Christ. Christ hung out with “unclean” people. The message of the gospel is “the good news.” The good news is that God loves us and accepts us and wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. When Christ walked this earth, he welcomed people of all class status. That’s the whole point! Are you Buddhist? Muslim? Jewish? Agnostic? It makes no difference what belief system you hold — be brave! Include others you encounter throughout your day. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give away your smile or your assistance and kindness.

Thank you, Ellis.

Thank you, Ellis Writing Club!  It was an honor to speak to your group this week. I appreciated seeing so many lovely faces at the meeting. Remember: waiters wait — writers write. Don’t wait! Always have your pen and paper handy to jot down ideas that land in your thoughts. Don’t rely on your memory – write it down. And don’t TALK about your poem or your short story — WRITE IT!

Do whatever you can to stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with those who “get” you. Find your tribe! Have you honored your inner artist today?

How We Establish Who We Are

Do you ever feel that you are not being yourself? Is there a mask you wear in order to be “acceptable” to the world? What about your true self? That wonderful person wants and needs to be expressed. It can be hard to let that person be known to the world if you grew up in a toxic environment. Daily journaling is a great help to those of us who are recovering from trauma. Morning is the best time for me to journal. I find that I can think clearly in the morning without the threat of other people’s junk in my head. Your best time might be in the middle of the day or at night. It doesn’t matter what time you set aside to journal. The important thing is to do it on a regular basis. Your inner wounded self needs a safe place to express herself/himself.

Here’s another excellent post from

How We Establish Who We Are

We form our identities to separate ourselves from other people and have a sense of continuity of ourselves. But one of the main purposes of forming an identity is to establish a positive sense of self.

A healthy sense of self allows us to function well in society. Individuals with a healthy sense of self form and maintain positive relationships. They have a sense of autonomy and confidence. They take initiative and trust that things will work out well.

These are all things that adult children of narcissists struggle with.

So how are identities formed? Identities are built in part through exploration and experiences. Adolescents explore different roles and measure the reactions of others to their experiences, appearance, or different ways of acting or talking.

An adolescent may try out for sports, discover he has athletic talent, and develop an identity as an athlete. Another may excel at scholastic activities and develop an identity as a brainiac.

Adults play a role in the identity formation of adolescents. Coaches, teachers, aunts and uncles can all contribute to an adolescent’s identity. But perhaps the adults who play the most significant role are the adolescent’s parents.

How Parents Affect Who You Are

Adolescent identities are influenced considerably by their relationships with their parents. When there is a healthy relationship between an adolescent and his parent, he will feel free to explore different aspects of himself. He will experiment and get feedback from his parents about his beliefs and behaviors. Meanwhile, healthy parents provide adolescents with:

  • A sense of autonomy
  • The ability to set and achieve goals
  • Confidence to pursue opportunities
  • Confidence that people respect him
  • A sense of initiative
  • The ability to approach people who can benefit them

Unfortunately, as narcissism’s child, you unlikely had parents that supported you finding your own separate identity. Any move you made to establish a sense of self separate from your parents was likely met by rage from your narcissistic parent.

There are consequences for the adolescent who feels his parents will reject him for identity exploration. He is likely to feel less confident in trying on new roles. He may be so afraid of his parent’s reaction that he does not explore at all.

Where healthy parents provide their children with the attributes listed above, narcissistic parents leave their children unprepared to meet the world.

The adult child of a narcissist rarely feels autonomous. Having faced a lifetime of criticism, he is often terrified by the idea of making a decision. No one taught him how to set a goal and how to work towards it.

The adult child of a narcissist constantly interprets comments and feedback from others as criticism. She has no confidence that people respect her in any area of her life. She puts off decisions and opportunities until her chances for something positive fade away.

Adult children of narcissists often lack the skills to enter healthy relationships. They may find themselves living with abusive or narcissistic partners, one again forsaking their chances at forming a strong sense of self.

This can lead to depression and anger about their lives. Still, they lack the ability and knowledge to improve their lives. They wait for their lives to get magically better. But just like the man who puts his fate in the hands of a leprechaun trap, their wish for a better life does not manifest.

The Life of an Enmeshed Child

The Life of an Enmeshed Child

Below is an excerpt from a fantastic blog about the toxic effects of growing up in an enmeshed, narcissistic environment. Here is the link to that blog (and an excerpt below the link about what this toxic environment looks like).

When a narcissist and their child become enmeshed, the roles of parent and child become reversed. A narcissist with an enmeshed child—or children—expects her child to continually anticipate and meet her needs. In this role reversal the child finds himself catering to his parent’s physical and emotional needs. Meanwhile his needs go unmet.

Narcissistic adults do not provide their children with any guidance. The child is left to fumble his way through the grade school years, preteen years, and adolescence. Likewise, the parent does not protect the child against any threats. No affirmations of his worth as a separate person are given. And the child will lack nurturance as well as appropriate affection.

As time goes on, the narcissistic parent and child become almost fused. Enmeshed adult children do not know where in their childhood their parent ended and they began. This lack of boundary definition follows them into adulthood and with other people—particularly romantic partners.

Children with healthy parents learn to make their own decisions and assert their independence by making decisions that their parents don’t approve of. Not so with the enmeshed child. The corrosive bond he shares with his mother means he seeks to make decisions that please her. For she makes clear that there is to be no displeasure from her child. However, it is simply impossible for any child to avoid displeasing his parents, especially if one of them is a narcissist.

When displeased, the narcissist may react with rage and punish her child for even minor infractions. Or, the narcissist may use the one tactic that all narcissists have a black belt in—guilt.

Can You Feel It?

Very recently I learned from a good friend that I am not alone in feeling physical heaviness and pressure in my chest when I’m struggling emotionally. My friend works as a trauma therapist, and occasionally I text her a 911 when gossip has injured me or when I am feeling misunderstood and small. Being an INFP has its advantages with regard to writing, painting, photography, and other artistic endeavors that require being sensitive to one’s surroundings and being a keen observer, but sometimes daily living is painful as an INFP (see Keirsey Temperament Website).

One evening a couple of years ago, I was experiencing extreme anxiety, so I reached out to my 911 friend via text. The anxiety felt strangely similar to what I had experienced as a young girl in Oklahoma during my parents’ divorce. Let me tell you something. Childhood wounds do not care how old you are. They do not care how established you are. And they certainly don’t care whether you are a professional football player, a file clerk, a surgeon, a teacher, or a construction worker. Childhood wounds will find you. Time itself does NOT heal childhood wounds. Hard work, patience, sobriety, support, and grace are the mechanisms for healing old wounds. As we progress in this recovery work, we come face to face with old pain. As long as we are willing to experience that pain, with the support of friends and others in recovery, we will come through brighter, stronger, and happier. Let me warn you though: it’s not for wimps. Honestly, there have been times when I have wished I had never set foot in a therapist’s office. What’s with all these layers? Can’t we be done and finished? Why does the Universe bring this old junk back to the forefront after I think I am done with it? I don’t know the answer, but I don’t know what else to do besides keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So, back to the evening two years ago when I texted my friend for support. My anxiety was through the roof, and my emotions reverted back to the same panic I had felt as a 12-year-old girl in 1976 when my mother drove off to the store to pick up a few items and did not return in a timely fashion. I lived alone with my mother after my parents’ divorce. We lived on five acres between two small towns in Oklahoma. Our house sat on Route 66 with no gas stations, convenience stores, or other shopping nearby. Six miles one way on Route 66 would take you to Yukon, Oklahoma, and eight miles the other direction on Route 66 would take you to El Reno, Oklahoma. When she left for the store, I expected she would return in an hour or so, but she didn’t. As minutes passed on the clock, I tried to assure myself that she was simply doing more shopping than she had originally planned. I tried hard to imagine other non-tragic scenarios as to why she wasn’t back yet. As hard as I tried, the ideas felt like lies to me. Panic filled my chest and it was hard to get a deep breath.

I rocked in the rocking chair. I prayed. No mother. I read. I paced. No mother. I watched television and strained to ignore thoughts of tragedy. Still no mother. If we had used cell phones in 1976, this would not have been such a problem for a 12-year-old girl all alone in the country. But I was pretty much stuck – physically and emotionally. Too young to drive and no car even if I were old enough to drive. Should I try to find the phone number of one of my teachers? Scenarios of how I would sleep or when  I would need to call the police if she didn’t return invaded my thoughts. The panic was physical as well as emotional. My mouth was dry and the thought of food made me feel sick.

Finally, about three hours after she left, I saw the headlights of her red Chevette moving up the service road to our house. Thank God! I ran out to greet her, but noticed two figures in the front seat instead of one. Who was in the car with my mother? As the red dot came closer, I could see that a man was driving. My mother was in the passenger’s seat. When the car was parked, I was able to see that the front of my mother’s car looked as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to it. I also noticed that my mother was passed out in the front seat. The man explained that he and his wife had been driving along Route 66 and had seen my mother veer off the highway into a ditch. He and I walked to the passenger door. My mother didn’t move. I opened the door and was hit in the face with the odor of alcohol. The man and I managed to get her out of the car and walk her into the house. We placed her on the couch where she slept through the night.

Relief flooded my body. I could now go to sleep and have some peace. I locked all of the doors, turned out the lights, brushed my teeth, set my alarm, and crawled into bed. I had survived. I was a survivor! Unfortunately, the trauma of the event had made its home inside me where it would stay for as long as it wanted to, rearing its ugly head at inconvenient times just like it did 40 years later when my mother was battling cancer and I was once again in the role of worrying about her. I sent my 911 text to my friend and she texted me back with some excellent help.

“Julie, look at your wedding ring or your short hair or something that reminds you that you are a healthy adult. This will help you remember that, although you are having these feelings just like you did 40 years ago, you can also ground yourself in the knowledge that you are now a healthy woman who has done much recovery work. You are no longer helpless. You can drive. You can vote. You can make decisions that are good for you. You are not helpless like you were when you were a young girl at night alone in your house out in the country. You have options now. You can make choices that are good for you and you can be your own loving parent.”

I can’t tell you how effective this has been for me. Amazing how something so simple can stand as such a powerful reminder of the work I’ve done to get better. I asked my friend if she had ever experienced this physical heaviness in her chest when she was struggling with anxiety or loneliness. To my pleasant surprise, she said, “Yes! All the time!”

She explained that physical pain and emotional pain come from the same area of the brain. She said that it is actually healthy to feel emotional pain in this way because it means that we are in touch with our bodies and connected to pain and joy in a strong way. Although it is extremely unpleasant to feel those feelings, I am grateful to know that I am connected to my “self.” I am also grateful to know that others, like my friend, experience emotions in this way. All of the years that I drank were spent trying to numb these heavy feelings. Sometimes I wonder how different my life would be if I had had some coping skills and tools as a child. A guitar, for example, would have been extremely valuable to help me process some of the loneliness and heaviness I felt.

I’m grateful today. I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Write something in the comments below. Let me know something about you. I also encourage you to take the Keirsey temperament evaluation and find out what your unique temperament is. Cheers.






“I am very picky about whom I give my energy to. I prefer to reserve my time, intensity and spirit exclusively to those who reflect sincerity.” Dan Voire

“Don’t underestimate me because I’m quiet. I know more than I say, think more than I speak, and observe more than you know.” ~ Michaela Chung