Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck -#Grief: Collective Underpinnings In Sudden Loss and Importance of One’s Personal Journey. LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the second post from LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW of Pespective on Trauma and looks the aspects of grief.

Grief: Collective Underpinnings In Sudden Loss and Importance of One’s Personal Journey

Awake and reflecting on loss, I prepare myself (on this particular morning) to call a friend who is experiencing a new and unexpected loss. A recent pain that holds the potential to awaken every painful place she (my friend) will believe she has failed the person she has lost.

These thoughts beckon me to my own losses, my own people, and the places I want to protect her (and maybe myself) from. Though I know, even if I tried, I cannot protect her from this inevitable experience. (I can only listen, encourage expression, and love her). I expect she will believe she has let her person down. Her brain will find ways, searching for larger reassurance, that if she had only said this, done this, didn’t say this, didn’t do this, would have known. It can go on this way for a long while. This soul wrenching pain, that will absorb blame in the form of regrets, exists in an effort to feel safe. It manifests as a wish to return to the place before loss. The place where we could do better for our loved one. The imaginary place of no regrets.

Both the tendency to search out blame (self and otherwise) and for our brain to link like experiences are normative in grief. They are needed for predictability and, as odd as it sounds, they are needed for safety and survival. We need predictability to feel safe. When loss occurs, life as we knew it is forever changed. We can’t call our person, drop by, or just know they are there. Making sense of this (finding it’s very personal meaning and making it manageable) takes time.

Blame, in some ways, is part of how we make meaning. We rationalize; it would make sense that our person is gone because (we, they, it) did something wrong. It does not make sense that they were here yesterday and now they are not. This is uncomfortable. It seems there has to be a predictable reason. How do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from this? What are we to do with this knowledge? The knowledge that, they aren’t here and they should be. That they might be if only something (some nuanced variable) had or had not occurred? How do we make sure this never happens again? This search, for meaning and safety, seems endless for a time.

It is also worth noting, that our brains ability to find commonality seems a double edged sword in grief. It can bring, along with empathy for experience, heavy doses of emotional numbing. We normally make associations with previous feelings and experiences as a way to learn new skills and to stay safe in our world. It is a deeply ingrained (and needed) survival ability. (i.e. we know not to touch the stove because it is hot, and/or mom or dad (without us ever touching the stove) had a large reaction when we got near it. Our brain associates the hot stove with the experience of touching it and/or the reaction of others. We remember because our own or trusted others reaction to the experience. We made an association that will , ideally, keep us safe in the future.

For my friend, her brain is likely finding associations with the many complex feelings she is attempting to navigate. This loss will touch other places of loss, and can bring further complexity (pain) to her process. This is such a difficult piece to sort in grief. It is important to feel this loss and at some point to recognize (the very non-conscious process) that this loss may be triggering (re-igniting) past experiences of loss. This makes it all the more difficult to make sense of. At times, it can bring long lasting complications around recovery.

As described above, my brain easily finds associations (based on my own experiences of pain and loss) with what (I expect) my friend may feel. I know my feelings attached to sudden and unexpected (non predictable) loss because I have associated experiences. This makes it possible to anticipate what she may be experiencing. I prepare myself (which is why I am awake so early) for our initial conversation by revisiting my loss. Again, this is normative. I imagine she will journey the strange and painful landscape of grief by blaming herself or potentially others. This (could occur) in an attempt to make meaning, by trying to make reality predictable and therefore manageable. I also know it won’t be, at least not, in the beginning.

At this point, because no writing on grief would be complete without referencing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, it is important to note researched , legitimately helpful, and beautiful writing (primarily by these authors) exist on this topic. Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler who collaborated on several books (see links in the recommendations section) provide beautiful and informative guidelines. Kubler Ross provided the well known 5 stages of grief ( denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and Kessler added a 6th in his latest book Finding Meaning, The Sixth Stage of Grief.

It is also worth noting, as both authors do, that while there is a framework, grief is a uniquely individual journey. It is a process with similar reference points but no set roadmap. We can have differing responses to this process. Like many human reactions, our responses are laid across a continuum of possible reactions. In this writer’s opinion, these reactions range from denial and avoidance to active and conscious grieving. In the beginning, as we are acclimating to the realization that our person and predictability is gone, it seems we can only survive. Sometimes the best we can do is to just get through the day. It takes time to adjust to loss and grasp what this genuinely means to us. Time that must be respected.

It also takes awareness. As noted, a range of possible reactions exist. An individual in denial (which is normative initially) of his or her own pain might engage in activities that numb their own experience. This could take many forms including avoidance through busyness, over-sleeping, addictive behaviors, care-giving, care-seeking, and /or advice-giving (and many other forms) that can minimize or dismiss their own and others experiences. A goal, in navigating grief and loss, is to stay consciously connected to what is occurring internally. This is not easy, and as noted almost impossible, in the beginning phases of the grief process. Overtime, it is however essential.

This (staying consciously connected) means staying aware that one is struggling to make sense of this non-sensible loss. Allowing expression to take shape in ways that acknowledge and not push pain deeper by avoiding, minimizing, or dismissing. Reaching for expression and healthy coping is individual. It can include many strategies. These are considered healthy if there is acknowledgement (primarily to the self) that the coping is pursued to manage the normal feelings connected to loss, that blame and regret are normative, and (if the chosen coping) it is not harmful to self, other, or property.

It is important to recognize in the beginning phases of grief (as Kubler Ross highlights) blame and regret are normative. It is very likely these emotional counterparts will be there is some form. It is a part of the complicated (and again individual) grief process. These emotions may exist in varying degrees. This said, these feelings change overtime. If they do not, it is possible the person is in need of additional support. Self and other blame is not considered normative overtime and will complicate an already complicated and complex process.

It is also worth noting, as often discussed by author and researcher Brene Brown, that blame can perpetuate shame. I would believe that self-blame (can be experienced in the form of regret) and can evolve into a sense of shame overtime. The varied circumstances around unexpected loss are fertile ground for this experience, This is true due to the inability to say what is left unsaid, to share feelings with one’s person, or to physically repair if conflict did exist. If left unspoken or non-supported, these will be complicating factors overtime.

Coming back to my friend, our call, and our connected experience of grief ~ my intention is to show up for her. To be there, to listen, to hear her thoughts and feelings. Providing a safe place for her to be witnessed in her unique pain by being there. I won’t be sharing the thoughts in this writing, my experience of loss, or the following resources, with her today. Possibly at a later time. For now, she needs a listener. Someone to hear about her person, her experience of loss, and all that it means to her. She needs this just as I have needed it in my life and you, quiet likely, have needed in yours.

The experience of loss is not uncommon, especially in our world today. This said, it is a very personal experience and needs a place to be acknowledged in this way. As a personal and unique journey that is collectively understood.

Copyright Protected :© 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Potential Resources:

Literature:

About LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW

This Weblog (blog) is dedicated to providing information, insight, and informed thought into the difficulties inherent in navigating traumatic event, loss, familial pain, and unexpected life circumstances. I have worked as a trauma therapist for the last 21 years and have met many courageous individuals who have worked to navigate these exceedingly difficult areas. It is this experience that leads me to want to share, not only about the impact of trauma, loss, and familial pain, but the very real-life changes and forward movement that can and do occur.

The strength and courage of the individuals, I have had the fortune of working with, lends validity to the healing process. It is my hope that the writing shared here will provide information, insight, and provide or reinforce, belief in the healing process.

Connect to LaDonna: Blog Perspective on Trauma – Facebook: LaDonna Remy MSW – Instagram: LaDonna Remy MSW

 

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will head over to LaDonna’s blog to read other posts in her archives.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives 2021 – #Pot Luck – Tragically Unaware: The Internal World of the #Narcissist by LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW


Since this series began in January 2018 there have been over 1000 Posts from Your Archives where bloggers have taken the opportunity to share posts to a new audience… mine. The topics have ranged from travel, childhood, recipes, history, family and the most recent series was #PotLuck where I shared a random selection of different topics.

In this series I will be sharing posts from the last six months of 2020

It is an opportunity to showcase your writing skill to my readers and also to share on my social media. Which combined is around the 46,000 mark. If you are an author your books will be mentioned too, along with their buy links and your other social media contacts. Head over to find out how to participate: Posts from Your Archives 2021

This is the first post from LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW of Pespective on Trauma and looks at narcissism and its potential impact on our lives.

Tragically Unaware: The Internal World of the Narcissist

When we think of narcissism, we often think of someone with an over developed sense of self-importance. Someone who is superficially charming, aggressive, arrogant, lacks empathy and who is willing to manipulate to meet his or her end goals. While this (at its core) is true it is important to recognize narcissism exists along a continuum (traits to disorder) and does not always manifest in the classic way we conjure up.

Often when I think of Narcissism; I think of many of the characters whose stories unfolded in the novel The Great Gatsby (written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald). There are many glaring examples of narcissism in the novel, but for the purpose of this writing Jay Gatsby (the novels main character) and the Buchannan’s (Tom and Daisy-supporting characters) are offered in exploration of narcissism and its existence across a continuum of characterological manifestations. All three characters were afflicted with the sense of entitlement, willingness to deceive, and carelessness toward others that make-up core components of narcissism. As noted, several of the characters from the novel could exist along this continuum. Characters so self-possessed that they did not value (or even truly recognize) the experiences, needs, or lives of others. Only taking, for themselves, to fulfill their perceived needs.

And, while this writing is not an analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cast of characters, it is a worthwhile and (in this writer’s opinion) interesting framework to better understand the many ways in which narcissism manifest. In reality, narcissism can present as overt and grandiose with its impaired host engaging in exhibitionism and exploitative acts to gain something or someone that supports (serves to mirror) their needed self-ideology. It can also present as a more covert approval seeking (seemingly vulnerable) individual who is slightly more aware of their fear of rejection. And, because it does exist on a continuum it may present in many ways including these two extremes. At its core it is powered by an intense and distorted need to feel loved (which is felt through admiration and feels valuing to the individual).

There are many reasons one would grow into developing narcissistic traits or in developing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These reasons (as many do) lay within the once developing child this person was. While it is true that unspeakable abuse can form this core, it can also be formed by over indulgent caregivers, caregivers who focused on performance rather than connection, and/or caregivers who unwittingly (due to their own pain) insisted their child mirror them-never allowing a separate mind (in a sense) to take shape. At its core narcissism does not allow its unaware recipient to tolerate (or lovingly acknowledge) anyone who feels threatening (rejecting) through difference or non-agreement. Along, with not tolerating difference the individual needs a consistent supply of admiration and approval. This person has a difficult time hearing they have done anything wrong (in any arena). Their fragile sense of self is deeply threatened at this seeming rejection.

What an intensely empty experience this would be. Always seeking approval in some form but never really feeling it is enough. In reality, never feeling they are enough. This is an internal feeling that the individual works mightily to never feel. In fact, the overt narcissist may be so well defended (psychologically speaking) that he or she is oblivious to this experience. Their focus is generally on another who, in their view, caused them to feel something they equate with undesirable or bad. It is this other’s (whether this is an individual or larger entity) fault. They work hard to stay away from these bad feelings (that resonate with not being enough) and can (on some level) accomplish this by minimizing, dismissing, or placing blame elsewhere. The covert (or more vulnerable seeming) narcissist will still deflect and place blame but will be less overtly aggressive in their counterattacks. They may more consciously feel self-doubt but will not truly own this. They are also working to stay away from that internal sense that exist under layers of defense.

Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchannan (from the novel) are solid embodiments of the overt narcissist. Dangerous in different ways. Jay Gatsby is presented as charming and mysterious. He has built his life and maintained his livelihood by engaging in illegal behavior. He uses his neighbor (Nick the story’s narrator) to lure Daisy (his long time love interest or obsession who can mirror or bring validity to his self-image) to his home in which he has consistently thrown lavish parties to entice her. He engages in a plot to have Daisy at seemingly any cost. If he has any feelings regarding his moral shortcomings, they are not overly present in the novel. Tom Buchannan is a more brash character. He bullies, brags, lies, has affairs and, is an over inflated personality. Further, when he learns his wife Daisy has been unfaithful (with Gatsby) he is seemingly singularly focused on having his possession back.

Daisy in some ways fits the characteristics of the covert (or vulnerable) narcissist. Her self -focus and need for approval, and importance is initially hidden behind what seems her pain around her husband’s betrayal and her love for Gatsby. This façade is shattered as the story came to an end.

The ending of the story is tragic as are many ill-fated relationships with well defended narcissists. In short summary, the final scenes of the novel include Daisy agreeing to tell Tom that she is in love with Gatsby and is leaving the marriage. Several characters are witness to this conversation. Daisy does not truly want to leave her marriage and makes a dramatic exit by running from the room where the characters are gathered. She frantically jumps into Gatsby’s car intending to drive away (not dealing with the reality of her own behaviors or even recognizing its impact on others). Gatsby follows and is in the car with her when she accidentally runs over Tom’s lover Myrtle. (A supporting character who could also easily fit onto this continuum, but that is a writing for another time). Gatsby, due to his seeming love for Daisy and her seemingly fragile nature, takes responsibility for Myrtle’s death. Myrtle’s distraught husband (George) then breaks into Gatsby’s home and shoots him as he lays floating in his pool. He (Myrtle’s husband) then kills himself.

Tom and Daisy continue, surrounded by their fine things and upcoming holiday. Careless, unaware, highly defended, self-involved people causing (in this fictitious tale) irreversible harm to others.

In reality, true narcissists (those suffering from narcissistic personality Disorder) are self -focused and do not have the relational skills necessary for genuine reciprocity. (A necessary ingredient in connected relationship). They do not feel deep wells of empathy and do not generally have the self-reflective capacity required to maintain emotionally safe (and sometimes physically safe) relationships. This said, with well skilled and intensive treatment (with a therapist trained in the challenges of treating narcissism) changes can be made. This is generally a long and difficult journey, laden with disruptions in relationship, for the individual and those who love him or her. To be very clear, while a fictional novel was utilized to provide a framework for exploration, there is very real harm that can come from relationship with a person who is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder or is on the continuum. Often, emotional abuse (which is highly impactful to its victim) is a controlling component in relationships across the narcissistic continuum. In addition, it is highly important to recognize, danger to the physical self may exist in some circumstances. (There are many variables to this, and this is not to say that all who engage in violence toward others are narcissists, or that all who possess traits along the continuum will cross physical boundaries. This can, however, present as a variable).

For the individual involved in the relationship with the narcissist, and dependent on many nuanced factors, the journey to recovery can be lengthy. Much harm can be done to one’s self concept and they will need to work to make sense of the experiences they have had. Support is necessary as one navigates this painful process. Over time, and through reflective self-work, a stronger self-concept can grow.

Overall, it is important to note that the topic of narcissism is broad and multifaceted. This article explores minimal aspects of a vast and nuanced topic. It is intended to highlight the existence of the above noted continuum, bring understanding to the internal experience of the individual on the continuum, and its potential (and often substantial) impact on those involved. It is also worth noting that narcissism (while explored in the context of the novel The Great Gatsby whose characters’ lived lives of privilege) can exist across socioeconomic classes and individual circumstances. As always, it is important to note that this writing is not intended as treatment advice or guidance. It is offered in exploration of this subject matter.

Lastly, I do want to offer potential resources for those who may wonder if they are in a relationship with someone who is on the narcissistic continuum, or who has made the (generally highly complicated) decision to leave the relationship. As noted, this can be a long journey and gaining a better understanding, informed support, and resources in the event of escalated crisis are important pieces of this process.

1) Narcissist Abuse Support Organization

2) Thrive After Abuse on-line Group

3) The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Copyright Protected :© 2020 LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW. All rights reserved.

Professional Disclaimer: It is important to recognize that all information contained in the Perspective on Trauma Blog is informational, and is not intended as a substitute for clinical care. It is not possible to provide informed care through web content, as an informed treatment relationship cannot be formed. If you or a loved one is in need of care, it is important that you access this care from your own care provider.

Agreement of Use: In consideration for your use of and access to the Perspective on Trauma Blog, you agree that LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW is not liable to you for any action or non-action you may take in reliance upon information from the blog. As noted, it is not possible to provide informed (personalized care) through blog content. It is your responsibility to seek individual clinical care from your own provider, who will know or learn your specific circumstances, should care be needed.

Blog Image: WordPress Media Library

About LaDonna Remy MSW, LICSW

This Weblog (blog) is dedicated to providing information, insight, and informed thought into the difficulties inherent in navigating traumatic event, loss, familial pain, and unexpected life circumstances. I have worked as a trauma therapist for the last 21 years and have met many courageous individuals who have worked to navigate these exceedingly difficult areas. It is this experience that leads me to want to share, not only about the impact of trauma, loss, and familial pain, but the very real-life changes and forward movement that can and do occur.

The strength and courage of the individuals, I have had the fortune of working with, lends validity to the healing process. It is my hope that the writing shared here will provide information, insight, and provide or reinforce, belief in the healing process.

Connect to LaDonna: Blog Perspective on Trauma – Facebook: LaDonna Remy MSW – Instagram: LaDonna Remy MSW

 

Thanks for visiting and I hope you will head over to LaDonna’s blog to read other posts in her archives.. thanks Sally.