Rewiring Your Brain For The Holidays

(It has taken me a week to write this post, I started before Thanksgiving but I have been going through a depression lately due to my health and being denied disability yet again. I simply have not been functioning, the house didn’t get cleaned, I didn’t answer the phone, I withdrew. I am ok, just grappling with this living day to day lifestyle I am forced to live with. This is not the life I saw for myself and I struggle with being alone, not with being without a man during the holidays, I am ok with that. It’s the not being with my boy and my granddaughter. When you only have one child it’s just the way it is sometimes. Anyway, here is the post I have been working on)

brain-ewired

It’s that time of year again; Thanksgiving, with Christmas in hot pursuit; and you are already anticipating how lonely and sad you are going to be. If you are in contact with the ex narc he is taking every opportunity to rub salt in your wounds by making a big deal of gift giving, attending functions with the new woman and showing the world just how happy and in love he is.

The little voice in your head is repeating the mantra, “Maybe it was all your fault.” “You are going to be so lonely” “You will never love like you loved the narcissist ever again”, “If only he would have loved you like you love him”, “If only he was the man you met” (but he is with the new woman, he is that way with every woman when he first meets them, until he has them firmly hooked), “All you wanted was for him to love you”, “Maybe if you wouldn’t have confronted him about the other woman, not coming home, the personal ads, not having a job, or whatever else you confronted him on; he would be with you this Christmas and there is always the, “What if the light finally went on for him and new woman is reaping the rewards of all your hard work?”.

You have a whole month to get yourself really depressed by Christmas and you could come up with many reasons why it is the narc’s fault. 

You would be correct that he is to blame for much of your pain and I am not trying to diminish the narc’s responsibility for your pain; but if you ever want to get past the pain you have to somehow start viewing the whole experience with realistic eyes. You have to keep bringing yourself back to reality. 

You allowed yourself to get sucked into the fantasy, you didn’t realize it was a fantasy but it was and in the end you were lying to yourself as much as he was lying, in fact; in the end you were the one doing most of the lying, he was showing his true colors and you blindly refused to see or accept it. It’s hard to give up your dream, your fantasy. I know, believe me I know; when I was going through it I was thinking, “Yeah, it’s easy for you to say that, you have never loved like I love my ex. What we had was special, I loved/love him with my whole being, with every fibre of myself.” I truly never thought I would stop loving him, I clung to my pain and to that “love” like it was my lifeline. I thought I had to know what he was doing, I had to love him; loving him had become as much a part of me as breathing, eating, functioning day to day.  Even if I could talk to him once a day I could function, but go no contact? The thought of it was enough to put me into a panic attack.

We had a pattern, he would say it was over, I would move  out, he would start being nice, call to see if I had eaten supper, my truck would break down and I would have to call him to rescue me, we would be friendly, I would pretend to be casual, he would try to get sexy and I would pretend to say no, we would end up in bed, I would assume we were back together, he would stay the night and not leave, and the cycle would continue. After we had done it half a dozen times I thought, that is just the way we are, we will never really break up. The last two times we got back together I didn’t believe his lies but I told myself, “It can’t be my fault if he hurts me because he is lying, how can it be MY fault?!” It was easier to believe the lies than walk away”

The moment I knew I had to let go of that dream was when he was gloating to me when his ex died and had spent the last 15 years of her life pining away for him, stalking him, warning the new women in his life and the whole time she would have taken him back in a heartbeat. She couldn’t let go of the fantasy, even though she could recite everything he did to her and how much he hurt her, you could tell when you listened to her that she still loved him and had sacrificed the rest of her life to revenge, she had become her pain, it became her identity. I could relate; she had lived to love him and ended up living to mourn the loss of him. I was not going to be like her, I was not going to go to my grave caring what he was doing or who.  Spend 15 years reciting all the ways he hurt me and packing venomous hatred that would slowly kill me? I don’t think so!

  Before my ex, I used to believe that we had no control over what we thought; victims say it all the time, “I can’t stop thinking about him and the new woman, I can’t stop wondering if I was to blame.” Although it is easier to just let your mind take you on these pity trips and keep you in victimhood, you CAN change what you think about if you are diligent about making yourself face reality. Every time your mind starts to lie to you, repeating the same mantra over and over again, you have to argue with it (if you are out in public it is best to have this argument in your head and not use your outloud voice). 

It won’t be easy, breaking bad habits seldom is, you have been brainwashed,neuro pathways were formed in your brain and every time you are triggered to think a certain way your brain takes the path of least resistance, it goes where it knows, which embeds those thoughts or beliefs even deeper in your brain. But all is not lost, the brain CAN be retrained and new pathways can be made and over time and practice you will develop healthier and deeper pathways than the ones left by the narcissist. Here is an excerpt from an article I read on the topic of trauma survivors; 

Here is how it works: as a young person, probably around the age of 15 or 16, you learned to drive a car; this took a great deal of intentional thought and effort. Remember how you gripped the steering wheel and carefully executed every action? Now, you hop into the driver’s seat without giving it a second thought. This is because your brain laid down a neuro pathway for the completion of this task; from start to finish, a set of synapses occur to complete the action.
In trauma, a similar pathway is set down; it can even be additionally ingrained due to shock or intensity. Therefore, when a single trigger or set of triggers occur, the emotions associated with the trauma are revisited.

But, due to neuroplasticity, this does not always have to be the case. New pathways can be created through changes in behavior, environment and neuro processes. Not only is the brain capable of creating new pathways, it is designed to do so. The brain is highly resilient and desires flexibility. The brain functions at its best when it is limber and rich with options. The incredible thing is that the human brain has a very real desire to heal itself.

Creating new pathways necessitates a great deal of awareness, mindfulness and acknowledgment of the present. Yet, in time, these new pathways will eclipse the old, thus allowing trauma survivors. 

You can find the full article here:

5-prcent

95% of the time a person is thinking with their subconscious mind, that is scary when you think how twisted your thinking became after being with the narcissist, the warped way he expected you to view things; is it any wonder you are having trouble dealing.

I know personally how a person’s mind can lie to them. I have shared before about being anorexic/bulimic for almost 20 years and how when I looked in a mirror I saw fat, it didn’t matter how much weight I lost, feeling skinny was as fleeting as my next meal. I weighed myself 20 or more times a day, being up a pound could send me into a tailspin and depression and self doubt. It took me years before I could look in the mirror and see that I was not fat, every time I looked in the mirror and thought I looked heavy I would tell myself that my mind was lying to me, I was not fat and prove to myself that I was not fat; I threw my scale out, (no contact with the scale), that was a huge step! and I gauged if I was gaining weight by how my clothes fit, I joined a gym, I ate healthy and I allowed myself to “fail” once in awhile.

I still have cognitive dissonance when I paint something or write something; I never think it is any good at the time I am doing it, but later I will see something I painted and find myself thinking it’s pretty good and then realize I painted it, or I enjoy reading an article that sounds familiar and  realize I wrote it.

I admit I still have a ways to go on the self confidence front. I used to think I was the only one who had self doubt, but you know what? I think almost everyone has it from time to time. Narcissists have learned to monopolize on everyone’s insecurities and then criticizes the victim for being insecure and needing reinforcement.

Some people would disagree with me but I believe self improvement is a lifelong process, you never finish the job and if there is something you don’t like about yourself you can always change it.

So what does all this have to do with Christmas and being happy through the holidays? Being sad and lonely is totally a mind thing, your mental attitude can be helped a lot by how you view your life, if you believe the lies your mind is telling you and if you let go of your expectations.

Most families are NOT having a Norman Rockwell Christmas and you and your ex certainly didn’t have them. People on FaceBook post pics that would make you think otherwise, but believe me, there are more family fights and tears through the holidays than any other time of year and a lot of it is because of expectations and disappointment.

If you have children you have a responsibility to make it special for them, you can fake it for a day or two for your kids can’t you? I know it is hard, it seems the narcissist is all you can think about or talk about but if you can put your mind to something else, anything else (except finding another man) I think you will find people are much more supportive and friendly to you. People are uncomfortable around unhappy people, people get bored hearing the same complaints over and over again. Yes, you need to talk about it but you also have to learn to not talk about him/her, it’s all part of retraining your brain to think about other things.

You will never regret time spent on self improvement but trust me, you WILL regret the time you waste obsessing about him and what he is doing. If you are going to be alone through the holiday season think about volunteering at a soup kitchen, seniors home or animal shelter, places are always short of staff through the holiday season. If you have money, how about contacting your nearest women’s shelter and adopt a family this Christmas. I have already done that this year, a woman with 3 children just left her abusive ex with nothing. I don’t have much money but it was amazing what I was able to find when I dug through cupboards and I painted them each a Christmas bauble.  To help someone else always makes me feel better, it feels good to do nice things for people, and most people are very appreciative.

But no matter what happens, remember Christmas day only has 24 hours, just like any other day and you can do anything for 24 hours.

neuroplasticity_300

 

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23 thoughts on “Rewiring Your Brain For The Holidays

  1. Thank you once again Carrie : ) you hit the nail on the head..i WAS a narc magnet.seems i have been my whole life but you are helping me ( and many others) to see and understand that a person CAN change and it takes work but is possible : ) i come from a very abusive alcoholic home ( my Dad ) so my brain was “trained ” to think it was ok to accept whatever was thrown at me..i especially loved the part you wrote about the brain being trained to react to trauma in the same old ways it always did and that can be fixed also..i have been no contact for 11 months and it feels great: ) are the thoughts still there ? yes..but i am seeing that it is possible to NOT be around someone who used and hurt me and it is ok to take care of myself and NOT let someone get away with the b.s. ..and that is helping me in ALL aspects of my life…another narc who i can’t mention the name of got a rude awakening recently when i put my foot down and refused to be pulled into that crap again..went no contact with this family member also, we have been around each other since then and it feels GREAT to know the tide has shifted and i NOW have control of my own destiny…is the person still trying to pull me back into it..yes but my eyes have been opened ( thanks to YOU : ) ..) and i am much ,much happier..it’s like the curtain has been opened and light is flooding into my life..praying for you and God bless you always !!

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    • Sissy, I was smiling so big reading your comment. I am so glad you have had this epiphany. People will fight you on your new found self awareness and not succumbing to their abuse but eventually they will realize they have lost control over you and find an easier target. Stay strong!! I am so proud of you! Hugs

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      • Thank you soo much Carrie. : ) And i find this is true..People WILL fight you when you take up for yourself..but they also take a step back, look at you all weird like and it’s kinda funny..the look on their faces i mean…sorta like “Dang where did that come from ” and i actually had to turn around away from a person recently so the person wouldn’t see me smiling !! and i can tell you that felt GOOD… someone doesn’t have to be mean , just tell it like you want it to be and if that person really cares about you they will step into the change with you : ) and your reply made ME smile..thanks again girl : ) and am praying for you daily..God can and will move mountains !!..hugs right back to you : )

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  2. Hello Carrie, I’m sorry that you are going through one of these bouts, one thing that helped me was realizing that it would eventually stop, you have likely gone through this enough to count on that too. But I am a bit more concerned that you have problems with medical care …I can only imagine how difficult it is for you to cope. My first thought was, Do you have a diagnosis? If not, you may want to find out what states thats close to your present state) that will give you the needed medical support, which would likely include benefits.

    If it concerns you to move from where you are, can you try moving somewhere that would be your 2 nd choice, for a while? get a doctor… get diagnosed, have the doctor states that you are unfit to work, and apply for benifits . Once you are diagnosed, I imagine you could return home if you wanted to, but check on the benefits first. It isn’t all that simple, but it may be worth a little investigation.

    There is so much injustice in the world, and many suffer needlessly. You have to be pro-active, try calling around, even in your own state regarding benefits, I know some doctors refuse to make a diagnosis, but there are those who are more caring, ask people you know which doctor they would recommend, and ask your state agencies what you would have to do to receive benefits with your particular condition…. And follow what they tell you.

    I hope you get sone help.

    Best wishes,

    Sandra Maher jw.org

    >

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    • Sandra, thank you for your concern and advice. First of all I am in Canada. I have been diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure, have had 2 heart attacks, 2 TIA’s and my heart is functioning at 20%. They implanted a defibrillator/pacemaker about 2 months ago and screwed up the surgery. What was supposed to be a 45 minute procedure was 3 1/2 hrs long and they tore my ventricle and ended up closing me up and sending me home to heal before they did more damage.
      I was self employed prior to my heart attacks and of course left the narc with nothing. I lost my job after the 1st heart attack and have been unable to work full time ever since so have had to resort to welfare. I get $610/month on welfare, I have been homeless several times, living in my car because rents are well over $500 a month for a dump. I am presently in the basement of a friend of my mothers’ not ideal but dry and warm and they like Stella.
      I have applied for disability benefits which would give me almost a $1000 a month and would allow me to make $800 a month without having to claim or have it deducted from my monthly sum. While on welfare anything over $200 a month is taken dollar for dollar off my cheque.
      I have been denied 3 times and even took it to a tribunal but was still denied. If I was a drug addict in downtown Vancouver I would automatically get disability benefits.
      It is frustrating beyond belief and causes me a lot of stress making my condition worse.
      Thanks for your concern
      Hugs

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    • carrie im so sorry you are going through this i know exactly how you feel depression with bad health and my daughter my only child is also abroad at christmas so much has been happening i had a run in with the narc the crazymaking was unbelievable told me he fell in love then details of everything of course of course by his way of thinking she had issues as i apparently do even tried to turn it on me that i am the narc but of course thinking logically now just goes over my head but speaking with them after a long time of no contact still feel like youve been in a war after talking not recommended even said lets keep in touch just leave it a week also threats of blocking my number etc i said fine if it makes you feel better but the only reason why i at the moment think not is my daughter is on the other side of the world and she is the most important thing to me but there is no logic in what they say and what they believe to be true its very confusing unless like me now because of this blog i know whats going on im staying well away again i dont care what he gets up to just more of the same more games but wont be me anymore hes lost his latest supply so was trying to play with me in some weird contradictory ways just to mention about christmas yes its hard but if like me youre alone maybe going to a church is a nice thing to do its hard when you have a disability to get anywhere he was even still completely uncaring about my illness there is so much i could be on here all night i still have my mum and dad so will appreciate them and some lovely friends from my fibromyalgia support group its hard when life changes so much as you get older i wish you well carrie you are also saving my life you are a one in a million person thank you so much hug to you and stella xxx

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      • Kim, it’s been 6 years for me and I would not want to talk to my ex, I would be afraid he would be able to get to me still. As much as I don’t care what he is doing and I can look at a picture of him and wonder what I was thinking and do NOT pine away for him at all, he had such control over my emotions and self esteem, and even when I felt strong he was still able to get to me; I would not want to take the chance he could still get to me. I would kill myself before I would ever consider going back but I am sure he could make me feel bad in some way. Why would I want to take that chance?
        They are sick, get off on our pain, have no empathy, and there is no way a normal feeling person can protect themselves from that except to stay as far away as possible.
        For sure your ex got dumped and in order to feel powerful and to feed his ego he came back to you, a “sure thing” to feed off of. His is a leach, and would feed off of you until he found someone else.
        You are doing great!
        I am not concerned about being alone at Christmas, I will be going to my brother’s, so that is nice and I think my son is going to be showing up now. Things tend to work out.
        Hugs

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        • thankyou carrie i definately will stay well away takes ages to repair all the healing one does puts you straight back to a shaking mess this time i feel i cant and wont take anymore im detaching more than ever you forget how bad they are and how low they go im going to keep my self respect and get on with my life which is hard enough i really hope you get disability you have a terrible condition keep as well as you can carrie hugs xxx

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  3. Hello! I want to thank you for your blogs. I am a guy, am broken up I guess with a narcissist guy who has a sugar-daddy boyfriend. (I was for the fun stuff, I guess!). Anyway, I have been discarded, as you put it. Your blog has been one of the main things that has helped me, as there really is no one to talk to. Last night I didn’t cry myself to sleep, which was a nice change. I hope to talk with you more but know you are busy. Appreciate you!! Tom in FL

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  4. Tom in FL again! Yes, your articles/blog have helped so much. My N is still on my mind constantly, though he has thrown me out. Like you said, “doesn’t want to share his air with you” or something like that. I made the “mistake” of telling him I have worth, I think that was it. Plus, he may have another sex partner lined up. So different than four months ago- he wanted me to come to his house all the time, said how we were “perfect” for each other, sexually. But I fell in love, thought about him constantly though tried not to. Wrote a couple poems about him. He was horrible about returning texts or phone calls, last 2 months, but when we got together, he’d say those same (good) things. A couple days I’d tell him I had off but he’d never call, though I knew he was free. I would feel so down, but by 4:00 I’d make up my mind to do something else. We have had times apart before; have known him about 5 years, but I’ve never stood up for myself before. Like I said, he has a sugar daddy (who’s also married -wow!). He’d tell me how awful that guy treated him. That guy has been cooler towards me lately, but warmer than the N!

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    • The minute you stood up for yourself, you were wrong. I get into the same loop and realize by the end that the only reason I’m defending myself is because I’ve done something wrong. That includes having a preference of any kind, or surprisingly, no preference is equally “frustrating” or so I’m told. I actually start believing this crap over time. Just wanted to say I feel ya!

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      • It’s almost like I wonder if I should have been some sort of robot, with no humanness at all! Nothing but bland “yes, yes” and “no, no” when expected. Thanks for your kind words, insight!

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        • Yes you “should” have but in my opinion, agreeing only seems to make mine more contemptuous. As if agreeing to something I normally WOULD NOT shows that I’m not being sincere so he’s like “oh she thinks she’s slick huh?” Definitely later on, or right away, he will make it much worse than whatever it was that I first agreed to. At some point he tells me, typically seething at this point, that he KNEW I would cause an issue, he’s not going to do anything with me, can’t stand being around me, doesn’t trust my word anymore, etc… lots of terrible crap and super angry. It’s out of control, even by his admission. But in the end I’m still f’n apologizing! And I mean it?! Even writing this now I feel like I’m a terrible person… its definitely my fault in some way, you know. I wish I could be more help but I’m married in it and just finally admitted to myself that it’s STRAIGHT UP ABUSE and NOT NORMAL 😦

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          • Thanks for your comments. It reminds me of a 5-year relationship I had, a dozen years back. I got to the point I thought I must be speaking Chinese, him Italian or something. And what I knew to do was apologize if he was angry, but that didn’t help at all. He wanted me to SUFFER in the situation, in some way, to feel how horrible I had supposedly made his day or whatever I had messed up. Even if I had done something good or the right thing, originally. My current situation I wrote about is a bit that way, also, yes. I did something nice and got shot down for it, and am now shut out. I tried apologizing, but only once (well, maybe it was twice). I wrote a letter a few days back, but never sent it. It would have been basically another apology. Hope things get a little better for you, at least.

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            • It’s cruel intentions… it sucks and will never make sense. I heard a youtube video, I can’t remember which one but the guy said “don’t wrestle with the pig because you get messy, and anyways the pig likes it” the NO CONTACT sounds easier said than done, but really the pain is during times when nothing is going on, which is a lot of times for me. I feel like I’m constantly in MOURNING, which is no way to LIVE. I get a lot of INTERMITTENT REINFORCEMENT which is bizarre but somehow familiar… so I guess it’s not really much help. I hope you find your peace as well.

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  5. Carrie, hope you are doing better by now, I am sending happy thoughts your way! Thank you so much for this article, I have been no contact for 8 months, but I don’t know if it is because of the approaching holidays or not, but I seem to be suffering from some relationship amnesia, and have been fighting the urge to look at his Facebook page. That has been the most difficult part of no contact, I last checked his page 2 months ago, seeing the happy, lovey dovey pictures of him and his new woman (who he had lined up before discarding me) makes me want to stick a fork in my eye. So now when I get the urge to peek , or feel nostalgia, I will re read your article. I just need to remember that even though its the holidays that is not an excuse to put on rose colored glasses, the ex is still what he is, and we all know what that is

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    • Anna, good for you!! You know the pain of looking will not be worth it. I am glad I can provide a place of sanity and a reality check for you. The holidays bring up all kinds of emotions for people for all kinds of reasons, to act on those urges, whether it is to contact the narc or get back with any old boyfriend, Christmas is not the time or a good reason.
      You can be the narc will be making it look like he is so happy and having a Norman Rockwell kind of Christmas but we all know what happens behind closed doors. He will never let you see how things really are. My ex always made it seem like he was being the man I had always wanted and always blamed me for the way he acted when we were together. 6 years later I happen to know for a fact things are not so rosy. Yeah they are together after 6 years, and I was with him after 10 years. Nine of those years were miserable. I know he was blaming me for everything at first but after a while he can’t blame the ex for his actions, he has to own it and I am sure his woman is questioning how crazy I actually was, or he is still saying he is this way because I damaged him so badly. LOL but after 6 years I don’t care what he says about me any more and she can deal with him for the rest of her, God help her!
      Hang in there, try not to torture yourself, the first xmas is the worst. Just get through it and then celebrate the new year and your new life in 2017.
      Big hugs
      Carrie

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  6. I’m reading your blog sad because I recently reconciled with my narc husband, we’ll almost 2 years now and forget how the holidays are a joke to him. I recently realized I’ve probably been an extroverted empath my whole life and take on his awful attitudes towards things. The 5 years we were separated I realized that I enjoyed the holidays (not so much extended family but that’s another story) I mean the parties, food, changing scenery, and general feel of the end of the year. I’m no longer “looking forward” to anything, just sort of holding my breath waiting for the new year. I’m new to your blog but thank you for writing, it’s helpful because I obviously feel crazy and unsure if I actually like or dislike anything these days.

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