Many years ago, while searching for something to read in a secondhand bookshop, I came across – Going Mad to Stay Sane – The Psychology of Self-Destructive Behaviour by Andy White – in the psychology, mythology, alternative healing and self-help section (which in this bookstore was in a small alcove separated from the rest of the shop).
It was the title which caught my eye because it described the way that I viewed myself at that time. In fact it summed up my life story. I felt as though somewhere early on along the path of living, being and growing up I had taken a wrong turn, and once I’d taken that wrong turn all my subsequent moves and choices were also wrong.
Why did I think this?
Mainly because when I compared myself to the rest of the world (I know that’s not exactly the best way to judge who one is) I always seemed to be out of sync, an outsider, in this world yet not of it, and rather than it being a cool and desirable status to be weird, different, eccentric, unique, a special little snowflake, it was a painful burden that crushed me.
Every time I tried to be ‘normal’ I only became more ‘abnormal’.
“Self-destructiveness sets in with a vengeance when life presents us with a challenge which for one reason or another we feel unable to meet. The self-destructive act, whether deliberate or not, buys time in which we secretly hope to find the ego strength to master the challenge and avoid the humiliation of a defeat.”
Andy White, Going Mad to Stay Sane
Or so it seemed to me and once you make that kind of decision about yourself (which I had long ago) you get stuck in it and everything you experience proves your version of reality to you.
Reading that book changed my life by changing my perspective. First it explained my own story to me using a mix of psychology and mythology, and, most importantly of all, I felt that the author of the book had a personal connection and life experience understanding of my story (often with other authors I read I felt as though they were too far removed from their own work, detached, superior, above it all – their lives were perfect and they were just ‘doing their job’, studying those who weren’t as healthy as them, that kind of thing).
I’d read thousands of books, tried loads of ‘healing systems’, therapies, attended workshops and lectures, etc, seeking answers to my questions and solutions to my problems, but most of them left me feeling worse about myself rather than better. They added more shame to my shame, more guilt to my guilt, more stuck in a rut to my rut, more impossible barriers to break through between me and the rest of the world.
When I started blogging about my life, I recommended Andy White’s book. Unfortunately it was out of print, hard to get, and if you did find it it cost a small fortune. People understandably got a bit miffed at me for repeatedly recommending a book which was so hard and expensive to get, and they asked me if there was an easier way to get a copy. Someone even suggested that I scan my copy and post it online – which I was tempted to do but that would be committing several copyright infringement crimes.
So I opted for tracking down the author and asking him rather brazenly if he’d reprint the book. Which he has done – and was in the process of doing it when I contacted him.
“Nevertheless growth means relinquishing the claim to be at the centre of things, to be feted with personal privilege and special dispensation against life’s vagaries. It means to see oneself “as a mortal like everybody else, harassed by difficulties; it would mean assuming responsibility … and recognising that it is up to him to outgrow his difficulties and to develop whatever potentiality he has. “
Andy White, Abundant Delicious
In our early correspondence… I sounded like a crazed fan and I suspected that Andy White was a bit worried that he’d attracted a stalker. I always sound crazy (as anyone who reads my blog posts knows), particularly when I’m excited, when my passion has been activated. But as often happens with those who get over their concerns about my mental state, my crazy talk ends up seeming not as crazy as it sounded (or something like that).
After awhile of to and fro, Andy white asked me to read the manuscript of his latest book. Now it was my turn to think that he was crazy. I was flattered by the request but also terrified that… I wouldn’t like it.
They always advise that you should never meet your heroes… I’ve found that to be good advice on most occasions, except for this one.
Long story short – I love Abundant Delicious – On Obtaining Your Heart’s Desire by Andy White.
It’s a challenging read.
If you want to obtain your heart’s desire, you need to figure out what your heart desires – what it really desires instead of what we think and tell it that it should desire. The desires of the heart are complex, often expressed in symbolic form, through myth, imagery, emotion, feeling, and passion. Sometimes it’s hidden beneath, within, and you need to take a journey inside to discover it.
To change your life you need to change your perspective and that may mean being willing to go to uncomfortable places within the psyche.
To understand yourself, your life, you need to explore your story – and your story is often interwoven with the story of others, of your ancestors, parents, society and culture.
“To go beyond the pool of light or the city walls in search of the key is a scary and exhausting business. It means leaving behind the familiar if fruitless patch of consciousness with which we’ve been identified for so long and know so well, in search of something that seems hidden to us and shrouded by darkness. Everything that previously supported and nurtured us may no longer be available or relevant, and it may seems to us as though the very ground has been removed from beneath our feet.”
Andy White, Abundant Delicious
It’s a wonderful book, rich with insight and meaning.
An opus of Andy White’s life – part of which has been spent helping others with their life.
He’s a gentle, caring, and understanding guide, guiding you through the mysteries, puzzles, and knots of your own experience.
For more about – Abundant Delicious – On Obtaining Your Heart’s Desire by Andy White – please visit Andy White’s blog – Narcissism, the lost goddess and the fruit of suffering.
I can’t tell you how many times I have said “Somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn.” – and yep – always felt out of sync with the world, could never find my place.
The quote that begins with “To go beyond the pool of light or the city walls in search of the key is a scary and exhausting business.” made me think of the movie “The Truman Show”
Thank you for sharing the book suggestion.
Thank you ❤
I love Andy White's style of writing and in this book he shares a lot more about himself and his own story. Very interesting life. I always gain insight from his work. He shares a lot on his blog.
The Truman Show is such a good call and good film too. Also loved The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I still feel out of sync with the world only nowadays it doesn't bother me in the way that it used to. It's part of who I am, and so are all the wrong turns I've taken. I'm sort of relieved that I'm out of sync which is a strange turn to take.
Have you ever read The Outsider by Colin Wilson. That's an awesome book for those who feel that they're on the outside. The story surrounding the publication of that book is as interesting as the book itself.
“Ask the Outsider what he ultimately wants, and he will admit he doesn't know. Why? Because he wants it instinctively, and it is not always possible to tell what your instincts are driving towards.” ― Colin Wilson, The Outsider
Thanks for the suggestion. I just ordered “Going Mad To Stay Sane” and “The Outsider” – I think I’ll attempt to get through those first then look into “Abundant Delicious”
I have been asking myself a lot lately what it is I want. I don’t know the answer.
I’ve always found it more difficult to pinpoint what I want than what I don’t want. That is apparently quite common for an INTP, however I suspect that it partially comes from growing up with narcissists and having to hide from them the things which I truly cared about, what really mattered to me, as they would either
1 – ruin it for me usually by criticising it, picking on it, dissing and dismissing it, pouring scorn on it, tearing it apart constantly until there was nothing left of it.
2 – take it over, making my passion theirs, wanting it and having to have it because I wanted it and therefore this must be something they should want too, obsessing over it until their obsession ruined it because if they got it it was never good enough so they’d then have to tear it apart.
3 – or use it against me, to manipulate me, lord it over me or just to hurt me.
I got so good at hiding my desires and things that I wanted and loved that I ended up not being able to find them when I needed them. I did something similar with my thoughts and feelings. I decided that it was best to be completely blank around narcissists, but it left me devoid of myself.
However in hindsight it’s been an experience worth having as it really makes you take stock of what truly matters because what truly matters is so hard to find 🙂
I experienced the same thing with my mother. I can’t say I remember experiencing those things while growing up. Whatever I desired they didn’t ruin it for me – they took it from me or refused to allow me/support me in pursuing it. I’m fairly certain this was my mother’s doing – my father was just checked out and neglectful – he was passive – sneaky – he enjoyed sneaking behind my mom’s back, or at least felt he had no other choice because she would tell him no to his desires also – whether it was something material he wanted or affection – he began to get them without her permission.
Mom would either attempt to copy me, and if she couldn’t copy it she would put me down. I started noticing it when we went shopping together. One item she became obsessed with was handbags. One day and I bought one, a rather pricey one – but I loved it and wanted to get it for myself. She became obsessed with wanting it too. She would always mention “I saw your bag in the store the other day and almost bought it.” “I’m still looking for a bag like yours, but not the same as yours.” Even a year later “I need a new purse but can’t find the right one.” – 4 years later I stopped using the purse – I asked her if she would like to use it – she was thrilled and said she wanted it – that lasted about a week – she said she hated it. She actually said to me, “Wearing it didn’t make me look like you.” To this day – she still is always on the hunt for the perfect handbag.
I then noticed we would be shopping and I would find a bracelet I really liked and considered buying, she would say, “OH! I love it, you don’t care if I get one do you?” She has done the same thing with clothes. Except one time we were in a women’s clothing store and I tried on a few items, decided to buy them. She was with me but didn’t try anything on or buy it. She said nothing. We walked out of the store and she said, “Everything they sell in there is slutty.” LOL this is a national retail chain of women’s clothing and they sell everything from casual, business to dressy clothes. It’s not remotely slutty. She had to put it down for what reason I have no idea.
Then she started obsessing over my hair “How do you get yours like that?” “Who is your hair stylist? Could she do that for me?” – no way in hell will I let her go to my hair stylist!
It wasn’t until recently I began to notice another pattern with my mother, several years ago she began to have “spells” where she suddenly becomes very ill, and this is always during an important family event of some sort. When I gave birth to my child, she refused to come to the hospital, said she was very ill and couldn’t. At my nieces wedding reception, she became very faint and sick, they had to bring a car to the tent to drive her up the hill to the parking lot, and get her home right away. Several days before my nephew’s graduation – she claimed she was incredibly ill and called me to take her to the hospital. They ran every test they could think of and found nothing wrong. They gave her a pill for her nausea – I’m pretty sure it was a simple sugar pill to placate her. Later she said, “There’s no way I can attend the graduation now.” I told her it was a few days away and she might feel better, she snapped at me “I said I’m too ill to go!” She turned from a helpless sick woman into a attack dog in a mere seconds!
She’s definitely getting worse with age. I’m not NC with her but I have gone extremely LC with her. And she doesn’t like it one bit.
Thank you for sharing those stories, they’re very insightful, and they remind me so much of my own experiences of going shopping with my mother. There are a couple of incidents which stuck in my mind and which I used to help me figure things out.
One had to do with a pair of earrings – my mother dragged me (that’s how I always saw shopping trips with my mother, her dragging me along with her because she hated shopping on her own, she needed an audience while she obsessively-compulsively shopped to distract herself from things she didn’t want to face. She was one of those people who buy shoes every time they have an emotion that they don’t want to feel and rarely if ever wear those shoes) into this shop which sold Indian accessories. They had these Rajastani earrings (which are so beautiful) and my mother bought herself several pairs. She insisted that I buy a pair – by then I hated shopping and buying things (shopping was never my thing and my shopping experiences with my mother made it so hellish it made it even less of my thing), but my not buying a pair would have meant putting up with her bad temper. She’d get angry if I bought something and she didn’t (and do something similar as your mother did with the ‘slutty clothes’ remark), but if she bought something and I didn’t she’d get angry too. So I bought a pair… but every time I wore them my mother would give me this look of pure hate, especially if I got complimented on them. So I offered them to her, told her that they would look better on her, but they were ‘too heavy for her delicate ears’. So I mutilated those earrings, split them into two and made a pair for her and a pair for me out of them. That pleased her but only because I’d ruined them – they still worked as earrings but now they’d never be a source of envy for her.
I can’t recall whether I’ve done a post about those earrings and shopping with my mother, I think I may have considered doing it, wrote it in my head, but didn’t actually do it.
For narcissists shopping is a source of many things, of narcissistic supply, of ego, of status, of power, of getting a hold of treasures, buying a new persona or refreshing a persona they are particularly attached to.
A narcissist mother’s relationship with her daughter is a bit like Countess Bathory’s relationship with young virgin maidens (at least of the fictional version of her story as a ‘vampire’ who remained youthful due to bathing in the blood of virgins) – it’s a source of eternal youth. I noticed that when my mother hadn’t been around me for awhile she always looked older, but after spending some time with me she’d look younger… and I was the one who had aged a decade in a few days. It was weird and I tended to think my eyes and mind were playing tricks on me, but then I explored the optical/mental illusion a bit more and as weird as it was it seemed to somehow be a real thing. It’s as though narcissists feed on the energy of others, if they can’t feed on others they run out of steam.
They definitely seem to get worse as they age – perhaps because their charm fades with their looks, or they lose patience, get more desperate and that’s not attractive or charming.
The ‘spells’ thing is also very familiar. My mother would get ‘injured’ whenever I became independent. Funnily enough she often ‘injured’ herself by falling off her shoes.
Reviewing stories of spending time doing ordinary things with narcissist parents can be enlightening. Sometimes you notice something in hindsight with screams ‘narcissist’ now, but didn’t at the time because it seemed normal and banal. Hindsight can be a bitch, a source of regret, but it can also be very useful when figuring things out for yourself, unraveling the knots of your story and ties to narcissists and other people.
Trust the insights you get and see where they lead 🙂
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