The Abusive Treatment of Body and Narcissism

The way we treat our bodies in this culture is the way a Narcissist treats everyone. Like something to use.  Narcissistic people are motivated by one thing.  Will this benefit me?

Let’s say I’m a Narc and I’m deciding whether I should say hello to you or not.  The thought process is simple. 

Will talking to you benefit me? 

Will talking to you make me look better? 

Will talking to you give me more power, or make me look smarter?

Will taking my time with you give me an edge in any way? 

Of course there are spiritualized versions of this. 

Will talking to you be worthy of my time?  My time really belongs to God, and after all, you didn’t listen the last time I told you what to do.

When relationally oriented (non-narc) types makes a decision, ‘Will this benefit me?’ is one of the considerations, but it is generally only one of many. What primarily motivates a relationally oriented person is, you guessed it – relationship.  Relationship to ourselves, to others and the world around us, which leads us to ask different questions.

Will talking to you make us both grow in our understanding of an idea?

Will talking to you make me late, which might harm another relationship?

Will talking to you honor you, honor myself, and honor God?

Will talking to you give you the feeling of belonging?

Now consider the way we treat our bodies.  Very fickle, and Narc-like, I say.  Body sometimes offers something that benefits me.  There have been times Body has been strong, and brown, cute, and just the right and shape and size for fitting into a nice pair of jeans.   There are times Body has made me look beautiful, brought me a bit of power, and given me advantages.  These are the times I’ve treated Body nice.  I’ve regarded it.  I’ve rested it.  I’ve attended to it’s needs, dress it up, stretched it and ran tracks and stairs and mountain trails with it, all friendly like.

And then something happens.  Body breaks.  It can’t do what it once did.  Just looking at Body makes me sick.  The swollen face, thinning hair, pasty and hunched.  Body that doesn’t benefit me the way I’ve wanted it to.  In fact it’s an embarrassment.  Total rejection and repulsion is what I feel toward a body that once benefitted me. 

Such narcissism.  Such objectification.  What if I treated my body relationally?  What if I sought to let my body know it’s value?  What if I attempted to receive the kindness my not perfect body has attempted to extend to me day after day?  Might I learn to speak blessings to my body?  Wouldn’t Body feel more beautiful if I made an attempt to welcome its presence?  Would the things I think and say to myself allow me to be more comfortable in my own skin? 

Some confuse narcissism as obsession with self rather than what it actually is, an obsession with a fantasy of self.  Because the true self is made up of a real human being.  A human whose body sometimes gives and sometimes needs to be given to.  Using another for my benefit is a terribly ugly thing.  So is using my own body, and distancing myself from it when it can’t be for me what I expect.  Body has value – it’s value stands alone despite not always being what I’ve wanted.  It’s time I treat it that way. 

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Weight Loss

Summer and Fall 2013 179
The writer and butterfly.

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

Always hiding sloppy me

I didn’t the match the girl inside

And as I prayed and struggled on

Appeared, one day, just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

Inch by inch

and

Size by size

I finally matched the girl inside

The years went by

most all was well

And then a cancer came to tare

And ripped the breast from off my chest

And choked my trust

And froze my bounce

And once again the hiding came

I didn’t match the girl inside

And still I prayed and struggled on

Appeared one day just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

I grew to love

the one breast me

18 months of

all is well

And then a cancer came again

This time to claim

my thyroid gland

And spill around throughout my nodes

And throw my body balance off

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

And now I know just what to do

A friend I’ll make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it comes

I grow to love

the one breast girl

fat and covered in cellulite

And as I friend away the shame

The outside me

it starts to

match

the girl I’ve always been

God Love

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This is a blog in response to a challenge by the Proverbs 31 Ministry on-line Bible Study to write my God love story. This is all about God. It is not all about the people – some kids, some strangers, a variety of people from a variety of places… who have said certain things and done certain things that have affected my life. In order to give a testimony, it requires some honest. I have been compelled to not give my testimony because it’s messy for myself and others around me. I realize, however, that in order to truly grasp God and his goodness, I not only must recall some of what has happened, but authentically share my journey. How can I pray for someone who struggles with embarrassing and troublesome issues while pretending I’ve been always intact. I have to tell some of the mess. Forgiveness is a first step in all healing. That, because of harm I’ve caused others myself, and the forgiveness granted me, has been granted many years ago. Words and phrases, many of them blend together, leaving it difficult to say who said what all those years ago. I have forgiven each one, all of whom are on growth paths of their own. Here’s to saying yes to God when He calls for something uncomfortable, because He is forever stretching us, and I trust Him.

“Oh be careful … For the Father up above is looking down in love”. I’m guessing a lot of us miss that “in love” part. Instead, the omnipresence of God has caused us to fear a God who peers down on every little naughty thing we’ve done, and keeps a record of it all. And yet, when leaving that eye doctor’s office, walking the narrow sidewalk uphill towards car, words telling me “You know you made up not being able to see, our eyes are fine, you know you can see!” “She likes getting attention”, that though face burned hot and throat tight, deep in some unspoken place, I felt God eyes through Heaven window watching me. Eyes that saw how hard eight-year-old eyes had tried to see those letters so that she would not be told she was trying to get attention. God from a distance seeing that I could not see, and deep in my heart knowing that God was glad I was brave enough to wear glasses, even though I hated making a scene by wearing the things. God eyes noticing when our family moved from a place we had known to a new place, and then to another new place. Seeing where I slept, knowing where my things were that my scattered self couldn’t seem to locate, helping me find them so many times. The depression so dark I cried when I saw my sisters playing in the yard below, knowing I would never play that way again, because of the unspoken change. Knowing no one would ever understand, as I didn’t even have words or ways to understand myself. Yet, beneath that blackish hell, a stirring in heart emerged that God eyes were on me holy-like, crying God eyes, not eyes that robbed and ripped and tore away at me. And knowing He saw me, it soothed the ache some.

I’m pretty sure that when Dad went looking for a place to park our trailer, God noticed the ice rink just beyond the trailer park, and picked out the place for my sisters and me. Crack the whip on winter days warmed up frozen heart. I picture God with beautiful smile wrinkles round them. A smile for the time he scooped us out of dark Alaska and placed us back in the green, lush, rich land of the Olympic Peninsula. A smile for the time we got to live on Grandma Lindquist’s farm a short while, Narcissa the donkey to wake us up each morn, irrigations ditches, little Andy and Goldie the dog, all a kid of 10 would want for the perfect life. A smile for every lovely thing, too many to mention, that He has planned out and delivered to my life.

God seeing the good and bad gave me the feeling of being understood, and gave me a sense of safety on a core level, even when I had no reason to feel either. God eyes, they saw the youth pastor that helped himself to more of my soul. From Heaven, God heard the words “It’s very interesting, he did this to you, but he never did anything to us, and we spent just as much time with him as you did” – this phrase repeated over and over. And because God was watching, He was aware of the implications of those words, and also knew the truth – and hung on tight. Year after year, more words that cut. “You’re nose flares when you laugh. Don’t flare your nose, that looks weird.” “Your hair is frizzy. Do something with it!” “Don’t laugh like that.” “Stop singing. Why do you think people want to hear you sing?” “You bounce when you walk, just walk normal!” “You have hair all over your back. That’s disgusting!!” On and on, they fly like shrapnel, creating recordings that still to this day want to play for me, even though I have a husband who tells me I am beautiful, and “I wish you could just see it, honey.”

And somehow, beyond the wounds that have healed and opened up again and again,and healed some more I feel God trying to catch my eye from far above me. From His high place. Catching my eye, that’s what He tries to do, I’ve noticed, so that I can see those beautiful God Eyes loving the flawed and screwed up me. Eyes that know all my weirdness, years of depression unable to shake no matter the hours spent praying and running and eating better, pulling out my own hair without realizing it, and, “Oh no, no eye brows”, missing hair on top head. The years of Bulimia, all the shame and hopelessness that entailed. Facial hair and hair all over my back and places it is not suppose to be because of PCOS. The decision to become a counselor. More words “You, a counselor! You are more screwed up than anyone I know!” Staring right at me, laughing, loud and long into my face. God eyes, seeing all, I feel Him proud of me Graduation Day, amidst the put down jokes about chosen degree and the disaster that is me. God and I walking the sacred halls of the ER, one room than another we have worked these holy visits together 18 years, now God and I in therapy sessions, side by side we treat broken beauties – people He has watched every year of their lives; deeply treasuring each one. We are not valuable to God because any one of us is admirable, but because God has been with us our whole life long, has seen what our life has been made of, and has not missed one thing. Love is not aligning ones self with another for ones own benefit. Love is God, who aligns Himself to me even though I make Him look bad. I love being loved by God.

Amelia

Holy Underthings

The drive to Nordstroms to meet with the plastic part fitter, I’m a mess.  Want to go alone, but find no way of doing so.  Butterfly is along, chatting happily from back seat, asking me random questions.  “What are we doing after we go to the mall, Mom?  Are we going back home?  Is Sis going to be home by then?”  Our college beauty-girl is coming home for Christmas break.  I meet her at the airport tonight.  She hasn’t been home in months, and the house is all a buzz. The kids and I put everything together just right, but day before college beauty-girl arrives I fall apart and cry the entire day.  I have put off getting a prosthetic four months now.  I want more than anything to have a Merry Christmas with our kids.  I’m so lousy at faking.

Grey drizzle, wipers going, butterfly and I make our way down the interstate corridor.  We play Christmas Music.  It’s hard singing with a throat lump.  She is still chattering as we make our way out of car, Butterfly and I.  We are in the store, weaving through the bustle of the season, the escalator up, up toward sparkling Christmas trees.

Another bit of a walk and we are in the lingerie department.  There’s a line.  I wait behind one beautiful lady after another.  I think I’m the only one here today not buying lace and satin because I’m lovely enough to show off for my man.  I hate the gouge in my chest, numb and not belonging.  No matter how much Adored Husband tells me every day he finds me beautiful, I feel like trash. Butterfly’s warm hand swings mine.

“May I help you” says another gorgeous lady.  “I have an appointment” I say.  She rushes to the back room and in time Kind Eyes greet me.  “Hi” She takes my hand, tells me her name.  She smiles and talks to Butterfly.  We walk past the panties and satin gowns, down a narrow hall of mirrored doors, walls papered in flowers, soft carpet.  Christmas tunes playing as key unlocks room at end to the right.  We pass through the door. In the fitting room there are the preliminaries.  The measures.  The questions.  Cat rarely gets my tongue.  I can’t find much to say.  Slow at answering Kind Eyes questions.

I sit there in a fluffy overly turquoise robe and wait a while longer as she rushes away only to return with the loveliest girlie things I’ve seen in a long time.  Beautiful things.  Things I had thought would never be part of my life again.  The prosthetic is completely hidden.  I can’t stop looking.  I look like me.  I feel the shock.  It warms me.  I turn to look at her.  She’s busy loosening each, one by one, from their hangers.  Even the hangers are pretty.  Somehow industrial undergarments are all I can imagine will hold a prosthetic.  These are nothing of the kind.  No-one can ever tell from sight I’m missing a breast, that I’m wearing an engineered pillow that fits in a pocket.

This lady probably doesn’t know it, but she works for God.  Her calling is holy.  I think of the designers of these bras.  They must be God’s agents, too.  The engineers who make the best prosthetic they can, thinking of everything from comfort to heat transfer – ministers, all of them.

The song playing overhead  “… till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”  I leave the holy place of lingerie, Butterfly and I.  We weave past the sparkling Christmas trees, down the escalator and out into the grey.  “…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, la, la, de, daah….”