No matter how strong your faith that the powers that influence our lives are active, compassionate and kind, the information provided to us by our media and institutions, often serve interests beyond our own.
No matter how well crafted the message, ‘good advice’, may not always be what is best for our family.
Adding to the confusion, conflicting information from external sources can reach the point where it often appears our narcissistic/codependent world has gone mad.
Rather than delve into talking points—that often divide people into conflicting camps—let’s forge a reliable road back to personal sanity.
In this article, I will share some simple guidelines that have helped Steve and I keep our family safe and sane:
1. Stop Waiting for a Hero to Save You
My grandmother was born in 1883 and lived out her adult life expecting Jesus to return in her lifetime. My father—born in 1919—did the same.
If you believe Jesus is sure to come soon—because of the strife and turmoil the world is experiencing—consider that my grandmother raised my father through the Spanish flu pandemic, great depression and two world wars.
What is wrong with your personal world that you feel needs a hero to set straight?
Don’t hit the snooze button waiting on political giants or religious saviours. Your life is not the warm-up act, but the main feature. Stand up and start putting things right for yourself and the people you care about today.
Learn what makes men and women true heroes in their families in Steve and my podcast on point 1:
2. Start Following Your Conscience
Let’s face it, most of us avoid our conscience because we fear that—by insisting we give up our guilty pleasures—our conscience will cause us to suffer.
In reality, conscience cares for us in ways that nothing else can.
To give an example of this, let’s get back to my American protestant upbringing: I wonder how many people know about the opiate problem the world faced in the late 1800s or that heroin was marketed by the Bayer Corporation—just after the turn of the 20th century—as a cure for opiate addiction? Or that many Spanish Flu pandemic deaths were caused by patients overdosing with aspirin?
Mega dosing with aspirin came partly from panic, but also from the fact that Bayer’s new pain killer had only just been released, with no one aware yet of its dangers.
Opiates had recently been made prescription-only; the first time prescriptions became required by law.
Opiates had previously been sold everywhere, including heroin—syringes and all—even by mail order in the Sears Catalog! Women didn’t smoke or drink, but in high society injected themselves with opiates in their thigh under the table. Children’s candy was even infused with opiates!
With opiate-based pain killers off the open market in 1919, I can only guess that opiate addict’s withdrawal cravings were not satisfied by a single safe dose of aspirin. Addicts must have been downing as many aspirins as they could get their hands on.
More reliable than these dangerous drugs, back in those days, was a firm American Protestant tradition that mothers be considered the ‘physician’ in their homes.
Two churches that I know of from this era—both led by female prophets—built massive worldwide congregations by espousing a clean living health message that avoided the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
The congregations of these churches were swelled mostly by men and women who sensed that “God’s own medicine” (Morphine) and Jesus pills (heroin pills handed out to the Chinese by Christian missionaries) were not the best solution for dealing with sickness in their families. This concern, based on personal observation of what drug use was doing to people, was certainly not what the estimated majority of up to 50 million addicts in the world (at that time) was doing.
Outside of mainstream thinking at that time, the people who trusted their conscience fared better than those trusting ‘a saviour’ in the guise of a new drug.
It might be interesting to note that one of these women, Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science Church, was also an early civil rights activist.
Mrs Eddy’s brother, Albert, elected to the New Hampshire Legislature, was also a human rights activist who succeeded in having the law that imprisoned people for debt abolished.
These too were popular movements led by conscience, in times similar to our own!
With so many forces intent on hijacking good causes and dividing us, however, conscience can no longer rely on mass movements but has become a more personal matter of survival.
Everyone needs to allow space to others to follow their conscience in making health decisions. And we must ultimately make the decision of what is right for ourselves.
What conscience is not
Conscience is not feeling distraught that someone may be unhappy with you. This is not conscience but codependency.
Agendas fed to you by media agents—preying on your prejudices, hopes and fears—is not conscience either. Media agents spend countless hours—and dollars—developing narratives that serve interests that are not your own.
Your personal agenda likewise is not conscience. No matter what excuses you find to focus solely on your ambitions; if you don’t take time out every day to set aside your aspirations and consider your conscience, you will be creating hardship and chaos for someone somewhere. This negative effect may at first impact people you can marginalise, but will eventually find its way back to hurt you.
For example – people feeling enriched and clever about ‘hunting down’ goods and services at the lowest possible price, has led to corporations exploiting third world countries. While people kid themselves this kind of bargain hunting is only cheating big corporations who can afford it—and that third world workers are happy to work for a bowl of rice—the truth is this exploitation eventually comes round to hurt everyone.
Closer to home, putting yourself above others in your household/family by doing less than your share of the unpaid labour will, similarly, hurt your families most vulnerable members and eventually hurt all of you.
In the short term, you might get away with ignoring the inevitable complaints levelled against you—by claiming these complaints are mixed up or crazy—but protecting yourself in this way will distort your view of reality in dangerous ways, eventually hurting you and the people you love.
The unpaid labour in a family needs to be distributed evenly.
Criticism or negative judgements against you, however, are not your conscience either. They may sometimes alert you, however, to the fact that you have not been considerate or fair. If someone is upset with you, ask your conscience first and then use our conflict resolution process to respond to the complaint using empathy. If the angry person will not let the issue be resolved, there is a chance they may be scape-goating you. In this case, consider point 5.
Don’t fall off the tightrope
People with a codependent mindset tend to mistake any negative judgement from others as conscience, making them easy to exploit.
From a narcissistic mindset, even in the face of criticism, that deep down they know they deserve, people will ignore their conscience and go with the crowd.
Groupthink—which is just another word for narcissism—is when a collective of people affirm their right to exploit another group of people and help each other ignore their conscience. Groupthink is present wherever people are claiming that exploitation is tradition or preordained.
Ignoring conscience and criticism, over time, will create built-up resentment and hard feelings. As we see in the streets today, this person or group may face anger and violence when eventually the people whose exploitation they excuse ‘snap’.
Once things reach this point, blame will keep getting thrown around, but as we see in countless news stories, this will often cause an extreme downward spiral.
We see this downward spiral in relationships too; not something you would wish for your family.
For this reason, it is best to avoid gaslighting (claiming anyone who has a complaint against you is crazy) and use empathy to address criticisms aimed at you. Your needs must also be considered before you agree on a new way forward.
Using empathy to deal with criticism is not weak, but highly professional conduct. It is not easy to master, but it is a skill that may literally save your family from destruction.
If you are being gaslighted in your home, don’t resort to anger or violence! Instead, check out the steps we offer in Back From the Looking Glass. These steps will not only help a family dealing with injustice at home. We have had testimonials from smart individuals who have used these same principles successfully in large organisations to change the prevailing narcissistic and codependent culture.
What conscience is
The truth is that conscience is a very personal inner state that should be sought with intention and free will.
Instead of blindly following the dictates of your community leaders and peers, take time every day to stop and ask yourself—deep down—what is the right thing for me to do? The benefits of locating and tuning into this personal moral compass are immense; the very difference between heaven and hell.
3. Stop Romanticizing
Are you trying to create an idyllic marriage for yourself, and storybook childhood for your children?
Rather than wishing to play out a naively chosen role in your fairytale, your family are probably more concerned that you have matured emotionally enough to:
a. put yourself in their shoes,
b. share information honestly—even when it is uncomfortable,
c. deal gracefully and intelligently with criticism.
Family life is not a romance novel. Parents need to make tough and ugly decisions sometimes. For instance, taking computer games (and the TV) away and giving children roles of responsibility in your household, may take all your mettle to accomplish, but—in the end—may also save your whole family from madness.
Wise leadership has nothing to do with romance. It requires us developing roles that our family members feel motivated by and are aligned with—while also providing enough challenge—for members to feel a sense of pride and belonging.
4. Plan Family Entertainment that Builds Teamwork and Rapport
What can you do for fun together that doesn’t include eating or looking at a screen for a few hours? Think of some ideas—really—I dare you!
5. Don’t Support People Who Use or Exploit You
Don’t demonise; just stop giving more than others are willing to pay you for in some way.
Giving less may make your user angry at first—so make sure you do all you can to protect yourself and your interests—but learning to say no is the only way you will ever give mutual respect a chance.
Establishing a fair exchange may involve changing the system you live and work within.
Try negotiating to fix your current system before starting a new one. Revolution is fertile ground for predators and is never sure to create peace in the end.
6. Stop Playing the Victim
Worse than waiting for a hero can be rushing to find someone to blame for the problems you are facing.
Everyone has experienced grief and hardship. Blaming others is likely only to alienate you further.
Before seeking sympathy or handouts, be sure that you are making the best of what you already have.
A drowning man is not choosey about the rope thrown to him. Be careful an offer of salvation won’t lead somewhere worse than you are already.
If you need help reorganising your life so that you are no longer used or exploited, ask someone you trust and who is willing and able to help you put a better system in place. Don’t ask if you are not willing to listen and consider that person’s viewpoint. Positive change will undoubtedly put you out of your comfort zone for a while until a new normal is established.
7. Stop Taking Other People’s Faults Personally
If you feel hurt that someone is not giving you what you need, before assuming they don’t care about you, consider if what they are doing is about their own immaturity.
If a person is rude to you, for instance, is it that they don’t care about you, or are they disrespectful—to certain classes of people in general?
Insisting your hurt feelings should be a reason for them to change their behaviour probably won’t work.
Most of us have a hard enough time keeping our feelings about ourselves positive than to be able to act in a way that prevents other people from being unhappy.
In the case of someone who is rude to people who they judge as inferior to themselves, this behaviour will usually only change when doing so starts making them look small. Developing witty comeback lines is a great way to protect yourself and accomplish this.
If someone regularly talks down to you, it might be time to pre-plan a response so that what they are doing stops hurting you and only hurts them.
People will generally only change their behaviour when their behaviour starts to hurt them.
8. Deal With Your Self Righteous Indignation
Do thoughtlessness and stupidity easily anger you? Do you feel isolated in your superior knowledge and judgement? Do you feel lonely and misunderstood?
These are signs you may be trapped in a dangerous bubble—now sometimes called an echo chamber.
The more you learn to listen and consider other people’s needs and motivations, the less isolated and anxious you will feel about the world.
Anxious and alienated vs a life filled with meaning and belonging. The choice is yours.
The gap finder exercises in the last chapter of The Love Safety Net Workbook may help lead the way out of your self imposed bubble. The work will be challenging but certainly worth your while.
9. Get Your Home Organised
Practical, well organised and efficient is beautiful.
Make your home a place where everyone can find what they need, to do what they need to do.
Don’t let people tell you to throw out stuff you love and treasure. Care for your belongings and use them to their best benefit for everyone.
A disordered mind creates a disorganised environment. An ordered environment can also help create an organised mind.
If your environment is disordered get someone to help you. Don’t keep recreating the same messed up life!
10. Stop Defining Yourself With Unhelpful Stories
Do you tell people you are an ex-drug addict? An ex-drinker? A coffee addict, insomniac or hoarder? Or perhaps a fan of some team, musician or actor? Is this the best story you can come up with to define yourself?
Why not give yourself a more descriptive and useful title? Household operations manager? Chairman of the family board? You can describe yourself however you like, so how about talking about yourself kindly? What descriptions will help people align with what you want in your life right now?
Pay More Attention to the Stories in Your Dreams
When we sleep, our unconscious mind provides us with metaphorical stories in our dreams that can help us plot a course through life. A classroom is a place in your dreams that is probably teaching you something and a kitchen giving knowledge for sustenance and growth.
The information our dream stories offer is tailormade for us from unlimited personal data about ourselves and our life.
You have your own set of dream symbols. Keep a journal of your dreams, and you will soon start learning what they are.
11. Stop Talking About Yourself and Learn to Listen
Be honest. Are you not that interested in anyone but yourself?
The desire to be more interested in others is the starting point to a satisfying and meaningful life.
Understanding other people’s needs and motivations—and setting up a system that considers these in your planning—is the road to long-term prosperity and wisdom.
12. Give Yourself the Attention You are Craving
What unhealthy things do you do for attention? Pretend you are better than other people? Exaggerate about your successes? Make yourself sick with psychosomatic illnesses? Work to impress instead of working for the common good?
Only you can be your perfect lover. Start giving yourself the love and attention you crave.
The points above are here to help you whenever you feel your life may have gone off track. The final point below is the golden rule, if you like, in keeping balance in a narcissistic and codependent world:
The True Pearl of Wisdom = Moderation
Is your life focused on yourself? Is it focused on your partner? Are there other consuming addictions you nurture?
Just as walking into the light creates a dark shadow, giving up one thing leaves a gap for something potentially worse to enter.
Regulate your life and enjoy the bounty; balance never comes from a single focus.