I like shoes. That’s hardly a profound thought, I think a lot of people like shoes. My first favorite pair of shoes belonged to my grandmother. She had gold shoes. One of my earliest memories with her was at her apartment in Northville, Michigan. I sat on the floor in front of her closet and put of those gold, open-toed, slingback shoes. Then I walked around her room, clumsily, scooting my feet on the carpet thinking I was so glamorous. And she’d smile. I can still see her smile, and hear her laughter.
Years later after she’d passed away, I bought my first pair of gold shoes. They wouldn’t be my last. I currently own four pairs of gold shoes, in homage to her, to that memory in my head. You see, we like memories, good and bad.
My second favorite pair of shoes was also discovered in my childhood, but it came in the form of ‘Dorothy’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz.’. Oh, how I loved her ruby red slippers. Little did I know that those ruby slippers would become a profound analogy later in my life, much like the gold shoes of my grandmother.
What do a bunch of memories about shoes have to do with narcissism?
Well, get ready to take the deep dive because I’m about to explain.
Let’s start with my grandmother’s shoes. I own four pairs of gold shoes, not because I need four pairs of gold shoes, not because each pair is so unique from the other. (Gold shoes tend to look alike) I purchased the shoes for no other reason than they remind me of my grandmother, because when I look at them I get to indulge the past. My grandmother has been gone for years and yet I buy shoes to try to bring her back in some way. It makes no sense, but it fills some emotional need in me.
You know where I’m going with this. You gotta know. The narcissist is gone, but you still indulge your gold shoe fantasy, but in place of shoes, maybe it’s his or her text messages. Maybe it’s old photos or movie stubs or maybe it’s just daydreaming about when things were good. But, just like my grandmother, the narcissist is gone. And every time you venture into the past to find him or her you’re simply taking yourself back to something that no longer exists.
Now, my memories of my grandmother are happy ones. I don’t feel sad when I see the gold shoes, but I won’t be purchasing any more, not because I love her less, but because I realize the shoes don’t bring her back and the love is enough. The love is my focus now.
The opposite is true with the narcissist. The reason the words ‘trauma bond’ are used is because the body feels that relationship as a trauma. That means every time you indulge your memories, every time you slip into the past just to get a taste of the memory, you re-traumatize your body. You lay down pathways of pain that your body remembers and in some strange way you become your own dominatrix. You’re flogging yourself with pain and you become addicted. It’s why you obsess about the narcissist, why you read about narcissism, why you keep wanting to know the ‘why’.
There’s no judgement here. I did it all, read every blog, watched all the videos, read books until I felt I’d completed a Master’s degree in the DSM5 cousins. And with every line, every piece of information I painstakingly gathered I was poisoning myself, shutting out the world because I was staying stuck in the pain.
Now, I’m sure my grandmother will forgive me for using her gold shoes as the reference point for narcissistic pain. They were gold shoes, meant to draw attention. If ever there were a worthy shoe representation of narcissism it has to be gold shoes.
Now, what do Dorothy and her ruby slippers have to do with anything?
If you’ve seen the movie you know two things, ‘There’s no place like home,’ and that Dorothy was wearing the power to return home on her feet the whole time. It’s not as easy as clicking your heels 3 times, but the power to get over the narcissist was never somewhere else, it was always inside you.
You see, you can keep fighting against the wicked witch of the west, an apt representative for the narcissist in your life, or you can click your heels three times and go home, wherever that home is for you, where you feel safe and cared for.
And how do you find home?
There’s a strange thing I’ve learned on my journey and it’s something that Martin Luther King, Jr. knew.
‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.’
All of your anger and hurt towards the narcissist is justified, but you deserve so much more than continually abusing yourself by putting all of that energy into that anger.
Oh, I get it. Self-righteous anger is some of the best around. It swirls around in your stomach and lets you focus all of that rage outward. It makes you feel powerful. It gives you purpose and it allows you to put off the real pain for just that little while longer. The real pain isn’t that rage, the real pain is the not enough-ness that surfaces each time the anger is diffused, each time you close your eyes and you feel lost.
So, if anger doesn’t work, then what does?
Yes, I was a sceptic too. What new age bullshit is this? How in the hell am I supposed to feel grateful? (See, that was my anger, before I found my way home)
And then one day something happened. I got tired of being angry so I thought, ‘let’s just try it.’
‘My son, my cat, my dog, my home.’ That was my list the first time, said rather begrudgingly I might add. I wasn’t exactly clicking those ruby red slippers, maybe just a light tapping, but I was trying.
More than anything it’s a desire for change that brings it about.
Human emotions are a complicated thing. I mean, seriously, in what version of hell was it decided that, for fun, let’s make humans desire a person more when that person treats them badly. Who decided that the human heart was basically going to be used like a game of ‘Tag, you’re it.’ The game being, that you chase the person running away from you.
But that’s exactly why Dorothy and her ruby slippers are our lesson. Dorothy ran all around Oz with her only goal to knock a witch off her broomstick when she could have saved herself a whole lot of trouble if she’d just asked how to get home. But, no, she had to make it as complicated as possible.
Also, one other super fun trick. Home is found inside you. That’s why gratitude works. It’s about the essence of what makes you who you are. Ironically, although I’ve used shoes to make my point, home has nothing to do with material things.
When I talk about gratitude now it far different than when I started. Now it might be the sound of the birds or a really great cup of coffee or a song that I love in that moment. It’s more about recognizing the moment I’m in, rather than it being this major ‘thing’ in my life.
Strangely, or not, the more I stay centered in the present moment, the further away the past seems. It’s not that I haven’t learned the lessons that the narcissist taught me because I have. It’s more that those lessons no longer have an emotional charge.
The biggest problem with getting home is staying there. The mind loves clicking you right back to the wicked witch before you threw the water on her. Because, believe it or not, the mind is addicted to the pain. It’s why talking about it ad nauseam feels so good, like a relief, but it’s not.
So, instead of fighting with your mind, stop, breathe and remember the power is yours. Gratitude becomes your ruby red slipper and the things you praise are like a click of the heel.
The past is over. The future is yet to come and the only thing you have is NOW.
Make your NOW incredible!