Safety First

Safety First 2

I was raised by narcissists.  I am not talking about the general selfishness that plagues the human race.  I am referring to sociopathic narcissism in which their only concern is reducing their own pain.  There is no interest in the feelings or pain of the other … ever.

This type of familial environment has left me with priorities that can be challenging when I attempt to interact with the rest of the world.

As a young child, I realized that I would not be able to rely on others to protect me and keep me safe.  I started making decisions based on my safety.  This continued in to adulthood.  In some situations, I am overly accommodating because I consider the situation unsafe.  I am trying to keep from experiencing retaliation from someone I consider dangerous.  This is a tactic that I learned as a child and unfortunately, it is not helpful as an adult.  I should eliminate these people from my life.  My underlying need for safety produces the opposite effect.  I have spent far too much time with dangerous people in order to appease them.

My underlying need for safety was also impacting the decisions I made in regards to helping others.  My energetic resources were so depleted from my constant safety assessments, and the anxiety that accompanied, that I was unable to do much for others.  Usually, I would make the decision to help others based on my assessment of their ability to provide some level of safety to me in the future.  And this safety could mean many things.  Although I would help others on occasion, my intentions were almost always selfish in nature.

With safety as my top priority, most other necessities were missed in my life.  Joy and love are certainly two priorities that I didn’t have time for.  However, there is something more basic, more critical to everyday life that was missed.  I didn’t know about mutual respect.  I was not only unsure of what it felt like to be respected.  I was also unsure how to ask for it.  Too often, I felt that I was not being treated in a respectful manner, but I did not know how to change that.  I thought I was being selfish to ask for so much from another person … to ask them to treat me as I would treat them.  My anger would build until I would run from that person out of fear that they would become unsafe if I asked to be treated differently.

So now, I am working to address some of my misperceptions about how relationships are supposed to work.  I am looking at my reasons for helping others.  I am trying to do things because they are right and truthful … not because they may help me out of an unsafe situation in the future.  And I am working to respect my own need for respect from others.  I am learning that I can be disrespected in many ways and that I have to listen to my gut reaction that indicates I am not being treated fairly.  More importantly, I have to choose my need for respect over my perception of my safety.

I have to show others that I expect to be treated fairly.  I have to show others that controlling behavior is not a substitute for respect in any relationship with me.  I have to muster the courage to be true to myself and what I need in this life.  If I respect myself in this way, others will have no choice but to respect me too.

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13 thoughts on “Safety First

    • It is interesting you said it that way. I used to write off my own anger and reactions to others as paranoia or an over-reaction. I am starting to accept and trust my reaction to others as real. It has been helpful in my recovery. It has also helped me to end some toxic relationships that weren’t benefiting my mental health.

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      • I don’t wish this on anyone but it’s so nice to know someone who can relate. As a kid any reaction to my parents was an over reaction. I never learned what normal reactions are. Like you I’m doing better with it and I have been able to take some hard stands with my family now. No contact. No contact to the point where I had to change my cell number. It’s painful but at the same time it felt good. I think you’ll understand that. 🙂

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  1. This stuff is so hard. It sounds so easy to expect self-respect, doesn’t it?! I’m realising how I never really have and how I now have to in order to move forward. At the same time I know how strong we all are because of what we’ve gone through so I must be able to do it! Knowing what others are facing and have faced helps. I, like you, am 41 and it’s time. Have discovered posts belatedly and want to say a big thank you, they are brave and poignant.

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  2. Physically and emotionally abused as a child, I relate to your article and the self-defense mechanisms we created for survival. My lack of self-respect was from years of being told I was a no-good, dirty, SOB and would never amount to a damn. Consequently it made me an over-achiever. Too bad I never had time for true intimacy, happiness and love. I have always been focused on another new project, a continued success with my businesses or on proving the parents wrong. My self-worth and identity has always been attached to my projects and programs. Your article caused many “nods of agreement and understanding” as I read it. All of my books tell my story of abuse and success after abuse. Thanks for a great post.

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