My father died when I was two, a coal miner, of lung cancer or black lung as it is still known today. My mother was from Newfoundland and was subjected to its national sport, sexual abuse, at an early age.
Consequently she had the responsibility of raising 4 small kids and not the slightest idea of empathy, somehow being both a narcissist as well as a professional victim.
So I raised myself in the library, my fathers were Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, a scientist and an engineer, both devout atheists.
But we were on welfare in the 50’s and 60’s in a very conservative city, Calgary, Alberta, subjected to soon to be internalized public scorn, for ‘living off’ others.
Mom never got off the couch; she sat there smoking in her menstrual aroma, until it killed her at age 60, agoraphobic to the end, terrorized by everything. Her narcissism and the emotional incesting of her kids was dutifully passed on, and adopted, to the next generation and the next, seemingly endlessly.
How did it miss me, how did I get empathy? I sought sanctuary in the library from the emotional abuse of my parent, the physical abuse of my brother, a particularly nasty piece of work, and the perennial abandoment of my sister (Lucy pulling the football away just as Charlie Brown kicks it comes to mind).
I learned from books like Black Beauty and my personal hero, Huckleberry Finn. Asimov and Heinlein were no slouches at caring for their fellow man either, they showed me how to do it, by osmosis, I suppose. Asimov wrote over 100 medical textbooks if memory serves, was a doctor and cancer researcher along with his wife, and revolutionized science fiction for relaxation.
So. Fast forward some 40 years later and I am the type of person that is sought out by predators of the narcissist variety. That is, unassertive and caring. The perfect target.
I was glomed onto by a woman who had 95% chance of getting the disease Huntingtons, a horrible brain disease, progressive and terminal. She did all the usual narcissist things over our 10 year relationship, including manipulation by F.O.G.: fear, obligation and guilt. The sex was good to start with but withholding it is a helluva time tested manipulation.
So as frustration became overwhelming and I started to demand, finally, a healthy relationship, she did stage 2 and 3 of the narcissist relationship, overvalued, undervalued, dumped.
Just then my oldest brother died of brain cancer and my best friend of skin cancer.
So. I bet you are telling yourself you can’t stand it. This was from Dwayne Johnston the emergency family therapist I was referred to at the hospital. I had been crying for six months. Turns out tears are tears of frustration, generally. Who knew. Well, Dwayne knew, it was his business to know. So I didn’t have to ask how he knew I was just glad he did.
Finally, after a ‘journey’ of faith healers aka religious psychiatrists and clergy here I met someone who wasn’t babbling inanities about ‘my purpose’ and the purpose of loss.
“When you are telling yourself you can’t stand it, you are calling yourself a loser, the major sting of loss. Evidence shows you have been standing it not only in this relationship but in all your family relationships all your life. Someone had to be functional to make it work and that someone was you. High tolerance of frustration is success in any endeavor. Besides when you say you can’t stand something it means you are going to die from it. Are you dead? Hmmm?”
Now I was laughing. No I’m not dead. Well quit telling yourself things that aren’t true that make you feel shitty. Shitty equals guilty, depressed, anxious, embarrassed, and ashamed. When you see, based on evidence, that the names you are calling yourself aren’t true, those shitty consequences disappear.
Then he gave me a website to learn to be my own therapist, and now I’m giving it to you.