It’s been no secret that I’m currently enjoying Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Dr Karyl McBride.
Thanks to the holidays, I’ve only been able to make it through the first section, which helps you identify what the problems were in your family growing up.
But despite not being through the entire book yet, there was a concept that stuck out at me and I felt I needed to share it with you.
In the book, Dr. McBride talks about triangulation. Reading about it gave me an “Aha!” moment.
Triangulation: Passive-Aggressive Shaming
No one talks about their feelings in my family.
In fact, no one talks about much of anything of substance.
If we’re facing a serious problem — especially a financial problem — no one ever talks about it.
I often joke around that if we ignored a problem long enough, the hope is that it would just go away. (We all know this isn’t true. What ends up happening, due to my codependent nature, is I just try to fix it for everyone.)
I’ve come to learn that part of the reason why we don’t talk about problems is that our family has been programmed to act as though we are flawless, that God loves us and that we are made perfect through Jesus’ sacrifice. We couldn’t possibly have problems. We couldn’t possibly be flawed.
Emotionally secure people know that it’s impossible to be perfect.
Bad things happen and more often than we like, bad things happen to good people.
When you bring up problems to someone who exhibits narcissism, it invokes shame. This shame leads them to ignore that problem because they don’t know how to cope with that shame.
When they’re feeling shame, they often lash out passive-aggressively.
They take that issue, and rather than talk about it openly to the person who brought it up to them, they take it to another family member.
But they don’t simply bring up that there is a problem that needs addressing: What they do is shame the messenger (usually me). They blame the messenger for the problem. They take the shame that they feel and they assign it to the messenger.
If this third-party is an enabler, armed with this “information,” they then face the messenger on the narcissist’s behalf. And if that messenger isn’t emotionally secure, emotionally “ganging up” on the messenger can lead to severe emotional trauma.
This is my experience with triangulation.
Sadly, for most of my youth, I was an only child in a single-parent household.
There was no golden child and scapegoat. I was everything and nothing at the same time. I was one or the other, depending on what the situation called for.
The enablers, instead of being family (sometimes it was my extended family), were usually other members of the church.
When I finally learned that there was a word for my broken attachment style (codependency) and I began to take steps to heal, I was branded a non-believer by the church.
When I began to question the role narcissistic leaders in the church played in the abuse in my family, and I began to question that system, I was cast as an outsider. (Take note of the parallels between a scapegoat in a family with narcissists at the helm, and a cult with narcissistic leaders.)
So, whenever there was a problem in my family, it was much easier for both my family members and the church to point to me as the source of the problem because they viewed me as an outsider: I was no longer “one of them.”
I found the triangulation especially brutal because I was born in the church.
These were people I considered friends. My friends’ parents I often looked at as aunts, uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers. Their opinions mattered to me.
But when they took my family’s word against mine, they participated in the triangulation.
And they unwittingly participated in the emotional abuse.
There’s nothing more difficult than having your pastor say, “We need to talk about what you’ve done to your mother,” when you know you haven’t done anything wrong.
This is why part of my healing was leaving the church. It was realizing that I couldn’t appease people by trying to fix a problem that wasn’t real.
I’ve experienced triangulation most of my adult life.
To read about it in a book, label it, and understand how it operates, is a profound discovery.
It was only a page in the first section of Dr. McBride’s book yet, it really stuck with me and I felt that I needed to share that with you.
Happy New Year! 🙂