Freedom from Narcissism

Nature #1Narcissism if often part of family life.

Last year my older brother Ted and I had a major falling-out.  It brought to mind a moment when as a parish priest I was hearing the confession of a parishioner who felt guilty around his alcoholic sister.  Jim spoke of his frustration that she was so anti-social and demanding and nothing he tried to help her seemed to work.

I advised Jim that he had done all he could and that it was okay to stop trying.  God didn’t expect miracles from him just because she was his sister.  Treat her as you would any other relationship in similar circumstances.  Jim found relief; he resolved to let go of his sister knowing he had done all he could.

Well, it was time for me to take my own advice.  Ted had been my primary bully since I was small.  He was 3 ½ years older than I and seemed never to really like me.  He merely tolerated me, using his brilliant logic and vulgar tongue to abuse me verbally and his larger size to beat me.  In fact he terrorized the entire family with his rage.

Mind you, this was an era when sending your kid to the psychiatrist was considered a last resort for only truly psychotic cases.  Child psychological therapy was not easily available.  And so we endured Ted’s outbursts because he was academically brilliant, had friends who seemed to love him, and was otherwise fairly well-adjusted.  In fact no one in the extended family suspected a thing.

As an adult I kept my relationship with Ted as distant as possible, seeing him and his wife only at major family events.  Since they never had children these were limited to holiday meals.  Then my father became terminally ill and my brother was called to be his executor.

My father was a warm man who had a very difficult and poverty-stricken childhood.  Family was everything to him and he kept urging his three kids to stay together, because you won’t be able to depend upon anyone else in this life.  Ted seemed to take this to heart and did a wonderful job with the estate.  He acted extremely fair about everything.

Nature #3I thought my relationship with Ted was getting on a better footing until I left the priesthood at the age of 59.  When I lost my first job in the secular world I was devastated, never having lost a job in my life.  I went to Ted for a bit of comfort.  All he could tell me was to hurry and get another job because I wasn’t going to borrow any money from him.  When he found out that I was writing my autobiography he hit the roof.  He threatened legal action if I as much as mentioned that I even had a brother!  At a cousin’s wake he went into a rage and almost assaulted me when I walked away from him while he tried to argue his case concerning my writing.   I determined at that point never again to speak with him and emailed him my intention.

After a year or so I called him when he fell ill with cancer (since cured).   He was angry with me and expected me to apologize for walking away from him (a message from my sister).  After some soul-searching I realized that I needed to come clean in way that would be honest and fair to me as well as him.

I emailed Ted, apologizing for any part I might have played in hurting him any time in his life (I wasn’t an angel either!).  I told him that I had unfairly expected too much of him as a brother.  I asked him to wish me and my partner well as we planned our wedding.

Easy to do?  No way!  But I had to do it for myself.  Even though Ted has offered to discuss my issues (not his issues…he’s never admitted to having any) I feel complete.  There’s nothing more to discuss.  I may or may not cross paths with Ted again but if I do it will be as a man liberated from narcissism.

All artwork is copyrighted by the artist Michael Parise

About Michael Parise

Michael Parise is a highly sensitive person who has the emotional “wiring” and insight to promote soulful healing. He does so through his Life & Spirit coaching, spiritual direction, and integrated energy work. His keen intuition, deep empathy, and spiritual consciousness enable him to discover hidden factors in our lives that need attention. Michael’s training and experience in pastoral ministry and spiritual formation gives him access to the mysteries of the soul. He has assisted hundreds of people to cope with being overwhelmed by life, to find stronger connections with themselves, others, and God, and to address the inner critics that can sabotage happiness. Michael works in person as well as on the phone.