My White Hot Truth
This a story I had no intention of sharing until years from now when I write a memoir (something I’ve known I would eventually do since I went on my first memoir reading bender between 2006-2007).
However, after a series of interesting synchronicities, #youcantmakethatshitup moments, and of course, pausing to really check in with myself to make sure it’s a full and healthy “YES”, here I am, sharing it now.
RESPECTFUL REQUEST: This story is not fresh, recent, or tender, but it is deeply personal, and this is the first time I’m sharing it publicly. That said, I am not interested in receiving, nor do I need any support or feedback around it, so I ask that you keep all of that to yourself after reading.
If you’ve had a similar experience and want to throw out a “Me too!” or “I’ve been there!” comment, that type of response is 100% welcome as I have learned, this situation is way more common than I would have guessed before I had it myself.
I’ve been a fan of Danielle LaPorte’s work and have had the pleasure of spending some offline time with her over the years on a few occasions, so when we got to catch up on the podcast recently about her new book White Hot Truth, it was an enlightening AND an enlivening conversation.
We laughed, we jammed, and we explored how we, self-help inclined, spiritual seeker-type folks really get ourselves into some mental, emotional, existential and transcendental debacles sometimes, all in the name of love and light. And of course, we also discussed what to do about it. Listen here.
As part of her book launch she put together some journaling prompts, inviting people to explore their own White Hot Truths. This one in particularly hit me in the guts,
“Have you ever been overly tolerant, foolishly compassionate, or excessively loyal to your detriment? How did you shift things?”
WHY YES, YES I HAVE DONE ALL OF THOSE THINGS.
Once upon a time I was in a relationship with a very narcissistic person, but I didn’t know it because I didn’t know anything about narcissism.
Having grown up in a very codependent environment where aggressive communication and behaviors were normal, certain elements of emotional abuse didn’t register to me as “red flags.” I can now tell you, being with a highly narcissistic person is a highly emotionally abusive experience.
About two months after ending that relationship, I was catching up with a friend who happened to know the person I’d recently broken up with. During our chat I filled her in on my post-relationship healing process and a few hours after we spoke she sent me this email:
“Loved talking with you today and I want to share something else. My ex-husband is a first-class dick. He reeks of in-authenticity. It astounds me that I ever fell for it. There were so many lies and promises to change right from the start. And yet, I was completely blinded to all the red flags, by what I thought love was, and the idea of loving him, healing all his ‘wounds’ and us having this incredible life that he so eloquently painted a picture of.
He’s not an eloquent man – yet when he’s spinning BS he is poetic! I spent years wondering why I had been so taken in, and then I read about narcissism. It’s such an overused word that I hadn’t really taken it seriously. What stuck with me is that when someone has this condition, they really just have no concept of what it’s like to be wrong, so they can literally never be wrong. Arguing with them is beyond frustrating, and everything is subconsciously calculated so that they win, so promises to change are a maneuver to end the current conversation. It helped me to realise a few things –
1. There was nothing I could have done differently. Including getting together with him in the first place. I had not failed.
2. Even the best BS-detective can get blindsided by love; and that’s a part of the human experience.
3. Experiencing that relationship and seeing how easily I had lost myself completely, even with my apparent brains and skills, made me one million times more compassionate to every other woman I’ve met since, and that has made my work so much better.
Thanks for letting me share!”
I re-read the email a few times because my body was firing all of the signals she fires when my intuition is screaming, “PAY ATTENTION, THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU!”
Then I started Googling narcissism.
The first article I landed on was called, “10 Signs You’re In a Relationship With A Narcissist.” Eight of the ten applied to the person I’d recently broken up with.
It was as if someone flicked a light on at the end of a tunnel I didn’t know I had been traveling through and WAS STILL IN!
In White Hot Truth, Danielle gives one of the best descriptions of narcissism I’ve ever read. I remember reading it and thinking it was a damn shame the book wasn’t out yet when I was doing my research, as Danielle’s signature precision would have saved me a ton of time.
Here’s what she wrote:
“Full tilt, unhealthy narcissism is all about itself. Period. Me, me, me, and even though it may not look like it…I make sure it all gets back to me, me, and by the way…me.
You can say a lot of negative things about narcissism, but the truest one is that underneath it all, narcissists feel insecure and inadequate. They do NOT feel great about themselves most of the time. Narcissism is a disease of feeling less-than.
An unhealthy narcissist has a hard time seeing other points of view because that might mean that theirs is wrong—so they will go to great lengths to be right (they are masters of the blame game). Narcissists suck at real intimacy because they do not want to be seen or worse, shamed for what is seen. They can use charm as a survival tactic. They tend to create unrealistic plans and grandiose goals because it makes them feel bigger. They can’t really lose themselves in Love because they are clutching so tightly to their own identity. They’re extremely defensive because they are fighting for their life. Narcissists have turned their backs to their Souls and they’re looking for a Light source from other people.
Those are legitimate reasons to feel compassion for high-spectrum narcissists—compassion is a brilliant response to all pain. But don’t get too soft. Because this is where bright, spiritually inclined people (read: a lot of New Age women) become the ‘perfect pairing’ for this mismatch. Narcissists are driven to fill the holes in their Souls. And who better to recruit for the job than Soul-full people?”
Being overly tolerant and foolishly compassionate.
After learning about narcissism, (which by the way, not all narcissists have full out personality disorders, many mainly nail most of the traits and behaviors) I reflected on all of the covert and overt criticism I received during that relationship and how I’d accepted trite verbal apologies, rarely backed by the action of not doing it anymore, or treating me differently.
I felt the shame of all the times I thought I should be more compassionate because my partner would say things like, “I wish you would be more compassionate”, when I actually was being compassionate. I was confused though, because that’s what constant gaslighting will do to a person, and narcissists are highly skilled at gaslighting.
I got angry, remembering that I also allowed this person to convince me that I was being judgmental when I wasn’t doing that either. What he was calling judgmental, was me voicing when my inner discernment was telling me that some of his needs, wants, and desires, were not aligned with my own.
And then there were all the times I talked myself into believing that even though the values he claimed to hold were rarely backed by action, he was working on it, and surely someday it would all click into place. I just had to be patient.
Excessively loyal to my own detriment.
I spent a lot of time justifying his words and behavior to both myself and others over the time we were together, because he was my man, I loved him, and I was fiercely dedicated to standing by him and seeing him through his dark times.
How I shifted things.
At first, I fought myself. I wanted the healing process to go quickly. I foolishly thought that maybe I could be an exception and move through it faster than other people do. That wasn’t the case, especially after spending two months in denial about it because I didn’t want to be a “victim.” (Danielle talks about this in White Hot Truth too, not getting the help or healing we need because admitting we actually need it might not seem “spiritual” or “evolved”…ugggghhhhh.)
Once I moved out of that denial phase, I refused to hide from any of the unfortunate truths of what really happened in that relationship.
I felt ALL of the pain, grief, anger, and shame, that I couldn’t while I was in it. The question, “Was any of it [the love I thought we had] real?” came up a lot during this time and I was especially gentle with myself around that one. Not bothering to beat myself up about it, though many times feeling the real shock at how clear it all was in hindsight once I had the insight about how narcissistic people operate.
I found a handful of people I could trust to be in my corner through my healing process, I kept the process close and private, and I was very discerning about whom I shared what with.
I allowed myself to be really present with the contrast of everything I DIDN’T WANT from that experience as a way of getting clear on what I did want moving forward. This meant dialing in my daily practices and some go-to rituals like this one.
Lastly, as I’d done many times before in my life after coming out of big experiences where I’d lost or shut down parts of myself – I very tenderly started to gather myself back up, reclaim the parts I’d abandoned, loved them up fiercely, and started over.
This song helped. A lot.
Thank you for reading.
If you want to check out White Hot Truth, you can order it here.
And if you want to join The White Hot Truth Global Book Club and get access to awesome stuff like journal prompts, FB Livestreams and more, click here.
Big Wild Soul, White Hot Truthy Love,