I was recently involved in a conversation with someone who was coming at me with an extremely narcissistic attitude. I felt tension rising in my chest and in my voice and I found myself in an argument with this person and my internal tension was rising fast. I was feeling angry and defensive, and I could feel my heart rate increasing and felt my face a little flush. In the past weeks, I have really focused on being aware of what is going on inside of me when I have emotional reactions, and so I noticed as this was happening. I began to ask myself what I was getting upset about. How did this other person get under my skin when I needed nothing from them in the moment, and when I owed them nothing as well.
I could feel how the narcissistic person was pulling on chords of guilt. “You don’t even want to be around me” is what they were saying. They were accusing me of treating them unfairly and differently from other people. The attack was like that of a woodpecker looking for a rotted bug infested section of a tree. They just kept ticking away at me looking for a weak spot. A place where some part of me agreed with what they were saying. Once they found these little spots, they went at work chipping away at me, with the idea that eventually I would capitulate and give them what they wanted.
Most of the people I meet are actually really good people, and I have been quite fortunate to be able to help a lot of very good people accomplish and achieve very good things. This is something I really enjoy and want to do. It’s the same sense of satisfaction one receives in the garden when we water and fertilize good plants and watch them grow and bear fruit. It gives me great pleasure to give a small amount or help in some way, and then watch the seed thus planted grow. But I feel a tightness in my solar plexus when I am manipulated into supporting something that I do not feel called to support.
This study I have been doing about myself over the last few months really has focused on coming to really know myself and that means knowing and accepting the truth about what I want, and letting this be a part of my guidance that I follow. And so here this person was accusing me of not being supportive and not wanting to spend time with them. Some part of me felt obligated to support this person, and the additional layer of accusation around not wanting to spend time was causing a sense of guilt to rise up in me.
My Padrinho teaches me that I should always listen to my enemies and “follow my guilties,” which is one of his funny English phrases from his native Portuguese. Listen to your enemies he says because they will tell you things that even your best friends will not tell you. Listen to what they say he advises me, and search within your conscience to see if there is some truth there. Sometimes there are nuggets of truth that I can learn from my enemies, and through the examination of the conscience, I can correct and improve myself. The same holds true with the “Guilties.” I follow them through my psyche like a string through a cave. Where does this guilty feeling attach to me? How is this guilty feeling being used as a lever on me. Is there something true about the accusation that produces this guilt? Or is it just activating some old wound?
In this recent case, I was feeling guilty because some part of me agreed with the accusation that I was not wanting to spend time with this person, but in denying the truth of that statement, I was actually not telling the truth, and this made me feel guilty. I saw this as I followed the trail into my emotional body. And that’s where the sense of knowing who I am and what I want was available to help me. Actually I realized, the person was quite right. I really do not enjoy spending time with them, because they never respect my boundaries and they are always trying to manipulate me into giving them things I don’t want to give them. They were accusing me of stinginess and lack of generosity, but I know this is not true, because I know what it feels like when I want to help or support something. I am plenty generous with causes and people that I want to support, and I don’t need to support people or causes that I do not feel aligned with.
By knowing what I want, who I am, and where I stand, I was able to shield myself from these attacks.
The attachment point for most of the attacks that come at me is the basic need that I, and I think most people share, is this need to believe that I am a basically good person. I have an image inside my head of what a good person is, and when someone accuses me of acting in a bad way, this makes me uneasy, because it challenges my core belief that I am a good person. If I believe that good people do not say mean things, then I would feel guilty if I told someone that I don’t want to spend time with them or support their projects. Something inside me does not like telling someone that I don’t enjoy their company. But when I embraced the truth of this and accepted that this did not make me a bad person, I felt suddenly free from manipulation. This confidence put a smooth shield inside where the grappling hooks of guilt could not find any purchase.
Sometimes it scares me a little to acknowledge what I want, because I am afraid that if I go after the things I want I might lose some of the things I have. I subconsciously fear that the people around me might react negatively if they were to know what I really want, and so to protect myself from this, there is a tendency to deny it even to myself. This hiding of the truth of our own nature causes a break in integrity, and this provides an access point for spiritual attack. The antidote is faith that I was created by God as a creature in this material world, and there is nothing inherently bad about my true nature. I do not have to pursue every temptation. I do not have to eat foods that tempt me, but I do have to recognize that I am in fact tempted by that chocolate almond croissant. If I put up a wall and claim “of course I do not want that tasty croissant, only heathens and scum and degenerates would eat that!” Well I might be erecting a barrier to help me avoid the temptation, but I am also creating tremendous force to give in. This is why we so often see people falling from behind white washed personas.
If instead I know and recognize the temptation, I can see what I really want, in general, is to stay as healthy as possible so that I can enjoy my third revolution of Saturn through the Zodiac, which will start in a few short years when I turn 58. If I eat added sugar regularly, I put on weight. If I avoid added sugar, wheat, and diary, I effortlessly maintain my ideal weight. I am not a bad person for wanting the chocolate almond croissant. Of course I have the desire to experience that. But if I eat them all the time, I will not be healthy, and so I do not want to eat them over the long term, even though I want to eat them in the immediate moment that I am buying my morning coffee. With conscious examination of the conscience, I can learn to see all the nuances of desires and temptations that I have, and I can align them with the things I want over the long term of my life, and then I can make choices in the present moment accordingly.
But if I hide the truth from myself, well then I am doomed.