Reading from “Loving Narcissus & Sometimes God”

Poetry is a fantastic medium for writing about spirituality, especially when these experiences are still integrating and peculating. I often encourage those who have recently awakened or had a near-death experience to journal and write poetry if that interests them. Years later, I know they will look back and appreciate the knowing of these moments.

I waited what seemed like forever for the title, “Loving Narcissus & Sometimes God,” to come to me. Eventually, it popped into my brain!

Perhaps, all the wonderful IG accounts and YouTube accounts that focus on narcissistic abuse helped me better understand why empaths like myself can attract narcissists. In this collection, I use the Greek Myth of “Narcissus” to represent all the ways that loving people who are unhealthy for us can shift our focus away from that love of God. In my latest YouTube video, I read the title poem, “Loving Narcissus.”

The last half of the poetry collection focuses on the better choice of simply Loving God in all areas and at all stages of our lives. Here is the final poem of the collection. I’d love it if you pre–ordered the book. It is free on Kindle Unlimited.

All This Talk About Death

We go on folks…we go on.
The credits are rolling,
surgeons are packing up their tools,
loved ones are falling to their knees,
and there you are in spirit going on,
finally aware of how your worries
shouldn’t have been worries.

You should have loved them more,
hugged them more frequently,
reminded them to be happier,
taken them out to enjoy
the sunlight and moonlight.

You should have danced more,
laughed more, praised more,
and joked around a bit more.

You are excited though,
hovering there above your discarded body
because it makes more sense to continue
than to become nothing
when you are something—
a spark of God that you dimmed
and brightened depending
on your circumstances and mood.

And, now, you can be fully
who you were meant to be,
who you too often limited
in the realm of fear and time.

@ Tricia Barker, 2019

Narcissists at Work, in Love, and as Parents:  How Empaths Fail to Recognize Them

narcissusflower

Update on 1/19/19:  My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories.  I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.

There are many degrees and shades of narcissists.  I highly suggest you check out the work of Breakthrough Life Coach Lisa A. Romano and other sources like Psychology Today to better understand narcissists.  Narcissists can be introverted, passive aggressive, and display traits we don’t initially associate with narcissism.

It is my belief that many near-death experiencers come back with greater empathy.  Most of us are born with sensitivity and love as our inherent nature and near-death experiences simply remind us of this love. Anyone who broadcasts love and innocence can attract souls in great pain who might be narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths.   Our journey might simply be to learn to protect ourselves from narcissistic abuse and help others heal from relationships with narcissists and shine their lights.  Many narcissists can be handled easily in small doses, but in larger, more intimate relationships or projects they can cause considerable pain.

The Narcissist at Work:  If  you start a creative project or business with a narcissist, everything will seem spectacular in the beginning.  Their exuberance and confidence will give you confidence. They will speak passionately about their efforts, and you might live in their dream world for a while where everything is easy and all effort equals instant, brilliant success.  Eventually, you will notice that they don’t like hard work.  You find yourself taking care of more of the details, but you tell yourself that they offer inspiration and bring charisma to the project/business/plan.  Eventually, you see that their egos are fragile, and you try to hide how much work is needed because you don’t want to lose everything you have worked to create. Conversations become more difficult, and the narcissist fights to hang on to his or her original ideas without considering revision.  Chances are good that they will sabotage everything, and you might never get a straight answer about why they gave up.  Narcissists will simply move on to another scenario that fulfills their ego to a greater degree, a dream that looks brighter, a path that seems easier, and you will be left falling through empty space.

You will wonder if you did something wrong, but the only thing you did wrong is miss the warning signs that you were dealing with a narcissist.  Perhaps, this person despises all authority figures, even the nurturing ones.  Perhaps this person brags in a way that is off-putting to some, but you thought this person was simply spunky or confident. Perhaps they always make themselves the hero or the amazing one in their stories and never admit to having a flaw.

There are always warning signs that a narcissist is in the office.  An avoidance of hard work is generally the best clue. Narcissists might even brag about how they get out of work yet still believe they should be offered promotions and given awards.  If you are starting a business with a narcissist, they may be absent large parts of the time and blame you for the problems. If you are co-authoring a book, they may fail to see that great books are often rewritten eight or nine times, yet they expect to become a millionaire with a first draft full of typos a fifth grader might make.  They want to call themselves a great writer/singer/dancer but not put in the hard work to become one.

Whatever the scenario, the narcissist will be full of energy, dreams, and braggadocio in the beginning and will slink away sullenly, secretively, or angrily in the end of your relationship, often blaming you for the pain they caused. You might even believe the situation is your fault, but all you tried to do is do the hard work for yourself and someone else.  Beware of narcissists in other areas besides work. You can find them in churches, spiritual gatherings, and political organizations.

The Narcissist in Love: No one is more skillful than the narcissist at promising the world, mirroring your desires back to you, and focusing on you with an intensity that you have rarely if ever encountered in your life. Many women are hungry for deep emotional intimacy, and we can mistake a predatory gaze for intense connection.  Narcissists, whether male or female, speak a language primarily made up of phrases like soulmate/twin soul/love of my life and usually say these phrases after a short amount of time. If these types of words don’t turn you on, the narcissist promises anything that will make you feel secure, happy, and safe. They want to bask in your adoration of them.

Narcissists know how to make you feel addicted to them. They take their time in the bedroom, and make you feel treasured. When I think of narcissists, I think of the poem by Sharon Olds “Sex Without Love” and how narcissists know they are never honestly going to connect with another human being. Everything is a great big show. They come to the bedroom like great runners, and “they know they are alone/ with the road surface, the cold, the wind, / the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-/vascular health–just factors, like the partner/ in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe/ against its own best time.” With a narcissist, you might initially feel like the God or Goddess, the light, the eternal love of the universe with this person because of the effort they put in, but the narcissist is only showing off his or her skills, hoping to get you hooked. Exercise is an apt metaphor for how narcissists function in the bedroom.

After a while, you might realize that the narcissist is unable to truly connect with you because he can’t swim through the sea of millions of bodies he has observed through the lens of pornography to clearly see you.  Maybe he is a calloused type, especially if he has a lot of money and is full of his own image. Men in this category might make women work to get their attention and make them feel insecure with little digs. Women who pay a lot of attention to their looks might be critical of their mate and make this person not feel good enough for them. There are many different scenarios for narcissists, but the outcome is the same. Eventually, you will feel that the connection is not genuine or uplifting.

Promises from narcissists evaporate, and you are only left with words. You might fight to make these words turn into the promised reality, but if you are dealing with a narcissist, no such luck. The minute you have doubts, they know that your adoration will be tinged with doubt and this won’t feel good enough for them.  Their focus will shift. Often, their focus was never fully on you anyway, though their words proclaimed otherwise.  They are masters at triangulation.

The narcissist might make passive aggressive jokes about how he or she would not miss you that much if you broke up. This person is only testing how much you are hurt by that statement to gauge how much to pretend to invest in you. Communication feels more like a sick game than an honest dialogue.  Passive aggressive behavior will escalate over time with deliberate procrastination, the silent treatment, and withholding praise.

Work is another interesting factor that plays into this relationship.  Narcissists come in many varieties.  You might find the dependent narcissist who believes in a ridiculous form of law of attraction that will “someday” make this person wildly successful without any effort on their part.  Alternately, you might find someone who is tied to his or her work and sees their job as a reflection of his or her image.  Everything will be sacrificed for his or her image.

Narcissists in a relationship, however, are not excited to do the hard work to make a relationship work. They don’t want to learn new communication skills or be forced to a new level of honesty.  They will avoid counseling or criticize and demean therapists outside the office.  Most likely, they will start building a new dream with someone else instead of working on themselves.  When the narcissist leaves, he or she leaves you with a blank space inside. They were never really 100% there in your life. They leave you with the loneliness that they must feel as they walk through this life never being completely real and honest with another human being.

Narcissists as Parents:  The obvious type of narcissist, usually a father but sometimes a mother, is the type of parent who is absent. Maybe they are absent due to drugs and alcohol or maybe they are too self-centered to be bothered by the mundane, annoying details of raising a kid. They might be more loving or upbeat than the parent who is around more often. Children might long for a deeper relationship with that parent, but as they get older they usually see that this parent isn’t giving financially or otherwise. This type of parent is charming and good at building you up, but if you ask for the money or assistance they may not be able to deliver reliably. Their own needs and desires will be more important than the needs of dependents.

If this type of narcissist gets sober, these types focus on how much they missed their kids when they were out living the lives they lived. The narcissist will overly focus on his or her accomplishments in sobriety but won’t find the time to heal the harm they caused in their kid’s lives. Often, narcissists are not willing to address their psychological issues. They won’t actively  teach their kids about co-dependency and how to break these patterns. They won’t warn their children that alcoholism has a genetic link. They can’t be bothered to have difficult conversations that might benefit others.  However, they will brag about their kids and take more credit than they deserve for their accomplishments. Maybe they passed on a few of their good-looking genes. That’s about all they can take credit for when it comes to your accomplishments.

The abusive, narcissistic parent is on a continuum like all narcissists. They might be religious and use a Bible verse to justify spanking their very young kids who don’t understand why they are being hit. Their love might be contaminated by belief systems that tell them it is o.k. to take their stress and anger out on a child. Maybe they are emotionally manipulative and want to prove to the world or their family what a giving, loving, fantastic parent they are while paying very little attention to your actual needs. Maybe they are verbally abusive and fly off the handle in a rage at the smallest of irritations.  Maybe they are emotionally abusive and keep their children away from one side of the family out of spite.

Maybe they are more toxic than these examples and physically and sexually harm their children. Whatever the level of abuse, reconciling with an abusive, narcissistic parent is difficult. Maybe you tried to get along with this person for years, only to be thrown off guard by the hateful things they say in conversation. If you go no contact, the narcissistic parent will probably blame you for this when they talk to others. They will blame you for not being a good/respectful son/daughter and for pulling away from them even though they will never honestly care about what you are going through. They will only be concerned with themselves and how your behavior affects them.

Maybe they believe they reached forgiveness with their own abusive parents, but you find it hard to believe since they didn’t transcend the pattern. They can’t be loving or consistently decent to you in conversation, so how could they truly have forgiven their own parents? Whatever the case, the abusive, narcissistic parent leaves children with a wound that is hard to heal. Healing is possible and usually found through breaking patterns and filling one’s life with people who know how to honestly care about you. Healing takes a lot of work which is something narcissists shy away from even as parents.  Narcissistic parents will tell you how their life was much harder than yours to prove a certain superiority and avoid acknowledging your pain and their role in that dynamic of pain.

My greatest hope is that empaths might find larger groups of caring people.  My hope is that narcissists might heal the wounds that keep them from addressing their problems holistically.

self-love

More Reflections on the Experience of God

I make my Creative Writing students create videos of their poems and add images.  A few days ago, I gave making a video with images a shot and used my blog piece Love Letter from God.  The English major inside of me is critical when I write straightforward messages like this, but my heart and soul smiles.

Poetry:  For most of my adult life, even after my NDE, I haven’t cared much for “spiritual” poetry.  Sure, I liked the occasional Rumi or Rilke poem, but I preferred poets who dug deep for their imagery, symbolism, and word play.  Poets like Adam Zagajewski, Wislawa Szymborska, Sharon Olds, Billy Collins, Charles Simic, Marie Howe, Carolyn Forche, Jane Hirshfield, and Mary Oliver have been some of my inspirations.

I don’t call what I’ve written a poem—more of a love letter inspired by God and meant to give comfort to anyone hurting.  We’ve all been hurt or disappointed in life, and it is important to remember that there is much love and healing possible if we only ask.  We can pull in this love from God/our source and feel better at any time.

The Experience of God:  One of my favorite parts of my NDE was being in the presence of God.  Truly, the experience is difficult to translate into words, but I find that the more I think about that experience and wish for that communion in my life, the more often I feel divine love and protection.  The book God and the Afterlife has a section dedicated to NDErs talking about God and the experience of being in this presence.  Most NDErs state that God’s love for us is complete and deep.  This love is a love without reservation and extends itself to everyone.

When I talk about God–the most loving, divine light I have encountered– I know how I sound to agnostics because I was agnostic before my experience.  I was highly critical of religious folks and just as critical of those in spiritual/new age communities.  If I listed some of my thoughts before that accident and NDE, I would offend a lot of people and make others laugh.  My point is that NDEs change us immediately and for the rest of our lives.

If there was one book I read in college that opened my mind up ever so slightly to the possibility of God, it was The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James. Quotes like the one below one helped ease some of my judgmental nature.

 “It does not follow, because our ancestors made so many errors of fact and mixed them with their religion, that we should therefore leave off being religious at all. By being religious we establish ourselves in possession of ultimate reality at the only points at which reality is given us to guard. Our responsible concern is with our private destiny, after all.”

― William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

I also dropped my prejudices for an hour or two when discussing this book and opened my mind to ideas like,

 “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”

― William James

As an undergraduate, I imagined how this type of connection might be possible, though at the time I didn’t feel it.  I wondered if I might have a spontaneous awakening at some point in my life.  How was I to know that I would have a life-changing NDE a year after reading that book?

When I left this body and flatlined, I awakened to the spiritual realm and knew that my physical life would also be a spiritual journey.  Once grounded in my material life and professional life, I quickly realized that I would hang on to certain fears about seeming “too out there,” but I also knew there would be a time when I no longer cared and became more open about my journey.  These journeys connect us and need to be expressed.

“There are two lives, the natural and the spiritual, and we must lose the one before we can participate in the other.”

―William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

are_you_there_god