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Deconstruction with Naked Pastor


This podcast episode is an interview with @nakedpastor, David Hayward, former pastor turned cartoonist who’s been “drawing graffiti on the walls of religion since 2005.” Because of Tabitha’s own journey of becoming free from spiritual abuse in the Christian church, she and David had so much to talk about. Some of the topics include “miracles”, escaping cult-like religious backgrounds, astrology and the idea of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Tabitha’s most heartwarming moment was when David said she reminded him of Sophia from his book The Liberation of Sophia, and Tabitha reads an excerpt in the introduction to give everyone a taste.

Check out the first half of the interview on YouTube!


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Read the Interview!

Transcript of the interview with David Hayward:

[00:00:00] David Hayward: [00:00:00] David.
[00:00:03] Hi, how are you? Good. Are you
[00:00:07] Tabitha: [00:00:07] good? As I’m sitting here with my headphones on, I can hear my earrings.
[00:00:14] David Hayward: [00:00:14] I take them off audio earrings.
[00:00:18] Tabitha: [00:00:18] Yeah. I mean, I don’t mind, but I feel like later it will be annoying when I try to edit it. Yeah.
[00:00:24] David Hayward: [00:00:24] How are you today? I’m doing well. How are you?
[00:00:27] Tabitha: [00:00:27] I’m doing well. I’m so excited to talk about your story.
[00:00:33] And I did some Instagram research, right? I looked through your stories. I kind of read your story. I would love to get a bit of your background and have the listeners understand why you call yourself the naked pastor and kind of how that journey has gone and how you
[00:00:52] David Hayward: [00:00:52] got here. Yeah. Sure. Well, thanks again for having me on the show and thanks.
[00:00:57]All your, your fans and all your listeners out there. Hi, it’s good to be here. Share my story with you. So yeah, I basically grew up in a very religious Christian home and everything, and I grew up in the church, very conservative even kind of Pentecostal you know, the whole born again thing and went to Bible college.
[00:01:16]I’m in Canada, I’m a Canadian. I went to college in the U S, famous because of the Simpsons, but Springfield, Missouri, and went to a Bible college there. And that’s where I met my wife, Lisa. And I went from there to seminary in Boston. Then I went to the university of Toronto to start my PhD, but we got pregnant instead.
[00:01:39] And I ended up in the ministry kind of by accident, but it was a quick way for me to get a steady job, income and do something I was kind of interested in. So, I was in the ministry for many years, I round it off to about 30 years. And then in 2010, I just felt like I couldn’t grow anymore.
[00:02:04] I just felt like I was limited kind of closed in and, and the only way I could figure out how to. Feel free again, was to walk away from the ministry. So I walked away from the ministry and basically decided to see if I could make Naked Pastor, which I’d been a blogger on Naked Pastor since about 2005, and see if I could make a go of it full time with my art and books and courses and you know, other stuff.
[00:02:35] And 11 years later, still doing Naked Pastor and with all my stuff. So naked pastor, basically. I started the blog when I was a pastor of a local church and there was a lot of pastor bloggers out there and you know, theologian bloggers and everything, but I wanted. I wanted it to be unique.
[00:02:58] And I wanted people to get a glimpse of what it was really like to be a pastor. I’m brutally honest about what really goes on behind the curtain. And so I use the name Naked Pastor, meaning vulnerable, raw, real, no makeup, no adornments, nothing. I’m just gonna let people see the real life of what it was like to be in the ministry, not with just the church growth and the successes and the thrills and the joy, but the struggles and the conflict and the financial difficulties and all that.
[00:03:36] Including doubt and questions and so on. So that’s how Naked Pastor got started. And I didn’t really expect it to grow like it has, but it has. So, it’s great.
[00:03:51] Tabitha: [00:03:51] That’s amazing. I know my friend Jordanna, who’s also been on the podcast. She recommended I follow you at one point. And that’s how we got connected, I think.
[00:04:01] Yeah. Your story has so many touch points that I can relate to. I have family down in Springfield kind of distant family. My, my dad went to seminary down in that area. Ended up having a church in Texas and he was a minister. And then I went no contact with my parents. And that happened about 10, 11 years ago.
[00:04:29] When I started to make that move away from my family. Very spiritually abusive and emotionally abusive and things like that. And that’s when I was about 30 years old, I was, I was breaking away. I was questioning a lot of things myself. When I stepped away from family is also when I stepped away from the church in my heart, I was still kind of going for a few years in my marriage.
[00:04:53] But I started questioning a lot of things and, you know, I don’t know what to call myself. I’m not really sure.
[00:05:03] David Hayward: [00:05:03] Me neither. And you know what, what’s the big deal? I do a lot of cartoons about labels outside of the can facing outward is for other people. I don’t need the label, it’s for people to read.
[00:05:19] Right. And so, a lot of the time we’re trying to apply a label to ourselves just to make other people comfortable, make conversation easier and social interaction easier or whatever. But, you know, I don’t know what to call myself either. but I don’t worry about it. It’s not my problem.
[00:05:40] Tabitha: [00:05:40] That’s part of, I feel like any growth and healing process, it’s not necessarily specific to religion. And I just find these patterns of fear-mongering in many areas in life.
[00:05:56] David Hayward: [00:05:56] It’s so true. It’s so true. Yeah. Religion is just one sphere of influence in our lives.
[00:06:04] Right. And everything overlaps. I just did a cartoon. Was it today? On spiritual abuse in the church and a lot of people commented. Do you know, this happens in. In schools, in jobs, in sports teams in marriages. Yeah. It’s this kind of abuse happens across the board. Unfortunately church and Christians and other people of other religions somehow feel they’re immune from basic human problems.
[00:06:32] And it’s just not true. I don’t sign up for that fallacy. I think we’re all human, whether we’re religious or not, and we’re going to struggle with the same issues. So yeah. So, you’re no longer in touch with your parents at all. Like, that’s just so heartbreaking for me as a parent that, you know, I have three adult kids and we decided early on we’re going to put relationship above.
[00:07:04] being right. It’s more important that we be in relationship with our kids than to be right. And you know, as a result, I think we have a great friendship with our children, but I can’t imagine, I feel really sad. You know, that a parent would rather be right than have their daughter in their life.
[00:07:27] Right?
[00:07:28] Tabitha: [00:07:28] Yeah. It is super sad and I’m smiling when I say it because it’s both and it’s been a catalyst for me getting more healthy and more myself. And, you know, I came to the conclusion, I can’t change my parents. I can’t get them to see me. And, I don’t have to, but it is really sad.
[00:07:52] I mean, it’s like the normal things that come up; mother’s day, father’s day, Christmas. You know, any family stuff. But they had to be right. And I think you hit the nail on the head there. It was that they had to be right over being family.
[00:08:10] David Hayward: [00:08:10] Yeah. And the strength that it takes for you to you know, that’s a real step of self-care to walk away from that kind of toxicity to maintain your own mental health and spiritual health and health in every way.
[00:08:26] It’s, it’s incredible. I’m in touch with a lot of people every day who — just yesterday I was talking with a young woman who still lives at home and just, it’s just horrible. And, basically I said, you know what, it’s going to be like this until you actually leave home, which won’t be long, but you know,
[00:08:45] Tabitha: [00:08:45] I didn’t leave till I was 30.
[00:08:47] I lived with my parents still is 30 under the whole courtship stuff, the purity culture stuff. I was being kept as this kind of possession that they could give away at some point. And I didn’t think they were ever going to get to the point where they wanted to give me away, you know?
[00:09:07] And then I was like, who are they to give me away anyway? So, it was kind of like, I own my life. This is my life to live. I was in deep. It was very cult-like just my family itself is very cult-like, you know, my mom is very controlling and narcissistic and my dad plays the game.
[00:09:30] David Hayward: [00:09:30] Wow. Good for you.
[00:09:33] Tabitha: [00:09:33] Thank you. Yeah. I mean I’m glad you touched on that and your children too, because I think it’s so important to see the difference at times. You know, I think we get so steeped in thinking our family is everything. And the statement, family is everything, is an interesting one because it could be, and it probably should be on many levels.
[00:09:52] You know, we should be able to stick together no matter what, but for many people, it just isn’t that way. And, and finding the strength and the courage to break free. It takes a lot. Cause there’re so many things involved with that, you know, our own survival and. Society and all of that. So, I’m glad you have a good relationship with your kids and you want to be friends with your kids.
[00:10:17] That’s amazing.
[00:10:19] David Hayward: [00:10:19] I know. When I’m sharing my story you know, there’s a lot of horrible things that have happened in our life and terrible things. But one thing we did well, I think, was parent and, you know, fortunately I think all the stars aligned that all of our kids are, well, we’re in good relationship with all of our kids.
[00:10:40] And I’m always aware that that’s not true for everyone. And it’s kind of like talking about my health, right. When I’m, when I know there’s people who struggle with chronic illness and, you know, un-nameable pain and things like that. It’s difficult to talk about the good things in your life without being aware that there’s a lot of people who don’t enjoy those basic privileges that I think, and I wish they they could, you know.
[00:11:07] Tabitha: [00:11:07] Yeah, that’s so sweet of you to be mindful of that. I personally live with chronic pain from a lot of trauma in my past with the emotional abuse and all of that stuff, physical abuse. It’s like, my body lives with that. And that’s another thing. I think, you know, people who live with chronic pain, I can speak to that and it’s okay.
[00:11:31] It’s also okay to say, you know, the culture that we live in right now, there are so many people who want to deny reality. And there are so many people who want to stay in those places of, “this is my pain,” as kind of their identity. And there’s also this middle ground of accepting and really living with your pain and being with it and experiencing life to the fullest, even in pain.
[00:11:56] And so I think we can come to those places and it’s a long journey, many times, and it’s not easy, but it’s so sweet that you’re mindful of that because I have felt like I’ve lived more fully as I’ve embraced the pain, if that makes sense.
[00:12:17] David Hayward: [00:12:17] Yup. Yup. No, no, no, no, no. It’s no, I have so many friends with struggle with chronic pain and it’s, you know, if I put my back out and I’m, leveled for a week, it’s exhausting.
[00:12:31] It’s so exhausting. And, I think of my friends who deal with this every day, every week, every year, like it’s crazy. And the last thing they need is this toxic positivity. That’s so popular right now that just. You know, it, it just doesn’t make, make sense. It’s just not real.
[00:12:54] Tabitha: [00:12:54] What advice would you give to people who don’t experience that to be able to hold space for people?
[00:12:59] If they care at all to hold space for people who are experiencing those things or expressing what their life is really like.
[00:13:06] David Hayward: [00:13:06] How do you talk to people who are toxically positive? They’re the worst
[00:13:17] I believe there’s something called the fundamentalist mindset. It manifests itself in any ideology, even positive Ideology, even liberal ideology or any kind of ideology where You’re just a fundamentalist. And if somebody doesn’t agree with you or you think they’re wrong, then you’re going to make them suffer.
[00:13:45] You know, fundamentalism doesn’t just belong to religious wing nuts. Anybody can have a fundamentalist mindset. Some of the worst most fundamentalist people I know are atheists who used to be fundamentalist believers, and they’ve just moved their fundamentalism over into a different sphere.
[00:14:07] And so they’re impossible to talk with,
[00:14:13] Tabitha: [00:14:13] I guess trying to give advice to somebody who is that way. Isn’t really going to care how to hold space for somebody who’s in chronic pain.
[00:14:20] David Hayward: [00:14:20] Yeah. Empathy is a great commodity? And if people learn how to empathize, I mean, you know,
[00:14:30] One of some of the questions I get often are “Why do so many LGBTQ plus cartoons?” And you know, “Why are you so supportive of gay people or transgender people or trans people?” “ Why are you still supportive and blah, blah, blah.” And “Why do you seem to care when you’re straight?” Well, it’s because,
[00:14:51] For one thing, I have family and friends who are gay or trans or whatever, and, and I love them. And I hate seeing people. I love suffer. That’s number one, number two, I know what it’s like to come out spiritually and suffer the consequences, losing friendships, being rejected. And so on. Now that’s on a different level, different scale, I’ll agree because it’s not about identity.
[00:15:18] It’s a choice I’ve made to believe the way I believe or not believe or whatever. And I suffer the consequences, but to suffer those same consequences for something you can’t help, that it’s your identity. That’s a whole other level. But if you can at least empathize a little bit and identify with a little bit what it’s like to suffer then you know, you’ll provide space for these people who are struggling with chronic illness and pain.
[00:15:45] Tabitha: [00:15:45]
[00:15:47] I mean suffering is a part of life. And I’ve noticed it when people are speaking to me, I notice they cannot hold space for that at all. And I don’t need them to be anything for me, you know, but it’s like me even expressing what parts of my life are like, or just saying my reality is really hard for people.
[00:16:14] Sometimes it’s like, “oh no, don’t say that. Don’t say it.” It’s like a virus they can catch or something like that. And it’s like, no, you’re not going to catch my chronic illness or, you know it’s like “holding space means that I have to accept that there’s suffering in the world.” And “I don’t want to accept that there’s suffering in the world because I can’t really accept my own suffering.”
[00:16:34] Right. And then we kind of separate from ourselves in that way. It’s kind of like, no, I’m not going to accept that part of me that suffers. So, we’re kind of splintered, you know, in some ways I have compassion for that. And I don’t think it’s necessarily chronic for everybody who does that or that they’re just completely toxic, but it’s definitely a mindset that seeped in to a lot of society.
[00:17:04] I feel like
[00:17:06] David Hayward: [00:17:06] I know. I mean when I talk about spiritual abuse or people who are suffering or struggling or whatever, and they’re like, “well, have you tried lavender Essential oil?” or, you know, that’s a ridiculous example, but it’s like, as if you haven’t tried everything already and that there’s something deeper going on and something wrong with you.
[00:17:37] Yeah. Yeah. Something’s broken and you know, that’s absolutely true.
[00:17:43] Tabitha: [00:17:43] Yeah. Yeah. I don’t mean to change the subject. That’s kind of some of the subjects you’ve been writing about the microaggressions recently. I feel like, and it’s so interesting because I just remember that being in church, the little digs, or maybe even someone’s trying to be kind or encouraging or something.
[00:18:04] At least that’s what I tried to chalk it up to a lot of times, you know, when I was single til I was 30 and, I think I commented on one of those posts where you were talking about how people talk to single women. Yes. Yeah. They feel bad for them.
[00:18:29] Cause there single. I remember being in that position or so many people would be like, “how are you single?” Like, “how is that even possible?” Kind of like mind blowing. And meanwhile, this is the other flip side of the coin, at times; Sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it’s not a choice.
[00:18:47] Sometimes it is the culture in the church that makes it impossible to find somebody that makes sense. My parents were very into the courtship thing, but they never really followed through on anything either. It was really strange. They wanted to have complete control, but not do anything with it.
[00:19:05] And so I was completely turned off to dating men in the church or trying to have a relationship. I didn’t want my parents controlling that. So, I had no desire and I kind of cut a lot of myself off, romantically and sexually. I cut a lot of those pieces of me off for so long.
[00:19:27] And I feel like that can happen in the church too. And it’s kind of like this both AND thing. It’s like, yeah, it’s a choice that I’m single, but also it’s not really a choice that I’m single. I don’t know if that makes sense, but
[00:19:42] Tabitha: [00:19:42] I’m just so curious about people that come out of that or people that are in it, if they realize what’s happening with them, right?
[00:19:51] David Hayward: [00:19:51] Yeah. Yeah. So, it’s like a lot of people who leave these kind of religious cultures, with me, it took a long time of very gentle, de-programming, basically. And therapy and coaching and talking with people that I trusted Lisa and I having conversations just de-programming ourselves and coming to a more healthy position in life, you know?
[00:20:25] So, somebody like you , Tabitha, who comes out of like a cult-like culture, there’s been a lot of damage. A lot of scarring, a lot of pain and a lot of Retardation of you know, of your growth, you know what I mean, how your growth,
It’s been stunted it so that you know, I just didn’t learn a lot about life and I had to, I had to learn about it when I left the ministry, for example it took me a long time, a few years actually, I needed some guidance to figure out how to in the real world.
[00:21:20] Yeah.
[00:21:21] Tabitha: [00:21:21] When those realizations started coming to the surface as you let them what was happening for you?
[00:21:27] David Hayward: [00:21:27] Well, for me I actually feel like I was okay in the real world.
[00:21:33] One day, a year after I left the ministry and I thought I was doing okay. Lisa looks at me and says, David, you need help. And I knew she was right. I thought I was okay because I wasn’t feeling anything, but I was numb. I was frozen. I left the ministry, left the church all at once. And also I left my paycheck, left our friendships, left my vocation, my sense of meaning and purpose and destiny, all these things.
[00:22:04 ] Lisa and I had an empty nest. Lisa had gone to university 48 years old. She started studying nursing and got her nursing degree when she was 53. And I’m just like, it was like the perfect storm; we had to file for bankruptcy too, because we were so freaking poor.
[00:22:27] And it was just a mess, you know? So, it wasn’t just one thing we had to deal with. It was so many things and underlying it all was this whole sense of purpose and meaning, like we were a team pastoring churches together, and now that was gone and now it’s like, what? really?
[00:22:47] What, what am I going to do? You know? It was a huge risk for me thinking I was going to make it as an artist, cartoonist, writer, et cetera. And it was just frightening. I know a lot of people who who’ve left the church and you really feel like a refugee where you’re, you’re kind of cast out into this wilderness with no resources and you don’t know what to do next.
[00:23:12] You don’t know what you’re going to do. You don’t know how you’re going to find friendships or community or support or spiritual meaning or anything like that. So, it’s very disorienting. And so, for me, I’d just recommend get help.
[00:23:28] Tabitha: [00:23:28] Yeah. Yes. That’s the first thing I did. I left my parents’ home and I couldn’t afford very much.
[00:23:35] So I went and looked at the sliding scale at the little counseling center down the road, and I got into therapy right away. Psychology was evil in my family. It was very humanistic which they felt was evil. And so, I was kind of really going against the grain right away.
[00:23:53] But
[00:23:55] David Hayward: [00:23:55] you, really, that’s amazing. Good for you. You were 30 years old, you left your mom and dad’s home. You drew a boundary, you left their religion, you left them. You went into therapy, like holy smokes.
[00:24:22]Tabitha: [00:24:22] Some of it was dumb luck. I say, I fell into all of it Ass-backwards, you know, just the getting out piece. I had no idea what it was gonna look like. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I had met a man I was dating and they were making it hell on earth for me just to try and date this person.
[00:24:40] And it wasn’t even that they had courtship rules. They just kind of like wanted to change the rules every two minutes to suit whatever whims they had. They just didn’t want me having anything of my own. It was very strange. And I just couldn’t live that way. I was like, “this makes no sense. This is a normal thing that’s supposed to happen in life.”
[00:25:00] Like you’re supposed to find a partner or move on with your life. Like, whatever it is for you. And this shouldn’t be this hard. And I was just kind of clawing in the darkness. I felt like at the time, but I knew I couldn’t stay in that home.
[00:25:20] David Hayward: Yeah. Good for you.
[00:25:29] Tabitha: [00:25:29] Yeah. It was the best thing — my therapist, you know, I had seen him off and on for about five or seven years I think. And. It was one of those things. Like, I ended up in a new office and he was there too. It was kind of like by chance kind of thing. And I had a lot of cognitive dissonance coming out of that.
[00:25:51] Like I think for three years he tried to convince me that I was being emotionally abused by my parents because I was just like, “no, it’s just a really difficult relationship.” Like “how can I fix this relationship?” Kind of a thing. That’s why I was going to therapy, like trying to figure out what was wrong with me.
[00:26:07] And he kept saying, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re being emotionally manipulated and abused. And I was like, “no, that’s not it.” But it finally clicked. It took a while — those things happen over time and in pieces. I feel like.
[00:26:29] David Hayward: [00:26:29] I just did a post about that too.
[00:26:31] About not even realizing you’re being abused. Where you’re dissociated from the situation like this shouldn’t be happening here. It just doesn’t register or dissociation from the abuser where parents or pastors or bosses should be taking care of you.
[00:26:57] And like, they shouldn’t be hurting you. Like, dissociation from yourself where you’ve been abused for so long it’s been normalized. You no longer recognize that this is wrong and that it’s hurting you. So, it’s really profound that you stuck to therapy. And eventually, you know, some therapist keeps saying, “no you’re being emotionally abused.”
[00:27:24] And finally the light comes on, you know? Oh my God, you’re right. You know, it’s just, yeah. Yeah,
[00:27:32] Tabitha: [00:27:32] it is pretty amazing. It’s amazing thinking too, my sister is 38 years old and she still lives at home with my parents. I don’t have contact because she’s very much still in the cult of my family.
[00:27:48] And I think about that, like, that could have very easily have been me. And that’s how strong it is, you know, she’s 38, single, still living at home like a teenager. From what I know, it’s still very much the same for her as it was when I was living there.
[00:28:12] And so. Yeah, it’s super sad and it’s super effed up. Yeah.
[00:28:20] David Hayward: [00:28:20] You got out, you got out, I go out
[00:28:37] Tabitha: [00:28:37] do you have survivor’s guilt over that?
[00:28:43]David Hayward: [00:28:43] To be honest, I don’t think so. Like, I see what I did as it was a step for my personal growth. It wasn’t just for survival. I wasn’t just escaping a bad situation for me. I felt like the only way I can keep growing, because my issue was, in 2009, I had this profound epiphany where I finally saw that we’re all one and connected on a deep and fundamental level that there’s this oneness and unity and that our words and language and all that we use to try to describe our perception of reality are just that, words.
[00:29:30] There’s only one reality, but there’s a million interpretations of it, but there’s one reality. And so, we’re all one, we all have our different words, but it’s all one reality, one thing, and we’re all doing our best to understand and explain it. And I had this profound epiphany, and suddenly I had this peace of mind. It was amazing.
[00:29:50] This peace of mind that I’ve been striving for, for decades, theologically, and I couldn’t unify everything. And all of a sudden in that epiphany it kind of just all came together and I had this immediate peace of mind came over me and it’s never left. And I just started describing this experience and trying to explain it.
[00:30:11]And that’s when I started getting in trouble. And eventually it got to the point where my denomination was wanting to edit my posts. I was in the vineyard, that’s where I ended up. Okay. And where other pastors were writing the denomination and saying, you know, you’ve got a heretic in one of your pulpits and blah, blah, blah, and so on.
[00:30:38] And I just knew my time was up and sure enough, within a year of that epiphany I was gone. And so, for me it wasn’t like just surviving for me. It was me progressing and growing it wasn’t just the escape. So, I left the church and I thought it was good hands at the time. And it was, it just felt right that the church could keep going as it wanted to go.
[00:31:03] And I could keep going as I wanted to go. It was an amicable divorce at the time. And so it happened fast. Within a couple of weeks I was gone and I’d been a pastor there for almost 15 years, basically, and I was done and I left within like a couple of weeks.
[00:31:27] So I have a little bit of guilt about how quickly I left. It was kind of like sudden shock.
[00:31:36] Tabitha: [00:31:36] interesting. Yeah, I did that with my family and my marriage
[00:31:44] is kind of similar. I did, I left the marriage too. I realized I got into that marriage in a very traumatized state, not making clear decisions and repeating patterns from my family that I didn’t know were patterns until I started noticing the pattern. But yeah, it happened pretty quickly.
[00:32:07] David Hayward: [00:32:07] So you’re a very strong person then, like you don’t fuck around. I mean you left home, you left the religion, you left your husband, your ex, like, wow.
[00:32:22] Tabitha: [00:32:22] I’m long suffering. I think in some regards, I mean, I was 30 when I left. So, in some ways I feel like, well, “why did it take you so long to figure it out?”
[00:32:32] But it’s kind of like once I know there’s something really wrong, then I don’t fuck around. That’s
[00:32:38] David Hayward: [00:32:38] right. That was the same with me. I gave it a year where I was sharing, and I was naïve; I was sharing that “I have this peace of mind and I know you want it”. And so, here’s how it all happened, and describing it and explaining it and writing about it and drawing pictures and I started getting shit over it
[00:33:02] After a year, it was like, I had this meeting with some people, Lisa was working as a nursing student and Like, this meeting was horrible. And I knew I can’t work in this context. I can’t stay. So, I left the meeting. I texted Lisa. I said, “I’m done.” And she answered “me too.”
[00:33:28] And the next meeting I announced my resignation. Yeah. It was like that *snap*.
[00:33:37] Tabitha: [00:33:37] Were you two going through a similar journey separately, but together or,
[00:33:45] David Hayward: [00:33:45] Together, but there were scary moments because we met in Bible college because 18 when we got married. She was 19.
[00:33:55] In the church as pastors and pastor’s wife as a team we were constantly working together as a team in the church. And then 30 years later, it was really, really scary at times because we thought “What is that?” And our beliefs were changing.
[00:34:19] So it was like, “what’s the glue that holds us together?” We thought maybe it was the church. Our beliefs are similar beliefs, blah, blah, blah. And then we came to the conclusion after a while (it took a while, including therapy and everything) to realize that it was love and mutual respect that held us together.
[00:34:41] It wasn’t compatible beliefs. And so, she has a very different flavor of spirituality than I do, but we respect and love each other and our differences. But it took us a while to get through that. I mean, when I left the ministry, it was really kind of scary because I was used to kind of living in a fishbowl and everybody observing me and watching me and now, nobody cared about what I did.
[00:35:10] I remember one day I was driving to work; I was driving into town and I was like, “I don’t know if I want to be married.” I had this weird sense that nobody’s watching. Nobody cares. There’s no God above my head with an ax ready to take my head off for making a bad choice.
[00:35:30] There’s no glue. It’s like, I want to be free. I’m free of the church. Now I’m free of the ministry. I want to be free of everything. Like just this weird, unhealthy moment I was going through — very frightening, but we worked it through, and our marriage is better than it’s ever been, but it took some time.
[00:35:53] In fact, I wrote a book called (It just came out last year), Till Doubt Do Us Part: when changing beliefs change your marriage, because I see a lot of people when they start deconstructing their beliefs in a marriage a lot of the marriages blow up, you know, it’s really difficult to hang in together when we go through such major changes.
[00:36:14] Sometimes it’s valid and totally okay. Other times I think you can, if you both participate that you can work things through and come through the other side.
[00:36:30] Tabitha: [00:36:30] that’s so interesting. Yeah, I was raised not to be unequally, yoked and
[00:36:44] It’s been such an interesting journey in that regard too. I still have stuff left over because it doesn’t go away overnight. These things kind of live with you.
[00:36:58] David Hayward: [00:36:58] Yeah. I call it residue or echoes where you’re no longer in the thing, but you’re still hearing it.
[00:37:08] And so I call it echoes where, for example I hear from a lot of people who say “I’m still afraid of hell, even though I don’t believe in it”. That’s a real mindfuck when you don’t believe in something, but you’re still afraid of it.
[00:37:29] Totally. They’re like, “I don’t believe in hell. Like, even if I believe in the God, what kind of God would throw people in hell for not having a correct theology,” but they still are terrified of going. And I do remember, you know, lying in my bed, cold sweats thinking, oh my God, “what have I done?
[00:37:49] I might be wrong. What if I’m wrong?” And you know so it’s, it’s the same with a lot of our beliefs like the purity culture stuff and unequally yoked, and, you know God hates divorce and all this stuff — it’s still in there, but it’s like, it’s not like GOD HATES DIVORCE. It’s more like, God hates divorce, divorce (echo).
[00:38:12] It’s just echoes back there. But that’s all it is. It’s just an echo. It’s not the real thing. And eventually that goes away.
[00:38:23] Tabitha: [00:38:23] Yeah. I hope. I mean, I remember that feeling vividly, especially after my divorce, because I wasn’t distracted by the drama of the marriage anymore. And all of a sudden it was like, I’m dangling over the pit of hell by a thread
[00:38:40] David Hayward: [00:38:40] Sinners in the hands of an angry God! you know, totally, that fear-mongering, which is a phrase you used earlier, fear-mongering is such a powerful tool to keep us under control and It’s very powerful.
[00:39:01] Tabitha: [00:39:01] Yeah. It really, really is. I don’t want to say it’s a struggle for me.
[00:39:07] It’s one of those things I hold it kind of loosely. I try to hold all the things, you know, like, yes, I was taught this. I don’t know for sure. I don’t know anything for sure, really, but I’m okay in the not knowing right now. I’m okay. I live in the now and also in the not knowing and I just have to be okay with that.
[00:39:31] David Hayward: [00:39:31] Well, yeah, me too. You know, nothing’s wasted, that’s the way I look at it. Nothing’s wasted. You wouldn’t be who you are now, unless you were who you were then you wouldn’t be where you are, unless you were where you were. it’s the same with me. I wouldn’t be who I am now. I like who I am now.
[00:39:50] I like my life right now. I wouldn’t be where I am right now, unless I was where I was back then or who I was back then. So, you know, I used to think of growth as linear, but that means you leave stuff behind, its history. Or then I used to think it was stages, but that means you elevate yourself and you look down on where you were before.
[00:40:10] No, I think of growth as spatial where you grow out, out, out, out, out, and, and it continues to include that which went before, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. So, I don’t reject any theologies or any of my experiences or try to rip out chapters from my story or anything.
[00:40:30] It’s all included. It all gets consumed or subsumed into the whole. And that, to me, just relieves a whole lot of anxiety about picking and choosing what you should and shouldn’t believe. We’re like rivers with many streams and many currents. And, I think the trick is to not feel anxious about that and just float along and recognize, oh, that fear of hell just flew through my brain right now that’s no big deal.
[00:41:05] There it goes, Oh, I had a thought that I might be an atheist – that went through my mind a moment ago. No big deal. I remember speaking in tongues or whatever and how close I felt to God just went through my mind. No big deal. It’s all there. It’s just a part of the story.
[00:41:25] Tabitha: [00:41:25] That’s part of it too.
[00:41:26] I remember the prayers; I’ve journals filled with prayers and I’m like, I can’t leave that behind. That’s all been part of my experience and it all felt really real to me.
[00:41:40] David Hayward: [00:41:40] It was real. I was just reading a Buddhist text where the mind, when it holds onto something, it makes it real right.
[00:41:50] That the mind makes it real. So, yeah, I totally agree with that. Like I, when I look back on my spiritual experiences, and some of them are amazing, quite profound, I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t wish to convince anybody it was true or not. And I don’t get all upset when people make fun of people worshiping or people claiming they saw an angel or people claiming this.
[00:42:14] I don’t get all upset over that. I don’t care. That’s just whatever. But for me, it was like “what an interesting part of my life.” But I, I experienced all that. To me it’s profoundly interesting. And I’m not going to judge that guy. That’s just who I was.
[00:42:39] Tabitha: [00:42:39] Yeah. I get that.. Can I, may I ask what day and month your birthday is?
[00:42:50] David Hayward: [00:42:50] Why, are you into taro?
[00:42:53] Tabitha: [00:42:53] Well into astrology, but like not enough to be like intensely. Into it. What does October seven? That’s Libra. I was going to say you feel like an air sign to me or a fire sign.
[00:43:10] David Hayward: [00:43:10] is that air or fire?
[00:43:12] Tabitha: [00:43:12] Libras air.
[00:43:14] Yeah, so you definitely have this like very airy quality to this. You know, I call it fanning the flame, which is really nice.
[00:43:28] David Hayward: [00:43:28] interesting because I’m a very intense person.
[00:43:33] Tabitha: [00:43:33] You may have some other things in your chart going on?
[00:43:36] David Hayward: [00:43:36] Yeah, yeah.
[00:43:36] Yeah. I’m very, I’m very complex, but
[00:43:39] Tabitha: [00:43:39] that’s and the beautiful thing about it.
[00:43:43] David Hayward: [00:43:43] How about you? Are you an air or a fire or a water?
[00:43:46]Tabitha: [00:43:46] Fire. Sagittarius sun moon, and yeah. Gemini rising or something like that. Anyway, I’m very Sagittarius,
[00:44:04] David Hayward: [00:44:04] whatever that means. It’s interesting. All that stuff people say, how do you feel about taro? And I was just talking with somebody the other day and they said, “I got a tarot reading and it was so right on it scared me like, I’m really worried, like, cause I was told that this is all satanic and all this stuff” and I’m like, you know what?
[00:44:24] These are all just tools for personal growth, everything taro, astrology. Even like Ouija boards, prayer, meditation, writing in your journal, a conscious flow, all this stuff. They’re just tools for personal growth. Like I don’t get all upset over that.
[00:44:43] Tabitha: [00:44:43] I used astrology after coming out of the church and leaving my family because I felt like I was so wrong.
[00:44:50] Everything about me was so wrong and messed up and fucked up and not okay. And just reading my chart and understanding these were parts of me that I was actually born with. If I was born with it, is it wrong? You know, my chart says I’m an outlier kind of person.
[00:45:18] And I feel like that’s true of me. I’m also really loyal. I wonder why it took me so long to leave, but I’m also a really loyal person, but also, once the Sagittarius is done with you, they are done with you. There is no going back and that’s true of me.
[00:45:37] David Hayward: [00:45:37]
[00:45:39] Yeah. Yeah. I remember the first kind of I did a personality test, the Myers-Briggs going into the ministry, they required us to take this personality test and I took the test and I was an INFP and I read the description and I was like, oh my God, we’re like two or 1% of the population or something.
[00:46:05] But I thought I was a weirdo – in reading about myself It was so life giving and affirming and I’ll never forget that. And that’s the way I feel about all these tools because they help us with self-awareness. I don’t believe in, I don’t know how your fans are going to feel or anything, but I don’t believe in magic.
but I do, I do believe in the, the power that personal transformation is. It’s incredible. Yeah.
[00:46:46] Tabitha: [00:46:46] I think it’s all okay. Like I really do. I don’t, I don’t know. And just cause you don’t believe in it doesn’t mean it’s also not okay.
[00:47:00] David Hayward: [00:47:00] like a Ouija board. I don’t think spirit moving the pieces.
[00:47:08] Tabitha: [00:47:08] What do you think about supernatural occurrences? What’s your take on that? I’m just very curious.
[00:47:16] David Hayward: [00:47:16] I don’t believe in magic or the supernatural or miracles.
[00:47:25] Because it’s not that weird things don’t happen. I just think that we don’t understand it. So, anything that’s beyond our comprehension is going to be a miracle and I’ve seen tons of those tons. I have never seen a miracle though. Like for example, I grew up in a culture that believed in miracles.
[00:47:45] And I never saw any, I never saw I one. I’ve been to all kinds of healing services. I’ve been in a room with the most famous healers in the world, including Benny Hinn.
[00:47:58] Tabitha: [00:47:58] Did you meet Benny Hinn?
[00:48:00] David Hayward: [00:48:00] I’ve been there. Never saw one freaking miracle ever in my whole life. Oh, my head feels better. Oh, my shoulder doesn’t feel as sore.
[00:48:08] Yeah. But somebody growing a leg or the blind seeing, or
[00:48:13] Tabitha: [00:48:13] like a real miracle,
[00:48:15] David Hayward: [00:48:15] you know, sorry, you can come at me. You can come at me and say,” but I have seen one.” Okay, good for you. I personally haven’t, so for me, I guess you might call me a materialist. but there have been some really weird things happen to me, also in the vineyard, for example, that, that last church I was in, very much believed in prophecy.
[00:48:39] And I’ve been around some people who were considered prophets, who, holy shit, some weird shit happened, but I don’t know how to explain that, but I don’t think God whispering in their ear and giving them secrets. I’m sorry.
[00:48:57] Tabitha: [00:48:57] Interesting. Cause my family w were of the reformed, like Baptist persuasion.
[00:49:06] like my family didn’t believe in infant baptism.
[00:49:19] David Hayward: [00:49:19] They’d be like Calvinist theology.
[00:49:21] Tabitha: [00:49:21] Yeah, very much so. And then also like, so we would watch TCT for fun, for entertainment, it was Total Christian Television and the local TV station, but my parents would get invited to go on local Christian television shows and stuff like that.
[00:49:44] And it was such an interesting mix of people with different beliefs. And I remember them getting into fights with people and I was exposed to other denominations, for sure. And I, I know, I know how it can be. We’re very Puritan in our thinking
]Which is just so oppressive.
[00:50:14] David Hayward: [00:50:14] That’s why they call it puritanical.
[00:50:24] Tabitha: [00:50:24]
I just went on a ghost and gangsters tour in Chicago, walking tour a few weeks ago and hearing the ghost stories of Chicago.
[00:50:57] David Hayward: [00:50:57] I know people claim to see ghosts and I know these people, they’re smart.
[00:51:05] You know, they’re intelligent people. They’re not weird. And they, with awe in their eye, explain these ghost encounters that they had. I don’t know what to do with that.
[00:51:19] Tabitha: [00:51:19] My parents would say it was demons
[00:51:23] David Hayward: [00:51:23] oh man. I grew up in demon culture, big time, exorcisms, Satan is alive and well on planet earth kind of stuff like, oh, Pell, Lindsey, all that stuff.
[00:51:33]
[00:51:35] Tabitha: [00:51:35] I remember my mom trying to cast out demons. It was so weird
[00:51:43] David Hayward: [00:51:43] that’s weird.
[00:51:45] Tabitha: [00:51:45] My goodness, I feel like we could talk about this stuff forever. This is something I don’t touch on a whole lot on my account. It’s, you know, the spiritual abuse thing is something I’ve touched on occasionally and I feel very strongly about it.
[00:51:59] I feel like it’s really wrong, but I’m really excited that we’re having this conversation because it’s not something I get to delve into completely with other guests. but I feel like it all kind of ties together.
[00:52:13] The self-love aspect, the growth aspect, all of that ties in,
[00:52:18] David Hayward: [00:52:18] you know what’s really cool, I just passed 80,000 followers on Instagram today and I’m so happy and what’s really, really cool about the naked pastor community is its diversity. There’s just so many different people on there.
[00:52:35] There’s believers going to church, pastors. Muslims Buddhists atheists, you name it every month. I’ll get on there and we all share our stories and we all belong. And if anybody gets bullying or, or is mean or homophobic or whatever, I delete their comment, if they keep it up I block them. just that simple.
[00:53:02] It’s wonderful to see the diversity. And I think that’s, what’s really cool. I think it’s when churches or families or whatever, try to maintain a monolithic idea of what it means to be Christian or spiritual, or, you know, a homogenous community, I think that’s when abuse can begin, but when you provide a free, safe space for people of all kinds of a variety of kinds and you know, we can, we actually are seeing it work where people from all kinds of belief or non-belief can hang out together and have a good time.
[00:53:41] So I think that’s really, really cool and when abuse occurs, like when someone comes on and says, “well, I, I love you everybody, but I hate to be the one to say, you know, if you’re gay, you’re going to hell, sorry.” You know, I just delete that stuff. Yeah.
[00:54:04] Tabitha: [00:54:04] You, you draw a lot of cartoons of Jesus. So, what’s your relationship like?
[00:54:11] With Jesus or to Jesus?
[00:54:15] David Hayward: [00:54:15] Well I, I use that to communicate to people who either believe in Jesus and use him for comfort or believe in Jesus and use him as a weapon. And so, you know, I’ve gone through a huge transformation in my own ideas about Jesus. I would fall into the mystical being. Now I find most affinity with mystics, Christian mystics, mystics of other religions, quantum physicists, they all start sounding the same at that level.
[00:54:55] And that’s where my idea of Christ as a universal kind of mystical being, comes from, but I draw Jesus a lot. So, for example, I draw Jesus with a gay person, loving a gay person, for example, and for a gay person, who’s grown up being taught that being gay is a sin and they’re going to hell and Jesus doesn’t love them because of that.
[00:55:22] This is going to comfort them and people who believe Jesus does not support LGBTQ people. It’s going to piss them off. So, that’s why I draw; to comfort, and I guess to “build up and to tear down” as Jeremiah would say. And so yeah, that’s why I do it. Yeah.
[00:55:45] Tabitha: [00:55:45] What’s one of the favorite sermons that you’ve preached in your life.
[00:55:49] David Hayward: [00:55:49] Oh, G favorite sermons. Yeah. It’s been so long. You know what, that’s one thing I really do miss, is speaking to an actual room of people. I really do miss that. I work from home. I’m by myself. I’m pretty much living the life of a hermit I’m drawing, and I’m painting and I’m writing. And especially during COVID up here in Canada where, you know we’re pretty strict about our bubbles and so on, but that’s one thing I really do miss.
[00:56:19] And you know, the saying, a picture’s worth a thousand words. I find my cartoons convey a lot more than a lot of my sermons ever did in one little picture. And that’s why I love doing it so much. It’s like I just love the fact that you know, I used to write long posts and people could start reading it and get bored or disagree or whatever.
[00:56:43] Now they see my cartoon and in less than a second, it’s in your brain and it’s too late. You can’t unsee it.
[00:56:54] Tabitha: [00:56:54] You like poking the bear.
[00:56:56] David Hayward: [00:56:56] Yeah, I do. I got to admit, I do like poking the bear.
[00:57:03] Tabitha: [00:57:03] I’ve really enjoyed delving into your account a little bit more just to get to know you a little bit before our chat and I would highly recommend anyone going and following you and purchasing your artwork.
[00:57:18] I noticed somebody had a tattoo of one of your drawings. I’ve always thought I’d love to have a tattoo that I cared enough about to get tattooed on my body. And I could see how something like what you’re doing, and the pictures that you’re drawing, would be a great way for somebody to have something of meaning tattooed on their body.
[00:57:45] David Hayward: [00:57:45] yeah.
[00:57:45] Are you, are you aware of my Sophia story? I’ve got nine books out. They’re all on Amazon, but the one I’m proudest of is The Liberation of Sophia, and it’s a compilation of 59 drawings and each one has a meditation.
[00:58:08] And when I left the ministry, it was like one SundayI was just sitting at the table drawing and when I was done, Lisa looked down and said, what is that? It was so unusual. I was used to drawing like pretty watercolors and this was a picture of a girl holding up a teddy bear to a big grizzly bear towering over her.
[00:58:33] And I call it Fearless. And I thought, I don’t know. It just came out of me. I just felt like drawing it. And then I drew the next week when Lisa would go to work; she worked Friday nights and Saturday nights. So, I would stay up with a bottle of wine, put on some loud music and just start drawing.
[00:58:51] And I was drawing these pictures of this girl or young woman in various situations in the wild. I was drawing one where she’s standing before the mouth of a cave that’s covered in vines and it’s called Cave. And, after about 8 or 9 of them, I realized I was drawing my story. I was drawing the story of my liberation from religious oppression and ministry and the church and Christianity and my escape from it.
[00:59:26] And I just kept doing, I never planned what I was going to draw. I would just sit down with paper and pen and pencil and just start drawing and whatever happened, happened. And a couple of years later, I had 59 drawings of Sophia. She actually begins in a kind of a cellar chained with all the.
[00:59:48] Biblical verses around her that a woman should remain silent and all these things. And then her escape from that into the wilderness where she learns how to be free. YOU would love that book. You would love it. So, a lot of people get a tattoo of the one of an angel where she’s hiding her face and she’s got these huge angel wings and another one’s Metamorphosis
where she’s walking and she’s surrounded with colorful butterflies because it’s about our transformation. A lot of women identify with that story of leaving their oppression and — You remind me of Sophie actually, as I’m talking about it. Totally. That’s you, that’s totally you totally.
Aww.
[01:00:39] Sophia is basically my soul, my inner self, as Carl Jung would say, the female aspect of me. That’s my story. Sophia is her name. Sophia is Greek for wisdom. And that’s my wisdom. Figuring out how to live independently and free.
[01:01:29] David Hayward: [01:01:29] So it was really a profound experience for me.
[01:01:32] And when I was done, the last image is her walking through a door into the light and that was it. It was over. I stopped drawing Sophia. I did drew a couple of more they’re not in the book, but you know, it’s just a weird story. That is two years I, I drew her and it was basically me drawing my way out of oppression into my own freedom.
[01:02:03] And it was very therapeutic, and it worked.

Tabitha: Yeah. Wow. Yeah, I’m getting chills.

David: You got to get the book. You’ll love it because it’s your story. It actually is. I heard from one young woman a couple of years ago, she wrote me and said “I want to thank you for The Liberation of Sophia.
[01:02:32] I bought the book. I quit college. I left home, I got a tent and a sleeping bag and some food and went out into the woods and just read Sophia and wrote in my journal for a couple of months and came back a different person.” She went out into the wilderness and changed herself and then came out and started living her own life independently and free.
[01:02:57] Just profound.
[01:02:59] Tabitha: [01:02:59] Yeah, it is so profound. It is, it really is. When we think about the bondage that we lived in, I mean, the Bible talks so much about bondage, but it’s, it’s like the church has so much bondage in it.
[01:03:13] David Hayward: [01:03:13] I know.
[01:03:16] Tabitha: [01:03:16] And it’s not an easy thing to break away from
[01:03:19] David Hayward: [01:03:19] But you did it, you did it. I mean, this is why I’m kind of you know, I’m amazed by you, and yeah, incredible, incredible story.
[01:03:28] But that’s what I did too. I took steps to live free and that’s the big thing I learned. The big thing I learned was I thought I was trapped when in fact I was only afraid of what the consequences would be if I lived free, I wasn’t really trapped. It was my fear that trapped me, kept me back.
[01:03:54] Once I realized that I was like, I can just walk. I can just go. And I did. And so did you?
[01:04:05] Tabitha: [01:04:05] I did. And that’s something that was so profound to me too, is realizing I was in this mental prison and I was not chained up in the basement. I felt it was, it felt in it’s like that experiment.
[01:04:24] And I’m forgetting the name of it right now. But that science experiment where The dogs just stay in cages with electric shocks. And I’m like, that’s just so true, what can happen in your mind. And the moment you realize it’s your mind that’s keeping you.
[01:04:43] David Hayward: [01:04:43] Yeah,
[01:04:44] Tabitha: [01:04:44] it’s not right. What’s happened. It’s not okay. It’s not okay that this stuff was put on you or you were in that situation, but you can get out and, and you can be okay.
[01:04:57] David Hayward: [01:04:57] No, I learned this, I left the ministry one other time. That was in 95. I was in the Presbyterian church. I was bored to death. I hated it. And I went to bed one night. Just wanting to give up. I felt hopeless. I didn’t want to kill myself, but it was like, I felt I’m stuck. I’ve got a wife and three little kids.
[01:05:21] We’re living in the church manse. The house that the church owns. We have no money. I felt completely trapped, depressed, dark. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I hated my life. I went to sleep and I had a dream. And in the dream, all I heard was the voice “it’s time.” And I woke up laughing, I woke up laughing my guts out.
[01:05:47] And Lisa started laughing and the kids came running in and jumped on the bed and they started laughing. “What are we laughing at?” I’m like, I’m not trapped! I can just quit. And Lisa’s like, okay. So, I just quit. And we packed. We sold everything, packed up our minivan and drove away. And the next couple of years was a great adventure.
[01:06:16] I mean, we lived out of a tent for a while. We did that, but I look back on that time, it was huge for me that I realized I went to bed completely trapped and I woke up a free man. Nothing had changed except my mind and my perception. And you know, I know a lot of your listeners are probably like, “I feel trapped” in a really sucky marriage or a bad church or a bad job or whatever.
[01:06:43] I totally get it. I totally get it. And sometimes it’s not safe to leave. I totally get it. But you know, if it’s about money or finding another place to live or getting another job or whatever, if that’s what really is holding you back, you’re afraid. And those are real fears, legitimate fears too, but I’ve seen it over and over again when people take a step for their self-care amazing things happen.
[01:07:12] Tabitha: [01:07:12] Oh, yeah. I’m so glad you said that. I’m so glad. Cause it’s so true. I’ve said it on the podcast. I’ve had guests on that say it too. The minute you take that step, not even knowing how you’re going to make it. Maybe you have enough for one hotel room for a night or something like that, but that’s all, you know, and as soon as you take that step, you’re out of a situation that has created so much panic and fear and oppression that all of a sudden you start thinking more creatively or someone comes along and you get brave to ask.
[01:07:46] I mean, you’re brave enough to leave, so you’re brave to ask around, to see what’s open. And I have seen it time and time again and for myself too, taking that first step. And then the next steps come until you’re here today.
[01:08:04] David Hayward: [01:08:04] Like that Irish blessing. May the road or the earth rise to meet your feet. Kind of like, that’s what happens.
[01:08:09] That’s my experience. Yeah, I say, I don’t believe in magic, but that’s kind of magical the way that happens, where when people take steps, courageous steps, of self-care. It’s amazing what happens isn’t it? Like you say, like when I went to bed completely trapped and I woke up a free man and happy laughing, didn’t give a shit about money or my career, whatever, for me, what was most important was my happiness and my family’s happiness.
[01:08:44] And we went for it and yes, we struggled for a while. I worked in a donut shop for a while. I did this, I did that, but we had the time of our life and you know, it’s a part of the Lego blocks that make me who I am today and doing what I’m doing today and the same with you.
[01:09:08] Yeah. It’s amazing. And it is, it is a total leap of faith in a way. it’s like, “I’m going to trust the universe that it is the ground is gonna rise up to meet me.”
[01:09:24] David Hayward: [01:09:24] It’s the same when I decided to make Naked Pastor a thing I didn’t know anything about business.
[01:09:32] In fact, I had a really bad attitude about money, that it was filthy lucre, that it was going to pollute the spiritual that I was compromising, marketing and sales was all slimy. And I grew up that way. I was taught that I was raised that way. And, and that, you know, Jesus was poor. I should be too and all this stuff.
[01:09:55] And I had to educate myself, but it’s been a journey and, you know, I’m making a go of it and I’m having fun and I’m helping people on top of it, you know? But it’s amazing that when I left the ministry that I knew after a couple of years, holy shit, I need to figure out stuff like money and marketing and sales and business.
[01:10:20] And, you know, I need to heal myself about this attitude about money that I have. And so, it changed my life. It’s like we said, I took that step and the earth rose and it’s amazing how that happens.
[01:10:35] Tabitha: [01:10:35] Yeah. I love that. It’s so true. And
I mean, you can’t guarantee anything for anybody, but, also I’ve never heard a story where someone didn’t come through or when amazing things didn’t happen as they took those steps.
[01:10:59] David Hayward: [01:10:59] That’s cool. Yeah.
[01:11:00] Tabitha: [01:11:00] I love that.
[01:11:05] I feel like that’s great advice, but what’s something you’d like to leave with people who are struggling with maybe leaving the church or feeling like they are on this path too, and don’t know where to go
[01:11:21] David Hayward: [01:11:21] Feeling lost. Yeah. Maybe trapped. Well, What I’m what I’m about is the freedom of the individual.
[01:11:36] That’s what I care most about. You’re free to be whoever you want to be independent and self-determining, and autonomous, all those things for me, are so important. And it’s scary, because we’ve been taught to be dependent to depend on our parents and then depending on the pastor and to depend on the church and to depend on God.
[01:12:06] Yes. Even God, we’re taught to be totally dependent. And we’re not taught how to be free and how to live free and how to be self-determining and autonomous and so, if you’re feeling this restlessness and you’re feeling trapped and you’re feeling lost and you’re not feeling fulfilled at all start experimenting. that’s what I say.
[01:12:29] Just start experimenting. You’re a free person. Start acting free. Shit will happen. I guarantee it, your husband or your parents, or your pastor or your elders or your boss, somebody is going to speak up and say “fall back in line. Miss, Mr. Whatever,” if we want to live free, it’s exciting. There’s nothing like it, living free, but it doesn’t mean it’s not scary.
[01:12:57] So I always refer to the Israelites when they left Egypt you know, the security of leeks and onions back in Egypt, “at least we had a square meal a day.” Right. And there was security in that meager dependency, there’s some kind of security. But, take the risk, walk through your desert and find your own promised land flowing with milk and honey, that’s the choice.
[01:13:33] And I prefer my own land flowing with milk and honey, I found it. I’m loving it and I’m helping other people find it and love it. You found yours and you’re loving it. I’m presuming, you seem to be happy and content. And you know, It’s right there. It’s right there.
[01:13:53] All you have to do is take that first step. I love that. That’s my advice,
[01:14:04] Tabitha: [01:14:04] David, thank you so much for being here today. I have enjoyed this conversation so much and I know so many of my listeners are going to get something out of this. I get messages every time I post anything about spiritual abuse or my religious family, I get stories and messages from people who are saying, oh my goodness, I can totally relate.
[01:14:26] And this totally speaks to me. And there are people doing this every day, leaving. I remember sitting in the pastor’s office of the church my parents made me join in my twenties and being like, “can you just take me off the member’s roster?” “Oh no. Oh no. We’re going to leave your name on there until we, you know, we understand that you’re settled somewhere else.”
[01:14:49] I walked out of that meeting going, okay, whatever. It doesn’t mean anything, but then I thought, no, no. And I wrote an email and I was like, no, just take my name off. Yeah. It’s my name. I did not want my name in their little book.
[01:15:12] David Hayward: [01:15:12] Wow.
[01:15:13] Tabitha: [01:15:13] And nothing happened. And just your point about Being able to snap out of it, basically, take that step and you’re out. It’s true. And it’s scary, but it’s so much better on the other side. So, thank you so much for the light that you are.
[01:15:31] David Hayward: [01:15:31] Thank you. Thank you so much. And you too. Yeah.
[01:15:34] Yeah. It’s so great to meet you and talk with you and have a new friend. Amazing.
[01:15:43] Tabitha: [01:15:43] Totally. I love it.

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Flashbacks and Breakthroughs as an Adult Daughter of Narcissists

The thing with flashbacks is that you never know what will trigger one, but it can be healing to stay open to the secrets they hold. I have only recently begun experiencing flashbacks. I didn’t know what they were at first, but as I became comfortable sitting with my feelings, I became curious about them and wanted to understand the lessons they had to teach me.

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Walking Away from Toxic Relationships

We invest so much into our relationships. Even toxic ones. We give and give of ourselves, we sacrifice our wants and needs for another person. We give them the shirts off our backs, and then we realize they are only taking our love and giving us poison in return. This is what makes the relationship toxic.

It then becomes a choice between our own sanity or maintaining the insanity of the relationship. The home we live in and having to sleep on someone’s couch. Staying put or moving cross-country. Familiarity or the Great Unknown. Financial security or scraping by. Waiting around to be acknowledged for all we are and all we’ve done or acknowledging ourselves and expecting nothing in return but our own freedom.

Whether it’s a narcissistic mother, father, spouse, sibling, in-law, or long-time friend, there will come a time when it is necessary to wash our hands of them and walk away from our investments. The toxic dynamic isn’t just hurting ourselves, it’s permeating throughout all other areas and affecting every aspect. It is stealing from the world around us by sucking the life-force out of us and keeping us from fulfilling our purpose. Once we make the choice to let go of a toxic relationship, it becomes easier to make that choice every time we are called on to do so.

An Evolution of Walking Away from Narcissists

The first time I made a decision to walk away from a toxic relationship was when I went no contact with my mother. My very first human connection was also my very first conscious disconnection. It was a big one, a painful one, and a controversial one but it was the one in which I had the most intimate and intricate knowledge of how deep and real the toxicity was. It had poisoned my life for thirty-three years. It had nearly destroyed my health, self-worth, and my sanity.

I was in therapy and self-educating about the full spectrum of narcissistic personality disorders when I realized my mother was a malignant narcissist and would never be capable of self-awareness or change. She confirmed it when in our last conversation ever, I said I would be willing to work out our differences in the presence of a counselor and she screamed, “THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!” At which point, I had to make a change for myself, my sanity, and my health. I left behind the story of my life. The story that had defined who I was and where I belonged in the world. I left behind the codependent dynamic that would have been a kind of safety net for me in bad times and way of sharing life in the good times. I walked away from any legacy, inheritance, or sense of belonging. I left behind my father and my sister. I walked away from my future children’s grandparents and any hope of being unconditionally loved by a mother and father. It was the best decision I ever made. It caused me to have the space in my head to focus on my marriage which had been tumultuous, to say the least, for all of its three years.

About a year later, I walked away from my marriage. With my therapist, I was able to connect all the ways in which I was drawn to my ex-husband because of his similarities to my mother and father who are both narcissists. I started to understand that my ex-husband’s behavior was triggering my Complex-PTSD symptoms. With every panic attack that caused me to feel like I was losing my mind, I sought answers to what was wrong with me.

By separating from my husband and physically getting away from the toxicity, I realized that, indeed, I was not going insane, my relationship was a crazy-making one, and that my husband was emotionally and psychologically abusive. I made a choice for my own good, for his good, and for the good of his two children to not be a part of the abusive crazy-making any longer. Rather than dragging my husband to therapy and trying to get him to change, I decided to change myself, my location, and my marital status.

As empaths, we can become so focused on reading the other person, that we don’t have any space to be present in our own bodies. When I was able to look inward and sense what I needed, a plan of action became much more clear. I left behind my home, career, a joint bank account, and my life partner with the clothes on my back, the debt I had incurred while supporting him, and my rusted out Chevy Malibu. I borrowed money from a friend to put a deposit down on a rental, and took nothing of my ex-husband’s except his name.

I spent some time out of town, visiting family, and traveling. I started to engage situations in which I felt used or manipulated with a better sense of self. Rather than acquiescing without question or flying off the handle, I started to think, “What is my boundary here? What are my choices as an autonomous human being?” I began to feel less pulled around by my nose, as I had my entire life, and more in control of my feelings, my life, and my choices. It wasn’t my job to tell someone they were overstepping their bounds, it was my job to maintain my own boundaries.

With this newfound sense of self, I came home to file for divorce and move back in with my former roommate. I had been living with her when I got engaged to my ex-husband. I walked back into her house five years later a completely different person than the one who had left. Since I had gotten married, emancipated from my parents, and divorced, I had a stronger sense of myself and a very low tolerance for toxic people. I had become a badass (only in the sense that I wasn’t a complete pushover any longer).

I had been living there about a week, and, in that time, my former roommate tried to gaslight and control me by using manipulation, lying, nitpicking and threats. It quickly dawned on me that our entire relationship had been built on this toxic dynamic. I hadn’t noticed it before, not like this. I knew she was bossy and demanding and left nitpicky post-it notes everywhere, but I didn’t realize that our relationship had only worked because I would jump when she said, “Jump.”

I had become impervious to her narcissism, and this agitated her. By simply maintaining my personal boundaries for a week, she suddenly flew into a narcissistic rage, threw all of my belongings outside and changed the locks while I was away from home. She sent a text telling me what she had done without any explanation as to why. The cops who escorted me into her house stated that I had several grounds on which to sue. I looked her straight in the eye and said, “She isn’t worth it,” and walked out.

Cutting Losses

Toxic people are not worth the energy and resources it would take to get back what they take from us. Whether it’s physical, emotional, or financial, the less contact with a narcissist, the better. Leaving behind the things and emotions that tied us to the narcissist makes room for things of great value; a sense of self-worth, the capacity for real love, and the room to pursue our true passions. Life without a toxic person or the things we left in the past with them is so much more enriching than anything we could have retained.

It’s All About Boundaries

As Adult Children of Narcissists, we never had a chance to develop personal boundaries. I used to tell my therapist, “It’s like I have a sign on my forehead that says, ‘Walk all over me.’” In a way, I did. The fences around my lawn had been removed years before, leaving holes where fence posts should have been, and the muddy footprints from the trampled sod were an open invitation to any and all narcissistic personalities I came in contact with. It isn’t that we are asking to be abused, our lack of boundaries just lets anyone who doesn’t believe in boundaries wander in where other people have deterrents that aren’t worth the narcissist’s trouble.

When we first start placing our boundaries, we’re having to work hard to figure out who’s been trampling our lawns and how to shoo them away when they nonchalantly start climbing the fence to come back in. It may be difficult to fully recognize emotional and psychological abuse as abuse. Once we start making connections and being present in our feelings, it’s like finding clues to whose footprints have done the most damage in our lives. We can then recognize who to enforce those boundaries we are building with, and understand how much energy will need to go into maintaining them Many times, with a narcissist, it will mean packing up and moving to a new homestead altogether.

Hope of Healing

I hope we all find a peaceful place to land in order to heal from our pain. Healing is within our grasp, we only need to take action. Leave the lions, join the empathic herd, and run, gazelle, run to a bigger, brighter future full of love, peace, and happiness.

How have you set boundaries with the narcissist in your life?

-Tabitha

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Why the Abuse by a Malignant Narcissist Mother is so Insidious

Mothers who are malignant narcissists are the worst kind of narcissists. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The malignant narcissist latches onto to her victims like a cancerous tumor and has a deadly effect. Her narcissism is not only spiteful, malicious, and malevolent, it is dangerous, deadly and incurable. Like a malignant tumor, she is best cut out of one’s life altogether. However, it may be difficult to ascertain if her actions and behavior are abuse. A malignant narcissist mother will couch all of it inside the appearance of being a lovely, caring, and emotionally intelligent human being.

People are easily fooled by her.

Malignant Narcissists are described by Carrie Barron, M.D. as:

 “Intelligent, high functioning, soft-spoken, charming, tearful/seemingly emotional, gracious, well mannered, kind and have the ability to form relationships.”

Living with the toxicity of a malignant narcissist mother is like being slowly poisoned to death. Her daughter will not notice the effects of the poison, because she was nursed on the poison, raised on the poison, sustained by the poison. To her, the poison is Life. She is being slowly killed by the poison. The poison that the malignant narcissist mother feeds her child is the message that the she is unseen, unheard, and unimportant. It is traumatizing to any human being, let alone a child.

Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score says that,

 “Trauma almost invariably involves not being seen, not being mirrored, and not being taken into account.”

Where a nurturing mother responds to her child as a unique individual, helping her learn who she is in the world, a malignant narcissistic mother projects her own fragile, over-inflated ego and self-image onto her child until she elicits the behavior and responses that echo back the things she wants to see and hear about herself . Her child is not an autonomous human being. Her child is an object, born to serve her and her needs. If the mother’s needs are not met by her daughter she can easily cast her aside. She may even neglect or punish her child for trying to express her own needs or desires. Anything about the child that does not serve the mother is obliterated through any means necessary.  From the beginning, the child’s Self is denied. Aborted. Her soul is murdered and her brain and body adapt to living as a puppet in order to survive life with the malignant narcissist. This is all done with the appearance of being a good mother.

The Appearance of Good

The malignant narcissist appears to be a loving and devoted mother to her daughter. She will smother the child with physical affection and flattery to give the appearance of love and trust. Her children will cling to her as though their lives depended on it. This behavior can linger well into teenage years and adulthood. This kind of public display is often so pronounced that people cannot help but comment on what a loving family they seem to be. The mother will use this as proof she is an exceptional mother to her children, and her children will believe it is imperative to keep up the act. This makes the daughter an active participant in the mother’s deception and creates a warped sense of reality.

A malignant narcissist mother can be very religious, having every appearance of being spiritual and pious. The malignant narcissist skillfully uses Christianity as a tool in her abuse. She becomes a kind of god to her own children in the dispensing of arbitrary judgment, punishment, and rules. Scriptures are used as a way of manipulating innocent souls into believing that the whims at which they suffer are decreed by an almighty God and they are powerless to protect themselves. In this way, the malignant narcissist may divert the blame for her daughter’s unhappiness and simultaneously condemn her for being so rebellious against the Lord, the Church, and her parental authority. The mother will subject her children to lengthy and circular monologues that serve as a way of striking fear into her victims. The fear this induces in her daughter is very effective spiritual abuse designed to manipulate her daughter into compliance.

The malignant narcissist can appear to be best friends with her daughter, especially as she enters her teen years. This is a way the mother can have access to controlling her daughter’s relationships and influencing her life choices at a time when she ought to be learning to be independent. The mother and daughter will be enmeshed and codependent under the guise of having a loving mother/daughter relationship and the daughter will struggle with her own identity at a very crucial developmental stage.

Behind the Mask

The malignant narcissist mother utilizes mind games, control, isolation, spying, shaming, name-calling, rage, even the infamous “look”, something she uses with great skill and stealth, to keep her children in line. She keeps her offspring so uncertain of her approval and their own reality that they cannot help but cling to the belief that they are on this earth to make Mama happy. The children who fear abandonment and ridicule quickly learn to fall in line with the erratic behavior and demands of the malignant narcissist.

Any daughter who threatens to tarnish the malignant narcissist mother’s public image by asserting herself, speaking her truth, or trying to escape the abuse is treated as an outcast and her name is smeared to family and friends. Her mother will use triangulation to threaten and bully her into submission. She will start a smear campaign and claim the daughter is victimizing her. Her daughter will feel that there is no area in her life that her mother cannot reach into and destroy, and she will feel there is no escape.

Any spouse of the narcissist who does not enable the malignant narcissist mother in her abuse of his children is smeared to her children and/or banished from her life. This also serves to cut her daughter off from any moral support system that may help her become independent in life. Whether she is psychologically bullied into despising her own father or physically removed from his presence, it is effective enough to prevent any real bond with a parent who can be of help to her. Whether a malignant narcissist mother remains married to her children’s father or not, she will use triangulation and smear campaigns to create distrust between her children and their father.

When a malignant narcissist mother gets divorced it adds another layer of separation, confusion and stress into the family dynamic. Experienced Arizona divorce attorney Chris Hildebrand notes:

“Kids are not only stressed by the family breakup, they are actively solicited to take the narcissist’s side and manipulated by them in ways that will tear them apart.”

The courtroom is just another stage on which the malignant narcissist can perform her martyrdom act, and judges are just as susceptible to being fooled as anyone else. She will be ruthless in her pursuit of her own interests. Her children will simply be pawns used to further her own agenda. Divorce attorney Chris Hildebrand explains she does this because,

“In order to maintain the grandiose and inflated personality he or she has created, your narcissist spouse will go into the divorce court intending to win all issues at all costs.”

This can mean winning full custody, child support, and other financial benefit while maintaining control of the narrative to her friends, family, and offspring to appear as the innocent martyr and savior. This control over the narrative allows for further manipulation of the children and their father for as long as she has influence over them. This can last for as long as she has custody, or well into her daughter’s adult years. Many adult daughters of malignant narcissists are horrified to discover they had believed lies about their estranged fathers for decades, only to find that he too had been lied to and manipulated into staying away.

The malignant narcissist mother is paranoid and wary of anyone who might see through her act. She will only keep friends and lovers who are not capable of seeing her for who she really is. She will prey on those who seem weaker than her. Her relationships will be shallow with an obvious imbalance of power in her favor. The malignant narcissist will surround herself with compliant and naive individuals who will worship the ground she walks on and never set boundaries with her. She will easily write people off as “bad” for seemingly unknown reasons if they do try to set personal boundaries. Because the malignant narcissist is constantly changing alliances, judging others harshly, and presenting herself as superior to all her peers, her daughter can become wary of trusting anyone. The daughter is solely focused on ascertaining the moods and erratic desires of her mother.

The malignant narcissist will see her daughter as competition as she grows older and she will unleash a fresh, unholy hell that involves living vicariously through her and stealing her identity. Her mother will isolate her from friends, control her relationships, and flirt with her romantic interests. She will compete for the attention and affection of her daughter’s peers and think nothing of sabotaging her relationships. She will try to prove her attractiveness and sexual prowess to her daughter so there is no mistaking that she is superior to her daughter. She will act jealous as she faces the reality that her daughter is growing in attractiveness and maturity and will soon surpass her in desirability due to her youth. She will oversexualize her daughter while shaming her about sex and relationships. The daughter will struggle with body image and her own budding sexuality. She may even suppress her own desires and development in order to protect herself from her mother’s scorn.

A daughter may be used as a source of income as she nears adulthood. A malignant narcissist will go so far as taking her daughter’s savings, stealing her daughter’s social security number to start a new line of credit and abuse it, or guilting her into staying close to home to help support her financially and emotionally. The daughter can feel helpless to support herself financially or emotionally and remove herself from her mother’s grip. Her mother has taken credit for her accomplishments so that she feels impotent to achieve anything on her own. Her mother will readily use sabotage to prevent her from following her own life path.

The Physical Symptoms of Psychological Abuse By a Malignant Narcissist

The children of a malignant narcissist feel trapped in a world that is frightening to them while having to act as though all is well. Protecting the malignant narcissist by keeping secrets becomes a way of life. Living a lie in order to survive can cause a child to split from her own Self, and can lead to feeling dissociated, disconnected, alienated, and ashamed for a lifetime. We feel uncertain of ourselves, even in a world of self-deprecating vulnerability. Bessel A. van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score states:

“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”

The emotional and psychological abuse by a malignant narcissist can have lasting and devastating physical effects on her daughter as well. Dr. van der Kolk has done extensive research and study on trauma-related health issues and explains what happens with trauma victims:

 “Ideally our stress hormone system should provide a lightning-fast response to threat, but then quickly return us to equilibrium. In PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) patients, however, the stress hormone system fails at this balancing act. Flight/fight/freeze signals continue after the danger is over. . . . Instead, the continued secretion of stress hormones is expressed as agitation and panic and, in the long term, wreaks havoc with their health.”

The psychological war-zone a malignant narcissist mother creates will make her daughter hypervigilant and hyper-alert, causing her to live in a state of continuous elevated cortisol levels. This will manifest itself physically and cause the daughter to develop autoimmune disorders, chronic widespread pain, back pain, stomach problems and signs of post-traumatic stress, such as panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, and migraines. She will struggle with depression and anxiety to the point of wondering if her life is worth living. Those of us raised by malignant narcissists will struggle with Complex-PTSD, a term coined for people exposed to prolonged periods of trauma. Many of these symptoms and conditions will last throughout the daughter’s life if unaddressed psychologically, as well as medically.

The daughter of a malignant narcissist mother may also act out in ways she cannot understand or explain with risk-taking behaviors that give her a shot of dopamine to ease the effects of her high anxiety. She may develop an eating disorder or an addiction. She may turn to shoplifting or sexual promiscuity. These things give her a temporary sense of control, a means of escape; a feeling of relief in the moment that will only serve to further erode her sense of self worth and affect her well-being.

Narcissistic abuse can become the legacy of a daughter of a malignant narcissist. She may desperately look for a rescuer and fall into the arms of a narcissistic partner. She may be subjected to further abuse and feed the idea that the world is out to get her. Through learned behavior and her own narcissistic injury, she may not have psychologically developed past fourteen years of age and could become narcissistically abusive as well. The cycle of narcissistic abuse will then continue from generation to generation.

Narcissist Abuse Awareness

The malignant narcissist mother is able to thrive because of society’s view that motherhood is equal to sainthood and that loyalty to family is King. These widely peddled beliefs serve to further victimize innocent souls who are being forced to live a tortured existence with no hope of escape. A mother does not deserve respect simply by virtue of giving birth. She deserves respect when she has earned respect by valuing human life and nurturing her offspring, as nature intended, so that they have all they need to thrive in this life.

When a mother abuses her power for her own gain and leaves her child psychologically, emotionally, and physically maimed. She is no better than a child molester or rapist. Her children who are her victims do not owe her their loyalty. They owe themselves a chance to heal. Any daughter courageous enough to become self-aware, emancipate from her abusive mother, and do the work to heal from her abuse should be applauded by society. Narcissistic abuse stops with US. We can overcome as we become self aware, take responsibility for our healing, and speak our TRUTH to lead the way for other abuse survivors.

Run, gazelle, run

There is hope for us as the daughters of a malignant narcissist mothers. The legacy of narcissistic abuse can end with US and we can HEAL from the past. There are thousands who have suffered this type of abuse and there are so many resources available to help in the process of healing from malignant narcissistic abuse. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are normal, but we are neither hopeless or helpless. We are survivors who deserve to thrive in this life. We can find a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with daughters of narcissistic mothers. Reach out to other survivors. Join an online support group for daughters of narcissistic mothers. Ask someone for advice on where to start. Find the courage to break free of our malignant narcissist mothers and begin the path of healing in a toxic-free environment.

We regain our power as we start to own and speak our truth.

You were born for a purpose and you are worth fighting for. Be encouraged to run, gazelle, run to the hope of a better future.

Feel free to comment on this post if you have a story to share with others about your narcissistic mother. Email me for questions or suggestions on the topic of narcissistic abuse, or to share your story, privately. If you would like to share your story with the world, anonymously, please inquire in the Contact section of this site. I would love to hear from you and I’m so glad you stopped by, today! 

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Becoming Self-aware as an Adult Child of Narcissists

As Adult Children of Narcissists we tend to struggle with with self-awareness and relationship issues well into adulthood. We have been victims of prolonged abuse. That has a lasting impact on us for which we are now responsible as adults who are invested in becoming self-aware and seeking healing. As an ACoN, myself, I have struggled with many traits that make life difficult.

I was raised by a mother who has every malignant narcissistic trait listed and a father who is enabling and covertly narcissistic. The important thing to remember as a victim of narcissistic abuse is that it wasn’t ever your fault.

Also, you have the power to take your life back. You have survived an insidious kind of abuse, and you have the strength and ability to find healing from that abuse.

These are some of the areas in which I have struggled as I seek to become self-aware in order to learn how to heal and become whole:

Hyper Criticism

For the first thirty years of my life, I tended to be hyper-critical, not only of myself, but, of others. I acted like I was better than everyone else. I projected onto others all that was projected onto me by my mother. It became very easy to pass the buck and unburden the weight of her scorn onto the people around me.

If my mother suggested I looked like a hooker because I had a knee-length skirt on, my reaction would be to point out how slutty another girl looked at church. By comparison, I looked pretty good by lunchtime. It was a very kill or be killed mentality in my family of origin that stole decades of my life.

I was the worst version of myself. I was codependent, indecisive, secretive, and manipulative. I learned, quite skillfully, to play the narcissistic system.

Manipulation

I could be manipulative. Not in a diabolical way. In the way that a kidnapped victim will try to win over her captor in order to survive. I had Stockholm Syndrome. But it became a life skill that I just couldn’t justify using any longer. I would request permission to do something by highlighting the elements of the outing that most appealed to my mother, talk disparagingly about the individual I would be spending time with, and make sure my mother’s ego was boosted. I would talk about everything, except the real reason I wanted to go out, because if I were requesting to do something that made me happy, she would sabotage it. And, since I needed her permission about every single thing I ever did until I was thirty years old, it was second nature to me.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Passive-aggression is also a learned form of manipulation I struggle with. Because my narcissistic mother could not handle my feelings, I learned to express how I felt about things in an indirect way. I learned to take the most indirect route to what I wanted. I was reactive instead of proactive, I was vague instead of direct.

And it still plays out today. My boyfriend is very direct and literal, similar to someone with Autism, and I often hear, “What are you actually trying to say?” At which point, I have to stop talking and figure out what it is I’m really wanting from the exchange and then state it in a very direct way.

Sometimes, I don’t even know what my true desired destination is when I start feeling my way through a conversation. I feel as though it is selfish of me to have a desire, need, or want and make a request for it. In actuality, it’s selfish to place my passive-aggressive behavior on someone’s shoulders and expect them to decipher those hieroglyphics and tell me what I must be wanting. But I don’t beat myself up over it, because I can’t really help that default setting. I just try to approach it in a healthier way now.

Indecision

I have such a strange relationship with restaurants and restaurant menus. I often say, “Oh, I’m not picky,” or “I’ll have what he’s having.” When my boyfriend asks me what I want to drink, he adds, “What do YOU really want?” and then high fives me for choosing the whiskey over the beer. It may seem silly and condescending, but it isn’t. It’s a necessary part of life that I’m still learning because my narcissistic mother gaslighted, sabotaged, manipulated, and controlled me into believing that I could not make sound decisions for myself, even the tiniest decisions.

It’s why I lived in her home until I was thirty. I truly believed that I would utterly fail if I made one decision for myself. This was how she kept me as her captive. She sowed the seed of self-doubt into every interaction with me. At times, making the simplest decision can trigger a panic attack.

I’ve since learned to stop, breathe, consider what it is I really want, and then state it as succinctly as possible. Without hemming and hawing, without backtracking or apologizing. The more I do it this way, the better I get.

Dissociation

I crawl deep inside my head when something traumatic is happening, and I see and hear everything as though I am watching myself from outside myself. I also freeze when fight or flight response is triggered in me. This could mean literally freezing my movements or just going into “do something” mode. I help the nearest person without a thought to how I’m feeling or affected, I start organizing my sock drawer to zero in on anything other than what I’m feeling in the moment.

To remove myself from my body was the best way put some distance between the real me and my narcissistic mother for thirty years. The shell of myself was the one getting the brunt of the violent rage, insults, and false accusations, not my true self. It served me well for most of my life, but it cannot serve me well in any current scenario.

Distraction

I was a pessimist. And I was funny. I used sarcasm and dry humor to deflect attention from myself or what was really going on with me. I developed a public persona that seemed to not have a care in the world and had the ability to laugh everything off and get everyone else to laugh everything off.

I still resort to that at times. To feel my own feelings and to outwardly portray them was impossible for me for the first thirty years of life. I know, now, that was my way of never letting my mother see me genuinely joyful or hopeful in order to protect me from her scorn, criticism, and sabotaging. But, I died a little inside every time I hid my true self.

Deflection

Living with narcissistic parents caused me to be a very defensive person. And, because I couldn’t defend myself against their false accusations or stand up for the real reasons why I did something I wanted to do, I deflected. It was always someone, or something, else’s fault.

I cannot express how damaging this is. Not being able to own my reality caused me to feel absolutely powerless to live any semblance of a normal adult life. I am learning to take my power back by owning my choices, good, bad, or indifferent. To be proactive instead of reactive, and to be confident that my own conscience can guide me through life to make healthy choices.

Trauma Bonding Addiction

Since going no contact with my narcissistic mother, I have walked away from multiple toxic relationships. I had unknowingly married an emotionally avoidant, sometimes emotionally abusive man, when I was thirty, and, like many of us ACoNs do, I was subconsciously trying to repair the relationships with my parents by repeating that relational pattern with my husband. 

I was behaving as a wounded animal in my marriage and I felt crazy. It actually gave my ex husband pleasure to see me so upset. He would throw his head back a laugh when I was distraught or angry.

He seemed to thrive when I seemed mentally and emotionally unstable. The day I left him almost three years ago was the day I stopped feeling like I needed to check myself into a psychiatric hospital.

Since then, I have let go of some very toxic relationships. As I let these relationships go, I realized I had attracted people with narcissistic traits because I felt like I deserved it.

The more someone tried to dominate me, insult me, and manipulate me, the more I felt I needed to try and please them. Once I realized I was gravitating toward these types of relationships, I also learned why, and am learning the skills necessary to not get entangled with toxic people.

Rage

When I  left my mother’s home and entered into my marriage, I had a lot of rage. Being married to my ex triggered a lot of old wounds for me and I would fly into a rage when he treated me in a way my mother had treated me.  I was suffering from my first bouts of C-PTSD.

Once I left, I realized all the things that should have been red flags to me I was seeing as signs that I was supposed to be with that person at the time. I was convinced I could heal him and the relationship.

But all it did was bring up such deeply buried rage for the thirty years I was in that type of relationship. I still feel that familiar bristling when I sense that dynamic with another individual and I am learning to recognize the things that trigger my symptoms and to slow down or remove myself from the situation.

Reacting to a narcissistic person is the worst thing a victim can do, because it will send us careening down a slope of self-doubt, shame, and becoming a source of supply. I am learning to be angry about what the toxic person is doing, but harness that anger into doing something constructive to remove myself from being under their influence.

Trustful Distrust

I don’t know about you, but I can easily open up to strangers, and they easily open up to me. We form a fast bond and then the deeper the relationship gets, I start to distrust it. I’m desperate for open and honest connection, but closer connection also means great potential for getting hurt.

I find that I’m learning to be okay with being a bit more reserved until I understand if I can truly trust someone. It is a difficult balance to strike that I think will come with time, more healing, and being more confident in myself. We need people in our lives, but we shouldn’t need people who aren’t good to us and for us.

Shame

I have had so much shame associated with my C-PTSD symptoms and recognizing the ways in which I survived my relationship with my narcissistic mother. I sometimes sound like her and I shrink back in horror at looking like the monster from whom I’ve worked so hard to escape. It is frightening and isolating.

I have learned to forgive myself, ask for forgiveness from others and try to be more mindful moving forward. It would be easy to blame all of this on my mother and just be angry and hyper-sensitive for the rest of my life in order to avoid the feeling of shame. But it would make my life a lot harder in the long run. Becoming self aware is an uncomfortable feeling, but it only lasts a short while.

Healing from narcissistic abuse is nothing to be ashamed of.

Finding Healing as an ACoN

The best thing we can do as ACoNs is strive to be self-aware. To know ourselves. To be the best versions of ourselves we can be. To discover the people we were born to be before we were tampered with in such a destructive way. Our narcissistic parents will have to live with what their lives have come to because of what they have done, but we do not have to continue to live with what they have done. We can break free and learn to heal.

Our parents were unable to love us because they could not love themselves. They could not love themselves, because they could not know themselves. They are incapable of becoming self-aware.

We can give ourselves the love our narcissistic parents were never able to give us by first knowing ourselves and accepting ourselves. It is here that we find the space for renewal, growth, and grace to love ourselves in a way we never were by our parents. It is here where we begin to heal.

If you are starting out on this journey of breaking free of a narcissistic parent, I strongly suggest finding a counselor or psychologist or coach who specializes in narcissistic abuse. It is so important to have emotional support as we delve into the journey of healing from narcissistic abuse.

I know I would never have survived the precarious nature of this journey without my therapist who has an innate understanding of my childhood wounds and the wounds I sustained well into adulthood. Living in psychological bondage was hell, and the journey to freedom and healing is proving to be far better than I could have ever imagined.

There are so many of us ACoNs roaming this earth, and I hope you’ve found this to be a place where you feel less alone and less frightened. You are not alone in your journey. You are not alone, period. Sharing our stories can be so powerful and freeing, and I encourage you to share yours in an environment that feels right to you. Leave a comment below or feel free to contact me if you too are learning to overcome narcissistic abuse by one, or both, parent(s). I would love to hear from you, and you are always welcome! Find your tribe, join the herd, and run, gazelle, run to wholeness, happiness, and freedom.