The good old pomegranate

In Turkey, we call it “nar” and it symbolises feminine beauty and fertility. You may note that peeling and removing the pomegranate seeds is a painstaking process and can stain your clothes and walls if you aren’t focused and patient.

After completing an online certificate course in narrative therapy through the Dulwich Centre I became inspired to use metaphors to externalise problems I’m experiencing in how I relate to others. The problem I’m describing here is one that begins with “nar” – narcissism.

These days it seems that narcissists are everywhere we look. There are many online groups devoted to the long suffering daughters of narcissistic mothers. At one point I considered joining one of these groups. I was experiencing a hard time getting through the psychological walls that my mother had put up against me.

My mother is a highly sensitive woman whose own mother failed to nourish her creativity. I think my mother’s life would have been significantly different if she had realised a satisfying career in the arts but then I wouldn’t be here typing these lines.

Last year I finally got past Mum’s defensive walls. The doors of communication opened when I stopped telling her how she should live her life and gave her the time and space to express herself. I called her on a video chat with the intention to simply listen. She told me how tough it was for her as a child with a narcissistic mother who valued beauty, fame and glamour, all of which her younger sister possessed as a fashion model.

I knew there and then the mother I was seeking to nourish my creativity isn’t my mum. She is another kindred spirit struggling to express herself in a world that wants to tell us what to do instead of acknowledging and accepting the unique gifts each of us were given.

The Prison of Your Judgment

I recently had the lunch from hell with a frenemy that made me think about why we label each other “narcissists”. I couldn’t put my finger on why I was a “narcissist” in her view but decided to agree with her. After all, I’m a memoir writer, which is admittedly a self-centred hobby.

And this woman had enjoyed a great career in marketing, she valued freedom and told me that her life’s purpose is to empower women. I think a part of me was jealous of her career and a childish part of me was seeking a mother’s approval and she certainly seemed like she wanted to help me. Soon, I found myself saying things like “raising children is important work.” in an attempt to compensate for the fact that my writing hadn’t become a sustaining career for me.

I could feel her judging me as a woman without her own income, a prisoner in a sense, to domestic life.

Accept and Serve Your Sentence

Narcissist. Guilty as charged.

For our lunch, I decided to embody the woman of leisure and take some time to do my make-up, hair and get my nails done. I carefully picked a colour that was my frenemy’s favourite to show that we are one, even if we try to bolster our own egos in a wrestle to one-up each other.

She showed up with no make-up and hair hastily done. She wasn’t a narcissist like me.

“I made lunch for my husband because I knew he would appreciate that.” She looked at me, who had apparently not thought of anyone but myself and had all the time in the world to focus on my looks.

Set Each Other Free

My frenemy showed me that narcissism, like the pomegranate, is full of potential and has lots of seeds that can give rise to productivity. It’s a false belief that a narcissist loves herself. We have childhood wounds that still pain us as evident from my search for a mother to help me when I know that I am the one who must do this soul-searching and memoir writing myself. If we want to empower ourselves and other women, let’s drop the childish name-calling.

I decided to set my frenemy free so I could give myself the time to properly open myself up, pick out the seeds, which are ideas, and write them out as a part of my memoir.

Freed from my judgment she too can explore her own space. I was limiting her own self expression by drowning her in prompts for a story she wasn’t ready to write just yet.

“If you love somebody, set them free.” – Sting

Over to you…

Do you have relationships that you know aren’t good for you that you cling on to?

What is it about the other person that you’re judging?

What part of you is seeking their approval?

How will you gracefully free yourself of the destructive pattern of the relationship?

How will you document and treasure what the relationship has taught you about yourself?