Parental Messaging in childhood, even without qualifying as a disorder, can strongly impact feelings of inadequacy, leaving in their wake the message of “never being enough.” This is especially true if one or both parents were on the spectrum of narcissistic attitudes and behaviors.
Parents with narcissistic traits, often cannot adequately provide empathy, unconditional love, and acceptance to their children. Healthy attachment and secure separation and individuation are based on experiencing these same qualities unconditional of the child’s performance.
An image- oriented world view, based on how things look, especially to others does not tolerate authenticity, and imperfection. It also is intolerant of people associated with these characteristics. Learning, growing, developing children are particularly vulnerable to the fear, shame, and feelings of abandonment of “not measuring up.”
A legacy of unmet emotional and developmental needs is often expressed behaviourally by trying to please, looking to others for cues on how to be “good enough”, accepted and loved without which, the foundation for self esteem and self reliance is severely compromised.
Many of my hoarding clients and Conquer the Clutter podcast participants report struggling with questions like, “Why do I feel unlovable?”, “Why do I never feel good enough?”, “Why do I feel so empty?”, “Why do I always second guess and doubt myself?”
They know they want to feel better and sincerely yearn to find better ways to live the life they want without piles and pathways. Their internal messages continue to repeat voices from the past that chide them with variations of “the piles and pathways are stronger than you are…you’re a failure.” Often, they have accepted and internalized these damaging messages for so long that they have voiced-over undermining, negative parental messaging
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My work starts with supporting them to fill their internal void with self compassion and acceptance not things. They learn that feelings of shame and self blame do not mean that they are shameful and that no one ever accomplished anything difficult by thinking less about themselves. This helps them to stop shaming themselves by voicing over messages of their internal critics which undermine them. Messages like “get yourself organized and just do a little every day” disenfranchises the overwhelmed. It takes real courage and determination to persevere.
With hope and compassionate self-awareness, these individuals face the fact that if things could meet their needs, they would not need as much. Things will never fill the void and love them back. Even though they love their things, there can never be enough to fill the void they feel. Like being at sea in a boat without fresh water, ironically one is surrounded by water, but if they use it as a substitute, they will make themself ill and put their life at risk. Like an excessive accumulation of possessions, it is the wrong thing to meet their needs. When aiming to meet one’s needs, accept no substitutes!
I counsel people overwhelmed with things to rate all possessions on a scale from 1to 10 and divided items into three relationship- based chunks. This helps them to find, save, and house the things that mean the most to them. Their relationship with some items feels like life would feel impoverished without them. These are the 1-2-3 priority items. Top priority is based on a profoundly positive relationship with these things.
Moving forward, we look for items that comparatively have the lowest relationship. These are the 7-8-9-10’s. With some coaching, once identified, they come to understand that these are taking up space needed for the life they want. Resolving the accumulation is accomplished by deciding the method of relocation i.e. recycling, regifting, donating or discarding.
The harder choices are in the middle. These are the 4-5-6’s.
Attachment to items closer to the top- rated # 1 item, makes them 4’s. If necessity and space permits, these are kept. The same is true of items that feel closer to their relationship with the top- rated # 7 item. These become 6’s and are resolved like the 7-8-9-10’s, by recycling, regifting, donating or discarding.
What remains are the 5’s. With only one group left to be decide, the task of resolving piles and pathways has been reduced to one tenth of what it was. The 5’s are set aside for final decisions.
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Once the 1 through 3’s, and as many of the 4’s have been housed, the living space is set up.
We try to house items as much as possible within 3-4 steps from where they are normally used. We do this to promote easier maintenance because there is something about that 5th step that promotes putting things down “just for now.”