Thursday, March 20, 2014

Defying Gravity by Breaking Free from Narcissistic Parents

Do you have a song that so perfectly describes how you feel that you get goose-bumps from head to toe? Perhaps the song brings you to tears because the emotions behind it truly ring clearly. The song, Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked, is more than empowering and emotional for me (see video and lyrics below). The song sweeps through the dysfunctional and toxic relationship with my BPD mother and NPD father into the realization that I will never have their unconditional love to actually breaking free and flying away. First some background information about The Wizard of Oz (1939) and the musical Wicked.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy Gale is a young farm girl who lives in Kansas in the early 1900s. She is whisked away in a tornado and lands in Oz. She is greeted by the good witch Glinda, who tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz might be able to help her get back home. The Wizard agrees to grant her wish (along with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion & their wishes) but not until they bring him the Witch of the West's broom. On their way to the Witch's castle, they are ambushed by flying monkeys but still manage to obtain the broom. Back at the Emerald City, the Wizard still refuses to grant their wishes, however Toto (Dorothy's pet dog) exposes the "Wizard" as a normal middle-aged man who admits he's a fraud.

Wicked the Musical  

In the musical Wicked,  Elphaba is an outcast because of her green skin and is even shunned by her own father. She stands up for the downtrodden and oppressed, which in in this case are the intelligent animals whose powers of speech and reason are being stripped away by the Wizard who is systematically enslaving them. The magicless Wizard calls upon the magical young Elphaba to become his partner, which is a dream come true for Elphaba until she discovers the Wizard's wicked ways. She turns down fame and glory and instead goes underground, becoming a fugitive while aiding the animals when and where she can. Elphaba refuses to stay silent when she witnesses evil.

Elphaba pays for her defiance. She is disparaged by the Wizard's cohort, her former headmistress Madame Morrible causing the people of Oz to want her dead. She becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West and is falsely accused of spreading terror and lies throughout the land. Desperate, she considers making peace with the Wizard and is literally captivated his song-and-dance routine about how wonderful it is to be considered wonderful. She discovers that he has enslaved her former professor, Dr. Dillamond the goat, who can no longer speak or stand upright. She is incensed all over again and flees, which is her last straw.

"Defying Gravity" Lyrics

Defying Gravity (see lyrics below) is the finale for Wicked's first act when Elphaba discovers that The Wizard of Oz is not the heroic figure she had originally believed. With this realization, Elphaba vows to do everything in her power to fight the Wizard and his sinister ways. She sings of how she wants to live without limits, going against the rules that others have set for her. At this point, she doesn't know that the Wizard is her father but finds out in the end. The Wizard uses campaigns of denigration against Elphaba, turning the public against her. She later learns that the Wizard is in fact a powerless fraud.

Lyrics ranging from the 'playing by the rules of someone else's game' to being forced to 'accepting limits 'cause someone says they're so' to realizing with our relationship there are 'things I cannot change' truly describe the dysfunctional mind games, unhealthy boundaries, immense control, and emotional damage resulted from my BPD / NPD parents.

Additionally, the lyrics 'too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost. Well, if that's love, it comes at much too high a cost!' so clearly relate to the raw honesty regarding the relationship with my parents. Having to sacrifice my integrity and self-worth in order to keep them in my lives was indeed much to high a cost- and for a love I never truly had in the first place.

The song also depicts how I felt when I ultimately decided to indefinitely cut ties and fly free: 'too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep, it's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!' and 'if I'm flying solo, at least I'm flying free'. That lyric about flying solo and flying free really hits my heart hard as if I could choose it some other way, I would. I would like to have a big, happy family that is loving, supportive, and safe. But being emotionally tied to their control and manipulations was not healthy or acceptable. So, flying solo in order to fly free is the best possible option.

The lyrics "As someone told me lately, everyone deserves a chance to fly" are so illustrative of how a dysfunctional relationship can be so stifling- and how a controlling and narcissistic parent can truly chain you down.When she sings that lyric, I can feel my freedom and how I am flying free now, which is truly breathtaking.

Another powerful statement in the song is when she says, "To those who ground me, take a message back from me- tell them how I am defying gravity." I get goosebumps- the power and strength behind that statement are immense.

The ending truly wraps up the deeply meaningful song with the following lyrics, "And nobody in all of Oz, no Wizard that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down!" Those words are so poignant because one of the most helpful books I read when trying to learn about my mother's BPD and father's NPD was Eleanor Payson's book, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family.

Living in and Leaving Oz

After someone with NPD has seduced us, we often feel like a tornado transported us to Oz. Dorothy's journey encapsulated all the manipulative illusions and challenges that transpires when we interact with an NPD. Dorothy believed that the Wizard was the only one who had the power to help her, and she embarked on one convoluted adventure after another to find favor and win his approval.

Similarly, children want so badly to have their parent(s) approval and attention just as Elphaba did when the Wizard wanted her as a *partner*. Elphaba discovers she was manipulated and deceived just as I did many times through the decades with my parents. Whether through parental alienation, silent treatments, campaigns of denigration, estrangement and more,  I continually was hopefully of an unconditional and authentic relationship with my parents only to discover the truth behind their actions.

Just as Elphaba is in Wicked, children of NPD can be shunned, not accepted by parent(s), expected to believe in the facade that the parent created (Oz), and controlled to the point of compromising integrity and personal growth. The sense of reality is muddled, doubted, and turned upside-down. Constant exposure to the parent's skewed sensibility combined with isolation from friends / family feels like living in a strange land of Oz with the Wizard of Oz (parent) manipulating, controlling, and deceiving.

Further, flying monkeys are sent to do the dirty work for the NPD (Enlisting Allies Against Target of Rage) such as used against Dorothy. Flying monkeys being a term taken from The Wizard of Oz to describe those the NPD manipulates into doing their dirty work, typically in the form of abuse by proxy. The NPD parent manipulates others into harming their target of rage (*true victim*) through willfully ignorant or easily deceived friends and family. The abuse by proxy results from ignorance of the truth or lack of character to stand up for the truth. Whether it is directly or indirectly, physically or emotionally, an NPD will use flying monkeys to do their dirty work.

Additionally, the children of NPD parents can be disparaged throughout their life through campaigns of denigration, causing people to think the child is wicked like Elphaba. By the time the target is aware of the distortions, people around the NPD may have been hearing for a long time that the target is some evil, horrible, cruel person as part of the campaign of denigration.

Everyone Deserves a Chance to Fly!

We all want to be the recipient of unconditional love but if it comes at such a high cost, is it unconditional? No, the cost is the condition so the love is not unconditional. Let go of the hope that your critical parent will ever change. Stop looking for approval from the parent. Understand why the parent is like this, but stop looking to them for approval and support you will probably never get. Having a critical parent is not your fault, and you can't make this critical parent into a kind, approving, and loving parent.

In the end, breaking free of the critical parent is defying gravity. Everyone certain does deserve a chance to fly. No two parental situations are exactly the same, so what may work in one situation may not be the best in another. However, doing something to improve your situation is imperative when dealing with a critical parent. By simply being conscious of the effects of criticism, you'll actually begin to negate the effects. Bringing to the surface the impact of criticism can actually help it dissipate and lose the power it has in your life. And if you have to fly solo, at least you're flying free. We all deserve happiness and peace in our lives. Don't let the Wizard or anyone else bring you down :)

Defying Gravity

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits
'cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But until I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!

I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately,
"Everyone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me

Tell them how I am
Defying gravity
I'm flying high
Defying gravity
And soon I'll match them in the renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!


  1. Very, very powerful. This makes sense not just for narc parents, but narc bosses, as well.

  2. Just came across your blog. I am so thankful that you chose to share your journey. I recently discovered my mom is BPD/NPD and this blog has been incredibly helpful as I begin my healing journey. Thank you!!

    1. You're welcome! Thank you for stopping by and commenting :)

  3. I am currently binge-listening to this song, trying to gather courage to leave an abusive relationship of 14 years.
    I'm happy someone else finds it as inspiring as I do. I cry every single listen.

  4. Hello Gretel Ella,

    I am very taken with your blogging, as it is just the right combo of personal accomplishment; i.e.-strength, and informed articulation for me to discover, at this point in my own journey.
    Thank-you so much for sharing it with so much clarity!!
    The inclusion of the music video provoked so much inner movement where I've been stuck for so long- inside!

    Looking outside to be seen and heard- sure isn't it! Now I have some emulation of what that journey inside might look, sound, and/or feel like. I've been a yeller about my needs for sooo long- to little avail. I am grounding that in just a good connection I feel after reading your post; getting quiet and tuning in again to listen to sense of self.

    May I ask, what do you do out in the world? What kind of work?

    Thank-you again for the very precious vulnerabilityI know I found in the center of personal strength, that you share with the world.

    I am so appreciative.