I once heard a true story about a man who, in his early fifties, finally got up the courage to confront his narcissist father. Ed was in therapy at the time, working through some ‘issues.’ He was beginning to heal and restore some of his self-esteem that had been demolished by his abusive dad. At the urging of his therapist, and as a way to bring about some closure, Ed decided to make a long trip across country to go see his father and speak to him about how his abuse had negatively impacted his life. He decided he wouldn’t notify him of the visit, he would just show-up.
Ed booked a flight, arranged a car rental, and reserved a room at a hotel. He was feeling really positive about the plan and figured it was only a matter of time before he would be liberated from his traumatic past. On the plane, he leaned back comfortably in his seat, closed his eyes and envisioned touching moments of him and his dad bonding.
When the plane touched down at the airport, Ed started to feel a little nervous. That’s normal, he thought. After all, he hadn’t seen his father in years and the only communication he had with the old guy was what he instigated. Besides, he was about to embark on a face-to-face mission that he had once deemed impossible.
In the hotel room, Ed started to feel a little edgy so he fixed a drink and busied himself with some work he had brought with him. But he couldn’t concentrate – thoughts of what he would say to his father kept racing through his mind. Eventually, Ed calmed down. He had a relaxing shower and went to bed early – he wanted to be well rested and on the ball for the big day.
The next morning, Ed felt ready to take on the world. He was about to make a very positive step forward in his healing process, and wondered why he had psyched himself out the night before. Eager to get the show on the road, Ed telephoned his dad and arranged a lunch time meeting at his house.
When Ed’s father answered the door he seemed fairly happy to see him but not overjoyed - then again, he wasn't the 'joyful' type. The two men had a beer, barbecued some steaks and ate lunch in the backyard. They made polite small talk and caught up on each other’s lives. Everything was very cordial.
When the meal was over and there was a lull in the conversation, Ed decided to take the opportunity to tell his dad the reason for his visit. He took a deep breath; remembering everything the therapist had told him about not being ‘confrontational’, and speaking in a non-defensive tone, using “I feel” instead of the accusatory “You did this. You did that.” Ed had all the pop-psychology moves down. He was ready.
With heartfelt sincerity, Ed carefully explained to his father his feelings of loss, and the pain and sadness of his childhood, and the far reaching effects it had on his adult life. His father listened; never once interrupting. When Ed had finally said what he needed to say, he breathed a sigh of relief, leaned back in his chair and waited for his father’s response; hopeful that his confession would bring them closer together. Ed's father sat silently for a moment, and took a good long look at his son. Then he got up from his chair, stared right into Ed's eyes and sniped, “so what”and walked back into the house.