My kids escaped cluster B hell.


I’ve lived a harder life than most people.   All my life, I’ve been surrounded by Cluster B people and many of them had substance abuse issues too (alcoholism and drug addiction are closely correlated with Cluster B personality disorders).

I was raised by a somatic narcissist mother and a covert narcissist/borderline father.   Both were alcoholics.  I never knew my half-brother and sisters, who were not raised by my parents after I was born.   My grandparents all died when I was still young, but from all the accounts I’ve heard, they were also all Cluster B or codependent in a cluster B marriage   In 1986, I married a malignant narcissist/sociopath (also an alcoholic and drug addict) and was the codependent victim in that relationship until just three years ago.    Surrounded by so many cluster B people, it was almost inevitable I would develop a cluster B disorder myself (as well as severe C-PTSD) and so I did.   I almost became an alcoholic myself.   Our extended family is fragmented and shattered, with various factions scattered across almost every part of the United States.  I’m not close to any of them.   Some of them I have never met and probably never will.

Somehow, the family mental illness appears to have skipped over both my children.  My daughter, who is 23, was a difficult teenager, frequently in trouble.  For a few years she hated me and sided with her dad (she was his golden child and he frequently tried to use her as a pawn against me).  Due to her problems in school and at home, she was diagnosed with several things, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which often becomes a cluster B disorder in adulthood.   But she never did and during the last two years, has shown she has a lot of empathy for others and is also finally making some good life choices.    My son, 25 now, never seemed much at risk; he was his father’s scapegoat and a target of bullying as a child (much like I was),  yet he seems to have escaped having even Complex PTSD. His worst problem is he’s very obsessive-compulsive and has anxiety issues (don’t we all?) Of course, they are both young,and sometimes symptoms of BPD or NPD don’t really manifest until later, but as far as I can tell, they both seem free of those disorders.   If either of them does become Cluster B,  it would break my heart because I don’t think I could bring myself to go No Contact with them.   But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I think a lot of things led to my kids never developing cluster B disorders (or at least not seeming to), not least of which was pure luck.     I think they knew that as disordered as I was and as hobbled as I was as their mother due to my codependent nature, my love for both of them was the real thing.     Although I wasn’t protective enough when they were children; now I find I’m almost overprotective, even though they are adults.   It’s as if I’ve been trying to make things up to them.  I think educating them about NPD (they both know their father has it), narcissism in general, and other cluster B disorders,  and how they affected our family and its dynamics, have helped them to understand why their father and I acted the way we did.

My son may have escaped having these disorders because during his last year of high school (2009 and 2010), he lived for several months with the family of a friend of his, whose mother was a police officer and an excellent mother to her own sons.  This wasn’t a “foster child” situation; it was my son’s choice.   He told me he could no longer tolerate the toxic dynamics at our home and this officer’s family cared about him as if he were one of their own.   Since he was almost ready to graduate I didn’t see a problem with him staying there for awhile, though I did feel hurt and missed him a lot.   I could see that it would benefit him, even as sick as I was at that time.  I knew that this was a good family who would set a good example for my son.

My life has been difficult in almost every way one can imagine, but I feel so grateful that I have a great relationship with both my children now that they are adults.   Both of them recognize their dad as an abuser, and think I was the better parent.  My daughter liked her status as her dad’s favorite, and felt like she was required to “hate” me and now feels bad about that.  I told her not to feel guilty, because what he did to her was also a form of abuse.   As for my son, we’ve always been close.  I feel like these two young people would both be good friends of mine even if they weren’t my own children.   I love them, but I also LIKE them.   I’m so proud of them both.

14 thoughts on “My kids escaped cluster B hell.

  1. I’m glad your kids are doing well, I hope it stays that way. You’re amazingly strong to have experienced all these kinds of people and survive. You’re a true inspiration 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s cool.

    I think you being honest and empathic for the last 3 years about the reality they grew up in has probably given them a huge advantage compared to if you had not done so. I think the work you’ve done has probably paid off for them bigtime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Jim. I think I’ve changed a lot in three years. Blogging is what got me started on this whole journey — I think each of us has a gift we are meant to use and develop, and that’s the key to unlock our true selves. For me, it’s writing. I do think my kids have been positively affected by what I’m doing, and respect me more than they used to because of it. It’s never too late to be a good parent. 🙂


      • Interesting thought about developing our gift being the key to becoming our authentic selves. I can see that having played out in my life a little, but I’m a late bloomer, still haven’t bloomed. I think it’s scary for scapegoats to develop their gift – in my case I was explicitly my gift was dangerous and bad.

        Not to brag , but according to my SATs I’m in 99th percentile IQ, I just recently looked this up. I was a self destructive delinquent depressed stoner all thru high school and never did any homework. Whatever, it’s like any other ability/gift.

        I guess I used to score high on standardized tests in grade school. I remember in elementary school my Mom used to take me aside and say in a hushed serious voice that she uses to gossip about people while disguising it as concern: “Jiiiimmmm… Oh Jiiiimmmm…. Tsk tsk tsk… It seems you test very… very high on tests, and you have a high IQ. (sigh) Not super high, but quite high. (sigh) Now…. (sigh) we’re not going to tell you what it is, because if you knew, you would probably become a very conceited, bad, mean person. That’s what happens when people with IQs like yours know their score. So we’re not going to tell you.”

        I was like… OK…. I never asked to know this, I didn’t even know I took a test for that… What am I supposed to do with this information? – I’m only 10 years old!

        Suffice it to say I always thought being smart was something to be ashamed of, or worthless at best, and now I’m a 48 year old underachiever. Tried to be salesperson for a decade or so – boy did I suck at that!

        I’ve always thought if I “Do What I Am” (career book title) I’d end up a loser or worse, that whole concept scared me. Starting to understand why that might be.

        Just figuring all this family dysfunction out now. My perceptive wife (first healthy relationship ever, dodged the marriage bullet with lots of unhealthy relationships probably because I was so bipolar and self destructive for years) thinks momster was intentionally discouraging me from developing my mind because it threatened her. She likes to get away with stating nonsense to cover her tracks, and I was always bringing up her preposterous contradictions. Plus she just plain didn’t want me to surpass her in any way.

        Anyways, I’d be willing to bet something similar happens to all scapegoats – if you were to shine and blossom, you’d undermine a fundamental premise of the family system (that you’re the whole problem with the family). Plus, the scapegoater would have to find a new target to project their self loathing and shame onto. Or heaven forbid, deal with it themselves and have a chance at resolving it.

        But back to your point, I do think healing comes with developing our gift, I’ve seen a little of that myself.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m a late bloomer (50’s) who never bloomed too, and like you, I was the family scapegoat (and also have a high IQ). I think you are absolutely right about scapegoats never developing the skills or courage or confidence to achieve anything, because it would be an act of treason in a family system where you were trained to be the family failure. In my case, I was always discouraged from doing things — my MNM would say things like, “oh, YOU KNOW you can’t do that” (putting words in my mouth, a subtle form of gaslighting), or “you KNOW you hate competition” (sez who?) or “you’re not ready, don’t try that.” At the same time my dad always bragged about how smart I was, and could have afforded to pay for me to go to college, but did not. I was on my own at the age of 18, with no more financial support. What does a smart 18 year old kid with dismally low self esteem and no money and no idea what they want do? Desperately search for love, that’s what. My only real goal back then was to fall in love and marry a narcissist (not knowing he was one, of course) — unconsciously recreating the toxic family system and trying to “fix” it. Of course it was bound for failure, and the further erosion o my self esteem. It took me until I was in my 40s to realize what I was up against (I read “People of the Lie” and recognized both my ex and my mother) but another 7 or 8 years to do anything about it (because I was too afraid to). So now, 3 years later, I’m finally at a place where maybe, MAYBE, I can start to bloom. But something still holds me back. Failure has become “comfortable.” 🙄


          • Well, I think you’re already starting to bloom- budding still maybe, compared to what you’ll eventually be? but darn close to blooming. 🙂

            If you just stopped playing the codependent 3 years ago with a malignant narcissist, you’ve come a very long way in a pretty darn short time, and you haven’t relapsed to playing out the drama with another narcissist, so that’s to your credit also. And you’re already helping people with your writings and interactions / encouragements with your audience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?

            Sounds like there are a lot similarities with our FOOs. I bet you can hear the YOU KNOW voice / routine perfectly in your head, just like I can still hear (and mimick) the “Oh Jiiiimmmmm….” (rumbling sound of exasperation / derision throughout the prolonged “iiiiiiiiimmm”) voice.

            When I mimick the voice while talking to my wife, and I start to get in a flashback, my dog’s ears instantly perk up and she becomes very concerned. She dutifully races over to me, jumps on top of me on my chair, spreads herself out over my chest, covering me like a blanket and wags her tail and licks my face until I am smiling and calm. Nothing can dissuade her from doing this. She is 1,000x times more nurturing than my mother ever was.

            That’s a great insight that putting words like that into a person’s mouth is a form of gaslighting. Gaslighting can be so hard to pin down.

            I can see that what your mother did WAS gaslighting, because you most certainly did not KNOW any such thing; quite the contrary.

            Otherwise you wouldn’t be trying the thing, or telling or suggesting to her that you’d like to try or might like or give whatever it was a go. And how are you ever supposed to be READY if you don’t try? OK, so what’s the first step in order to GET ready? Left that part out, huh Mom? Oh well, I guess I’ll go sit in my room and look at the wall or something.

            The only person who KNEW anything was her; she KNEW (consciously or sub consciously) that she didn’t want you to go for it because you’d probably succeed and she’d lose her upper hand. She probably also KNEW you DID want to go for it, and that presented her with a problem.

            The more subtle gaslighting is, the more insidious and destructive it is. Because nobody would ever believe you (they’d say you’re imagining things or you’re too sensitive) and you don’t even believe yourself; you trust your own perceptions even less, and doubt yourself more.

            It’s also brainwashing to repeatedly tell somebody they can’t do something, or they don’t like to go for it, or they don’t like competition or whatever. LIAR!

            We need to tell our internalized parents to SHUT THE HELL UP because they are telling us falsehoods and do not have our best interests at heart, quite the opposite.

            I also have a passive / uninvolved / apathetic / enabling / oblivious father. Nice that yours got a little charge out of telling people how smart you were- would’ve been even nicer if he actually cared enough to nurture your intelligence in way that would help you, huh? Or even do his basic duty (since he had the money) to pay for your education. Derelict.

            This stuff is so sad; why do people have to be like this? All the heartbreak, sadness, fear and torment that it causes.

            I was blessed enough to go to college. I guess I can be grateful for that. But all I cared about was finding somebody who had that certain something that I lacked to attach to- somebody better than me. When that failed time after time, I would be devastated into depression, which eventually flipped into mania and bipolar, which became very serious.

            I guess the silver lining is that I eventually became so broken that I knew needed God, and I was able to trust in Christ. Things took a big turn for the better after that. And that’s a massive silver lining, of infinite value really. I guess I need to keep reminding myself of that, while still honoring my feelings about the rest of it.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I have a lot to say in response to this, but everything you said is right on. I’m too tired to write a longer reply right now (grueling day) but I want to say this: your dog is wonderful, and it doesn’t sound at all crazy that she is much more nurturing than your momster. I love animals, and I think part of the reason I do is because they don’t judge and yes, they are very empathic too! In fact, I prefer animals to most people.
              I internalized my mother’s voice and still hear her nagging me when I want to do things about why I shouldn’t. This causes me a lot of self doubt and causes me to not take any risks. What if I fail? What if I don’t fail? What if, what if, what if? It’s crazymaking.
              I did go to college, but I had to pay for it myself. My father knew how much I wanted to go but said he didn’t pay for it because I wasn’t “motivated enough” just because I wanted to take a year off before I started. So he wouldn’t pay for it. But he would have found some lame ass excuse anyway. When I did go, he saw how motivated I was, and how much I struggled because I had to keep a full time job while attending school. He could have offered to help then, but he never did. I never got any real practical help from those two — and then they BLAMED me for becoming a failure. But THAT WAS WHAT THEY WANTED! They never wanted me to be successful in anything, because they needed to blame someone and keep me down in the gutter where I could continue to be berated and scapegoated. Assholes. 😡


            • Replying to below reply.

              You’re right about my dog- she is wonderful & you don’t know the full extent.

              It’s like she can instantly detect when my amygdala starts to smolder and she knows it her duty to put it out. She spreads her 50 pounds out evenly over my torso, from the underside of the tip of her chin to her belly, with all her legs straddling my sides, and wags her tail quickly and happily. All the while smiling and looking at me wide eyed, like come on- you know you can’t resist, this is fun huh?

              She extends her neck out up my collar bone, with her chin pointed up a little, in order to get maximum body surface area contact. This works like a charm- I can’t help but smile, laugh and be happy after a few seconds.

              She is always very obedient, submissive and eager to please; she knows she’s not the boss. But if I tell her to stay down when she knows I’m upset (even in a serious voice), say because I’d like to keep reading my CPTSD book, or I’m journaling about what is upsetting me, or I’ve got my laptop in my lap, she simply vetoes me every time and will not hesitate to jump up with her butt squarely on top of the keyboard if need be.

              She does it if I start to rant about something (my parents), and she even does it if I half consciously mutter something that I’d like to say to somebody I’m angrily ruminating about (again- one of my parents).

              One time I was very upset, and was sitting on the side of a bed with my torso angled in towards the headboard. When I was done pounding the imaginary face in the mattress (it was almost impossible to keep her away while I was doing that) she sat herself in front of me as close as physically possible, leaned her chest against mine with all her weight, then raised one of her arms and draped her paw / wrist over my shoulder, and proceeded to lick my face until I calmed down, tail wagging the whole time.

              Eventually, I wrapped my arms around her, rested my head against her side, and hugged her tightly for about 5 or 10 minutes while she patiently waited for me to feel better. This is all astounding to me. It’s exquisitely beautiful as far as I’m concerned.

              What a wise, caring, loyal and dedicated animal friend I have been blessed with. My therapist refers to her as a therapy dog and has asked me to convey her professional regards & esteem to her. 🙂

              Regarding your parents, one thing a family therapist said to me once is that the thing that disturbs him most about abusive and neglectful parents is when the kid sort of gives up and starts to agree with his / her parents concerning themself. When you’re a kid, I think it’s inevitable unless you’ve got some adult looking out for you and shielding you.

              As adults, I think we are responsible for our thoughts and have a duty not to believe lies. I’ve always had this sense that if I bloomed, my parents would get divorced, which scared me. Never understood how I came to that conclusion, but I’ve always had that specific fear. Of course, on the other hand I fear failure also like you. And have other fears of success. But also this definite sense that to really reach my potential would be a terribly dangerous and harmful thing, not just for me, and I’d be to blame. Double bind- nothing new.

              Of course, it’s not too hard to imagine where I get the fear of asserting myself from. Once my parents had been staying at our home for Christmas. We went out to dinner and my childhood dinnertime nightmare scenario recreated itself: Mom baiting, me drawing boundary, Dad chiding me for doing so, Mom denying she did anything, me not buying it, Mom alligator tears, Dad screaming at me his face purple with rage and a murderous look, telling me how reprehensibly I am behaving, how disappointed with me he is, how ashamed he is of me. Loudly. In my friends’ quiet, jam packed, tiny intimate restaurant, a room about 15′ x 40′, which was filled to capacity. On Christmas Eve. It started with a bait from dear old mom. Couldn’t touch my food after it all played out. Never been back to my friends’ restaurant since. It was our favorite restaurant.

              Later that night, in my home, while I was out, my mother pulled my wife aside and started giving her some keen psychological insights about me and how my defects and argument starting nature were to blame for why I had argued with my mother that night. Mom tells my wife that it all stemmed from my childhood injuries- which were entirely the fault of my father, and my mother was a victim of him also. (Not my take at all, she’s the abuser, and my wife thought it preposterous – she saw that the argument came from Mom’s baiting which she recognized from previous incidents) Then mom advises my wife that this conversation will be a little secret just between just her and my wife. Wife tells me immediately.

              So I calmly assert myself to my Mom about this- “you can’t be setting up little alliances with my wife based on secrets about me that you two are keeping from me, and sharing between yourselves about how messed up I am, and spinning her mind to interpret me and my interactions with you according to your little narrative. That is not OK with me, dig?”

              So mom squints, seizes me me up visually, gives me this sagacious knowing look, nods her head knowingly, looks me up and down, and gravely and ominously says: “People like you start wars.” While she’s sitting on my couch in my home.

              Therapist later points out this is projection and scapegoating par excellence – SHE’s the one who was trying to start a war. She was trying to form an alliance with my wife with me on the outside. Alliances are only necessary in adversarial (read “war”) situations.

              “Scapegoating creates an adversarial atmosphere of winners and losers, where loyalty is for sale to s/he who will submit to the will of the main bully/bullies.”

              All this to say I think scapegoats (at least me) are afraid to assert or even protect themselves because it’s always ended very badly for them. Plus, in this case I was told my self-protectiveness or assertiveness was a property belonging only to bad people like me that could lead to a war. Maybe millions of people could be killed and untold suffering be caused- all because I dared speak up for / defend my interests in my most intimate relationship in my own home.

              Of course if somebody else, say a favored sibling or other person, were even strongly assertive, they would get admiration from the same parents- Boy s/he’s a real go getter, a winner, s/he’s no patsy, s/he’s a big person, s/he don’t take no guff from anybody, s/he’s got moxy I’ll tell ya. Look at all they are able to accomplish! They’re killing it- that’s awesome. How come you’re so darn milquetoast? It’s irritating & contemptible. Why don’t you grow a pair?

              Wow. But as for me, I’d better squash that evil tendency of mine pronto; oh boy- I don’t even know if I can, I think I really must be bad. But I sure as heck don’t want start a war. Maybe I can find an obscure hole somewhere where I can hide out till my life has passed so I get through it without starting a war. Thanks for appropriately pointing out my actual legitimate guilt, mom. I’ll be careful to stomp out that self-protectiveness / assertiveness, I mean evil, in me.

              I wonder why I’m prone to catastrophization? Probably because I keep becoming aware of my desire to protect myself & assert myself- oh sorry, I mean start a war. Oh no, that would be awful!

              I bet these same dynamics play out in different forms in all scapegoating “families”.

              OK, I’m back. I just had to go barf for a second there.

              We simply cannot and will never win as a part of their system. Within their miserable little system, it’s nothing but an endless morass of double binds and a whirlpool of crap.

              When they refuse to cease abusing us and disrespecting us, we are morally free and duty bound to completely opt out of the entire system. Something I’m just realizing now.

              Keep your integrity in the way you get out, don’t take the bait and let them win by actually being the bad guy they so desperately want you to be. They simply do not and will never have the power to make that happen again. They lost that power a long time ago and have been clearly revealed as being who they in fact are.

              And God is not fooled even if they fool some of the people some of the time. The One enthroned in heaven laughs, the LORD scoffs at them. Soon they will be vanish like the grass of the field.

              Stay calm, cool, collected, strategic. As far as that is possible and as much as it depends on you be at peace with all men. Something to be striven for, never perfectly attained. And you can’t do their part or convince them to do their part.

              And you should fight and win when it’s necessary and when you can.

              And then put your your criticizing, catastrophizing inner critic on notice that you will be telling it to SHUT THE HELL UP, LIAR until it never messes with you again. (Well that might take a long time, but…)

              And talk nicely to yourself and treat yourself very kindly.

              What a giant pain in the ass to have to deal with. Still, things do get better.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah.

              You know, I’m sorry I forgot to acknowledge / commiserate, your parents absolutely did make it impossible for you to do anything other than “fail” according to their definition of the word, and then they blamed you for it, kicked you while you were down, and treated you like shit, to this day. For their own selfish, twisted, and morally reprehensible purposes. You could prove it if you had a psychologically healthy, mature and reasonably intelligent jury. And they probably think they’re swell upper middle class folks. Which makes them assholes.

              I think I can relate how that makes you feel- especially for a conscientious, caring person.

              For me, it’s like your whole life is being stuck in one long double bind; you can never be OK enough to even relax, and your sense of self-efficacy goes out the window. So you’re stuck in this quagmire of badness. It’s maddening and exhausting. And how could any human being not be furious when they found out what’s happening?

              Well anyway for what it’s worth I think you’re perfectly OK.

              Recently I finally realized that neither of my parents will ever stop treating me like shit or take me seriously save a flat-out, highly improbable miracle, and that they I are done.

              Shortly thereafter, this song popped into my head from 1997, the second 2/3 of the song is loosely related to my situation and I find it very soothing. Maybe you’d like it too:

              Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you I will listen to this (maybe add it to my Monday Melodies even). It’s true, if I had had normal and loving parents I probably could have accomplished so much more than I have and at a much earlier age. But look at it this way too — would I have gained the WISDOM I have without that adversity? Probably not. I’m not saying I wouldn’t trade what I had for a more loving early upbringing but I wonder if I would know what I know and be able to teach people what I know, through my personal experience. Even the darkest cloud has its silver lining. There is blessing in adversity.


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