A dicey situation.

dicey_situation_by_johnnycorduroy
“Dicey Situation” by Johnny Corduroy, Deviantart

I always hesitate before posting anything about my N mother, because I know she reads this blog. But then I think about two things: 1. what can she do? and 2. no one ever asked her to read this blog. It’s mine. If you don’t want to get burned, keep your hands off the stove. So here goes.

Yesterday when I talked to my mother about my dad, she said she wants to come visit me in the fall. She cannot afford a hotel room, and I can’t afford to put her up in one. She pretty much invited herself, saying, “Well, I will have to stay at your place.” Immediately I felt my self-protective shackles kick in: Danger! Danger! Boundary violation!

In most families, letting your mom stay with you fore a few days wouldn’t be a problem. But my family isn’t most families.  My mother is very judgmental of me and my lifestyle, which, although I’m satisfied with it, is less than glamorous and I know she would not/does not approve of the way I live (which really isn’t my fault anyway because I don’t have the financial resources to live better).  Even if she says nothing about my mismatched furniture, the sagging, stained couch, the buggy old-fashioned kitchen with its tiny 1970s electric stove, an old summer camp steamer trunk used as a coffee table, the box TV in the living room, the ancient windows that don’t open, and the black mold on one side of the house (which my landlord has yet to do something about), I know she will go back to her extended family and tongues will wag. I know she has devalued me to the rest of the family and puts me down, disapproving of the way I live. She cloaks these criticisms with “concern,” saying things like, “I just don’t know why Lauren always makes such bad choices,” or “it’s so sad the way she lives but she made her own bed.”  Or she talks about how mentally unstable or immature I am. Even though my mother is far from wealthy and even borders on as poor as I am, she has always put on airs of being of a higher social status than she actually is, and to be fair, she does a good job of it. Even if I was of a social class she approved of, our tastes and interests are vastly different. I’m far too “bohemian” for her liking and I’m pretty sure I still would be even if I was rich.

I also know she wouldn’t approve of my housemate, and they would get in each other’s way. The idea of the three of us having to share a roof, even for a few days, gives me the willies.   I wouldn’t be able to tolerate feeling like I have to apologize for the things I do while she is here.   If I tell her no, she can’t come, I know she will go back to the extended family and tell them I’m “hiding something.” She seems to think I still have my ex living with me and am saying nothing about it. This is of course ridiculous, but I know it’s what she’ll tell everyone. She can’t understand why I wouldn’t be thrilled to put her up on my couch for several days and I don’t have the courage to be honest with her. The fact she reads this blog and knows I’ve pegged her as a narcissist (even though I don’t think she is malignant, she is a textbook example of a woman with intractable NPD) doesn’t seem to faze her in the slightest. Being the narcissist she is, she simply is incapable of understanding why I wouldn’t be jumping for joy for the “opportunity” of putting her up on my couch for a few days.

I had no time to prepare for this, so I said weakly, “well, you will have to sleep on the couch then, because my roommate has the other room.” She responded with, “oh, you have a roommate?” As if this is some life choice of mine and isn’t a matter of financial necessity.  It’s also interesting to me that I have never been invited to see her where she lives.  The one time I suggested going to visit her there, she told me my half sister didn’t want me there (they share a townhouse).   I think she was lying, because my half sister barely knows me.  I haven’t seen her since 1986.   I think it’s actually my mother who doesn’t want me to come there, because I would “embarrass” her in front of the family, so she put words in my sister’s mouth.    Even if my sister doesn’t want me there, it was probably my mother who turned her against me.

I’m in a dicey situation, and I’m praying she changes her mind about coming. Just in case she isn’t, I guess I’ll have to start saving enough money between now and then to put her up in a local motel, which I should be able to do given the time frame. Then all I need to do is think of some reason why she can’t stay at my house (repairs? haven’t cleaned it?) She would like a motel better anyway with its pool, sterile rooms, flat screen TV, and a real bed. The fall is still a few months away but it will be hard for me to save the money because I’m trying to save enough money to go see my son in Florida in September. I think she might know this too, but she doesn’t care.

Advertisements

If you choose to stay with your narcissist…

velveteen_rabbit

Lidija Rangelovska (Sam Vaknin’s wife) recently wrote about staying with her narcissistic husband and how she handles him.

My view, my principle…
People, unconsciously, but more often intentionally, complicate their lives in order to make some sense of their existence and to justify their actions. Me included. We are all, as my FB friend put it: “personal strength junkies”, who try so hard to be accepted and to belong. It comes from our upbringing, our unstable environment, and the fear of being alone. So, when we find a person that loves us or shows us affection, we are “hooked” and we won’t give up on that person. But we also don’t want to compromise, we want to keep our freedom and to have control over the other. And what now? It’s simple: we have to adapt to the changes and find a new meaning in life!
For me personally freedom is the most important. So, I assume that it is the same with all others and I do give people space… where their selves emerge and grow. If there is a person who has common sense and similar views of life to mine, there is a solid and healthy ground on which to develop the relationship.
But we should learn to communicate, share experiences and emotions, be honest and truthful… not be afraid and manipulative. We should learn to trust in order to understand and accept the other. We should build safe grounds for unconditional love to grow on. And isn’t this all that matters in life?

And later…

…my mother tongue is “narcissist”, literally. I was raised by malignant narcissists and HAD to learn how to communicate with them. And I wouldn’t name it as such, because it’s not the “language” of the narcissist, but of the abused. The “language” consists of understanding the abuse that occurred in the narcissist’s early childhood owing to which s/he adopted the False Self later in the adolescence. It is the ONLY self that the narcissist is aware of and if you can’t accept it, you won’t be able to understand her/him.

My advice would be to not even try to go there, as I call it, the “twilight zone”… it’s the “unknown and forbidden” to some people. For me that zone was my natural habitat. I was there… growing up in an emotionally and physically abusive family. I became codependent and was raised to be a good Source of Supply. I honestly don’t wish that on anyone!

So, then, why am I with Sam?
We are both emotionally damaged and we do understand each other’s pain. It’s in a space and at a time where we fulfill each other’s our unique psychodynamic needs. Where conditions don’t exist and there isn’t a room for any – that is where unconditional love exists… at least, where I found it.

[Anonymous] explained this dynamic […] in a very subtle way. “Personal strength junkies” is her term, not mine…

I’m glad there are people who really want to explore their and other people’s nature/character driven by their curiosity to learn more about themselves in order to relate to their significant others. Indeed, a person has to have the courage to do so… they’re the real heroes, not the ones that deny their existence and adopted the “go with the flow” principle… that’s selfish.

Then she posted the beautiful quote above from the children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit.” It’s amazing how profound certain books for children can be but there’s a wonderful message about unconditional love for adults too.

Several other people who are married to or in relationships with narcissists discussed how they are able to cope with staying with them without losing themselves or developing mental disorders like PTSD. Without exception, the narcissistic spouses (all male) have insight into their disorder and their wives have learned how to “speak narcissist.” There seem to be two primary requirements (besides the patience of a saint): (1) a strong maternal instinct, and (2) an unflappable sense of humor. Under these unusual circumstances, a relationship with a narcissist may actually work for both partners. Some may think of this as an unequal, codependent and even abusive partnership, but if framed as a kind of eternal mother/child relationship, it doesn’t have to be pathological.

elizabeth_bowen

As for myself, I could never work things out with my malignant narcissist ex-husband and I went No Contact early last year (it’s actually Low Contact because we have children, so being completely No Contact isn’t really a possibility.) He had zero insight and denied he was a narcissist at all (instead, he projected his narcissism onto me and made himself out to be the victim and me the abuser). I think when a narcissist has no capacity for insight (which is probably most of them) and is in denial, No Contact (or Low Contact) is the best way to go to avoid psychological damage to ourselves. Even insightful narcissists who are not in denial about their disorder are highly dangerous people and should be handled with extreme caution. They are ticking time bombs.

What [Anonymous] and Lidija have shared provide hope that for SOME narcissists, there may be a way to stay with them and nurture them while not allowing them to obliterate our psyches–and in some cases even benefit from the relationship. It would take someone with a LOT of empathy and even more patience but I believe it can be done in some cases. Having a strong maternal instinct is of utmost importance because essentially, a narcissist is an emotional infant, unable to see others as separate from them. You must accept the fact they are probably never going to get “better.”

As for reproducing with them? Having children with a narcissist you are voluntarily and mindfully nurturing would be disastrous because to the narcissist, a child would be competition and have demands that would need to be met before theirs. This would enrage them in the same way a new brother or sister enrages a three year old. If you are married to or in a relationship with a narcissist and wish to stay with them and nurture them instead of going No Contact, they must be your ONLY “child.” When you choose to be with a narcissist, you are adopting an eternal infant. You would have to accept the fact they will most likely never grow up. Obviously, this choice wouldn’t be for everyone.

Second to a strong desire to “mother” your narcissist would be the ability to laugh at their antics and not take things too seriously. In one woman’s case, she said her narcissistic husband laughs WITH her, even though she admits the joke is usually on her.

I’m happy to hear there are people who can actually make things work with a narcissist. It requires a great deal of unconditional love and the ability to always put your own needs in a distant second place. I don’t recommend it for most people though.

ETA: I would recommend another requirement to making a relationship with a narcissist work: establish FIRM and VERY CLEAR boundaries, early in the relationship. Lidija clearly does this– I remember her saying in “I, Psychopath” when asked who made the rules she said she did. You would have to! Part of the maternal relationship requires the ability to provide discipline when it’s needed too. A narcissist who respects you because you established boundaries and can laugh with them and speak to them in their language won’t have a problem following your rules but may need to be reminded sometimes. 😉

Making love last with a narcissist: the rules

Old Couple

In summary, here are the cardinal rules for keeping your sanity intact while in a relationship or marriage to a narcissist:

1. Be a high empathy person with a strong maternal instinct.

2. Accept the fact they will probably never be cured.

3. Establish FIRM boundaries as early as possible and don’t be afraid to remind them of the rules when they balk or disobey. Remember you are dealing with an emotional toddler.

4. Be willing to always be in their shadow and not steal the show from them

5. Be able to LAUGH and not take what they do and say too personally.   It’s not about you.

6. Do not have children with your narcissist.  He/she is your child. (I used to joke that my MN ex husband was my “other child.” How true that was, and in some ways I wish I had known some of these rules back then, which might have made my life a little easier while still with him.)

The narcissist has to fulfill a requirement too. He or she must be insightful enough to recognize they are narcissists and mentally ill.

The real reason highly sensitive people get bullied.

authenticity

I had an “Aha” moment today.

The reason highly sensitive people get bullied so often isn’t because of our sensitivity. It’s because of the dismally low self esteem that tends to go along with being that sensitive, especially if we were victimized by malignant narcissists and bullies when young.

Narcissists envy and fear high sensitivity.

narcissist_face

Narcissists hate high sensitivity in others for two reasons: 1. They envy it because it’s something they can’t have or may have lost as children and it’s a sign of an authentic person, which is something they aren’t but wish they were; and 2. they fear it, because they know this quality makes it possible for to zero in on the emptiness hiding under the narcissist’s guise.

Their hatred and fear is expressed through love bombing followed by bullying and other forms of abuse meant to weaken the HSP. An HSP’s fragile ego can be destroyed or greatly diminished after years of bullying and abuse.

Sharon: an HSP who carried a can of Narc Repellent.

narc_repellent

I was thinking about a woman I used to know named Sharon.  She was an empathic young woman who felt everything so deeply–but mostly joy and love.  She’s exquisitely sensitive but is also self confident (she was raised by very loving parents). She is comfortable enough with herself to show her vulnerability openly, allowing herself the liberty to feel all her emotions as well as share the emotions of her friends.

You might think Sharon is a magnet for bullies, but she’s not.  She makes friends easily because she has such a loving and positive presence and and people feel like she cares about them, and she likes herself too (without being at all narcissistic). They are right.

Narcissists avoid Sharon like the plague. Why? They would probably love to get their hooks into her if they could, but Sharon’s confidence in herself and easygoing comfort around all kinds of people scares them right off. While still being emotionally vulnerable, Sharon is invulnerable to narcissists because they sense her strength. She’s indestructible and they know it. As a result Sharon is never victimized and tends to attract other loving people as her friends, people who just want to be around her because she’s a lot of fun but can also cry with you if that’s what you need.

If you’re a highly sensitive adult whose self esteem has been destroyed by narcissistic abuse or a sensitive kid who has become insecure and fearful because of bullying, your high sensitivity will be expressed very differently than someone like Sharon.

Sensitive children do get tested by school bullies, and it’s harder to not let that damage your self image when you’re so young, especially if your parents are also bullies and have already done a number on your self esteem. But for an adult, most people will admire emotional openness and vulnerability or at least respect it–as long as they also know you respect and love yourself. People can sense when you’re comfortable in your own skin and narcs will stay far away, because they’re only attracted to codependent types who are unsure of themselves or their place in the world.

Being highly sensitive: a curse or a blessing?

blessing

A sensitive person who hates herself will tend to act in ways that attract mean people and bullies to them. They are unsure of themselves, fearful, easily depressed or discouraged, easily hurt, easily frustrated, paranoid, hypervigilant, and insecure. They are afraid of everything, and like ravenous wolves, narcissists can smell their fear. They see this–not the underlying sensitivity–as weakness, and they will horn in on such a person for narcissistic supply or bullying because they’re an easy mark who will be too afraid to call them out on their abuse.

Things are very different for a sensitive person with high self esteem. Such a person will be appreciative, insightful, observant, compassionate, forgiving (but not stupidly forgiving), affectionate, creative, a good listener, empathetic, and with a well developed (but never mean or sarcastic) sense of humor. They are not fearful and they know their place in the world. They have a clear sense of their own boundaries (and those of others) and know how to enforce them if they think they’re being violated. They attract people like themselves as friends and lovers and these relationships tend to be self-reinforcing for both parties.

Narcissists know a strong HSP is powerful and dangerous to them.

scare_narcs

Malignant narcissists stay away from self-confident HSPs, because they know they’re much stronger than they are. They know they’re dealing with an authentic person who is happy with themselves and with life, while they are anything but. They know a confident HSP (not the same thing as narcissism) has a laser-like ability to see through their mask without fear and won’t hesitate to call them out when it’s necessary. To a malignant narcissist, a self-confident HSP is a very dangerous and powerful person. That’s why they work so hard to destroy our self confidence and make us hate and doubt ourselves. If we’re crippled by abuse, they can still get what they need from us (supply), without running the risk of having any damage done to them.

As my confidence has grown over these past two years, I’m noticing a transformation of my lifelong high sensitivity from something that made me feel weak and helpless for most of my life into something that makes me feel strong and authentic. I know now that this “curse” and “weakness” I was born with is really a blessing and a strength. I just needed to develop enough confidence to be able to use it effectively.

Learning to love your high sensitivity.

dancing

Here’ a few things I have learned.

1. If you have a talent or skill in one of the arts, use it to express what you’re really feeling. Painting, singing, dancing, writing, poetry–can all be ways we can release our deepest emotions in a “safe” way that’s socially acceptable. Don’t hold anything back when creating art, performing or writing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable even if it feels weird and awkward at first.

2. If you don’t have an artistic talent, take up a hobby that speaks to you or get involved in a sport such as running or take a martial arts class, which can build confidence. Activities that center you and build both inner and outer strength, such as yoga, can be helpful too.

3. Always be 100% honest about your emotions. If you’re very shy or fearful, write down your thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Don’t worry about the quality of writing–that’s all just gravy. The main point is to get your feelings down on paper. Seeing your thoughts on paper (or a computer screen) will give you clarity. If you choose to blog publicly instead, you will gain confidence from expressing your most private feelings to the whole world and from the feedback from others you will get. It can be very scary to publicly post something you wouldn’t tell your next door neighbor (as I have now twice this week!), but believe me, it’s worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much doing such a thing will increase your confidence and sense of inner strength. At first you’ll feel like you’re running around naked in public, but you’ll be amazed by the sense of freedom and liberation running around naked can give you! 🙂

4. Every day, try to do one nice thing for someone other than yourself. If you’re really ambitious, you can try volunteer work to help the poor, homeless, children, animals, or anyone more vulnerable or less fortunate than yourself. In doing so, you will feel like you have a purpose, and that you can help others. Knowing you have made someone happier will raise your self esteem.

5. Listen to music whenever you can.  It’s second only to writing and blogging in my healing journey.

6. Surround yourself with positive people (not the same thing as positive-thinking nazis, who are often narcissists themselves) but authentic, happy people who accept you for who you are and don’t judge you.

7. Get narcissists away from you. No Contact is best, but is not always possible. If you can’t separate from your narcissist, read as much about their disorder as you can, and read about PTSD and complex PTSD and the devastating effects these character disordered people can have on the rest of us. Read books about highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is probably the best known (and an excellent book) but there are other books about HSPs too. Write down your feelings in a journal your narcissist cannot access.

8. Try prayer. It does work.

When your boundaries are being violated.

boundaries

One of the most pernicious things our narcissists do is violate our boundaries. This can take a number of forms, ranging from physical violations (such as rummaging through your things or physically attacking you) to more subtle mental or emotional violations.

So I’ve devised a checklist of some of the ways narcissists violate our boundaries. They do this to give us less power or make us feel diminished. Don’t allow it. If you see any of these behaviors from your narcissist, if you can’t cut contact with them, be very firm and tell them you will not tolerate it. Do not back down or make excuses. You have every right to protect your boundaries. Your reasons why are really none of their business.

Physical boundary violations:

1. Physical abuse — hitting, pushing, punching, getting “in your face,” cornering you.

2. Forcing you to have sex when you do not want to.

3. Rummaging or going through your personal possessions.

4. Stealing from you. A lock box (these can be cheaply purchased form stores like Walmart) is a good idea. Get one with a combination, not a key.

5. Touching you or sitting/standing too close during conversation, when this is not desired by you.

6. Some somatic narcissists can violate your boundaries by dressing immodestly in front of you. If you object to your narcissist sitting around in his threadbare boxers (or nothing at all), tell him it makes you uncomfortable and that you won’t tolerate it.

7. Making a lot of noise, talking loud, playing loud music, slamming things around to get your attention (my ex was infamous for all these things, especially the loud music).

8. Excessive use of language you disapprove of.

9. Staring at you in a predatory way.

10. Making unreasonable demands (spending money on them, doing favors, running errands for them that go beyond what’s reasonable).

internal_boundaries
Click to make larger.

Emotional/Mental boundary violations:

1. Telling you how you feel or accusing you of feeling or thinking something you do not. Taking your inventory.

2. Gaslighting and triangulating against you.

3. Telling you you have no right to feel the way you do, that it’s wrong, stupid, etc.

4. Insults and namecalling.

5. Grilling you about your activities when you are not with them.

6. Spying on you; stalking you online.

7. Not allowing or making it difficult for you to see your friends, family members, etc.

8. Telling you how you should dress, look, etc.

9. Dismissing or putting down your accomplishments or interests

10. Telling you what you feel is crazy, that you are being over-sensitive, etc. (really a form of gaslighting).

11. Interrupting you or not allowing you to speak.

12. Doing other things while you are trying to talk to them, or continually changing the subject.

13. Lying to you.

14. Trying to make you do something illegal or that goes against your morals.

If your narc does any of these things, be firm and tell them you will NOT tolerate these behaviors. Do not be nice about it. Narcissists can only be handled with tough love, if you can’t disconnect. Do not back down no matter how much they object.

They will react with rage, of course–at first. Without narcissistic supply from you, they will eventually stop being mad and either sulk or leave.

Obviously, leaving or going No Contact is the best thing you can do for yourself, but in some situations this isn’t always possible, especially if there are children involved.

Respect my boundaries!

momanddaughter

My daughter is either a somatic histrionic narcissist (same as my mother) or has borderline personality disorder (BPD) in addition to diagnosed PTSD and bipolar disorder. She would be somatic if she’s got NPD because she’s obsessed with clothes and shopping and she takes more selfies than every Hollywood starlet put together in one room. She’s very attractive and she knows it and has been able to use her looks to get what she wants, at least from males.

But due to her intense mood swings and the fact she does show some empathy and remorse, then she’s also likely to be be a borderline, a related Cluster B disorder which is more common in women than in men (narcissism is more common in men) but has much in common with NPD. Whatever she is, she’s a high maintenance drama queen. I’ve joked with her that she’d be perfect for a reality show like “Bad Girls Club,” but to be honest, I could definitely see someone like her on a show like that!

Of course I love my daughter dearly and enjoy her company too (she can be a lot of fun and easy to talk to, which is why she makes friends easily) but her disorders definitely make her difficult to deal with, especially now that she’s moved back in with me.

She has been home for almost two weeks. Things have been going swimmingly (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and there have been no real problems. I read her the riot act on her return and she agreed to some new rules. She does not appear to be doing drugs and is taking steps to get her life in order, including seeing a therapist this week. I told her if I saw pain pills or any other evidence of hard drugs, there was the door.

But tonight she invaded my boundaries. She had gone to the mall with some friends, and came home in an upbeat mood, which was fine, but my daughter also gets a little obsessive and impatient when she’s excited and happy, and has a bad habit of not respecting my boundaries. I also think she’d had a drink or two.

Because there are only two bedrooms (my roommate has the other one) and I took over Molly’s bedroom when she had moved in with Paul (and I won’t give it up!) she has been having to sleep on the couch in the living room. She’s turned it into a large bedroom and it actually looks nice, if a bit cluttered. I almost never have company anyway, so it’s not like I really need a living room.

But tonight when she got home at about 10:30 she wanted to pull some more of her things from my room (things she never uses and didn’t need tonight). I told her it was late, I have to be up early for work (and to drive her to the DMV) and I needed some alone-time before going to bed. I needed time online too. As an Aspie, she knows if I don’t get my “alone time” I get very cranky and snappish. I do not like my Aspie routine to be interrupted. She knows this well.

But she kept rummaging around in all the drawers and pulled boxes out of the closet, tossed shoes and bags and papers and stray clothes all over the floor, messed up my things in the process, and was making a racket doing so. I must have told her three times or more to please do this tomorrow, but she wouldn’t listen and kept saying “one more minute!” But it wasn’t one more minute, it wasn’t three more minutes or five or twenty: this shit went on for almost an hour. I was ready to scream and pull my hair out.

When she finally finished tearing my room apart looking for her things, she took them into the living room. Then she decided she needed to find a place to plug in her humidifier (she suffers from dry sinuses and mild asthma). She proceeded to start unplugging things from the wall, including the damned router. It took me another twenty minutes to get connected to the Internet again. I actually burst into tears of frustration (the kind of tears I shed more than any other kind–it’s almost impossible for me to cry when I’m sad).

It wasn’t that this was something that couldn’t be fixed easily, but I’d had more than enough. I was so stressed and completely frustrated with my daughter and the chaos she was creating and the boundaries she was violating due to her inability to wait for anything. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

In a near rage, tears streaming, I’m afraid I snapped and told her I wished she never moved back in because she had no respect for my boundaries or anything else. She started to cry, and I told her I was sorry and apologized. She asked me if I really meant what I said and I told her no truthfully. I explained again why I need my quiet time at night and why it was a bad time for her to decide to redecorate. She said she understood…but does she?

Time will tell.