My fractured memory.

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“Fractured Memory,” by Hanna Trussler, 2012

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my early years–childhood and adolescence. As many of you know, my parents were active alcoholics, narcissists (my dad more likely covert NPD or maybe Borderline), and that I spent almost all of that time miserable and lonely due to emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse both at home and at school (because I was already trained to be a good little victim and had no self esteem or the ability to defend myself, I was bullied a lot).

The problem is, most of these early memories are fractured, hazy, or both. I remember snippets of traumatic events, but in most cases I can’t remember the entire event, or it’s spotty. Some of my memories seem more like dreams than reality and therefore I can’t remember the specifics of what happened. The same is true of my abusive marriage. I can only remember fractured pieces of that time. The two and a half decades I spent with him don’t seem like a cohesive whole, but more like a photo album with many of the photos missing. But this post isn’t about my early adult years.

I think something happened when I was 12 that was significant and a kind of turning point for me–it was when I stopped trusting anyone, I think. It was the moment when I realized how truly alone I really was and that no one cared and anyone who said they cared was probably lying. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is when I stopped reaching out to others and began my avoidant pattern of behavior. Of course, this coincided with puberty, so maybe that had something to do with it too.

Here’s what I do remember. My parents and I had taken a two week trip to the beach. Another couple and their two children came along with us and rented the cottage next door. That couple was friends with my parents. I didn’t know my father was sleeping with the wife at the time, and my mother probably didn’t either, but I remember how jealous she was of that other woman because she was younger and blonder than she was and my father paid a lot of attention to her. Their daughter was a year older than me and was adopted. She was from India and was a close friend of mine at the time.  I envied her beautiful long, glossy black hair, permanent tan, and huge soft brown eyes.  Her little brother (her parent’s natural child) was an adorable little blond-headed boy of about 5 or 6. To me, they seemed like the perfect family. It may have been an illusion (for all I know, they were putting on appearances too), but to my 12 year mind, they seemed like they were in love with each other and their kids were both well loved and well-adjusted. My friend always seemed happier, more focused on a future (she eventually became a doctor) and much more emotionally stable than I was. I loved her and envied her.

My parents at the time were drinking heavily and fighting almost daily. Some of their arguments became physical, and I remember lying silently in my bed at night listening to these arguments as they escalated. I was both fascinated and terrified. What if they divorced? What if they abandoned me?  What if they killed each other?  What if I became an orphan?  I seemed to be the cause of an awful lot of their problems (and they did fight over me a lot).

This beach vacation didn’t put a stop to their constant fighting, and one night, my father left. I don’t know where he went, but my mother and I were left alone. My mother didn’t speak to me about this and her demeanor toward me was cold, as if I was an annoyance to her. I was terrified my father was never coming back, and I remember crying myself to sleep the next night. I don’t think my mother ever came in to comfort me. She was probably getting drunk, but I don’t remember.

Desperate for someone to talk to, I pulled the father of my friend aside, and asked him if I could talk to him in private. He always seemed like a warm and sympathetic person to me, someone who loved kids. We sat down outside on a bench near the parking lot, with the sound of the waves crashing behind us on the beach,  and I spilled out all my worries, all my pain, and all my fears.  I talked for about an hour.  He just held my hand and listened. I started to cry and he held me.  He told me everything would be alright. He didn’t say he was going to talk to my parents.

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He must have talked to them, because that night I was told by my mother that my father was returning to talk to me. She said he was not happy and was in fact enraged.
He came back as promised, and that’s where my memory gets all hazy and fractured. I remember snippets, like quick-flashing frames from a movie: getting beaten severely (but I was always beaten in a way that bruises didn’t show), being told I was a troublemaker and was the reason the family was falling apart. That I was nothing but a problem to them and never knew when to keep my mouth shut. I don’t remember the rest but I know there’s even more. I just can’t access it.

I also don’t know if my friend’s father had told my parents what I’d said to him because he was concerned about me and thought they might listen to him, or if he was just another participant in the abuse against me.

I realized even then my parents were drunk and probably not fully in control of what they said and did, but I think behind their alcoholism was narcissism. I think a lot of narcissists become alcoholics or addicted to drugs, and even after they become sober or clean, refuse to look any deeper into the core issues that caused them to drink or use in the first place. But that’s a subject for a later post. One thing that did occur to me, was that the only time my parents seemed to come together as a team and weren’t attacking each other, was when they joined forces to attack me. Only then were they the unified couple I dreamed of, unified in their abuse of their only child.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that beating and berating. I’m pretty sure our vacation ended at that point. I might have been sent to stay with relatives for a week or two, or left with a babysitter, so they didn’t have to deal with me. I feel like something important got blacked out, but I can’t remember what it was. But it was around this time that I stopped being able to confide in anyone at all. I remember one of the nuns who taught me in 8th grade, a woman who seemed to favor me for some reason, once called me aside and asked me if I was abused at home. I thought to myself, how can she tell? Of course I told her I wasn’t, that everything was fine. But nothing was fine in my life anymore.  I think my emotional growth stopped that summer.  At age 12.  But it might have stopped even earlier than that.  How in the name of God was I ever supposed to grow into a happy successful adult, able to form healthy attachments to others, when I never grew beyond the age of 12?

The next summer I was sent to sleep-away camp for the entire summer, and while I did enjoy it for the most part, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a rejection, a way for my parents to get rid of ‘the problem child’ so they didn’t have to deal with my “issues.”

Wow. Suddenly I feel like crying. The pain is getting real.

I’m asking the little girl who still lives somewhere inside me to tell me everything she knows.

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Does excess praise and spoiling create narcissists?

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Many experts, including Sam Vaknin, think spoiling a child or pouring on excess praise (placing them on a pedestal) is actually a form of child abuse, because it does not mirror the child as who they really are, but as who the parents wish them to be or believe them to be. Children not mirrored appropriately, whether excessively criticized or excessively praised, grow up unable to form a viable true self and are vulnerable to developing disorders of the self, especially NPD.

The following article explains in further detail why excessively praising a child can actually hurt their self esteem, rather than help it develop normally. It also describes the two types of praise–one that builds self esteem because it takes a child’s effort into account (“you worked hard to win that contest” or “you showed a lot of dedication in getting those A’s”) and one that fosters narcissism because it implies inherent superiority over others (“you’re the prettiest girl in school” or “you’re the smartest kid ever”).

Do Parents Nurture Narcissists By Pouring On The Praise?
By Poncie Rush, for NPR.org

When a kid does something amazing, you want to tell her so. You might tell her that she’s very smart. You might tell her that she’s a very special kid. Or you might say that she must have worked really hard.

On the surface, they all sound like the same compliments. But according to Brad Bushman, a communications and psychology professor at Ohio State University, the first two increase the child’s chances of becoming a narcissist. Only the last one raises the child’s self-esteem and keeps her ego in check.

Bushman and a group of collaborators surveyed parents to see how they show warmth and value their child’s accomplishments. They then compared those findings to the children’s levels of self-esteem and narcissism. The results were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, self-esteem and narcissism are two very different things. The difference has to do with how you value yourself compared to other people. “Self-esteem basically means you’re a person of worth equal with other people,” Bushman tells Shots. “Narcissism means you think you’re better than other people.”

And not in a good way.

“Narcissism is a somewhat toxic personality trait,” Jean Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic and psychology professor at San Diego State University, tells Shots. Narcissists tend to overestimate their abilities, take too many risks and mess up their relationships, she says. Some people see narcissists hurting the people and society around them, but they hurt themselves, too. “In the long term it tends to lead to failure,” Twenge says.

While narcissists tend to have high self-esteem [my note–this is not true], not all people with high self-esteem are narcissists. Bushman needed to separate the two. So he asked children ages 7 to 12 years old how they felt about statements like “Some kids like the kind of person they are,” or “Kids like me deserve something extra.” The first statement measures self-esteem; the second, narcissism.

Bushman made sure to focus on children between 7 and 12 years old, so that by the time the study finished all of them would be older than 8. “You can’t measure narcissism in children before age 8, because every child is a narcissist,” he says. If you ask younger kids in a classroom if they are good at math or good at baseball, Bushman says all the kids will raise their hands.

Then he surveyed the children’s parents, asking them to respond to statements to determine whether they overvalued their children. For example, “I would not be surprised to learn that my child has extraordinary talents and abilities,” or “Without my child, his/her class would be much less fun.” And he asked how they expressed warmth toward their child by measuring how strongly they agreed with statements like “I let my child know I love him/her.”

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When he analyzed the results from the surveys, Bushman found that the more narcissistic children had parents who consistently overvalued their accomplishments. He ran additional tests to make sure that the parents weren’t narcissists, too — after all, it’s possible that the children could be mirroring narcissistic behavior. But statistically, the children of narcissists aren’t more likely to be narcissists themselves.

The research team continued to survey the same group of 565 children and their parents for a year and a half. They watched the children develop, and they could link each child’s tendency toward self-esteem or narcissism back to what the parents had told them six months earlier.

“We’re not just measuring their narcissism at time one; we’re using these measures to predict the behavior a year and a half later,” says Bushman. “Parental warmth doesn’t predict it. Parental narcissism alone doesn’t predict it. But parental overvaluation alone does predict it.”

Bushman is particularly worried about narcissism because both he and other researchers have linked it to aggressive and violent behavior. He thinks it’s partly because narcissists are less likely to feel empathy toward others.

“Empathy involves putting yourselves in other people’s shoes, but narcissists have a very difficult time putting themselves in other people’s shoes,” Bushman says. Plus, he says that narcissists respond poorly when they don’t get special treatment. “Whenever people have this sense of superiority, then they lash out at others in an aggressive way.”

Of course, someone who appears more narcissistic at age 10 isn’t necessarily going to grow up to be a narcissistic adult, let alone aggressive. And the results of this study hinge on a handful of short surveys — no extensive personality testing here.

“There are definitely going to be things that influence the personality after that stage,” says Twenge. “Those [narcissistic] tendencies may start to show up around then, but will continue to be influenced by parenting and environment throughout adolescence.”

But this study has Bushman thinking about the way he praises his own children. “It’s a lot better to say ‘You worked really hard’ than ‘You must be really smart,’ ” he says, “because if you tell the kid that they’re smart and then if they fail they think ‘Oh I’m stupid.’ ” If the praise relates to effort, a child who fails will work harder next time.

Bushman is also trying to cultivate self-esteem in his children, because people with high self-esteem tend to have lower levels of anxiety and depression over time. Based on Bushman’s research, parents can raise their children’s self-esteem just by expressing more warmth.

Both researchers agree that voicing the connection you feel to your children really helps. “If you want to look for a substitute for ‘You’re special,’ just say ‘I love you,’ ” says Twenge. “It’s what you mean, and it’s a much better message.”

Have a child age 8 to 12? Find your own “Parental Overvaluation” score here.

Original article is here.

Sensitive Children and the Adult Child in the Abusive Narcissistic Home

Excellent article about the devastating effect narcissistic parents have on the most sensitive children in the family and why they tend to become scapegoats. They grow up into codependent adults prone to repeat the same toxic patterns with others. But this doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Read on.

SITE FOR CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

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In a home affected with an abusive narcissistic parent emotions are repressed and become twisted.  Rules are built on shame, guilt, or fear.  Feelings are often not shared and when they are expressed, it is done in a judgmental manner placing blame on one another.  The narcissistic parent is self-involved and feels no empathy for their children.  They are incapable of mirroring real love and try to get their children to fulfill their unmet dependency needs.  The narcissistic parent’s unresolved drives for attention and caretaking takes center stage as the child’s early developmental needs are ignored and denied.  The self-involved parent shames the child for having desires and makes them feel guilty.  All of the family attention and energy is focused on the demands of the narcissist.

Sensitive children growing up in abusive narcissistic homes build their personalities based on what they have to do to survive.  Many of these children…

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This TV movie about child abuse was way ahead of its time.

Today I was thinking about a TV movie I saw back in the 1980s that has haunted me ever since. I decided to watch it again tonight (you can watch the entire movie on Youtube–it’s in seven parts; I have posted the first part). It’s called Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night and was first aired in 1977. Susan Dey (of Partridge Family fame) played an abusive, alcoholic mother to a 4 year old girl and she becomes completely unhinged. The movie is extremely triggering and may be upsetting to some.

There are several things about this movie that I found quite interesting.

— Rowena (Susan Dey) seems to have every symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder–but a case could also be made that her symptoms could well be untreated severe PTSD caused by the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own parents. This movie illustrates why I think BPD is really severe PTSD caused by chronic childhood abuse and could make a good case for that.

— Rowena’s parents are both textbook examples of malignant narcissists. Her mother is cold, rejecting, gaslighting, and blames her daughter for her unhappiness, as well as pathologically envious of the attention she receives from her father, who sexually abused her (and apparently still does).

— Rowena’s psychiatrist is a narcissistic jerk who coldly dismisses her from a breakthrough therapy session at the moment she recalls and re-experiences a long forgotten memory of being locked in a closet as a small child. This turned out to be an extremely cruel (and unwise) thing for him to do.

— In the almost 40 years since this film was made, not much has changed. The child protective system is still hit and miss at best and often tragically incompetent.

— It’s a fascinating and convincing study of the way the pathology of abuse infects succeeding generations.

The movie, being made for TV, isn’t perfect. There are a few holes in the plot and certain scenes just seem contrived. I also can’t help thinking of “Dean Wormer” from the movie Animal House whenever John Vernon (the head doctor) is onscreen. But the acting, especially by Susan Dey and the little girl who plays her daughter Mary Jane (Natasha Ryan), as well as the caring doctor who stands up to the Powers That Be and tries to protect Mary Jane, is top notch.

My son’s father turned from a loving dad into a monster.

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My son at about 9 months. His dad doted on him then.

Turning on a child who was initially loved and doted on is not unusual for malignant narcissist parents. If the child proves to be sensitive, highly intelligent, or can see through the parent’s agenda, they may find themselves suddenly turned into scapegoats. Betrayal of a child means nothing to a narcissistic parent. The child was never a child even before the betrayal, just supply.

My son (who I’ve been calling Ethan on this blog but that is not his real name) was born in October 1991 and initially was very much wanted by his father. During his infancy his father appeared to love him very much and it wasn’t unusual to find my beautiful little boy snuggled up against his dad’s chest. Though Michael (also not his real name) was showing signs of the abuser he would soon become, the abuse was directed at me, and didn’t happen often enough in those days that I was that concerned.

By the time Ethan was 3 or 4 he was showing signs of being a highly sensitive (and very creative) child. He cried frequently and was given to tantrums when he sensed discord, anger or chaos around him. He was always very sensitive to his environment and didn’t react well to everyone and he hated change. He still remembers himself as being an extremely nervous child, but those nerves were due to his high sensitivity. I was much the same way when I was his age. I could always identify with my son.

I remember when he was two, when we were moving from New Jersey to North Carolina. Because we didn’t have a lot of money for a long distance mover, we moved most of our stuff (except large pieces of furniture) in a U-Haul and a car over five separate trips. During the time the house was being slowly emptied, Ethan began to act very strange. He stopped eating, looked pale and his eyes looked too big for his face. He hadn’t really started talking much yet, but did this strange “parroting”–he’d repeat “Hi Mommy! Hi Daddy!” over and over, in a strange high pitched voice. It was creepy. His doctor said not to worry, but he just wasn’t himself. Then it finally dawned on me: a very young child sees things disappearing and doesn’t understand why (he hadn’t come on the moving trips to see where the things were going). His two year old mind deduced that eventually his parents and baby sister would disappear too, leaving him alone, so the nervous parroting of “Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy,” was to make sure we were still there and weren’t going to leave him. To a sensitive child like Ethan who hated change as much as he did, watching the things in his environment disappear must have been traumatic for him. I asked him about this recently and he still remembers it. He told me my suspicions had been correct. He was afraid we would disappear!

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Third birthday. He received a cake with a blue toy car on it.

Michael saw this high sensitivity as soon as it became apparent, and suddenly his affection toward his son came to a screeching halt. He began to pick on and belittle him, calling him names such as stupid, idiot, “faggy,” pussy, baby, and loser. As young as Ethan was, I could see how his self esteem was already taking a beating. Soon he became nervous and awkward around his father but of course this just fed the abuse.

Soon Michael began to physically abuse Ethan, spanking him almost every day just for being who he was. Whenever I criticized or questioned Michael about why he was treating Ethan this way, he just said he was trying to “toughen him up.” (this from a man who called himself a feminist–go figure that one out!) I told him his aggressive behaviors toward Ethan to “man him up” were not working because Ethan wasn’t built that way, and besides they were very unloving. I told him I was afraid Ethan would think his father hated him, but of course my concerns were dismissed and I was called wrong, stupid or crazy. We had many fights about this, but the abuse never stopped. In fact it kept growing worse.

Michael constantly made fun of Ethan, imitating his speech, his walk, his awkwardness. Ethan was bullied at school for a time, just as I was, and my heart broke for him. I loved my son so much, and couldn’t bear to see the way his father treated him.

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Ethan at about age 8, around the time his father destroyed his car collection.

The incident that I remember with the most anguish occurred when Ethan was about 8. He had a collection of about 15 or 20 collectible cars his grandfather had given him over several years and Ethan was very proud of them. He displayed them on a 5-tiered shelf in his room. One evening Michael came raging into his room for one reason or another (he was often drunk and some of his rages seemed to be caused by nothing) and knocked over the stand, sending all the beautiful and expensive replicas crashing to the floor. All of them were destroyed beyond repair. Ethan burst into tears and begged him to stop, but Michael was relentless and began pounding on him, calling him a stupid faggot crybaby, and demanding to know why he couldn’t “man up.” I was in the room at the time, desperately trying to push him away from Ethan but to no avail, because Michael was much stronger than me, and by then I was myself afraid of his rages.

This incident haunts me to this day. It’s hard for me to think of it without my heart breaking, because of how painful it was to see my brilliant, creative, sensitive little boy’s car collection destroyed for absolutely no reason at all — and my son’s self esteem taking such a beating from the man who had once seemed to love him so much during his first few years.

Fortunately, Ethan was always much stronger than he seemed, and smart too. He chose to live with me after we divorced instead of his father. Kung Fu lessons paid for by my father (which he stuck with for 3 years and got as far as brown belt) and an Outward Bound expedition for his 8th grade trip began to change him and help him rebuild his self esteem.

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Age 15.

He came out as gay at age 17, and since then has become a happy and well liked young man with many interests and talents who is making good choices in life. (He also chose to live hundreds of miles away from the family but I can’t say I blame him for that). While it’s sad he lives so far away, I’m happy that he’s happy now and that after everything he went through, he may be the most mentally stable member of the immediate family. He is the only one of us who doesn’t appear to have a personality disorder.

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Today at age 23, living on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Not all children who were turned on and scapegoated by a malignant narcissist parent were so lucky. Many were psychologically destroyed or even killed. Ethan was one of the lucky ones.

See also:
My Son Didn’t Escape Unscathed: https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/05/11/my-son-didnt-escape-unscathed/
My MN Ex’s Weird Attitude to His Son: https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/02/24/my-mn-exs-weird-attitude-to-his-son/

The 4 types of narcissistic abuse victims.

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It’s become clear to me that not all ACONs and abuse survivors are on the same page when it comes to their attitudes toward narcissists.
Because we all are abuse survivors you would think there’d be more solidarity among us, but this is not necessarily the case.

It seems there are four distinct types. In spite of things I may have alluded to in the past, I don’t think any one group is worse or better than any other. They are different, and each has their reasons for having the attitudes they do. I’ll explain why I think the attitudes are different among the four groups. There is definitely a pattern I’ve noticed.

1. The Narc-Hating Group.

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These ACONs usually underwent the worst abuse as children, or had two narcissistic parents instead of just one. Having abusive parents seems to instill the greatest anger in victims–more so than having been with an abusive spouse–and this anger isn’t easily let go of. This group has a warrior mentality: to them, ALL narcissists are evil, bad seeds, or demonic, and have no hope whatsoever of recovery or healing. They may acknowledge a continuum or spectrum among narcissists, but it’s not important to them. A narc is a narc is a narc, and they are all considered impervious to change and anything they do is suspect. Some ACONs of this type are ultra-religious and believe all narcissists are seared souls destined for hell.

2. All Cluster Bs are the Same Group.

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This group goes a step beyond the first one, in that they believe anyone with a Cluster B disorder–Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, or Antisocial–is character disordered and manipulative, and therefore all pretty much the same and to be avoided like the plague. They do not make exceptions even for Borderlines–the least “malignant” of the four disorders. People who subscribe to this view were as damaged by their malignant narcissistic parents as the first group. One of their parents may have been Borderline or Histrionic, rather than narcissistic– but people with those disorders don’t always make very good parents either. It’s unfortunately all too common for narcissists to collude with Borderlines in the abuse of the child, with the Borderline in the more codependent, subservient role.

3. Not all Narcs are Hopeless Group.

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This group may be in the minority among ACONs (at least among bloggers), but it’s the group I’m evidently in–which has raised the ire of some of the Narc-Hating ACONs. People in this group aren’t going around singing the praises of narcissists and in fact the vast majority strongly encourage No Contact (just as the other two groups do). They do not tolerate or enable narcissistic manipulations and abuse, but they hold that because narcissism may be a spectrum disorder, that those at the lower end of the spectrum (non-malignants) may be redeemable under the proper circumstances and with the proper treatment. They may show more sympathy or empathy for people with narcissism than the first two groups, but they aren’t enablers either. Most do not believe malignant narcissists and psychopaths/sociopaths are redeemable, however.

Many people in this group were part of the Narc-Hating group when they were trying to disengage or go No Contact with their abusers. They used their anger to give them the courage and motivation to disconnect and stay disconnected. But because their hatred and anger toward narcissists isn’t as deeply ingrained as in the first two groups (I’ll explain why in the next paragraph), people in this group eventually can no longer hold onto their anger and prefer to try to understand the motives of those who abused them, while at the same time remaining disconnected from their abusers and not enabling narcissistic behavior. Their desire to let go of anger is very difficult for ACONs of the first two groups to understand, and people of the third group may be seen as betraying the ACON cause, even though this isn’t really the case at all. They’re just handling things differently.

Another reason a person may hold that some narcissists are redeemable is they may have a narcissistic child, and it’s an extremely difficult thing for a parent to accept that their own child may be beyond hope.

It’s been my observation that people in this group may have suffered less severe abuse as children, or had only one narcissistic parent instead of two. One of the parents (usually a codependent spouse) may have actually loved their child, and this love tempered the abuse inflicted on them by the narcissistic parent even if they were forced to collude with the abuse at times. Some people in this group may have even had normal childhoods with non-narcissistic parents, but got involved in relationships or marriages to narcissists (which technically means they are not ACONs at all). It’s been my observation that people who suffered most of their abuse at the hands of a narcissistic spouse or lover rather than a parent never developed the deep hatred toward all narcissists that the first two groups tend to do.

4. Codependents.

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Codependents are often (but not always) personality disordered in some way, and many of them are Borderlines or covert narcissists. They are usually victimized by their narcissists, but also identify with and collude with their abusers. Most codependents were abused by narcissistic parents, and are drawn to narcissistic relationships where they are compelled to re-enact their abusive childhoods. This is the group that may never acknowledge they are being abused or reach out for help. They continue to defend and enable their abusers and may believe they are the ones at fault for anything that goes wrong. If a Codependent leaves their narcissist and realizes they were actually being abused, then they are no longer Codependent and join one of the first three categories.

The point of no return.

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Last night Fivehundredpoundpeep disagreed with a post I wrote, saying that people who chose narcissism reach a point of no return when become thoroughly evil. She has religious reasons for this view (“reprobate” is a religious term that means the person even while still alive is destined for hell because God has turned his back on them due to their bad choices). While I don’t share her literal biblical beliefs in certain damnation for some (I believe this is from Calvinist thought), I agree with her that most narcissists do get worse with age and many reach a point of no return, where they become so hardened they have no hope of changing-and I do agree this change is due to a total selling out of whatever conscience they may have had, if they ever had any. I have seen this up close and personal with my ex, who is a frightening example of someone who completely sold his soul, for lack of a better phrase, to the devil. All Cluster B personality disorders have a spiritual as well as a mental component, but narcissism is a slippery slope into inescapable darkness and misery.

When I married my ex in 1986, he was definitely a narcissist but lower on the spectrum than he is today. While still being abusive and extremely manipulative, he did have moments where he showed what I believed was genuine goodness. He was actually a good father to our two children–at first. In fact, he was more patient with them as babies than I was. It was later that he began to scapegoat our son (who like me, is highly sensitive and able to see through his father) and started to use our daughter as a sounding board for his own problems when she was still just a child as well as a junior flying monkey against me and her brother.

I’m not entirely sure when he crossed the “point of no return” but it seemed to be between 1997 and 2001, during the time his mother lived with us before entering a nursing home. This is when I believe he became thoroughly evil and it was because of the way he treated his ailing mother.

His mother was a thoroughly malignant narcissist who was very abusive to my ex while he was growing up. She too became worse with age, but in the late 1990s, she developed Alzheimers and could no longer live alone, so we brought her to our home where an eye could be kept on her. As malignant as she was, she was losing her faculties and her mind and it would have been inhumane not to try to help her.

Most of her care fell on my shoulders, a difficult thing because my kids were still very young and I was trying to raise them too. I was also suffering from severe depressions during this time due to my ex’s increasing abusive behavior as well as his heavy drinking and drug taking, for which I had to be hospitalized twice. So you can imagine I wasn’t the most patient caregiver, especially because his mom could still be so unlikeable. It was hard for me to not become angry with her. I tried to control this, but found it so hard, especially when she began losing control of her bowel and bladder. Every day I was confronted with messy bedding because she kept pulling off her diaper and would fight me or start crying whenever I went to change her. I was never cut out to be a nurse, but this was too much and there were those times I’d yell at her in frustration.

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Unknown artist.

My ex hated his mother, but did not want to put her in a nursing home due to the expense. Of course anything I had to say about the matter fell on deaf ears. He had actually made her sell her house when she moved in with us and obtained a power of attorney so the money from the sale was in his name (the money was gone within one year). I never felt this was right but admit I enjoyed having more money, so I never said anything to him about it being wrong. While what he did wasn’t illegal, it was extremely unethical and selfish. While his mother’s immediate needs were taken care of, he had complete control of the money and most of it did not go for her care and went for luxuries for us instead. I always felt badly about this and for years felt like my sin of overlooking this would never be forgiven. (Recently I repented and know I have been forgiven but it still bothers me sometimes).

But enough about that. My ex was increasingly abusive to her while she lived with us, and reached a point where he became physically abusive and would spank her like a bad child–IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN! As awful a mother as she was to him, she did not deserve this. Whenever I brought up how wrong his behavior was, he said he had a right to treat her that way because she was such a horrible mother. He said it was karma. Not once did he ever admit he was wrong. After a while, my bad case of narc “fleas” became so bad I began to join in the abuse–not hitting her, but I stopped trying to defend her and began to think maybe his spanking her wasn’t really wrong. After all, she did act like a naughty three year old. I didn’t know it, but I was suffering a form of Stockholm Syndrome, where a victim begins to identify with their abuser and make excuses for their bad behavior. Still, I begged him to put her in a nursing home but he still refused.

It was during this time he began to grow pot in our outbuilding, and his immoral behavior ramped up a few notches. He recruited our 8 year old daughter to water the plants and watch out for cops! I couldn’t believe he would do this, but I said nothing because nothing I said ever was taken seriously or I’d be belittled for bringing it up. He also started to hit my son, and berate and belittle him constantly. All this was new for him. Before his mother had moved in he had never been physically abusive to our children and stayed away from alcohol and drugs. Now he was drunk or high most nights and began to change into a person I was becoming extremely afraid of. His look became harder and colder, and he was rarely affectionate anymore. His eyes became very cold, almost demonic at times. Both of us had affairs (I’m not proud of this either because I was actually worse than him). I was mentally ill myself due to the abuse but this doesn’t excuse the part I played in this whole mess of a marriage.

In 2000 his mother developed cancer and after her hospitalization, finally entered a nursing home. We hardly visited her at all but whenever we did, he would tell the kids how stupid and horrible his mother was and encourage them to insult and demean her. He told them she deserved the way he treated her because of the way she had treated him.

She died in January of 2002 and to this day, my ex never went to pick up her ashes.

It was during these five years from 1997-2001 that I saw my ex change from a person who could sometimes be nice and was often a lot of fun into a monster who appeared to have no emotions at all or any empathy for anyone else. Looking back, I think it was because he crossed a line from “mere” malignant narcissism into full blown psychopathy brought on by continual abuse of his helpless mother. Yes, his mother was a highly malignant narcissist herself and his hatred of her was understandable, but no one with a conscience would have treated her the way he did when she became ill. It scares me to think how close I came to becoming evil myself, because of my collusion with him in this horrible abuse. For the past few days I have been struggling with the evil I see in myself, and as a borderline, I’m so close to being a narcissist anyway. There were so many times while I was with him that I flirted with turning my back on everything good and right. I’m having a rough time accepting this and forgiving myself. But that’s for another post.

From 2002-2004 our marriage continued to worsen and the psychological abuse grew worse (not the physical, because he stopped drinking and he was only physical when he was drunk). We obtained a divorce but in 2006 I made the mistake of allowing him to move in with me. By this time he was parasitic and refused to work. I’ve written about this elsewhere.

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Today I see no goodness in him at all. I’ve never seen a person so filled with hate and rage. His conversation is always sarcastic, biting, and negative. He never has anything positive to say and spends most of his time trolling political websites and getting high. He’s not out there committing violent crimes, but he’s a person who seems to have no soul. The rare times I do see him (I avoid this as much as possible), I can’t even look him in the eyes because they’re so dead and empty. I’m afraid just looking into them can infect me with his evil. Our daughter unfortunately is still in thrall to him, and I pray all the time she will be okay. I’m afraid further close contact with him can destroy her soul the way it almost destroyed mine, and she’s halfway there already, showing a number of narcissistic traits. Like me, she has a really bad case of “fleas.” I can’t keep her from seeing her father though. She is an adult and I have to accept that I can’t make her choices for her.

While it’s very sad to see a person so thoroughly gutted spiritually, I have no sympathy for my ex. I do have sympathy for the little boy he used to be, but he died a long time ago.

My son, who was scapegoated by his father, seems to be the most mentally healthy person in the immediate family. He does have some anger and self esteem issues (don’t we all?) but he is strong and determined to escape the fallout of the family illness. I am so proud of the man he’s becoming.

The reason we became adult victims: what can be done?

victim_badge

The other day, I posted an article about the insidious way narcissistic parents can turn scapegoated children into lifelong victims. I was thinking more about this matter today (because I was feeling victimized at work) and I think I understand what happened to us to make us such easy targets for victimization and why we are usually shown so little respect by others.

First, there is nothing wrong with you. You are not mentally deficient, defective, worthless, or unlikeable. You deserve respect as much as anyone else does. You are no less valuable than anyone else. Later in this article I’ll explain what it is about us that makes us get treated like this so often and why.

There are ways to tell if you’re an adult victim. The abuse we get is more insidious than the treatment we got from our parents or childhood peers. As adults, we are not likely to be straight-up bullied the way children and teenagers are because most adults have learned it’s not okay to bully others. Instead, the abuse manifests as a lack of respect and being treated as if we don’t exist or don’t matter.

How to tell if you’re a victimized adult.

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1. You find it difficult to make friends.

2. You are always overlooked for promotions or raises in the workplace, no matter how well you do your job. You may also be overlooked for special privileges when they are given out. If you ask why, no one ever seems to know how to answer you.

3. People leave you out of social events like parties or casual get-togethers.

4. If you were a scapegoated child (and most likely you were if you are victimized as an adult), even your FOO (family of origin) probably leaves you out of family events such as weddings, births, and reunions. You were probably disowned or written out of the will. You are the “black sheep” of your narcissistic family.

5. People talk over you or act like you are not there.

6. If you speak, people act like they didn’t hear you or ignore what you just said.

7. You are treated like a piece of furniture. People tend to physically push you aside, invade your personal space, or act like you are in the way. In a small group of people, they may shift their positions so you become shunted to the side or back so you don’t have a place in the circle. It isn’t really hostile; it’s as if they literally don’t see you.

8. People tend to treat you in a condescending manner, as if you are mentally defective.

9. People like to “mess” with you or make jokes at your expense.

10. In a work environment, even your co-workers may be more critical of you than they would be with others–even if your work is fine. You may notice people try to boss you around who have no real right to.

11. People may treat you as if you annoy them.

It is not your imagination that you are treated this way. You are not just being paranoid or over-sensitive (though people will tell you this). You really are being treated like this, and it’s because as children, we were trained that we were nothing and that we did not matter. We internalize these messages and carry an attitude of being undeserving of fair treatment into adulthood. People treat us the way we regard ourselves. If we think we are nothing, we will be treated like we are nothing, even by non-narcissists.

How being an adult victim can further damage us.

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Being scapegoated by narcissistic parents is child abuse, and is thoroughly evil. It can destroy a person for a lifetime. The victimization we continue to get as adults is also very damaging, and exacerbates our already dismal self esteem. Here are the ways being a victimized adult can make you feel.

1. You feel like you have no place in the world.

2. You feel unloved by everyone.

3. You believe you have no value.

4. You feel isolated and apart from the normal world.

5. You fear you may actually be stupid, incompetent or annoying.

6. You are prone to deep depressions and extreme anxiety, especially when having to deal with other people.

7. You feel envious of others for being treated with more respect than you are.

8. You feel envious of others for having loving families who care about them.

9. You feel envious of others for having friends and an active social life.

10. You feel like you are constantly having to apologize.

11. You feel like life is unfair and the world is a hostile and unfriendly place.

12. In many situations you feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

It comes down to boundaries. As adult victims, we don’t have any, or have very weak boundaries. We never established boundaries when we were young because we were (1) never trained to do so; and (2) because our early boundaries were constantly being violated.

People can sense when a person has very weak or non-existent boundaries. That’s why we continue to attract narcissists as friends, lovers and spouses. Narcissists know easy prey when they see it.

Why personal boundaries are so important.

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Even among non-narcissistic people people, we are seen as prey because we appear to lack boundaries. Even near-strangers are constantly stepping over the line and treating us with disrespect, even if their behavior isn’t outright abusive. It’s as if most people have an invisible line drawn around them that must not be crossed. People “see” this line–or sense it–and will respect it. But if you never established boundaries or they were destroyed by your narcissistic family, there is no invisible line drawn around you, and people will constantly step over it, because they believe it’s okay for them to do so.

The solution seems easy enough–just establish some boundaries and tell people when they are violating them. But this is much easier said than done. Most of us have such low self esteem we are terrified of letting others know it is not okay to treat you this way. We are terrified of being criticized or told we are just being “too sensitive” or paranoid. We see other people standing up to those who violate their boundaries without repercussions, but we fear that if WE do it, we will be attacked or criticized, because we were trained to believe this.

unhealthy_boundaries

The sad news is that it isn’t incorrect to believe you will be attacked or criticized or told you are overreacting if you try to stand up for yourself. That’s because people don’t like change. If people have become used to you as a mousy, fearful person with no personal boundaries, they are not going to like it much should you suddenly point out that you have some. But it doesn’t mean you are worthless and it also doesn’t mean you must forever continue to submit to this kind of treatment.

In any group, there is usually one scapegoated (or disrespected) person, and that person is the one who is seen as having the weakest boundaries (and is probably also the most sensitive, which is why we were chosen by our families to be scapegoats in the first place). Unfortunately the human condition dictates that even for normal (non-narcissistic) people, there is going to be a pecking order. This system can be observed in most animals and even some birds, like chickens. People–and animals–feel more comfortable when there is one person around they can pile on. If you suddenly announce they may not pile on you anymore, they are not going to be happy about it and will probably take out their frustration on you. It isn’t fair, but it seems to be in our human nature.

Can anything be done?

boundaries_quote

Yes, but it may be necessary for you to start over in a new place or a new job if this is happening to you. You will need to make it clear from the very beginning that you are to be treated with respect. This means the very first time you observe one of the above behaviors directed toward you, you must nip that in the bud and let the person know it is not okay to treat you like this. Doing this will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do, because we are so afraid to speak up for ourselves. But if we have not been established yet as a victim or at the bottom of the pecking order, letting others know (nicely, of course) that we will not tolerate this sort of behavior should help. Once your boundaries are made clear to others, you will be treated more like a human being and less like a worthless piece of furniture.

If you cannot start over (and many of us can’t, because our lifetime problems with boundaries and self esteem have made it impossible for us to be able to earn the kind of living that would enable us to move elsewhere or leave a job), then you will need to go ahead and try to speak up for yourself anyway, and risk the fallout. If you find this impossible to do, then you will need to find a support system or a group that does not know you the way you are. You can join a church group, attend group therapy, or take a class. Or you can find supportive people online. For those of us who are introverted, like myself, this may be the most effective way to have a voice and be treated the way you want to be treated: like a human being worthy of respect.

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Keep telling yourself every day that you are not worthless or defective, because you are not. There is nothing wrong with you! Your only problem is that the family that raised you did not respect or love you the way they should have–not because you aren’t deserving of love or respect because every child is–but because as narcissists, they could not. You served a role for them as the family scapegoat.

A good therapist–or keeping a journal or a blog–can be a good way to help you deal with your past, the family that destroyed your sense of self esteem and boundaries, and help you overcome your fears and begin to act more like a person who is to be treated like everyone else.

You are worth it.

Why family scapegoats become lifelong victims.

If you were scapegoated by your family, two things can happen. You can become a narcissist yourself (narcissism being an elaborate defense mechanism to avoid further hurt and abuse) or you will internalize the early message that you’re worthless, defective and have no rights. I’m going to talk about the second scenario because that’s what this video is about and it’s what happened to me.

As a scapegoat, you are trained to live in fear. You become afraid to defend yourself, express your opinions, or demand fair treatment. This attitude of worthlessness, fear and shame is carried into adult life. Other people can immediately sense you are a pushover and a magnet for abuse, rejection, and bullying, and you become a target for abuse by others well into adult life.

You can become a lifelong victim unless you find a way to break the pattern. It’s difficult to unlearn, because it was established so early in life by the narcissistic parent.

Golden children, who more closely resemble the narcissistic parent or provide them with narcissistic supply (adulation), are more likely than scapegoats to become narcissists themselves. They will often become the aging narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys against the scapegoated adult child, continuing the family pattern of abuse.

Scapegoated children are the family shock absorbers. They are the children who have been assigned to absorb and internalize the narcissistic parents’ rage and to mirror back what has been projected onto them.

scapegoat_child

This is exactly what happened to me. Although because I was an only child I sometimes served the Golden Child role, for the most part I was the scapegoat. My Aspergers and high sensitivity made me even more perfect for that role.

Today I’m the black sheep and the “loser” of my family. I’m never included in family functions because of my poverty and the fact I’m “different” than the rest of them. Although they disapprove of me, I really became exactly what they needed me to be. My becoming a “loser” ensured they would always be winners.

I’ve been disinherited because they believe I’m undeserving, a shameful blemish on the family’s “good name,” further guaranteeing I will always remain poor and therefore powerless–unless I hit the lottery (which I don’t play) or write a book, which I plan to do. The irony of all that is the book may very well be one that exposes the people who raised me for what they really are.

I’ve always been a risk-averse, avoidant underachiever. My dealings with others have suffered because of my fear of the judgment of other people. I was often bullied as a child and teenager.

I married a narcissistic man and continued to live with him and allow his abuse even years after we were divorced.

Although as an adult I’m no longer bullied (and am Very Low Contact with my ex), people still try to push me around, treat me like a mental defective, leave me out of conversations, overlook me for promotions or raises at work, or just talk over or look through me as if I’m not there at all. When I say something, people act like they don’t hear me. It’s very hard for me to make friends or fight back when I need to because I was trained from an early age to be so very afraid of everyone. I’m the proverbial shrinking Violet and wallflower–the kind of woman my mother used to mock for being so “insipid.” I seem to have the opposite of charisma.

For many years I walked around as if ashamed to be alive. I carried shame with me like a heavy burden that affected the way I spoke, the way I related, the way I thought (all the negative self-talk and self-hate), even the way I moved and carried myself. I embarrassed myself.

Since I started writing, I’ve learned that I wasn’t put on earth as an example to others of how not to be (I actually used to believe this), but that God gave me these challenges and this life to teach me valuable things about myself–but that waking up to who God meant for me to be was going to be hard, painful work. I don’t live in self-pity: my narcissists have been my teachers.

One day I dream that people offline will know who I really am. That I have a personality. That I’m funny and intelligent. That I have opinions of my own, and that I am actually good at things. But more than anything else, that I have a finely tuned bullshit detector–a gift unintentionally bequeathed to me by my narcissists, and it’s a gift more priceless than any amount of money I may have inherited.

The following video will explain why what narcissistic parents do to their own offspring is nothing less than soul murder. Unfortunately, the original video I had posted here (which I preferred) was the best one to illustrate the way being scapegoated as a child tends to continue well into adult life, with the grown adult child now unconsciously projecting a “kick me” sort of vibe in relationships, friendships, on the job, and everywhere else, and then they wonder why they continue to feel victimized everywhere they go.     It’s hard to break the pattern, but it can be done.    Here’s a different video with the same general message as the first, although the first one (which was removed) was much better, in my opinion.

Why being a Golden Child isn’t so golden.

golden_cage

I was raised as an only child–the second marriage for both my parents–in a narcissistic family. Only children are in an especially vulnerable position in narcissistic families, because they must serve as all things to one or both parents.

In families with several children, one child (usually the most sensitive) is normally chosen to be the scapegoat–to serve as the family trash can for all the narcissistic rage of the parents. Another child, usually the one most closely resembling the narcissistic parent or the one who best serves the parent’s need for narcissistic supply, may become the Golden Child–in other words, the parent’s favorite. The Scapegoat is always wrong, bad, stupid, crazy, a “problem,” etc. The Golden Child can do no wrong. Misdeeds are overlooked or projected onto the scapegoat. Golden Children may become the narcissistic parent’s flying monkeys and are even sometimes given the “honor” of helping with the abuse against the scapegoat.

I’m reminded of a book I read some years ago called “A Child Called It,” written by Dave Pelzer, who not only recovered from the horrific abuse inflicted on him from ages 4-12 by his psychopathic mother (who had been loving up until that point) and brothers (who served as her “helpers”) once he was removed from the family and placed in a foster home, he actually seemed to become stronger because of it. Today he is an author, motivational speaker, and activist against child abuse. Dave was the scapegoat of his family, and I think his mother turned against him when she realized he was the most sensitive child and probably the most intelligent one too.

But what happens when there is only one child in the family? Well, I think that child becomes both a scapegoat and a Golden Child. If I had grown up with siblings (I have older half-siblings but I wasn’t raised with them), I’m almost certain I would have been the family scapegoat. But my parents (I am including both here, even though I don’t believe my father is a true narcissist, because they worked as a “team”–he was codependent and under my mother’s thrall) needed a Golden Child too who would serve their need to show a child off as a prized possession, a status symbol of sorts: the physical proof of how superior they believed their genes to be compared to everyone else.

Being both scapegoat and Golden Child is even more crazymaking than being just a scapegoat, because you never know where you stand. You constantly feel off balance and anxious, never knowing if something you said or did will be rewarded, ignored, or punished. Life feels chaotic and unformed. You feel like you’re playing a game you never wanted to play, a game where you were never taught the rules, and most of the time you don’t even know WHAT game you’re playing, but you’re expected to play like an expert anyway.

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There was no consistency in the way I was disciplined or the things I was disciplined for. I was punished often (for infractions that were usually fairly minor or even nonexistent–I was a “good kid” who was terrified of angering my parents until my teens), but that wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was that the next time, I might actually be rewarded for the same infraction!

I was often punished for things I couldn’t help. Acting “spooky” was one of them. As a fearful, sensitive Aspie child, there were times I would retreat inside myself when I was feeling very anxious or when there was too much ‘input’ from the world, and this enraged my MN mother, who would berate or punish me for this behavior. I had no idea what I had done or how to stop being “spooky.” It just happened. I think it enraged her because it was during those times I went “inside” that she could no longer reach me with her abuse.

Even though most of the time I was treated as if my feelings didn’t matter, I was often told how pretty, smart and talented I was. It’s my belief I was no more of any of these things than any other kid my age, but I was told I was “special.” To my young mind, “special” meant “different”–and most children, myself included, dread being different from their peers.

When I was bullied at school, the reason my parents gave me was that the other kids were just jealous because of my “superior” looks, intelligence, or talent. I was also told our genes were better than other people’s, and our family was of a higher socioeconomic status than my friends’ families. I know now this was complete bullshit, but it’s the lie I was being fed while I was growing up. I think these “compliments” were intended to isolate me from my peers even further, so I’d just be “theirs.” I never felt empowered by the “praise” I got, because of the way it made me feel somehow defective and different from other kids. In addition, I felt like I could never live up to the pedestal my parents put me on at those times. I was right–and as an adult, I am looked down on by my family as actually defective.

left_out_kid

The most crazymaking thing of all was the times I’d be complimented and diminished at the same time. One of the most common ways I’d be demeaned was being told how “sensitive” I was. This was never meant to be a compliment; it was meant as a way to let me know how weak I was. Sometimes I was told I couldn’t or shouldn’t do things because of a combination of my “good” and “bad” qualities. For example, when I was about 10, I wanted to join the swim team. I remember exactly what my mother’s reaction was to this. She always liked to tell me what I was thinking, which is another way narcissists make us doubt our own reality and question our instincts. She said:
“You wouldn’t like being on the swim team because you’re too sensitive and you don’t like competition, and you’re too smart to be on a team with those people anyway.”
Huh?
Left-handed compliment much? She always sandwiched her praise this way–between insults like a shit sandwich. This was just another way I was constantly thrown off balance and this led to my becoming an extremely anxious child and later, an extremely anxious adult.

In general, my family treated me like I was a huge burden and didn’t really want me around, so the praise I got as a sometimes Golden Child made no sense and to my sensitive child’s mind, never felt sincere. Even at a very young age, I knew I was being lied to. I knew I wasn’t loved the same way other children were loved, even though my parents constantly mouthed the words like some sort of tic.