Thinking about my dad.

dadandme1983

I have only three pictures of my dad, and only one of us together, taken in 1982 (shown above).    He passed away suddenly on June 6, 2016.    I can’t believe he’s been gone for almost half a year.

My dad wasn’t a very good father.  In fact, he was pretty terrible.   A covert narcissist (though I don’t think he was malignant or evil), or possibly a borderline, or maybe both, he was always codependent to higher level, grandiose NPD women.   At least in my mother’s case this was true.   For all of my childhood and part of my adolescence, he was an active alcoholic and often lost control and become violent and abusive.  Sometimes he really scared me.   His punishments could be harsh and cruel.  He also invaded my boundaries in many ways and seemed to expect something of me that I could not be, but I never knew what that was.

Much like my mother, he could never accept “negative” emotions and always seemed to expect me to act happy even if I wasn’t. So I learned how to fake happiness or at least contentment, but was never very good at it. But there were also times that he wasn’t this way (more on that in a minute).

He also cut me off for years at a time once I became an adult, refusing to have anything to do with me when I disagreed with him or did something that went against his wishes.   The time around my daughter’s birth was one of those times (not because of her, but because of something unrelated we had disagreed about).   Because of that, he never met her until she was 8 years old.   He did apologize for his lack of contact with me.

In spite of these behaviors, my dad could also be very loving.  When he was loving, he could be the sweetest and most understanding dad anyone could ever hope for.  While I always somehow knew my mother’s “love” was fake, I never felt that way about my dad.    When he showed me love, I knew it was really coming from his heart because it just felt like the real thing.  My intuition about these things is usually accurate.   Although his rages were usually scarier and more violent than my mother’s, as a person he scared me less.  He was less cold and could even be very warm.  As disordered as he was, my dad had a heart.  I always felt like I could talk to him, at least when he was sober or in a good mood.  At those times he could be extremely supportive and empathetic. He was very protective of me and used to get so angry when anyone else tried to hurt me.

The problem was he was so unpredictable.  It was so hard to discern when he would be nasty or nice.    So I usually waited for him to be nice to me, rather than seeking it out. He was such a conflicted person.

I loved my dad.  I still do.   Today in church the priest talked about praying for those loved ones who have passed on.    Until now, I hadn’t been able to cry about my dad’s passing.   I experienced a lot of other emotions — shock, anger, rage, regret — but I never really grieved.   We hadn’t been close in years.

But today was different, and I sat there wiping away tears and realizing how much I miss my dad, and feeling so sad because we never had a chance to get together before his death and reconcile or come to  some kind of understanding as father and daughter.  There was no closure.   I never even got to see him in the hospital, and I was unable to attend his memorial service.  There was this vast distance between us (I never went No Contact with my dad).   He never got the chance to see how much I’ve changed and grown.   I know he would be proud; he always told me he wanted to see me thrive and be happy one day. I knew he meant it too.

I hope wherever my dad is right now, he has learned a few things and is working out his demons and his soul is being cleansed.  I don’t believe death is so final that you just go to either heaven or hell and that’s it, because no one is all good or all bad.    I think our souls continue to grow and mature and sin can be cleansed even after death.

I also hope he understands that his youngest daughter, who I know he loved in spite of the terrible way I was raised,  has realized a lot about why things happened as they did, and is now using those lessons to become a better and happier person.   A person who has processed enough of this trauma that she can finally reach out and begin to help others.    I hope he is looking down from wherever he is and is proud of what I became.  I hope he knows that I love him and pray for his spiritual freedom too.  In many ways, both my parents were teachers to me.  Harsh teachers to be sure, but I still learned so much once I realized what I’d been up against.   Framed the right way, narcissists can teach you much about yourself, if you can move on from hating them and try to understand why they did what they did and why it was done to you.

Dad, wherever you are, I miss you and love you….in spite of everything.  I forgive you.

Narcissistic Parents

Words as weapons.

by Photos8.com

by Photos8.com

If you were raised by narcissistic parents, you are probably familiar with these.  These are the words I heard from my parents (yours may differ somewhat but the devastating effect is the same).  I’ve broken them down into childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, since the emotional abuse doesn’t stop when you become an adult.  Sometimes it gets worse. No matter what stage of life you’re in, these words are intended to destroy your soul. They are extremely effective weapons.

Childhood:

child-abuse1

You are too sensitive (the #1 criticism)

You have no sense of humor.

You cry too much.

Shut up or I’ll give you something to cry about.

Your hair looks like a rat’s nest.

You always look so dirty and sloppy. (after being outside playing)

What did you do to your hair? (I did nothing; my hair was naturally thin and fine and tangled easily–and also grew in a strange way with cowlicks and weird curls)

You read too much.  (what?)

You’re too obsessed with your books, drawing, and solitary games. (These were my escapes)

You act so immature; no wonder you have no friends.

You know you hate competition (when I wanted to join the swim team)

You know you’re not good at team sports. (I wasn’t, but this made me doubt myself even more when playing team sports)

I don’t think you really want that. (subtle gaslighting intended to make me doubt my own reality)

Here, let me do that for you.  (a favorite of my mother’s when she didn’t have the patience to teach me or supervise me in a new or unfamiliar activity)

You’ll only make a mess of things. (another way to discourage my competence).

They’re just jealous of you because you’re prettier/smarter than they are (this seems nice but wasn’t based on reality and even I could see through that BS; I was bullied because of my high sensitivity, not my “superior” looks and intelligence)

You come from a better family than they do. (better in what way?)

We don’t associate with people like that. (see above–my parents were VERY into social status)

Don’t tell anyone what goes on in this family.

Keep your mouth shut about what happened here tonight.

Adolescence

teenager_sad

You’re gaining too much weight.  (my mother’s #1 favorite criticism, usually done in front of others)

You’re too fat (when I weighed 120 lbs at 5’4″!)

Your hair looks too stringy/greasy/what have you done to it, etc.  (a variation on the childhood hair criticism)

You eat too much chocolate, you will get pimples and no one will think you’re pretty anymore.

You’re boy-crazy!

You don’t study hard enough; you will fail all your subjects and not graduate (always catastrophizing)

You’re too pretty to wear that/do that/say that, etc.

You know you don’t want that. (making me doubt my reality)

You know I don’t like it when you act “tough” (but my sensitivity was hated too–I could never win).

You always get too hurt by everything (no empathy after a breakup or lost friendship, etc.)

You always get too obsessed with a boy.

This dress will make you look slimmer (this was a dress given to me in front of my friends at a birthday party)

Your butt is too big (I do have a big butt–I couldn’t help it!  It’s the way my spine curves. What was I supposed to do? Slice it off?)

Your breasts are so big they will hang down to your waist when you’re 50.  (I’m over 50 now and they don’t, they weren’t THAT big, and I think there might have been some envy in this anyway because she wore an A cup and I wore a C)

You’re acting like a crazy person.

What a stupid thing to say.

You have a terrible personality. I wouldn’t like you either.

You should change your personality.

You need to learn to control yourself.

You’re not goal-oriented.

Adulthood:

depressed_woman_bw

You’re living  a loser’s life.

You have nothing to show for your life.

You make terrible choices.

You’ve always made terrible choices.

You probably did something to deserve it. (always said when someone else treated me unfairly; no empathy shown)

Well, the way you are, I’m not surprised they are so angry with you/don’t like you, etc.

You’re a disgrace.

You never learn from your mistakes.

You overreact to everything.

You have no sense of humor/too sensitive, etc.

You don’t know how office politics works.  (I don’t, and I hate it, but this was meant to insult me)

You never did have a knack for making it in the business world.

You’ll always be poor because you make such terrible choices.

Don’t expect any help from us.

You made your bed, now lie in it.

Why don’t you join a convent? The nuns will take care of you.  (said when I was threatened with homelessness during my divorce).

Go live in a homeless shelter (see above).

You don’t take good care of your kids.

You’re a terrible parent.

Those kids are going to grow up with so many problems.

You weren’t raised to be this way.

It’s not my responsibility that what I said upset you.

You chose to be upset by that.  (again, taking no responsibility and blame-shifting).

You choose your own emotions. (see above).

You made a choice to be depressed/miserable, etc.

****

I could go on, but I think this is enough for now.   Do any of these sound familiar to you?

Further Reading:
Lies My Narcissists Told Me

Guest post #13: Panic and Narcissism

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Don Shelby, who writes the blog Living With Narcissism, and suffers from depression and panic disorder, had a surprise for me today.  I opened up my email and there was his guest post!    He’s been busy and had some personal issues so was unable to send it earlier, and I’d completely forgotten about it, but after I read it I was very glad he remembered to send it because I could relate to it and I think a lot of you will be able to also. Most of us who had narcissistic parents learn to be afraid of everything. It’s why we take so few risks.

From Don’s About page:

I’ve lived with narcissists for most of my life and only recently understood the phenomenon of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Co Dependency in relationships.  From my humble beginnings being raised by a single Narc mother to several long term relationships with Narc women I have been fully and completely indoctrinated to be a good little obedient co dependent with very low self esteem.  I personally suffer from depression and anxiety/panic disorder.  I currently still live with my narcissistic partner of nearly 20 years and for now intend to continue in this relationship.  This blog is my safe space to openly discuss what goes on in my world around this dynamic and to explore coping mechanisms and ways to heal the co dependency in me.  I am not a mental health professional.  I’m just a victim of narcissistic childhood abuse who’s on a mission to heal my soul and gain back my life once and for all.

Panic and Narcissism 
By Don Shelby, Living With Narcissism

scared-child-2

I had my first full blown panic attack in my mid 20s. Since then, my life has become a quest to understand why I felt so anxious and panicky over situations that I used to not have any fear about whatsoever in my younger years. For a long time, I thought that the panic attacks started then, but now I believe they started at a much younger age and only manifested fully in my 20s when life got too overwhelming.

My mother was a narcissist and she terrorized me and my brother throughout our lives until her death in 1997 in order to manipulate us and get us to do what she wanted. My brother and I flip flopped between being the golden child and the scapegoat depending on which of us was on her good side at the moment. I grew up with uncertainty, no boundaries, and rules that changed with my mother’s moods. I was taught to distrust my own feelings, thoughts and desires and especially of anyone outside of our family unit. I was taught to only trust my mother and to believe everything she told me as if it was written in stone. Whenever I would want to do something that she didn’t want me to do she would try to scare me into not doing it by telling me that I’d end up dead or worse if I did the thing I wanted to do. She’d paint a pretty scary picture for me and then I had to choose whether to take the “risk” and go for it or to take her word for it and not do the thing. I’m not talking about risky behaviors like skydiving or rock climbing here. I’m talking about going to college out of state or going on an amusement ride she didn’t want me to ride or swimming in the ocean. Normal stuff a lot of kids do. Every day stuff. Her justification was always that we’re not like other people and it’s okay for them but not us. Why were we so different? Because my mother said so.

overprotective.parent

So I was raised to be fearful and to only trust my mother. Still, today, when I’m about to embark on something that I perceive as scary or challenging I can hear her voice telling me how crazy I am to try something that foolish and that I’m going to end up dead because of it. I was a fearful kid and I grew into a fearful adult. The real crazy part is that, despite my fear, I still went ahead and did most of the things that my mother warned would kill me. I rode that roller coaster. I swam in that ocean. I went to college out of state. There was a big part of me that didn’t believe her lies. I pushed my luck often and did what I wanted to despite her warnings. But it cost me too. This pushed me into the Scapegoat role constantly with her while she admonished me for disobeying and looked for any sign of failure as a chance to show me how right she was after all. It forced me into a corner where I could never fail because failure would usher in an unwelcome torrent of “I told you so’s”. I could not let her win. And I didn’t. For years I put a ton of pressure on myself to show my mother that she couldn’t keep me from living my life. Zero failure was my mantra. Never show weakness. Always tell her only the positive things going on and hide my vulnerabilities from her.

So all those years of being strong actually broke me down until my nervous system couldn’t handle it anymore and I started experiencing panic attacks over the slightest little thing. I guess there were triggers but I wasn’t aware of them. My own mind became my new battle ground and I didn’t feel safe anywhere. I changed career paths because of it. I stayed in lousy relationships because of it. I lived in places I hated because of it. I didn’t have the confidence in myself to take care of my own needs like I once had. Still, I struggle to lead a happy, normal life. There are a lot of things I simply don’t feel strong enough to do anymore. My nervous system is so sensitive to fear triggers that I can’t handle much stress at all in my life. I’m a shell of the person I used to be and I feel like an old warrior, battered but not broken from my experiences in life. My mother waged mental warfare in my youth and other women have continued her battles as I’ve been attracted to a lot of narcissistic type people over the years.

The silver lining is that with understanding narcissism and the effects of C-PTSD I now know what caused my panic attacks to start and why my life has been challenging in ways that most of my friends were not. I can’t go back and change the past but I can take what I’ve learned into my future and make it better. Sure, I still struggle with anxiety and panic, but with understanding has come some tools to help me persevere through my triggers and symptoms. I know the value of setting boundaries and having self respect and listening to my inner voice above others. I remind myself daily what I knew when I was five. My mother was wrong. I’m not crazy and I’m not going to die on that roller coaster.

A fellow narc-abuse blogger needs assistance

I just received an email from a friend of mine, a narcissistic abuse survivor who also has a blog about this growing issue . She prefers not to identify herself but has found herself in a serious situation.    Her narc parents had their attorney issue her a “Cease and Desist” letter, claiming defamation, even though she has in no way defamed them (narcissists can be very litigious!)   She does not have the funds to afford an attorney as she and her husband are barely getting by on what they earn (talk about narc parents having no empathy), so she has decided to have a legal fundraiser where donations would be used to pay for an attorney.   Any way you can help will be deeply appreciated.

Here is the link to the fundraiser with more information:

http://www.lenorathompsonwriter.com/legal-fundraiser.html

 

 

 

My fractured memory.

FracturedMemory2
“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.

sad_child_beach

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.

My delusional fantasy.

deathbed

I think a lot of anger at my parents has been triggered.
For years I’ve avoided thinking about my past or made excuses as to why my family treated me the way they did. I haven’t felt this enraged at them since adolescence. I guess this is good, all that anger has to come out. But what to do about it? I’m also realizing how HURT I feel by all this–that’s another thing I tried to deny or avoid thinking about. I can’t avoid it anymore, and I can’t escape the pain and the rage.
Someone posted the four stages of healing. Anger was one of those stages. But I don’t feel like I can move on by myself from this.

I still dream of a reconciliation–something like, on their deathbeds, they make amends to me and tell me how sorry they were for fucking my mind up so bad I can barely function in the world. Then let me know they are putting me back in the will. I know that’s delusional and will never happen because their souls are gone and they will always think I’m unworthy because I don’t measure up to their ridiculous, unrealistic standards, but I still think that it’s the only thing that would ever make me feel happy. At the very least I would feel vindicated.
But nothing would really change of course; the damage is already done to my psyche and has been that way for a long time.
But I still have that fantasy.
I can’t let it go.
A sense of closure would be lovely, but I don’t think I’ll even ever have that.

On having seasonal affective disorder (SAD), dishonesty, and a few other things.

This is going to be a long post, because I have so much to say.
I haven’t been completely honest about why I haven’t been posting as much (being overworked and tired is only part of it) but I was very confused about all these emotions I’m having and wasn’t sure where to begin, even though I wanted to talk about it. I just felt so overwhelmed and confused I was sure anything I wrote would overwhelm and confuse the hell out of anyone reading it and make no sense. Even now, I’m having trouble knowing where to start and am not sure this is going to make any sense, but I’m going to try, since I have the time.

1. Seasonal Affective Disorder.

tigger_SAD

Let me start with the most obvious and simplest to explain. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Last fall, I was so new to blogging and so excited by the novelty of it that my excitement over my new “toy” overrode my usual feelings of depression I get when the days become shorter, colder, and gloomier. I even thought I’d been spontaneously “cured” but it’s back this year. It always starts around late August, when the days are becoming noticeably shorter (and this year, the trees begin to change early too). The fact that it’s still as hot as a pizza oven makes no difference. SAD is triggered by lack of daylight. It really starts to kick in after the autumnal equinox (September 23 this year) when the days begin to become gloomier and grayer and the nights are longer than the days. In this part of the country, there’s always a lot of rain in the fall and overcast days. I know we need the rain, but my brain doesn’t care and the darkness always triggers depression, which causes me to feel sad (SAD is a good acronym for this disorder!) and as gloomy as the gray days, and any motivation I have or energy goes out the window.

The string of upcoming holidays, which seem to mitigate the gloom for normal people (and even make them feel happy), don’t help me one bit. In fact, they make things worse. Halloween isn’t too bad (it doesn’t cost much and isn’t a “family” holiday), but Thanksgiving and Christmas are a different story. As a person with no money and who is not in contact or close to most of my family, the holidays, especially Christmas, are very difficult for me. Besides my children, I have no one to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with. Christmas is so overcommercialized and you are made to feel somehow defective or different (in a bad way) if you can’t afford to buy a ton of gifts (and don’t get many either), don’t love Christmas music, or can’t get into the “holiday spirit.” I know Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus, not crass commercialism, but unfortunately our society has made it that way, and if you’re a poor person with hardly any family and few close friends, it’s really hard to not get depressed.

I always begin to feel better sometime after Christmas, and usually by early February my mood is improving, despite the cold weather. Again, this has to do with the lengthening days. In fact, every year I look forward to the winter solstice, because it’s then that the days begin to grow longer again. It doesn’t take too long for my body to notice it. And once Christmas is over and done with, I feel relief. Then it’s just a matter with putting up with 2 more months of cold and gloomy, overcast days. And because I live in the South, the winters here are not long. It’s usually warming up by early March or even the end of February, and the first signs of spring can be seen then too. I always notice my energy level and motivation increasing, and my mood becomes more upbeat and positive.

So the lack of motivation caused by my SAD (and blogging no longer being the novelty it was last year at this time) is partly responsible for my not writing every day the way I used to. But that’s only part of it.

2. Coming to terms with being a covert narcissist.

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The other part is a lot harder for me to talk about, even though I’ve talked about it before, and nothing bad happened when I did and people didn’t unfollow this blog in droves, the way I had feared. About two months ago, I began to self identify as a covert narcissist (in addition to my having BPD and Avoidant PD). It explained the “Aspergers” I was sure I had up to that point. I don’t want to belabor again how I made this discovery or why (if you’re interested in reading more about that, I wrote several articles about it in early-mid August and started another blog, intended to help people with self-aware covert narcissism and BPD who do not want their disorders), but for some reason, I began to feel a lot of shame associated with the “NPD” label, based on the general attitude toward narcissists, especially those who have been abused by them (and the attitude is understandable).

Although I didn’t want to be dishonest because this blog has always been a place where I can be completely honest and would not have discovered this truth about myself had it not been for writing honestly about my feelings every day, I clammed up just the same. I began to fear people’s judgment of me for being “one of them” (even though I’m mindful and think I do pretty well not acting in narcissistic ways) and feeling like maybe I should downplay the “narc” label. After all, it’s just a label, right? And not even a label given to me by a therapist or mental health professional, but a self-diagnosis which might be wrong anyway. I can’t even bring myself to add “covert narcissism” to my list of disorders. BPD’s bad enough.

But in spite of all that, in my gut I know my self assessment is correct. I’ve become very hesitant to call too much attention to it however, because of my fear of negative judgment (which in itself is a part of both BPD and covert NPD). I know it’s silly, because it was abuse itself that made me this way. In the past few months I’ve hesitated to write articles about abuse, because knowing I have covert narcissism made me feel like a fraud. But I’m not a fraud because I am myself an abuse victim–one so badly damaged I was infected with narcissism myself. That’s why once I got over my rage and hatred toward narcissists (which I worked out through my earlier blog posts) brought on by their abuse, I found myself attempting to understand why they did the things they do. It took several more months of completely honest writing (running naked in public) that pulled the scales from my eyes and made me realize that I myself had the disorder and was trying to understand myself!

It took an email I got this morning from an ACON (who I had confessed about my narcissism to) that said she could understand how I could have been infected and that as long as I was aware and trying to change (which I am doing) that there was nothing wrong with my writing for ACONs and in fact, she had been helped by my articles and would continue to read them. Most people, in fact, have been very supportive and understanding. I was actually shocked by this, given how demonized NPD is.

I know as a blogger who writes primarily as a form of self therapy, that I cannot get any better if I stop being honest. I worry far too much about what others are going to think, or that I will be disliked, or people will judge me harshly. I suppose this is natural, having been judged harshly by my narcissists all my life, so I always assume the worst will happen. It rarely does, but just the same, it makes me clam up and leave things out.

These labels can be so damaging, and make those of us who want to change ourselves afraid to admit the truth. It was bad enough admitting I was BPD, because of the negative stigma associated with that. But admitting you’re “N” is even more scary. Some people think you’re the devil himself. But why should it be that way? It’s just a label. If I’m not acting out or hurting anyone, then it makes no difference to anyone but myself. It’s something I need to deal with. I can’t get any better if I don’t come to terms with that reality and on some level, accept it.
I could be wrong anyway (but I don’t think I am).

I felt so much better when I left nothing out, when I was so candid and brutally honest about the most personal and embarrassing and shameful things imaginable. It was scary but I never once regretted it, and found myself growing and changing, becoming happier and more confident (in a real, not a narcissistic way). I was feeling more empathy for others and becoming less shy. I was finding myself connecting with people in a way I was never able to, and was beginning to feel like I mattered. So why would I stop?

I judge myself and don’t want to “own” this label, but realistically, how could someone have been raised the way I was and NOT develop a Cluster B disorder like BPD or NPD? I was both scapegoat AND golden child, and constantly receiving contradictory, mixed messages (I was perceived as either “better” than others, superior, and expected to live up to some ideal image of a child my parents had for me, or I was told I was worthless and bad because I was unable to live up to that unrealistic ideal). This isn’t something I chose; it was something done to me. Narcissism is contagious.

And that brings me to the third issue behind my depression and lack of motivation…

3. Fear of parental disapproval.

angry-parents

There’s another reason why I’ve been less motivated to write. The way I was raised has everything to do with all my emotional problems and my mood swings, inability to connect with anyone emotionally, or feel like I’m leading a fulfilling, successful life. It even explains why I married a malignant narcissist and spent 27 years with him as a codependent, abused wife (covert narcissists–and BPDs–often pair up with higher spectrum or overt, grandiose narcissists and are almost always codependent).

But lately I’ve been afraid to write about my parents and their emotional abuse of me, even though they were my first (and because my personality was still forming, my most toxic), abusers). I can’t blog honestly if I leave my experiences with them out. But I’ve been afraid to write about them just the same, and that’s because about 6 months ago, I found out my parents had found my blog and were reading it. That might make anyone clam up, but no real names were being used, so I wasn’t guilty of slander or libel. It might even do them good to read about the way they made me feel, even if they didn’t care or tried to project everything back onto me (because I wasn’t lovable enough as a child, or am a “loser” who makes “bad choices” today or whatever it is they’re saying about me). It would certainly do ME good to be honest about what happened. After all, this blog is my self-therapy and with any therapist, you would talk about your childhood and the bad parenting you got, so why wouldn’t I write about it? It’s not as if I’m losing anything by doing so, since (as far as I know) I’ve been disowned anyway. I’ve been the black sheep for years and am NC with my mother anyway.

But I still fear their judgment, for God knows what reason. Why do I write openly about my ex’s abuse and not fear his negative judgement? What makes it so different? What makes that “okay” and writing about my parents “not okay”?

I worry way too much about the negative opinions of others, and that in itself is part of my narcissism. I was bullied as a child and that didn’t help either. I put far too much importance on what other people think. I don’t think I lie excessively, but leaving things out is a kind of lie too. I lie by glossing over things, not talking about important things that affected me and caused my problems, not admitting the way I really feel about something, downplaying both my abuse (due to fear of my parents judging me even though they already do) and my own disorders. When I lie by omission, it’s still a lie, and I’m not doing myself any favors either. In fact, the fear of negative judgment feeds on itself, and I imagine the worst outcomes and that tends to feed my fears even more, making me even less motivated to write.

So what I need to do is not worry about what everyone will think, and go ahead and write what I feel and let the chips falls where they may. If I’m harshly judged by some, so be it. Those are probably not people I would want to have anything to do with anyway.

A small part of my depression is because my car needs major repairs and my job only pays enough to pay the bills so I’m living pretty much from one paycheck to the next (and working a lot more). I’m going to go ahead and ask for donations via Paypal but I’ll do a separate post for that and I hope it doesn’t offend anyone.

So that’s where I’m at. I need to start writing about everything I’m feeling again, starting from today and stop worrying about what a few people think and censoring myself because of them. They don’t matter, but my growth as a person does, as well as those who get something from reading this blog. Censoring myself for fear of negative judgment is one of the things I need to work on getting over. It helps no one, least of all me. Haters are always going to exist, no matter what you blog about. I can’t lose my original focus and why I started blogging in the first place, and lately I’ve been slipping. That needs to stop now.

You may find this article inspiring too, if you blog and are afraid to be completely honest.

“The Narcissistic Mother”

SO.0511.Mothers2.HO.Copy of 1955 file photo of Joan Crawford.

TRIGGER WARNING!
This 2007 article from the Deconstructing Jezebel blog may be the most comprehensive, descriptive, detailed, and yes, extremely triggering article about narcissistic mothers I have ever read. Reading this was like reliving the trauma all over again. But if you were raised in a narcissistic home, it will open your eyes too, and if you had any doubt your mother (or father) was a narcissist, this should clear up any doubt.

Although written about mothers, all of these things could apply to fathers too.
It’s also very long but well worth reading.

The Narcissistic Mother

gretel-ella-smith

The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self.
It’s about secret things.
It’s about body language.
It’s about disapproving glances.
It’s about vocal tone.
It’s very intimate.
And it’s very powerful.
-Chris

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers

1. Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.

She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”) As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)

2. She violates your boundaries. You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there. She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

3. She plays favorites. Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one child to be the golden child and one to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. She attempts to replicate herself in the golden child. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring, or is ignored, or is harmed. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.

divide_and_conquer

4. She undermines. Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

joan_crawford

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates. She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (often in a caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.” She will deliver slams in a sidelong way – for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else – something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t – the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh huh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said. She doesn’t care what you said.

6. She makes you look crazy. If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse), that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten. This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds but especially used by the subtlety of narcissists.. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up being extremely confused, and wondering if you are as she says you are; usually, you will begin to believe deeply her lies about you. You will end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the narcissistic abuser.

Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative. You’re oversensitive. You’re imagining things. You’re hysterical. You’re completely unreasonable. You’re over-reacting, like you always do. She’ll tell you that she’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational. She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic to your face, but often will say these things to others, particularly to other family members in her efforts to destroy your credibility Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood. She didn’t do anything. She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her. You’ve hurt her terribly. She cannot understand why you won’t talk to her or won’t spend time with her. She thinks you may need psychotherapy. She just doesn’t know what to do (and she’ll ask others for their opinion of you, carefully skewing the impressions they have of you to fit her image of you). You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.

She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.

7. She’s extremely envious. Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. Or they will encourage you to present yourself in a sexually provocative way, and then they will directly compete with you for male attention. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law, no matter what their appearance is like. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count. In fact, her lying usually reaches pathological proportions. Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her – she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself, cause divisions between people, and to undermine your credibility.

The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is. If you do try to take action to expose her lies, you will look like the one with ‘the problem’ as she has carefully cultivated others to believe you are. The more emotional or dramatic you become in trying to have others see the truth of how you are treated by her, the more unbalanced you will look and the more solid will become their agreement with her subtle assessment of you that she’s planted into them.

To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win. If you press the issue, you will slowly see the outrageous anger that a narcissist can display towards you – she will only show you or others whom she has devalued and ‘split off’; others who are still useful to her will not see this side of her. Thus, if you try to tell others of the depth of her anger or her fury or her harm, they simply will not believe you.

maternal-narcissism

9. She has to be the center of attention all the time. This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you have to do her wishes on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, while she quietly glories in the command and control she wields over you. For a narcissist, it is always, and only, about them. Your primary function is to satisfy their needs and wants.

A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her, doing as she wants. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.

Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. Sometimes they will do this by addictions to alcohol or drugs or other obsessions. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age. But, in narcissistic mothers, it is a given.)

10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain. This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried. She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise the smaller cruelties – the most serious cruelties, she will perform with you in secret or when just you and she are alone. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may also bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain. She enjoys your pain. This may be the hardest aspect of the character of mothers with narcissistic personality disorder to believe and accept. After all, she is your mother.

A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.

11. She’s selfish and willful. She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”

One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.

12. She’s self-absorbed, totally self-centered. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs. Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance (It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…). If you refuse to give her the attention that she demands, she may cut you off and ignore you outright.

13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism. If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse and emotional abuse. It’s easy to provoke her wrath because she takes everything personally and any attitude short of constant emotional and physical availability is perceived as a slight. If you’re short with her because you’re exhausted and depressed, she has to have it out with you over your “hostility.” If a toddler shouts “I hate you” at her she gets angry and punitive – punishment is payment and is often cruel and way out of proportion to the event. If you refuse her nosy request to let her read the letter you got she shouts about how unappreciative you are and how you only think of yourself…. She has no sense of perspective or separation – there are no boundaries between narcissistic mothers and their targeted daughter – and she can’t let anything go. Because the narcissistic mother is so extremely defensive, she is completely resistant to change. Narcissists infamously cannot be helped because they simply refuse to see that there is anything wrong with their behavior – it is not them, it is you..

narcissistic_mothers

14. She terrorizes. All abusers use fear to control their victims, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you. Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. You are very very afraid of them, to your core. The only alternative you have is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.

Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal chaos and havoc (narcissists are deeply self-loathing but absolutely will not let themselves feel that), and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. They want you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure. You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.) She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You didn’t want these shoes. All you said was that the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago). The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “she has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” Unlike psychopaths (which is an extreme version of narcissism), narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal. She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital. She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia. She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours. She sadistically used you in some way, but never when someone else could witness it, and she bought you an ice cream or let you watch a movie afterwards.

Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. She finds some kind of pleasure when she is able to turn others against you and manipulate them into harming you. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence or to horror of various kinds. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without even touching you.

15. She’s infantile and petty. Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. Anytime she feels hard-done-by, she pouts and whines, or she gives the silent treatment. When you were a child, she would justify things she did to you by pointing out something that you did that she felt was comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child was justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Scores must be settled, and she will wait for an opportunity to take action to settle a score. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.

16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands. She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.

17. She “parentifies.” She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able (sometimes as early as birth), leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could. She may deny you medical care, adequate clothing, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up herself. She, without exception, will deny you herself – she will give you nothing of her. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?”

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks.You may have been the go-between between she and your father, or she and others with whom she had a rocky relationship. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her, and forcing you to carry the weight of her emotional burdens.

18. She’s exploitative. She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She drug you into her schemes and made you a part of her wrongdoing. She used you as a protective cover for herself. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up, demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

19. She projects. This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to. An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true. If she is sexually conflicted, the mother will often project her own insecurities, or propensities for ‘acting out’ behaviors onto you. If she wishes that she could ‘go wild’, she will accuse you of being a whore.

She will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually decline. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you are such an ungrateful child that she regrets having you, and says that she’s refusing to talk to you anymore. And she ‘disowns’ you. Your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable to her. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable, and so selfish. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning your refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” – probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, anger and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.

20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything, because she does not feel responsible. She will not take responsibility. Rarely will she apologize. If she ever feels she is being made to apologize, she will issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad”, “There’s nothing I can do about it now” “I’m sorry you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

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21. Sometimes she seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings, and yet she can seem to be sensitive to other people’s emotions, just not yours.
Every child of a narcissist recognizes this contradiction because narcissistic mothers do possess the ability to exercise faked – empathy, and in abundance. They can perform in ways that make them appear that they identify emotionally with people who are suffering and to express caring for them. When caring about another’s suffering interferes with something the narcissist wants, though, the caring vanishes. When a narcissistic mother wants validation, when she feels like eliciting some emotional pain, when something she wants hurts someone else, the faked-empathy is turned off as though it never existed. Narcissistic mothers have a very ‘cold’ feeling to them.

From the perspective of ability, narcissists are ‘sensitive’ in a strange way to others; indeed they have a gift of telling what other people are feeling and thinking. Their skill at discerning and guiding the emotions of other people is the basis of many characteristically narcissistic interactions. Narcissists are very socially adept which is why no one ever believes their children when they complain of their mothers. They know just how to make everyone think that they’re delightful. Narcissistic mothers are exceptional manipulators, and manipulators must be extremely aware, on a moment-by-moment basis, of the emotions of their targets. If you don’t know what people are feeling, you can’t push their buttons. Their exceptional sensitivity to the feelings of others is also the wellspring of their pleasure in inflicting emotional pain through dramas and no-win scenarios. Narcissistic mothers enjoy inflicting emotional pain and they do it very well because they know just what their “target children” are feeling. That exquisite sensitivity is the reason they don’t need to batter. They can inflict agony without lifting a finger, so why risk exposure and waste effort with beatings when they can elicit the same pain and suffering with words alone?

What narcissistic mothers lack is concern for the consequences of their actions, a behavior that seems rooted in profound selfishness. Mothers with NPD are certainly capable of feeling for others: they’re always feeling for the people with whom their scapegoat has conflicts. They feel for their fellow narcissists. They feel for people who have validated and praised them. They feel for people that they can see have potential to be used by them. They even feel for their child when it doesn’t cost them anything to do so. They just don’t feel for their child when they’re using or abusing her. They don’t feel anything that interferes with their absorption in their own wants and needs.
22. She engineers “no-win” situations that leave you violated and angry and not sure why you feel that way. In the classic “no-win” scenario, the narcissist’s child is subtly manipulated into a corner and then presented with a demand that the child do something degrading, humiliating or painful in order to please the narcissist. Any response other than compliance triggers retaliation.

These sadistic scenes are a defining characteristic of the narcissist. As so often with narcissistic behavior, the payoff for your mother is the elicitation of painful emotions. Whether you subject yourself to her degradation or you fight back and provoke punishment from the narcissist, you will experience a sense of entrapment and fear, and those emotions are very satisfying to her. Her pleasure is augmented by the pain she elicits by undermining, insulting and demeaning you and, as the scene winds down, by blaming you for the entire event. There is no way out for you in her scenarios at all.

These scenes are set up very stealthily; so much so that the children of narcissists rarely realize that a trap has been laid before it’s sprung. As always, the narcissist maintains deniability, but the consistencies between scenes betray their deliberate nature. Although the narcissist plays the scene as though it was spontaneous, it never is. It is scripted and premeditated and the stage is set well in advance. If a scene plays out away from home, you can be sure that the mother is in charge of transportation so that the child doesn’t have the option of walking away. If the scene is staged at home, it’s almost always in the absence of others, or if the child is an adult, it will occur in the mother’s home, not the child’s home, and engineered so that once again, it’s extremely difficult for the child to walk away. The narcissist commonly arranges things so she is alone with her victim, but she may also use the presence of a young child or complicit spouse to ensure that her target doesn’t react with any real force.

Often the worst part of these scenes for the child is the awareness of how much her mother enjoys her distress; the children of narcissistic mothers often describe their mother’s “little smile” and air of pleasure as she plays out the no-win scenario. When confronted, some narcissistic mothers will even defend their behavior by saying they were “just having fun.” There is no betrayal more wounding than knowing your own mother is reveling in the pain she purposely caused, nor any emotion more delicious to your narcissistic mother than your sense of shock and misery at your knowledge that she is hurting you deliberately and for fun.

In the following story, an adult daughter is manipulated into a no-win situation. If she does not want to provoke retaliation from her narcissistic mother, she must accept and express gratitude for a gift that was clearly meant as an insult:

A few days before Christmas, my mother walked into the room where I was sitting carrying a pair of old, worn tennis shoes – the kind with the rubber soles and canvas uppers. She said “I know you asked for a pair of running shoes for Christmas. I thought I could give you these and get myself a new pair instead.” My mother was a clothes horse, and always had many pairs of new running shoes in her closet. What’s more, her feet are bigger and narrower than mine, so there’s no way her shoes would have fit me, but I was too shocked and angry to think of that. I said “I don’t want your cast-offs” and she looked very satisfied and pleased and said “Fine” and walked away. That year I got no gift for Christmas, even though I had bought her something from her wish list, and even though my brother and sister got gifts from her.

I did get a letter after I got home that started “I’m sorry you felt that I offered you “cast-offs” and went on to describe how good her intentions were, how she thought I would be happy to let her do something nice for herself, and how hard she had it as the mother of an “unappreciative” child like me. This wasn’t the first time either. The preceding year she had tried to give me an old, rusty bicycle for Christmas with the stipulation that she would then get herself a new one.

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Conrad (Tim Hutton) tries to hug his cold as ice narcissistic mother in “Ordinary People.”

This story illustrates a classic no-win scenario (although the stakes here were much smaller than many ‘no-wins’ that capable narcissists perform). Although the young woman did not realize it at the time, her mother had manipulated her into a corner. She had traveled to her mother’s house for Christmas and it was late at night. As a graduate student, she was perpetually short on funds, and going to a hotel, even if she could find one at that hour, was out of the question. None of the rest of the family was there yet, so she and her mother were alone in the house. There had been no argument or tension, and the attack by her mother came out of the blue. Her mother proposed something very insulting: she would give the daughter her own worn shoes (which didn’t fit the dtr and, for which gift the dtr was to be “appreciative”). You would have to be very aware and self-possessed to respond calmly to such a demeaning suggestion, and the dtr, tired, shocked, and angry, blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Her mother got exactly what she wanted: a good feed on the dtr’s hurt and anger, and an excuse to punish the dtr with exclusion and withholding and later with a letter filled with guilt-inducing remonstrations.

In reality her mother never planned on giving her a Christmas gift. She was angry that her dtr had made herself unavailable for abuse by going to graduate school in another state, and seeming to enjoy it very much, and she wanted to punish the dtr for her defection. So she manipulated a no-win scenario in which she could simultaneously insult the dtr and turn her predictably angry response into an opportunity for punishment and narcissistic venting. In her letter, she projected her own hostility and selfishness on to her dtr, blamed her dtr for her own bad behavior, and depicted herself as a martyr, all the while maintaining complete deniability about the deliberate nature of the original interaction. In fact, in telling of this to her other children, it is certain that the mother arranged the story so that the other siblings would ‘blame’ the daughter, thus drawing them closer to the mother and separating out the ‘split off’ daughter even more.

23. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened. Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse of you. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged but now you feel guilty. You may find yourself telling her time and time, “I’m sorry” and not quite knowing what you are apologizing for. Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are. Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand – after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love. She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing. She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is 1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable. 2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties. 3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way. 4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault. 5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours. 6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down, again. 7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

24. She destroys your relationships. Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist (which is nearly impossible) and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy – the most corrosive emotions – to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her children’s relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the golden child doesn’t see her unfairness and she/he excuses her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt – or is so beat down that she acquiesces and goes silently inward. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. She may never praise you to your face, but she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it. She may tell you of gifts she’s given to the golden child, or lunches they’ve had together, or trips they’ve taken, always in glowing terms, intended to make you, the scapegoat, feel confused or less-then by comparison.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

25. As a last resort she goes pathetic. When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you. As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.

© 2007 Psychological Services, Inc.

An upsetting memory.

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I remembered something today. Little by little my mind is pulling up ancient memories from dark and forgotten corners as I move further along in my recovery. This one almost knocked me over.

For years…YEARS!…I couldn’t write. This past year and a half has been the first time in my life I haven’t in under the thrall of a high spectrum (malignant) narcissist, and it wasn’t until I freed myself from them that my words began to come back.

As a child I wrote all the time. I drew pictures too. I remember my father bringing home these little blank stapled booklets in different colors with lined paper in them. There were about 50 of them, tied up in rubber bands. I used to write little stories and illustrate them. I could spend hours doing this.

I always blame my mother for everything. I act as if my father (who was codependent, and probably either covert N or borderline) had nothing to do with my disorders. I always saw him as a victim too. But he colluded with my mother; both were abusers. I remember one day when I was 7 or 8, I came home from school, and as I did every day, I went to my desk and opened the drawer to start writing my little stories. I noticed some of my finished booklets were gone. Panicking, I looked everywhere for them, and couldn’t find them. They were very personal to me, like diaries. They were for my eyes only (my Avoidant traits had already set in) . I was very upset but couldn’t tell my parents because then they’d be looking for them and they’d KNOW.

I looked all over the house for them, and finally found them in my father’s filing cabinet in a folder with my name on it. I was horrified. He stole my private creations from me! I felt so violated. My boundaries had been viciously invaded. I remember stealing them back and destroying them. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at them anymore. There was too much shame.
It was as if I wanted to annihilate myself…my true self.

After that I seemed to lose interest in drawing, although I continued to write. But my passion for even that was gone. I didn’t say anything to my dad about him stealing those booklets because to do so would be to invite critique and shame. I knew instinctively he liked them (otherwise he wouldn’t have taken them from me), but I didn’t even want to hear anything good about them. The stuff in them was just too personal. I felt like I’d been raped.

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I wrote a novel in 2003. No one wanted to publish it. It sucked. I still have it but it’s embarrassing to read because of how bad it is. I know why though; at that time, still under the thrall of my ex, I was trying too hard to be “a writer,” to make an impression, instead of being authentic.

And now…I’ve done a 180 from when I’d hide my little illustrated books and was so horrified when they were discovered: deliberately posting the most personal stuff imaginable for total strangers all over the Internet to see (under an assumed name, of course). It’s like I’m trying to redeem my shame, somehow. It’s very hard to explain.

After being in my abusive marriage, I thought I’d lost all my ability to do anything at all. I’d sit down and try to write something, and….I couldn’t do it. I even thought I’d lost my intelligence. I was marking time until death. I felt stupid, dead. But I didn’t care either…or thought I didn’t care. I couldn’t feel anything at all. All my emotions were gone.

I was wrong, so wrong about all that.