The little books.

Originally posted on August 30, 2015

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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…decades, even…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 NPD 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.

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How I became a Cluster B basketcase.

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I had some new insights today on the genesis of my disorders. Not actual new memories, but insights on memories I already had that I know now led to my covert narcissism and BPD. I can pinpoint the exact events that turned me into a borderline, and later on, a covert narcissist.

I’ve been a borderline since about age 4 (in a young child incipient personality disorders are known as attachment disorders). A few weeks ago, following my trip down the rabbit hole, I mentioned having remembered that someone told me something when I was 4 years old that was significant in the development of my BPD.

I still don’t remember what was said, or who said it, but somehow I know I began to be sexually abused at that age. By who or in what context, I can’t tell you because I don’t actually remember. I just know I was.

That’s when things began to get weird for me. I have a vague, dreamlike recollection of sitting on the short flight of carpeted stairs of our split-level house in New Jersey, watching my parents (who were probably drunk) dancing in the living room. They were doing the Cha Cha Cha, a dance popular at that time. I remember feeling unreasoning (and probably Oedipal) jealousy at that moment, because my father was ignoring me, even though I was calling to him to dance with me too. I believe that’s when my hatred toward my mother began. Instead of reassuring me or including me in the moment with them, I was simply ignored and impatiently told to go back to bed.

I don’t remember what happened after that, but I began to have terrible nightmares, and sometimes would wake up screaming. Sometimes after I woke, the dreamlike, dissociated state would continue. I remember hearing, ghostlike, the theme from the TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club” playing somewhere–although it was 3 in the morning and in those days, it wasn’t possible for anyone to have recorded the show and play it somewhere later. I got out of my bed to find out where the music was coming from, but the house was completely dark and everyone was asleep. It was very eerie. I also remember one morning, having gotten out of bed for breakfast, seeing tiny colored sparkly objects that looked like glitter, falling everywhere around me. No one else seemed to see them. I asked my parents if they saw the falling glitter and they looked at me like I was crazy. There was something else that happened around that time that was equally strange, but I can’t recall now what it was. It’s not far from my conscious awareness though. I think I’ll remember soon. I might remember what was said to me and who said it too–because I know it was important.

I started doing things like banging my head against the wall in the family room, because it felt good to me for some reason. My mother would tell me to stop but I’d keep doing it, because I couldn’t stop. It seemed to relieve some kind of congestion inside my head. I don’t know–I tried it recently just to see if it still felt good, and it didn’t at all. It hurt! I also began to develop strange ticks and habits like pulling my hair and sucking on it. My mother started keeping my fine hair short because “I was ruining my hair” by doing that.

I began to get a taste of rejection in kindergarten. I always felt somehow different from the other children, but couldn’t figure out why. Not different in a good way, but in a defective one. I’d already internalized the conflicting golden child/scapegoat messages given to me by my parents, who expected me to serve both roles because I was their only child. No wonder I longed for a younger sibling! This alternating, unpredictable and crazymaking golden child/scapegoat treatment exacerbated my BPD (which I think already existed) and set the stage for covert narcissism–unworthiness and inferiority (beaten into me by being their scapegoat) that overlaid grandiosity and a sense of being better or more “special” than other kids because my parents sometimes told me I was when they weren’t punishing me. I didn’t know who I was. When people told me to “just be yourself,” I had no idea what they meant. Who was I? I couldn’t live up to their lofty idea of the perfect little girl they wanted me to be or thought I was; but it also made no sense when they wouldn’t allow me to try new things or make decisions on my own, always saying things like, “you can’t do that,” or “you know you don’t want that.”

Their punishments were severe and I became a fearful child, and feared rejection wherever I was. How could anyone like a child that was so bad, but at the same time, was supposed to be this perfect princess but could never live up to being one? I was so confused and felt so apart from others. I remember when I wasn’t crying (I wrote a article about what a huge crybaby I was), I was nervously asking the other kids at school if they liked me. Was that my true self or a newly minted false self asking them that? I’m not sure, but I think it was a last ditch attempt of my true self to get reassurance, love and acceptance, because I sure didn’t get it at home.

I was an unpopular, oversensitive child and everyone always told me how sensitive I was too. I remember being mortified and embarrassed by this but had no idea what to do about it. my mother used it against me too, calling me out for my “hypersensitivity” in front of other people, or making excuses for her hurtful comments by blaming me for “always taking things the wrong way.”

I started to try to hide my emotions but wasn’t very good at it, and the other kids could always see right through that transparent mask I tried to wear. I was intelligent, and my grades were okay, but my teachers always told my parents that I was an underachiever and a daydreamer and of course “too sensitive.” They also wrote on my report cards things like, “Lauren is intellectually brilliant and very creative, but she is an underachiever. She could be doing so much better if she applied herself. She also has problems socializing appropriately with the other children.”

And I did. I never fit in anywhere. I got bullied throughout my elementary and most of my high school years. It didn’t help any that we moved three times within my first 8 years of school, requiring me to start two new schools in the middle of the year (actually, the second school was due to my having been bullied so badly my parents were forced to have me change schools). I used to be chased home by bullies everyday and was never invited to parties or after school activities that weren’t teacher- or parent-planned.

I did manage to always have one or two close girlfriends so I’d sometimes get a respite when a sleepover was scheduled. But for some reason, my mother wouldn’t allow me to go on sleepovers very much. She didn’t like the idea of me doing things on my own without her. It got so bad that around the age of 11 or 12, I got very upset one night because she had failed to come in to the bathroom to wash my hair while I sat in the tub. I felt like I couldn’t handle something like washing my hair on my own, and more than that, I felt…rejected and forgotten! I remember going downstairs crying and asking my mother to tell me she still loved me, just because she had failed to come in to wash my hair. I don’t think I got that reassurance. At the time I still went out of my way to make friends. But I was too friendly and clingy too, so although at the time my debilitating shyness hadn’t set in and I made new friends fairly easily, I didn’t keep them for long. I was already demanding too much from them, I guess.

My parents divorced when I was 14, and I moved to New York with my mother. I already blamed her for their divorce, and already had pegged her as a narcissist, although I didn’t have a word for it then. I remember telling her how “empty” and “shallow” she was. This would make her rage. But under my anger was terror. She scared me on some deep gut level and she seemed to hate me. Even as an adult, I’d always revert back to being a child in her presence. She was drinking heavily, and I began to drink too. She didn’t try to stop me. She had a string of lovers that came and went, and to get to the kitchen or bathroom, I’d have to walk through the living room where she and some boyfriend were sleeping. One of her lovers used to love to make fun of me with her. I remember sitting at the dinner table with the two of them laughing at my worries, speech, the way I looked, and anything else they could pick on. I remember running away from the table in tears more times than I can count. I was left alone in the house often, which I actually liked because it meant I didn’t have to deal with her or her nasty boyfriend, and I’d cook my own dinner, usually a TV dinner or frozen pizza. Inside, I secretly worried that this woman who seemed to always want me by her side when I was younger (and be her mini-me) didn’t seem to want me around at all anymore. I wondered what I had done wrong to make her stop loving me. Now I know she never had.
I was a depressed, sullen, underachieving teenager who lived in a fantasy world inside my head because I was learning to hate people.

At age 15, I was rejected by a group of girls that I described in “Crybaby.” That was devastating to me, and I spent several days literally sick in bed after that. I don’t remember if I cried. I think I might have already stopped being able to cry easily, but I felt like I wanted to die. I remember making a promise to myself I would never again reach out to anyone in friendship and that I’d have to hide my emotions from that day on.
I think this was the beginning of my narcissism–my false self was born. Up until then, I’d displayed borderline attitudes and behaviors (as they would appear in a child), but after this event I became increasingly aloof and tried to pretend I didn’t care what anyone thought of me.

I began to act up more at home too, and outwardly rebel. My mother and I got into huge drunken screaming matches that would end with her either passed out on the floor drunk, or with us both throwing things at each other. One night, unable to control my rage, I grabbed a kitchen knife out of the drawer in the kitchen and went after her with it. She was drunk. I held it in front of her to scare her but did nothing, then dropped it and told her I was sorry when I realized what I’d done.

That was the night she kicked me out. I was 17. I went to live with my father for a time before entering a girls’ residential facility for a year that treated adolescents with emotional or behavioral problems.

But even though I can’t say I blame her for kicking me out since I probably scared her to death with the knife incident, being kicked out by my own mother was traumatic. I took this as proof she never loved me, because threatening her with the knife had been a desperate cry for help, to be validated. Even though I can understand why she didn’t want me around anymore, the hurt from her total rejection of me (she didn’t speak to me for another three months after that night) stayed with me and ate away at me for years. I believe this incident–being literally tossed out of the house by my own mother before I reached 18–was what solidified my narcissism and when my false self became a permanent fixture.

I became colder and more aloof. I stopped being able to access my true feelings, except for rage and fear. I could no longer meet people easily. To get too close to anyone meant I’d be rejected, or made fun of. Occasionally I’d explode into a BPD rage, but mostly I kept my emotions inside–so far inside I couldn’t even feel them much anymore. The only exceptions were the times I fell in love. My crushes were intense, insane, overpowering; they were a force of nature. My emotions would be all over the place, and I’d be completely obsessed with some boy I imagined would make me happy for the rest of my life. I couldn’t seem to live without a boy who could reflect me and act as a mirror. I was attractive and seemed to find dates easily, and I had a way of getting boys to fall in love with me (I had the slightly pitiful yet charming waif act down to a science). I think I’d become very manipulative in these relationships. Eventually these relationships would end, and I’d be miserable until the next one came along. When I wasn’t dating, I had intense unrequited crushes and lived in my fantasies of happily ever after. I think I might have been showing histrionic PD traits too, although my narcissism is actually the cerebral type. I was never that interested in sex for some reason.

Without a relationship to validate me and prove that I existed, I felt empty inside. Without a relationship, I was nothing. I had no real interests and any type of hobby I did pick up, I’d eventually drop. I couldn’t stick with anything, and began abusing alcohol and later, drugs. These were the only other things that seemed to temporarily fill the vast black hole I felt inside. I still had no idea who I was or what I was here for.

This was longer than I intended, but it’s pretty clear now when my BPD and narcissism began. My BPD began at age 4 due to some type of sexual abuse and something that was said to me. As for my cNPD, it didn’t happen overnight. It gradually developed in me between the ages of 14 and 17. What solidified it were two things–being rejected by a group of girls who had seemed to like me; and the final boot by my mother. My BPD always lay beneath the narcissism, ready to erupt at the worst possible times.

When the “fleas” of narcissism go too far.

flea

Narcissists infect people, just like a disease. They have the uncanny ability of turning people into one of them, if you’re around them long enough. That’s why, whenever it’s possible, No Contact is always the best course of action. You cannot change a narcissist or reform them. What will happen instead is you will start to take on narcissistic behaviors yourself.

Narcissists are body-snatchers and will snatch yours and before you know it, you can become one of them. It may be the only personality disorder that’s contagious. Hanging around one too long is very dangerous to your self esteem, your identity, and even your soul. It’s more dangerous than making your escape, even if you don’t have a dollar to your name.

If you were raised by them, you may have a serious problem. Many (though not all) children of narcissists become narcissists or borderlines themselves. Because narcissistic parents can’t form proper bonds with their children and either use them as supply or scapegoats, children of narcissists more likely than not develop severe attachment disorders in childhood, and attachment disorders can easily become NPD, either covert or overt, somatic or cerebral. If the child is a little luckier, she or he can develop BPD, PTSD and many other disorders that make adult life difficult.

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Overt/classic/grandiose narcissism (the type that best fits the criteria in the current DSM) develops most often in golden children who were held on a pedestal and could do no wrong, or were terribly spoiled, or it can develop in child who served as the parent’s flying monkey. It can also develop in a scapegoat who wants to prove their narcissistic parents wrong. Overt narcissists are usually extroverts who are good at playing the role of a confident, aggressive leader and many of them become financially and professionally successful. They are good at maintaining their mask for as long as they need to.

Covert/vulnerable narcissism usually develops in a scapegoated child who cloaks their grandiosity in an outer cloak of deference and humility, usually as a way to avoid punishment for acting too arrogant or aggressive while growing up. It can also develop in a child who is sometimes a scapegoat and sometimes a golden child. In a way, they are worse off than an overt narcissist, because they have a double layer of masks (false selves): the grandiose mask that hides the undeveloped, atrophied true self within, and a meek, shy and deferent outer mask that cloaks their grandiosity and sense of entitlement. That’s why a covert narcissist can be easily pushed around or bullied by others, but underneath their seemingly nice, quiet image there is seething envy and anger that isn’t expressed unless they are pushed to the limit and explode in rage. Their rage and envy is also likely to come out in passive-aggressive ways. Yet a covert narcissist is easier to cure because (a) they are far more likely to want help; and (b) their lives are miserable and their brand of narcissism isn’t adaptive in today’s world.

BPD is more common in women and some female covert narcissists may actually be diagnosed with BPD, because the disorders can seem so much alike and women aren’t diagnosed with NPD as often as men are. BPD probably develops most often when there is ambiguous attachment to the mother during early childhood and the child is inconsistently rewarded and punished. They learn early that people and life are unpredictable and no one can be trusted. They fear abandonment because they were never able to tell if their parent would love them or push them away. BPD also is correlated with early sexual abuse.

Fleas of narcissism are deadly because with prolonged exposure, they can cause permanent infestation. If it’s at all possible, cut off any narcissist in your life or avoid them as much as possible. Watch for red flags so you can escape before it’s too late because escaping once they “have” you is far more difficult and can be dangerous.

If you were raised by narcissists, no matter how damaged you are, if you didn’t become a narcissist yourself, consider yourself extremely lucky. There is hope for you to eventually be able to live a normal, happy life. If you’re a non-malignant narcissist, there may still be hope but the road to becoming a normal and happy person is going to be longer and harder.

The curse of the Aspergers/Avoidant/Borderline triad.

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Today I attended a beautiful Pentecost mass that was held outdoors. The day couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus’ disciples. Unlike the disciples, I didn’t experience a sudden spiritual epiphany or dramatic change in my heart, or start speaking in tongues. But as always when I attend mass, I felt God’s presence around me (if not actually IN me) and felt surrounded by peace and light.

I looked at the tall trees gently swaying in the distance, their bright spring greens illuminated in the bright sunshine against the azure blue sky, and asked God to change me, to let the Holy Spirit flow inside me and fill me with its divine gifts of empathy, unconditional love, and joy. I asked Him to make me a better person who can connect with other people on a meaningful level–and having those gifts would make it so much easier for me to do that.

The truth is, I feel that I’m lacking in all three of these gifts. I do not have NPD and therefore have no desire to act in evil or toxic ways to others, but due to my other disorders–only one of them probably not due to abuse (Aspergers)–I often feel like there’s an emotional blockage keeping me from really being able to connect with other people, to really being able to empathize and feel WITH them the way people who have not been abused and do not have these disorders can do.

This particular triad of disorders is a tragic one. Even having one of these disorders cripples you and isolates you in various ways from others and can lead to a lonely life lacking in meaningful relationships, but having all three at once is devastating. It’s so hard for me to connect with the rest of humanity except on the most abstract level and as a result I’m often so very sad and lonely.

First, being an Aspie (the only disorder I was probably born with) makes it almost impossible for me to read social cues normally and although I can socialize well enough online (because it doesn’t require me to “think on my feet”–I have time to think through what I want to say or how to respond), in the day to day physical world my Aspieness makes me appear awkward and sometimes slow when I am forced to socialize, especially with neurotypicals who don’t understand people with Aspergers, so I avoid people. Due to my awkwardness I was a frequent target of school bullies, and it didn’t take long to learn that it was best to just keep my mouth shut and say nothing. I became painfully shy, fearing ridicule and humiliation. The old adage, “Tis better to say nothing and have others believe you are daft than open your mouth and remove all doubt” has been my motto most of my life.

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The other two disorders I have–avoidant AND borderline personality disorders–I am certain were due to years of abuse by my narcissistic mother and to a lesser extent, my codependent father who colluded with her most of the time (although I never really doubted his love for me). The AVPD (a Cluster C “anxious” personality disorder) only exacerbates my Aspergers. They feed off each other.

Avoidants shy away from social contact because of their low self esteem and overwhelming fear of rejection. As a result they are usually painfully shy but can even seem aloof or cold. Avoidants are not schizoid though (people with Schizoid personality disorder dislike other people and prefer a hermit-like lifestyle; they don’t care how others regard them): on the contrary, we WANT friends, we WANT meaningful relationships, we WANT romance, we WANT others to like us–but our fear of engaging with others due to possible rejection keeps us isolated and alone. We build a protective shell of aloofness around ourselves so we can’t be hurt. People with AVPD are risk-averse, and are likely to be underachievers due to their unwillingness to take risks that may expose them to social embarrassment.

An Aspie with AVPD is nearly–or is–a social hermit, but not out of choice, like a person with schizoid personality disorder. Making friends–a skill that comes so naturally to most people–is something most of us never mastered well, if at all. Even having a relaxed conversation or opening ourselves to another human is like rocket science to those of us with both disorders. It’s a wonder that I was even ever able to engage in romantic relationships and have a family. Of course, all the men I dated and of course the one I married were narcissistic, mirroring the toxic dynamics I had with my family of origin.

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Like the girl in this cartoon, I can relate to all of this, even the refusal to play charades! I was always terrified of that game because it requires a level of being able to read social cues and an ability to think on your feet, two qualities I don’t possess. And of course, the fear of risk-taking and humiliation.

And that brings us to my borderline personality disorder. BPD is not usually marked by overwhelming shyness or social awkwardness; in fact most borderlines are quite socially adept. But their disorder, like an Avoidant, is fueled by a deep-seated fear of rejection and almost always has its roots in childhood emotional abuse or neglect, as do all the personality disorders.

Borderlines long for close relationships and actively seek them out, but then push others away if they sense the other person might pull away or reject them first. They overreact to slights and are highly sensitive to criticism or rejection. Like a narcissist, they can be difficult to deal with because of this type of selfish oversensitivity can lead them to engage in some of the same antisocial behaviors and game playing people with NPD or even ASPD are guilty of, though not usually to the same degree because people with BPD have a conscience (even if it’s stunted in some) and don’t normally actively seek to hurt others. There are exceptions though–I was shocked and dismayed to read that both the murderer Jodi Arias and serial killer Aileen Wournos were both diagnosed with BPD, though in Wournos’ case, she was also comorbid with ASPD. Still, most borderlines, when they are made aware of how they have hurt their loved ones, feel remorse–but their guilt and shame can make them feel worthless and lead to self-destructive behaviors. It is not a fun disorder.

Though Borderlines are more likely to be self-destructive instead of deliberately destructive to others, this self destructiveness causes huge problems in their ability to form meaningful relationships, and due to their “go away–come closer” way of relating to others, their relationships are usually stormy and short-lived.

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Sometimes I feel like either Lucy or Charlie Brown (who I’m pretty sure would have AVPD), and sometimes both of them at once.

I am cursed with the overwhelming shyness and social anxiety of Aspergers and AVPD, but during the rare times I have been able to form relationships or friendships, sooner or later I push those people away in some form or another–not because I want to, but because I either become so afraid of rejection I reject the other person first–or more frequently, unconsciously do something to make the other person leave me. BPD is very maladaptive to the sufferer–it tends to bring on the very thing the Borderline fears the most–rejection.

I was diagnosed with BPD in 1996 during a three month long hospitalization for major depression. At the time, I also had PTSD from being a victim of abuse by a malignant narcissist husband, who gaslighted me constantly and even tried (but eventually failed) to turn my own children against me. During that hospital stay, I was given a copy of Marsha Linehan’s excellent manual for BPD, “Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder.Dr. Linehan is a borderline herself (she had originally been diagnosed with schizophrenia but felt her “schizophrenia” was really a manifestation of her BPD). The techniques in the book are a form of DBT (dialectical behavioral training) which teaches the Borderline patient to act mindfully–to think before they act and consider consequences, because Borderlines (unlike people with NPD) act on impulse when they feel threatened.

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Linehan’s excellent manual can be ordered here.

Linehan’s book helped immensely and since my long-ago hospital stay, I have learned to control many of my borderline symptoms. In fact I have become so good at it I rarely fly off the handle the way I used to or overreact to the degree I used to do. I still have my copy and have recently begun doing some of the excercises again because I still know there’s a LOT of room for improvement.

Like NPD, BPD doesn’t just go away. All personality disorders are incredibly hard to cure because they have become so much a part of the individual’s personality. There are still many times I unwittingly either push other people away OR get too close (or do both at the same time); I still have problems with understanding where other people’s boundaries begin and end. I also feel like there is a wall there keeping me from really being able to empathize with other people in a normal way. I can empathize in an abstract sort of way (it’s hard to explain what I mean by that but the empathy I do feel is sincere). It’s just so hard for me to connect on a meaningful level because I fear rejection so much. I want to be a friend to others; I want to make others happy; I want to be able to fully share in their emotions, good or bad–but I find it all so hard–not just because of my BPD, but my fear of engaging with others in the first place due to Aspergers and AVPD. This triad has been a huge curse all my life. But at least I know what my problem is. I’m what you would call “complicated.” I have my work cut out for me.

hope

Having all three disorders has made my life incredibly difficult and my relationships–when they exist at all–have been stormy or don’t last. But I don’t feel that I’m beyond hope. In fact, I’ve been feeling much better about myself since I started blogging and accepted God into my life. I do feel that He is changing me in a very meaningful and deep way. Maybe it’s not happening as quickly or dramatically as I had hoped, but it’s happening. I am feeling more ability to empathize with others and feel moments that come very close to pure joy. I have always had a great capacity to feel guilt and shame, so that has never been a problem. For a person with a Cluster B disorder, my conscience is probably TOO well-developed. I apologize for things I haven’t even done. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent my entire life apologizing for my existence. I hate the idea of being a bad or evil person. I like it when I know I’ve made someone else happy. Those times when I can make others happy are becoming more frequent, and I think that’s a step toward healing. I’m also happy to report that my lifelong problem with envy appears to be disappearing. Envy is so toxic–mostly to the person harboring it. It’s a great relief to have that particular monkey off my back most of the time now.

So today’s celebration of Pentecost had special meaning, because even though I wasn’t knocked to my knees by the Holy Spirit, I felt a deep sense of peace, centeredness and just “being in the moment” that has always eluded me. I felt a genuine desire to become a person who can make a positive difference in the lives of others and can feel unconditional love even for those I do not know well. Now I just need to overcome my fear of engagement with others, but I have faith that in time that will happen too, and when that happens, a whole new world will open up to me as the walls I built at an early age begin to crumble and reveal the me I want to be–which is really the me God meant for me to be.

Never give up hope. Ever.

Chicken soup for abuse survivors.

I love Delusion Dispeller’s videos. Follow her on Youtube.
This is so inspiring and I love the butterfly she wears on her cheek.

Dr. Phil: Mothers who hate their own children.

In this full episode, Dr. Phil interviews two malignant narcissist mothers who admit they hate their own children (both daughters). For those of us with normal feelings of love for our children, these mothers’ attitudes and behaviors are beyond comprehension.

The first mother is a narcissist who is embarrassed by her daughter’s autism. She whines that “I don’t deserve this.” She wanted to have a “normal” daughter.

The second mother has murderous feelings toward her daughter. She seems quite psychopathic.

ETA: Unfortunately, Youtube removed the video I had posted. The only one I could find only shows the second mother.

Healing Narcissism: “Stephen’s” story.

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Disclaimer:
I am not a licensed mental health professional and as such, have done no studies or surveys to find out if the healing regime I am going to propose here would actually work on people with NPD. I have no guarantee such a therapy regime would work, but I feel like I’ve done enough reading about the disorder (NPD in particular), both from Internet material written by a number of people, and books by professionals who specialize in this disorder, to outline a possible therapy regime I feel might give sufferers of NPD (as well as BPD and other disorders of the self, and even PTSD) who want to get better some hope of doing so. This is not a therapy I “made up,” since I am not qualified to do so, much less diagnose anyone with any disorder. Instead, it’s an almagamation of several different therapies–drawn from both from traditional insight psychotherapy and alternative therapies proposed by both people who suffer from this disorder or are involved in alternative medicine and spiritual therapy.

For several months I have been reading everything I can about healing Narcissistic Personality Disorder, because as a victim of narcissistic abuse who has cared for and loved people who are narcissists, I have a vested interest in the possibility there may be hope for some of them. I also think our world would be a much nicer and safer place for the rest of us to live in if narcissists could be cured of their disorder!

In my readings, both on the Internet and from books about healing NPD (I just received a copy of James Masterson’s book “The Emerging Self,” recommended to me by fellow blogger BPDTransformation. Although I have not had time to read the book, I have skimmed through it and can already see that its premise of the narcissist getting in touch with their true self and confronting and releasing long buried true emotions of sadness and fear is not much different than therapies others have proposed for NPD).

Overview of Some NPD Healing and Treatment Techniques.
Following are some brief descriptions of some therapies that have already been proposed to heal or treat the symptoms of people with NPD. A few come from traditional psychotherapy disciplines; others are more alternative/experimental.

Cognitive-Behavioral Training/Therapy (CBT)

CBT

Currently, the only psychiatrically sanctioned and accepted “therapy” for NPD is Cognitive-Behavioral Training (CBT). CBT is useful and may help some narcissists who are not psychopathic or sociopathic learn to control and monitor some of their more antisocial and hurtful behaviors. It has been used with some success on prison inmates who want to change their behaviors, children with ODD and CD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder) such as 6 year old Beth Thomas, who might have become a psychopath had she not had early intervention that intercepted her early antisocial behaviors and murderous impulses toward her brother and parents; as well as other people with NPD or BPD who are insightful and willing enough to want to change the way they act and stop hurting others.

The problem with CBT is it does not really cure the narcissist (unless done at a very early age, like Beth Thomas). CBT doesn’t address traumatic childhood issues or make the narcissist shed their protective masks or get in touch with the painful emotions that caused them to choose narcissism in the first place. It’s really just a band-aid and probably helps those who must deal with the narcissist more than it helps the patient. The narcissist remains a narcissist, and must constantly monitor their behaviors or be reminded by others to do so. The more positive behaviors never become internalized because the narcissist has not really changed from the inside.

That being said, I believe CBT is a valuable component in the type of therapy I am going to describe, but must be undertaken once the NPD patient has gone through a complete emotional catharsis resulting in the release of painful emotions stemming from childhood (or whenever they “chose” to become a narcissist to protect themselves). I’ll describe how this can be used later in this article.

Narcissists adopted their False Self to survive.
I hold to the probably rather unpopular belief that people with NPD started life as Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) or possibly even empaths. Sam Vaknin’s journal entries, especially his descriptions of himself as a sensitive and generous child who cried when his malignant narcissist mother was upset (I cannot find the link for that right now but will look for it), as well as writings and journals by other NPD sufferers on message boards and forums have made this evident.

It came as a surprise to realize this, because Narcissists (as opposed to those suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), who really are hopeless and can never get better) seem like the most insensitive and cruel people on the planet. But their obnoxious and cruel behaviors stem from the False Self, not their true one, which hasn’t died, but is atrophied and in hiding. The False Self was constructed as an elaborate defense mechanism to protect the child from further hurt and abuse. Most people with NPD were abused or neglected as children, and being more sensitive than other children, the only way they could survive further hurt and abuse was to construct a False Self which makes them appear big and bad when deep inside, they still feel utterly worthless, despised and vulnerable.

crying_is_okay

One thing I noticed in all these therapies (not including CBT, of course), is the key to healing is emotional catharsis. Crying–not the usual narcissistic manipulative crying–but deep and honest crying resulting from releasing past pain, grief and fear–is an absolute necessity if any healing is to occur. Of course crying is key in any psychodynamic therapy for any disorder that can be healed by such means, not just NPD. As the False Self breaks down and the True Self begins to emerge, painful emotions from the past will start to be released. This is necessary and healthy. In fact, healing from NPD (or many other mental disorders) isn’t possible without it.

The following are some techniques used for actually healing NPD rather than treating its symptoms. It’s probably prudent to keep in mind their efficacy is iffy at best. If a narcissist is neither insightful nor willing, none of these therapies will work. Insight and willingness to change are necessary and must come from the narcissist him or herself. As I’ve described before, the willingness to heal is a cost-benefit analysis. If the narcissist has benefited from their narcissism, they may not think going through all the emotional work required to heal from NPD is worth it.

1. Attitudinal Healing.

attitudinal_healing

Tony Brown was a self-professed narcissist who decided he no longer wanted to be one. He believed narcissism stemmed from fear. (He’s probably right). He healed himself using a 12-point (not the same as a 12-step program) technique of replacing thoughts of fear with thoughts of love. He called this therapy Attitudinal Healing. Eventually, he says, these thoughts of love and empathy become internalized and the patient begins to remember past hurtful incidents that turned them into narcissists. During this process, the patient finds themselves crying a lot as they remember things long forgotten and the many ways they have hurt their loved ones. AH is kind of a New Age technique, but his followers swear it has worked for them. Tony Brown died in 2008 of natural causes, just after he was cured. His forum, HealNPD, is no longer active, but you can read his material about AH there and posts by others who were undergoing AH to heal themselves of narcissism.

Criticisms of AH: There’s some skepticism because there have been no studies or empirical evidence for AH’s efficacy, and some believe thought-replacing isn’t deep psychology and therefore can’t access the true self.

2. Reparenting.

remothering

“Reparenting” is a term used by Sam Vaknin for his theories of healing NPD, but the techniques involved are not his alone and partly derive from New Age therapy practices and traditional psychodynamic therapy and Freudian psychoanalysis. Reparenting requires an initial accidental or intentional removal of all the narcissist’s sources of narcissistic supply, which sets into motion a “narcissistic crisis” (a time during which the narcissist’s defenses and masks break down). This is the only time a narcissist may present themselves for treatment. At that point, the therapist offers only “cold empathy,” which means giving the narcissist acknowledgment and the “mirroring” they missed out n as children, without offering approval, criticism, sympathy for the narcissist’s plight, or any other means of narcissistic supply. The narcissist’s frustration and anger with the therapist (transference) for only mirroring them but not giving them the supply they want (validation or approval) results first in rage, then dissolves into emotional catharsis and release of negative and painful emotions associated with childhood abuse and neglect.

Criticisms of Reparenting: Intensive therapy like this could not practically work unless the narcissist was in a closely supervised setting, such a a rehab center or hospital, because of the strong possibility that even a willing narcissist, when undergoing such painful cathartic emotions, would suddenly leave therapy and go back to their old ways. I personally don’t believe such a therapy would work permanently unless combined or followed up with behavioral training such as CBT to retrain the conscience and internalize it into the psyche.

3. M. Scott Peck: “Remothering” and physical touch.

woman-holding-newborn

Dr. M. Scott Peck proposed a technique similar to reparenting called “remothering” in his book “People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil.” Peck doesn’t go into great detail about re-mothering a patient in his book (and in fact doesn’t discuss treatment much at all outside of exorcism), but in his description of his malignantly narcissistic patient Charlene, he expresses his regret that he had not offered her unconditional love and support (not the same as narcissistic supply) and actually physically holding her as a mother would a baby, instead of allowing her to manipulate and torment him and making him continue to pander to her need for narcissistic supply.

Criticisms of “remothering”/physical holding: Peck’s briefly expressed ideas of holding (in a nonsexual way) and nurturing such a patient as a loving mother would are similar to reparenting, but would require the narcissist to be willing to allow themselves to become vulnerable enough to undergo such a treatment, which is unlikely unless they were undergoing a severe narcissistic crisis and utterly desperate. There’s also the problem that physically touching/holding a patient could lead to accusations of sexual abuse, or sexual feelings between the patient and therapist (which is a common but questionable outcome of transference/countertransference).

The problems of possible legal allegations of sexual abuse/harassment are addressed here, and there is a consent form in some states a patient can fill out to give permission for limited touching in therapy sessions to occur.

4. M. Scott Peck: Exorcism.

exorcism

Peck, a born-again Christian, believes that many cases of narcissism are a result of a malignant entity entering the body of the patient, at the time they made the choice to become a narcissist, whether in childhood or later in life.

In some cases, where the possession by an evil entity is not complete (that is, a patient with narcissistic tendencies who is not psychopathic or malignant), a patient can be healed through the centuries old religious rite of exorcism, formerly only sanctioned by the Catholic Church, and even then, was only approved in extreme cases that were approved by the Pope. Peck believes any highly trained psychotherapist with a strong faith in God (not necessarily Christian) and with strong unconditional love for their patient can successfully perform an exorcism on a patient who is willing and properly prepared ahead of time. Peck writes about exorcism in both “People of the Lie” and goes into more detail about the two exorcisms he successfully performed in his later 2005 book, “Glimpses of the Devil.”

Criticisms of Exorcism: Besides its obvious medieval and superstitious connotations, exorcism can be physically, mentally and spiritually dangerous for both the therapist and patient. Death is a possible result. There should be others in the room during the exorcism if additional hands are needed to control the patient undergoing the rite. But because I believe NPD is as much a spiritual disorder as it is a mental one, I don’t think exorcism should be dismissed as a possible healing technique in extreme cases where other therapies have not worked.

5. Dr. James F. Masterson: Psychodynamic Treatment of Narcissistic Disorders of the Self.

closet_narcissism

I have not yet read his book “The Emerging Self” (I just received it in the mail) but from what I have seen, the therapy is psychodynamic (as opposed to merely behavioral) and requires the patient to confront and purge past hurts and undergo catharsis. Narcissism and “closet narcissism” are not the only disorders addressed in his book; he also addresses similar disorders such as BPD which can be healed using the same or similar techniques.

From Wikipedia:

Masterson’s subtypes (exhibitionist and closet)
In 1993, James F. Masterson proposed two categories for pathological narcissism, exhibitionist and closet.[40] Both fail to adequately develop an age- and phase- appropriate self because of defects in the quality of psychological nurturing provided, usually by the mother. The exhibitionist narcissist is the one described in DSM-IV and differs from the closet narcissist in several important ways.

The closet narcissist is more likely to be described as having a deflated, inadequate self-perception and greater awareness of emptiness within. The exhibitionist narcissist would be described as having an inflated, grandiose self-perception with little or no conscious awareness of the emptiness within. Such a person would assume that this condition was normal and that others were just like them. [Masterson’s definition of the closet narcissist sounds more similar to the “covert” narcissist or “inverted” narcissist Sam Vaknin discusses on his website].

The closet narcissist seeks constant approval from others and appears similar to the borderline in the need to please others. The exhibitionist narcissist seeks perfect admiration all the time from others.

Criticism of Masterson’s techniques of treating NPD: I cannot offer any criticisms as I have not read his book yet.

6. Rebirthing.

rebirthing_session
Rebirthing session.

Rebirthing is a controversial New Age healing technique that involves deep and circular breathing. It has been proposed as an alternative healing therapy for people suffering from NPD and many other mental disorders, as well as for healthy individuals who just want to get more in touch with their spiritual nature. It’s supposed to improved the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of anyone who decides to undergo this process. During the rebirthing process, the patient will begin to remember painful emotional incidents long forgotten and crying is common, but is usually followed up by laughter and a feeling of spiritual lightness.

Criticisms of Rebirthing: The type of deep breathing rebirthing requires can lead to hyperventilation and a feeling of being high (from intaking too much oxygen) or having left the physical body. In some cases it can freak out the patient or even cause a psychotic break, much like hallucinogenic drugs can. Because it’s an experimental, alternative therapy given by practitioners not schooled in traditional psychotherapy, there is no proof of its efficacy or empirical studies showing it actually works.

Skepticism among mental health professionals.
pIt must be said, that most professionals are highly skeptical about the possibility of healing (rather than just treating) NPD and feel that because they suffer less than their victims (or at least seem to), that it’s best to treat the victims for the PTSD, anxiety, depression and other disorders their narcissist has caused in them.

I won’t argue with this, but as I’ve said before, I don’t think narcissists, at least those with both the insight and willingness to change (which probably means the non-malignant, non-psychopathic types) are as hopeless as most mental health experts claim.

So I’m going to propose a healing regime here using a hypothetical man named Stephen that comprises elements of ALL of the above techniques (except rebirthing and exorcism due to their highly controversial nature), as well as CBT for helping to retrain the conscience.

There are a few prerequisites necessary for successful healing of NPD:

1. The narcissist must have insight into their disorder and know they have NPD and see how it damages their minds and souls. But insight alone isn’t enough.

2. The narcissist must have willingness to change from the inside–and that means a willingness to undergo intense emotional pain as their True Self begins to emerge and their masks break down. You can have insight without willingness, but not willingness without insight. Both must be present for change to occur.

3. The narcissist undergoing such treatment would be best treated in a highly supervised, even residential setting such as a hospital or rehab center, where their natural tendency to revert back to their old ways of behaving could be intercepted by trained professionals. This is especially necessary during the crisis period where their painful emotions may cause them to want to quit therapy or leave. They could sign a waiver prior to treatment that such attempts to escape would be intercepted or not allowed, and the patient brought back to treatment.

4. The narcissist is probably already undergoing a narcissistic crisis where they have lost all sources of narcissistic supply or a major one, such as a divorce, loss of a fortune or career, death of someone who was a source of supply, serious illness or incarceration. Having lost their sources of supply, the narcissist is already in a vulnerable state and if they are going to present themselves for help, this will be the time.

I am going to describe a hypothetical successful therapy used on a fictional man named Stephen who is afflicted with mid-spectrum (non-malignant) NPD, using a combination of the above techniques I think could be successful for some narcissists in a highly supervised and intensive setting.

STEPHEN’S STORY

'It's all about YOU, isn't it? YOUR hopes! YOUR wants! YOUR needs!'

1. The Master of the Universe has a Narcissistic Crisis
Stephen was a 45 year old successful owner of a video game company. He was married to a meek and quiet but intelligent woman named Lisa who elected to stay at home with their only child Cayden, who was two years old. They lived in a large home they built themselves, and owned two late model SUVs. Stephen could afford to take his wife and son on several vacations a year. To outsiders, they seemed like the picture perfect family.

But all was not well behind closed doors. Lisa was threatening to leave Stephen and take Cayden with her because of Stephen’s constant gaslighting, projecting, blaming her for their child’s excessive crying and misbehavior, and most recently, isolating Lisa from her former college friends and even her family. Lisa was so depressed that often she had no energy to take care of her son and Cayden was left to his own devices, at first crying and demanding attention from Lisa, but finally withdrawing into a quiet, withdrawn, almost autistic world of his own.

Lisa wanted to take Cayden to a psychiatrist, but when she proposed this to Stephen, he flew into a rage and accused her of calling him a bad father. He told her that if she was a better wife and mother, Cayden wouldn’t be having these problems. He also told her that taking Cayden to a therapist was something only a weak person would do. Cayden would just need to learn to “man up,” in Stephen’s words.

Lisa became increasingly depressed and one day she attempted suicide. Her suicide attempt landed her in the psychiatric ward, and Cayden’s care fell on Stephen’s shoulders. He resented his fatherly duties to Cayden, and grew increasingly impatient with him, and Cayden’s behavior grew worse. He resented having to leave work early or not come in to attend to one of Cayden’s many needs when his nanny would call saying there was a problem with his son.

sad-mother-child

One day Stephen was called into his boss’s office and confronted with his poor attendance and sloppy work. Cayden’s needs were not a concern to management. Stephen was told he needed to find some other arrangements or he would be let go. Stephen panicked. His high flying job and the money he made were the only things in his life he cared about. He hated to admit it, but Cayden was nothing but a burden. He had never really wanted a child at all due to all the responsibility.

Stephen’s problems continued. He had no choice but to keep leaving work when his son was sick or when the daycare center called saying he was throwing another one of his uncontrollable tantrums. Stephens’s boss summoned him once more and let him know he was being let go.

Stephen was devastated and began to feel hate toward his son for making him lose his job. He sat at home dejectedly staring at the TV or computer screen but felt so deflated he didn’t bother looking for another job. Cayden screamed and threw tantrums and Stephen, overwhelmed and filled with resentment for Cayden, began to physically abuse him.

A week later, Lisa was released from the hospital and announced she no longer loved Stephen and was taking Cayden with her to live with her parents. Stephen flew into a narcissistic rage and tied to stop Lisa from leaving, but there was no stopping her. She grabbed Cayden, tossed some of their things hastily in some bags, and took off for her mother’s. It was then she noticed the bruises on Cayden’s body and decided to press child abuse charges against Stephen.

Stephen was eventually arrested for child abuse. Now he had a police record and was probably unemployable, except perhaps in some sort of consulting role. He had lost his wife, his job, his child, and now his freedom.

2. Self-awareness and willingness.

Vector illustration of a man lock up in prison

In prison, Stephen broke down and cried almost nonstop. He made no friends because of his emotional instability. So he spent time by himself, reading books in the prison’s library about mental disorders and realized he suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. At first he tried to deny this to himself, but in his heart he knew it was true. He also realized this disorder was the cause of all his problems. He didn’t feel remorse, exactly, but knew he needed to do something about it. Some of the prison staff took pity on Stephen and referred him to a psychologist who specialized in character disorders, NPD in particular. Stephen was desperate to change his ways and willingly entered an experimental but intensive therapy for people suffering from NPD and other character disorders like BPD. Although the therapist was a licensed Ph.D, he was open to incorporating alternative techniques in his regime.

3. Cold empathy.

narc_rage
Narcissistic rage.

Stephen started therapy (which he was taken to from the prison) with a litany of complaints about his failures and how no one understood him. He talked about his dickhead of a boss, his emotionally disturbed and annoying son, and his bitch of a wife who betrayed him. Stephen took no responsibility for his own contributions to his downfall. He demanded sympathy and often resorted to rages and tears during his sessions. Rather than sympathize or offer emotional support, Stephen’s therapist listened quietly to his litany of woes, only nodding here and there or asking questions when he needed to know something pertinent.

Stephen became enraged by his therapist’s supposed lack of caring and sympathy, and began to attack his therapist, calling him a charlatan, incompetent, and an idiot. He threatened to leave, but knew the prison wouldn’t allow him to quit, so his abuse escalated. Projecting his own feelings of rage and other emotions onto the therapist is a process called transference in the psychiatric community (the opposite, the therapist’s projections of their own emotions onto the patient is called countertransference and is nearly as common).

One day he became so enraged he physically attacked his therapist. An officer was called in to intervene, and together, they got Stephen to calm down. Stephen, defeated, slumped in his chair and dissolved into convulsive sobs. The guard stood nearby, and the therapist quietly waited for Stephen to finish crying.

4. Stephen’s True Self begins to Emerge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After several more intense sessions like these, Stephen reluctantly began to talk about his mother, who had abused him as a child. He tearfully discussed the time she held his hands on the hot stove to teach him a lesson, and the time she locked him in a closet for two days for refusal to eat the vegetables on his plate. After releasing him, she made him eat the half-rotted vegetables from a plate on the floor along with the family dogs. Stephen recalled being a good kid until he was about 5 or 6, and always very sensitive to his mother’s moods. He wanted to please her, but never could seem to accomplish that. No matter what he tried–bringing her flowers he picked from the garden (which he’d be punished for), or hugging her (where he’d be pushed away), she always rejected him or punished him. At first he talked about these incidents in a matter of fact, almost flippant way, but after about three more sessions, he began to choke up and tears began to run down his face.

But these tears were different than the ones he used to shed to get his way or manipulate his sources of supply. These tears felt different and came from a deeper, more honest place. He was embarrassed about the uncontrollable crying he could not seem to stop. He tried to hide these tears but his therapist told him they were healing him, melting away his False Self, and to let them come. So reluctantly at first, Stephen did. He told his therapist his “heart hurt” and then he broke into wracking sobs and buried his face in his hands. This was the breakthrough needed to move to the the Reparenting/remothering level.

In some difficult cases where he patient is having trouble bringing emotions to the surface or recalling past events, hypnotherapy could be useful in helping the patient recall painful childhood experiences.

5. Reparenting Stephen’s Lost Self.

inner_child

When Stephen broke down into convulsive sobbing of honest grief for the mother love he never received, and his intense fear of her as a child, his therapist knew he was no longer being manipulated and these were honest emotions from Stephen’s lost self. So the therapist came over and sat down next to him, and encouraged Stephen to cry on his shoulder. If the therapist is an empath, I think that’s an enormous advantage, for I feel that for this type of therapy to have the most success, the therapist must be able to share and feel the patient’s emotions–even if that means crying or grieving along with them. This may also make the patient feel less alone and more comfortable if they are not feeling their emotions alone.

Stephen, in his infantile, vulnerable state, didn’t hesitate to let his tears flow and allow himself to be held, and they stayed like this for a long time. The therapist was careful to stay quiet during this event, and limited himself to stroking Stephen’s head and back and holding him gently as a mother would hold a child. He did not offer judgment, congratulations or explanations. He simply let Stephen release all that pent-up emotion that had been hiding inside him for decades. And felt along with the child that still lived inside Stephen and longed to be able to live a normal, happy life in the world instead of forever hidden away behind Stephen’s disintegrating False Self.

Stephen felt comforted and nurtured. He told his therapist he wished his own parents had held him like that. His father never had either, because he had died in an accident when Stephen was only a baby.

Several more sessions passed like this. In each session Stephen remembered other things that had happened to him as a child. He remembered how sensitive he had been and how he felt hurt by everything. He remembered how much his mother hated it whenever he cried. He remembered being bullied by other kids in school and always running away in terror.

And then he remembered when he had to make a choice. That choice changed the trajectory of his entire life and transformed him from a highly sensitive little boy into a heartless and cold narcissist.

6. The Choice.

monsters-nietzsche

Stephen recalled a dare when he was 8 years old. A group of boys who had bullied him dared him to set a paper bag of dried dog poop on another boy’s rickety wooden front porch and set it on fire. The boys promised him that if he did this, they would no longer bully him and they would be his friend and protect him against any further bullying. Stephen knew that doing this could set the other boy’s house on fire and at first he protested, explaining what could happen. At this point he still had a conscience. But the boys threatened him and told him if he didn’t do it, their bullying would become worse and they would kill his pet rabbit. Stephen believed them, so against his will, he complied.

They set out after dark for the targeted house. The boys watched from the darkened yard as Stephen lit the paper bag on fire and hesitantly walked up the front stairs of the boy’s porch and set it next to a dead potted plant. The deed done, all the boys ran away before anyone saw them. Stephen looked back in time to see the flames ignite the plant, and quickly start to spread over the railings of the rickety old wooden porch. He felt awful and considered going to the police, but he didn’t dare. He went to bed that night and had terrible nightmares.

bullied_child

The targeted boy’s house burned down and he, his baby sister, and his mother had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. Soon after, the family moved away, never to be seen again. No charges were pressed because no one knew who the culprit was.

7. Becoming a Narcissist.

narcissism_childhood

To protect himself from his unbearable feelings of guilt and shame, Stephen shut off his painful emotions of guilt and conscience. From then on, the group of bullies accepted him as one of them, and they continued to engage in tormenting other children and even petty crimes.

Almost immediately after the incident, Stephen’s personality changed. Due to his choice to disobey his own conscience, he was becoming evil. He became a narcissist to protect himself from any further painful feelings. It was all just too unbearable.

Stephen confessed not only this, but also the way he used and manipulated others for his own gain, how he obtained his high level job dishonestly by faking qualifications on his resume, the way he emotionally abused his codependent wife who was so easily manipulated, and the abusive way he treated his own son Cayden. He cried and cried some more, and in return, his therapist held him without speaking, only projecting unconditional love and acceptance.

8. Return to Humanity.

freedom_man

Within a few more weeks, Stephen felt like a different person. He had become a model prisoner, and also found God during his incarceration. He was asked by the chaplain to speak to prisoners after the Sunday services, and Stephen used his own story to help and motivate other prisoners. He proved to be a good public speaker, and took courses in psychology and motivational speaking. He started to write a book about his experiences.

Stephen’s therapy was followed up with an intensive outpatient CBT program, to help him internalize the lessons he had learned about right versus wrong, and further help him develop his fledgling conscience.

When finally released from prison after two years, Stephen found employment as a counselor for prisoners and became a professional motivational speaker. He published his book, which became a best seller. He was asked to appear on TV shows and interviews to promote his new book and offered hope to thousands. Soon he met and married a psychology professor and today they have three children, who he loves very much. He would never dream of abusing them. He’s a very involved father and admits he’s happier than he’s ever been.

Recently he met up with his prison therapist, and the therapist noticed Stephen’s eyes and whole face looked different. He looked younger and happier, but more tellingly, in place of the cold, dead eyes of the narcissist he used to be, Stephen’s eyes sparkled with love and joy. His smile, instead of a sneer, was genuine and happy.

We were the lucky ones.

narcissusrevoy
“Narcissus and Echo” by David Revoy

Those of us who are ACONs and didn’t become narcs ourselves really are the lucky ones.

Narcissism, as I’ve written so many times, is a family disorder and is passed on through generations, both through the genes (as a predisposition, not as a “bad seed,” which I don’t believe in) and through early childhood abuse and neglect.

I’ve read so many of Sam Vaknin’s writings from his personal journal now. He is an ACON just like us but was never able to escape from developing the disorder himself, in spite of his insight and high intellectual ability. The abuse he suffered at his mother’s hands was horrific. With loving parents he may not have developed NPD.

I am also pretty sure my MN mother was sexually abused. I wrote about her childhood in this post. She never actually said she was, but she’s never talked much about her past. Most of what I know I pieced together from bits of information others told me. But even though sexual abuse was never mentioned, I strongly suspect she was and it would explain a LOT.

My MN ex was abused by his mother too. I haven’t written a lot about it, but someday soon I will. His mother was a malignant narcissist who mas a master manipulator and gaslighter, and physically abusive too.

I thought, “that could have been me.” It could have been any of us.

There are narcissists much worse than Sam, who have no insight and no desire to help others avoid people like themselves. Sam and his wife have chosen not to have children because of the devastating effects NPD could have on them–either as its victims or inheritors of the disorder. The fact he doesn’t want to burden a potential child with that proves to me he must have some semblance of a conscience, even if he thinks he doesn’t. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have NPD but he probably isn’t that malignant compared to some truly evil people out there. I wouldn’t call him a benign narcissist either though–his behavior in “I Psychopath” was pretty intolerable, for the most part, even if he made me laugh sometimes. Sometimes I feel sorry for his wife, who seems like a meek, codependent type and scored very high in empathy on the tests she had to take in that film. I hope he treats her well. But because he’s a narcissist, he probably doesn’t, even if he tries to.

I have complained endlessly about my disorders and the effects of narcissistic abuse on me at the hands of my family and my ex (as well as previous boyfriends before him–I’ve ALWAYS been attracted to narcissistic men, which is why I won’t enter into another romantic relationship ever again). But you know what? For all my social awkwardness, PTSD, BPD, avoidant personality, low self esteem, debilitating anxiety and hypervigilance, and intermittent major depressions, I wouldn’t trade any of that in exchange for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I could have EASILY become a narc. So could any of you reading this who suffered similar abuse, because you may have the gene for it or it runs in your bloodline, like it does in my FOO.

Maybe we suffer more than someone with NPD (although someone like Sam definitely suffers in his own way), but we have hope. We can get better. We can heal ourselves either through traditional therapy or writing about it. We can separate ourselves from the malignants and the psychopaths who hurt us (narcs can never escape from themselves and make no mistake–they are dangerous to themselves). Our healing may take a long time, it may not be easy, but we can get well. We can become whole, happy people. Because we have the willingness.

Narcissists do not. Their true self is so damaged and atrophied it can’t be accessed and the masks have no desire to get better, because the are just masks. The more malignant the narcissist, the less hope there is for them. The are the cursed ones. They are trapped in their sickness. The really unfair thing is, in most cases this was something done to them. That doesn’t excuse the way they act, but they never had a choice.

We were the lucky ones. We have hope because we never lost our true selves. Think about that the next time you feel like you’re worthless because of the mindgames your narc plays with you.