This article by David M. Reiss, MD and Seth Davin Norrholm is a must read!
I thought I’d return from Florida well rested and ready to tackle real life again. I did have a wonderful, relaxing time and got to spend a good bit of it with my son, unlike other trips there, when he had to work most of the time.
Since returning, my daughter and her husband seem to be coming after me for blood. I’m too emotionally distraught right now to even go into much detail about what happened, but in a nutshell, she is gaslighting me and lying about things I did/said, making me out to be a terrible, selfish person who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but myself and prefers my son over her.
This started well before I left for my trip. I pushed it on the back burner, but her behavior lately has been bothering me. It reminds me very much of her father’s abusive behavior before I finally had enough and made him leave the house five years ago. She has been calling me terrible names, saying I said things or did things I never said or did, and calling me narcissistic and “clinically insane.” She thinks I’m crazy because I sometimes am critical of her or tell her I don’t like the names she is calling me. In other words, reacting like a normal person does when attacked. She’s gaslighting me. I told her to stop, for whatever good that does. She insists it’s not gaslighting. Instead she flips it around and accuses me of gaslighting her.
It seems she is projecting onto me, and became a narcissist or some facsimile of one when I was not looking. Her husband, who seemed sweet to me at first, has become quite cold toward me. I think she has turned him against me.
We share a crowded house, and I don’t earn enough to pay all the bills on my own (and am too old to take a second job, nor should I have to take a second job!) but she angrily attacked me this morning for “being a bitch” to her, and said she would no longer pay any rent to me because of that.
She says she needs to save money to move out. That would be perfectly reasonable under other circumstances. It would be fine if I earned enough that I could afford to give them a break so they could save money, but I don’t and she knows it. I could be renting out her room instead and she knows that too. I also doubt she will actually save money and move, since she has never been able to save money before and can’t seem to hold onto a job.
Her brother wants to mediate (he’s good at mediating) but there’s no way for that to happen since then she would know I told him everything, and she is predisposed to not cooperate since she’s jealous of the more positive attention she thinks he gets from me. They have become distant from each other partly because of geographic distance, but also because she thinks he judges her harshly (he doesn’t, but is reasonably critical and she can’t seem to deal with criticism).
I’m not sure what to do. My daughter went out in a huff after flinging a litany of insults at me, and is currently (most likely) over at her father’s house (where I’m pretty sure they are all sitting around badmouthing me and talking about what a crazy, narcissistic person I am). And yes, I do realize how narcissistic and paranoid I sound, but I’m absolutely sure that’s what is going on. I feel like I’m reliving the nightmare I went through before I finally worked up the courage to go no contact with her father. He freeloaded off of me too and told everyone I was the crazy one when I objected to his crazymaking antics and exploitation of my good will.
Now she is accusing me of “playing the victim.” It appears that gaslighting comes naturally to her. She must have been paying attention when I talked to her all those times about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, because now she not only knows all the terms and phrases, she has weaponized them, using them against me.
When did my daughter become her father? I never thought she would become a gaslighting abuser or a narcissist because she always seemed like a high empathy person to me. It’s like I turned around and instead of seeing her standing there, it’s her father all over again.
Until recently, and since her father left the house (at my insistence) in 2014, my daughter and I have gotten along great. I’m not sure when things started to go downhill or even who changed. Was it her or was it me? I feel like it was her. But I just don’t really know. It seems like it started to happen around the time of her marriage in January. But her husband doesn’t seem like a narcissist to me, just a quiet guy. But since he doesn’t talk a lot, I have no idea what he is actually saying to her. All I know is that during the past few months, our relationship has been very tense and prone to lead to arguments. I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells with her, and I know that’s a huge red flag.
Maybe she needed to go out and just calm herself down and give herself some space. So I will see when she returns if she’s more reasonable. But if she still refuses to cooperate with my house rules, I may have no choice but to make plans to move out myself and leave the two of them to figure out how to pay for everything themselves. That’s not being spiteful, but I simply can’t live with someone (even my own daughter) who takes advantage of me the way her father did years ago. It’s a form of abuse and extremely triggering. I know she will be furious if that’s what I ultimately decide, but what else can I do? I feel trapped and helpless. I feel like I have no power or control over this situation at all and very few options open to me financially.
I guess I’ll see how things go after she calms down. She’s done this sort of thing before and then apologizes later. She always does say her father treated me like crap and I should have left sooner. I just don’t know what to think anymore. It’s times like this I just feel so backed into a corner and helpless.
I just had to vent. To get this off my chest. This post reminds me of my early articles, when I first started this blog and was realizing I had been abused throughout my life, and set about describing the mental and emotional abuse that was inflicted on me by my ex and by my family. It seems I still haven’t broken that pattern and it snuck in again when I least expected it.
I have no idea what to do, really.
Linda Lee’s wonderful guest post about Complex PTSD is definitely worth another day in the sun.
My dear friend and active participant on this site, Linda Lee, has written a wonderful and OMG SO TRUE post, which describes a lifetime of abuse, including incarceration in a state mental hospital, and being faced with unethical doctors and caregivers, including one who raped her. She was sent back home to a rejecting family–who had put her there in the first place! Linda Lee has Complex PTSD, a form of PTSD that’s often the result of chronic abuse during childhood, rather than an isolated traumatic incident later on in life. After describing the insane house of mirrors she had been thrusted into that seemed to have no way out, Linda lifts the reader out of the darkness with an uplifting message about Easter and the resurrection.
Linda Lee also has a blog about her Complex PTSD caused by prolonged, severe trauma called Surviving Trauma (formerly Heal My Complex PTSD)
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This article is a must read for empaths and HSPs, and anyone vulnerable to narcissistic abuse:
By Kim Saeed
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She also has a great site! Be sure to visit.
This article has been picking up in views lately, so I decided to reblog it. Several people have told me they’ve found it helpful. I know this trick has helped me in dicey situations when I can’t go No Contact with a narcissist.
Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking. I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.
How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.
It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible. But sometimes it isn’t. For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them. Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job. Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave. Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.
In these types…
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This time it’s a damned covert narc. At least I think that’s what I’m dealing with. Do I sound mad and upset? You bet I am. I hope I’m wrong but I know the red flags when I seee them. I’ve had enough experience with them.
Hell, about two years ago (as some of you probably remember) I spent many weeks and maybe even months reading and studying everything I could find about all the symptoms and signs of covert NPD because I was so certain I must be one myself. I probably qualify for an advanced degree in this disorder. (Happily, I finally realized I am not one, but CPTSD, an earlier diagnosis of BPD, and my narcissistic “fleas” had me fooled.)
You may be aware I live with my daughter, who is 25. She’s a good girl, hardworking, sweet, empathetic, intelligent, and beautiful (and I don’t just say that because I’m her mom). Sure, she has her bad, even bitchy, moments, but don’t we all. She’s overcome a lot due to her father’s abuse, my complicity and enabling, and sexual abuse she suffered at school. There was a time back during her teens both her therapists and I were afraid she was developing a personality disorder, probably ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) because she had a diagnosis of ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) as a teen. She could not function in a regular school setting because she was in trouble constantly and suspended several times for things like stealing and fighting.
Finally, she went into residential treatment and was helped immensely (she was very cooperative with the very strict program) and today is a much different young woman. She has a ton of empathy I never knew was there. I am beyond grateful for that, and today I can say we are the best of friends. She is also clean and doesn’t do drugs anymore so I am incredibly grateful for that too.
But there’s a downside too. Over the past several years, she’s been engaging in a dead end lifestyle I can only call serial monogamy. She gets serious about one guy, they seem serious about her (for a time), and they even start talking about marriage, but things never progress any further. There’s always something wrong with the guy: he’s too controlling, becomes abusive, or starts to see other people on the side, or she gets tired of them herself. At least one who seemed too good to be true turned out to be a dangerous psychopath.
All of these relationships end, and then she quickly moves onto the next man (she’s attractive and personable so it’s easy for her to find new lovers). I’ve talked to her about furthering her education, deciding on a career (she works in a series of dead end service jobs none of which last very long), and focusing on just herself, but she’s just like I was at that age: she seems to lack the motivation gene or any idea what she wants to do in life (besides find a man she can marry and will support her). She seems incapable of tolerating being single. That’s how I was at her age and I will always regret never developing myself to my full potential and not being more serious about finishing a higher education and finding something I’m passionate enough to turn into a career. She is certainly intelligent enough, but she’s emotionally damaged. Getting her to go to therapy is futile. She simply won’t do it. But that’s a whole other issue I won’t get into here.
It’s painful watching her take the same non-path I took –a road to an adulthood of constant near poverty, frustration, lack of intellectual and creative fulfillment, relentless financial insecurity, and now, for me — a terrible dread of old age without any real safety net. I may be living on the streets if Medicare and Social Security are abolished, and that is terrifying. I don’t have a life partner to provide emotional support, since I never knew how to pick one who didn’t turn out to be an abuser. I feel like I’m way too old (and still too afraid) to enter the dating scene again (I hate dating with a passion). I’d rather just stay single and see how things play out.
Getting back to my daughter, her latest paramour is a man 14 years her senior (he is almost 40). He gives the impression of a very sweet, kind, and sensitive person. In fact, he appears to be a very emotional person who shed tears easily and is constantly apologizing. That should have been a red flag.
At first I thought, “oh, how sweet, a sensitive man not afraid of his emotions,” but I actually think he uses tears and emotion to manipulate others to get his way or to get attention. Using pity is a red flag of a covert narcissist, especially one of the “fragile” or “vulnerable” type. They’re common (especially in women but can be found among men too). They’re dangerous because they’re so hard to spot. We expect narcs to be mean, arrogant, verbally abusive, and never apologize for anything. But not all of them are like that, even though on th inside, they are all pretty much the same and just as self obsessed and entitled. No matter whether their style is grandiose or self pitying, there’s always a yawning black hole where their heart ought to be.
The reason I came to the conclusion he’s probably a covert narcissist and not just a big softie with a huge heart is the way he appears to string both of us along, causing immense anger and frustration.
He has been promising to get her an engagement ring and propose. He was supposed to do it on our vacation last week. We had agreed ahead of time that he would give me half the money for the hotel, plus half of all expenses (meals, etc.). The tab came to over $400. Originally he was supposed to have the cash for me when we got to the hotel and I would pay the whole tab on my credit card. Well, it turned out his employer made a mistake on his check and he didn’t get paid. How convenient.
His employer promised they would rectify this on Friday, the day we returned from our trip. I believed him, sort of. At least I wanted to believe him. But there had been one or two other red flags previous to this, that I didn’t think much of at the time, but I suddenly remembered them and began to wonder if he was trying to find a way to get out of paying me, or if he was getting cold feet about the engagement, since without the money, he couldn’t put the final payment down on my daughter’s ring.
I wanted to have a good time, and forget about all this unpleasant business, and so we did. It seemed worth it, since we all had a great time and he was nothing less than wonderful to both my daughter and me. Not another sign of narcissism or abusiveness, covert or otherwise.
But after we got home, he called his employer and found out they “forgot” again. He was promised they would write up a check from petty cash the next day, which was Saturday. Something felt wrong.
On Saturday he had a sudden “episode” of fainting and an ambulance had to be called. My daughter went with him to the hospital, which said he would be okay. It had something to do with heat stroke from too much sun, plus another chronic medical issue he’s been struggling with. It wasn’t that I wasn’t empathetic or thought he was faking, but the timing of this “emergency” was just really weird. Of course he could not go get his check, so now it would have to wait until Sunday. Even my daughter mentioned to me that she was afraid he might be faking so he could put off getting the money. I have to admit I thought this was a possibility.
I was growing very angry over his failure to pay me back the $400 he had promised me almost a week earlier. We had never agreed that the vacation would be a gift. I also considered that this might be his way of getting “cold feet” since his inability to get the money meant he could not finish paying off her ring and therefore there would be no proposal right now, if ever. What a cowardly way to call off or delay an engagement, if that was what he was actually doing.
Of course, when he got back from the hospital, he was all apologies and tears. He was hugging both of us and saying “sorry” over and over again. I felt a little nauseated by this over the top display of emotion because I felt it wasn’t really sincere and was just a way to keep stringing us both along and buying more time.
So last night, he was all happy and excited and told both of us his company had finally issued a check (it was handwritten). He waved it proudly at both of us. He wanted me to take today off from work to film him proposing to her (this was supposed to have happened at the beach, but oh well). I agreed to do this because it seemed important and I didn’t want to miss it. I had also promised them I’d film the moment. He said he would cash it first thing in the morning and then he would go get her ring and then we’d all go out somewhere special where he would propose.
Well, guess what. This morning when I woke up he was gone. My daughter was in her room mad as hell (not crying, just furious). I asked her what happened, and she said the check was postdated for next week! I asked her if he had failed to look at the date and she said, no, he definitely had seen it but chose not to mention it because he was afraid she’d be mad at him and he “couldn’t bear to hurt her again.” She said she was sick of his lying and game playing so she made him leave until he could get everything fixed and get the money for both her ring and the $400 he owed me. She said if he failed to do that, she was done with him. That’s a good decision on her part. Meanwhile I’ll still be out $400 which he bilked from me to get a free beach vacation, but I guess things could be worse. He promised her he had a way to get the money today. We shall see. I’m skeptical.
Anyway, I’m glad my daughter is beginning to catch on to when she’s being manipulated and abused, because this is abuse, even though this man hasn’t uttered one nasty word, called her any names, or physically abused her.
Abuse comes in many forms. Covert narcissists (and many borderlines) often use tears, guilt tripping, begging, financial abuse, “stringing you along,” and other underhanded, insidious techniques to get what they want. Because they are less obviously abusive and can seem so “nice” and even emotionally fragile and needy, they can instill guilt and pity to get their way. Their marks are empaths who fall for that sort of shit. If they never deliver on their promises, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a person who is never going to be honest with you and will make your life an endless carousel of frustration and anger that’s difficult to target on that person because they “never mean it.”
So, at this moment, I’m (maybe foolishly?) waiting for him to come back with the money he owes and make good on the promises he’s so far broken. But I’m not getting my hopes up, that’s for sure.
I completely forgot about this post! Unhealthy, codependent relationships with narcissists are not limited to romantic relationships, marriages, and familial relationships. You can definitely be trapped in a codependent “marriage” with your boss (or anyone else you have frequent contact with, especially when unequal balance of power is a natural part of the relationship, as there might be between therapist and patient).
In late 2004, I was hired as a cashier at a local convenience store. My boss, John, was a flamboyantly gay man around my age who seemed fond of me at first. He was friendly and likeable in a way that didn’t offend my Aspie social reticence. We often worked alone together, and because he spent most of the time talking my ear off, I wasn’t required to add much to the conversation. I was his captive audience when we weren’t serving customers. John was bright and I found his one-sided monologues interesting if sometimes a little strange.
I’d hear everything about John’s exciting life, from his four Shar-Pei’s antics (he was a huge dog lover) to his once-a-month visits to the spa for regular colonic irrigations–he discussed these publicly, in the most intimate detail, even with customers–as if he was talking about what he had for breakfast. Although John…
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There’s a lot of discussion on the web about codependency as well as empathy, especially in the narcissistic abuse community. While it’s true people who are codependent to a narcissist also tend to be high in empathy and very sensitive, there seems to be a lot of confusion–people who aren’t too familiar with either term tend to believe empathic people are also always codependent. While codependent people are almost always highly sensitive (which is the quality that attracts their abuser to them and keeps them trapped in a toxic relationship because they believe they can “fix” their narcissist), the reverse is not always the case.
A healthy HSP (highly sensitive person) is simply an emotionally healthy person. They are confident and secure enough with themselves that they can resist the “charms” of an abuser. If a healthy person with high empathy does find themselves being drawn into an abusive relationship with a narcissist, they have the courage and presence of mind to pull themselves out of it and even go No Contact before they fall under the thrall of the abuser and before any damage is done. In fact, having high empathy makes it more likely a person will be able to “see” the red flags before anyone else, giving them a chance to escape and/or avoid the person.
A healthy HSP does not waste time trying to “fix” a narcissist. They know the chance of that happening is about the same as the likelihood they will sprout wings and fly to the moon. If a narcissist is going to change (I’m not one of those people who believes it’s not possible), it must be the desire of the narcissist and they have to work very hard at it, but no one else can “save” them except themselves, and it’s going to be a long, hard road if they decide that’s what they want. A healthy HSP will not allow themselves to fall into a love-bombing trap or be “hoovered” by a narc. Once they realize what they are dealing with, they will cut off any further communication. They know they can’t be nice about it, but must be firm. They may care, but they know they are not going to be the ones doing the fixing, and will be able to move on to a healthier relationship with someone they can actually grow with and who will be able to return their love.
Our society today is also quick to judge those who have high levels of empathy and want to give back to others as being “enablers.” This happens even in the public realm, with the massive cuts in spending to programs that help the most vulnerable people of society and the blanket dismissal by the Powers That Be of those who want to help as “suckers” who are “enabling” the most vulnerable people. I don’t wish to get on a political soapbox but there’s something very wrong with any society that only values how “powerful” you are or how much money you earn. There’s something sick about a society that dismisses its most vulnerable members as “lazy and stupid” or “deserving” of their sad lot. Empathy is a virtue that has become increasingly dismissed as a weakness, but is actually the one thing–maybe the only thing–that could rescue modern society from completely self-destructing. Empathy isn’t a weakness at all–it’s a strength. If you’re a HSP you have this quality and should be proud of it and use it, not hide it away like a shameful thing. The narcissists who run things in the world would like us all to think it’s a shameful thing, but that’s just another lie they tell. It’s needed now more than ever. So, you are not an “enabler” if you want to help others; just be careful who you are helping!
Unfortunately, HSPs have often been abused themselves or have other disorders such as complex PTSD, and they often find themselves targeted by narcissists for abuse. Narcissists are usually attracted to people with high empathy because they know they can get the “understanding” and love they crave and will proceed to feed on the HSP’s emotions much like a vampire feeds on blood. They know it’s hard for such a person to say “no” because they can’t stand to hurt anyone’s feelings, so an HSP person is more likely to stick around and tolerate abuse than someone who is less sensitive.
If you are such a person; if you are very sensitive, cut your losses now! Staying around a narcissist who is actively abusing you is just not worth it, and there’s also a very real danger of being drawn so far into the narcissist’s web of deception and abuse that you could develop Stockholm Syndrome and begin to identify with your abuser. Once this happens, you could even find yourself taking on traits of narcissism yourself and colluding with your abuser. It’s an insidious process but it can and does happen; and it happened to me. Be careful. Your soul is a precious thing and you should not give it freely to anyone until you know that person can be trusted with it. That doesn’t mean you have to become hypervigilant and start seeing demons around every corner, but if your intuition is throwing up a lot of red flags about a particular individual, don’t dismiss them. They could save your life.
I don’t write a whole lot about sexual abuse — and the story told here may not qualify as what most people would define sexual abuse to be — but still, the woman who wrote this post had something that was precious to her stolen from her, and her boundaries were ruthlessly violated. This post is more explicit than what I usually post, but I think it’s important, because something so precious should be freely given, and boundaries need to be respected. I’m glad this writer ended the relationship because it sounds like her lover thought nothing of taking what wasn’t his, in essence, raping her. At the very least, he was incredibly obtuse. It sounds like the writer had a PTSD-like reaction to what happened. Rape usually does have that effect.
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Also, please follow Cyranny’s Cove. She has an awesome blog!
As part of my “Let me be your voice” project, once again, I am honored to host the story of a lovely reader who sent me a painful recalling of her past. I wish there were no such stories to share, but since there are… I hope letting it out at last will help and bring relief.
I’d also like to remind you that if you have a story you would like to get off your chest, but just don’t feel comfortable publishing on your own blog, I’ll be more than glad to help by posting it in the Cove, leaving all the credit to you! Just write to me here.
So here is her story. And I’d like to thank the author for her trust. *Hugs, my dear!*
I decided to talk today, because I kept this story for myself for too long. And I cannot believe I…
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An oldie but goodie about a complete tool and malignant narcissist I dated for a short time.
I remember one of my narcissistic lovers. He was a textbook example of a malignant narcissist, and a mean one at that. Although he never became physically violent, I think he would have if I hadn’t ended that relationship.
One of the strangest things about him was the way he gave me gifts. The guy had plenty of money–he had a trust fund, for heaven’s sakes and owned his apartment free and clear, and he was always traveling. He never asked me to go with him though. Instead, he’d bring me back “gifts” from his road trips. I remember he’d make a big show out of presenting me with these gifts as if he was giving me the keys to a new car. They were never wrapped nicely, but always stuffed in a paper or plastic bag.
So what sort of gifts did this narcissistic trust fund jerk give me?…
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