Survivor hypervigilance and the danger of false labeling

An old article, but important because so many of us are over-eager to label anyone we dislike a narcissist. Don’t be too quick to throw the N label around!

Further reading:

Maybe We Throw Around the N Label Too Freely

Lucky Otters Haven

labelkit

Earlier today I wrote that I thought my daughter may have NPD because she had taken my phone when she lost hers, and seemed uncaring that I had no way of contacting her or anyone else. About an hour ago, she returned with my phone, and seemed very apologetic and remorseful.

Granted, my daughter does have some narcissistic traits, but she is also Borderline, and most Borderlines do have some narcissistic behaviors–after all, they’re still in the Cluster B group of personality disorders (Cluster B disorders are those characterized by excessive dramatic behavior and/or lack empathy). But she’s not a Narcissist. She does have a conscience and can show empathy, and she’s also self-critical, something true Narcs are not.

My point here is this. I think we survivors have a problem with lack of trust. Having been hurt too often by those with malevolent character, sometimes even by our own…

View original post 1,910 more words

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The 4 types of narcissistic abuse victims.

Originally posted on May 15, 2015

abuse_boy

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

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

1. The Narc-Hating Group.

female_warrior

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

2. All Cluster Bs are the Same Group.

cluster_b

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

3. Not all Narcs are Hopeless Group.

smashingmirror

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

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

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

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

4. Codependents.

Fashion model stylized as marionette doll sitting on violet studio background

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

The 5 stages of narcissistic abuse recovery.

freedom

I went No Contact with my sociopathic NPD/ASPD ex in February, 2014 — almost three years ago. Enough time has elapsed that I’ve seen that there are several stages one goes through on the way to recovery and healing. There does seem to be a clear pattern that I’ve seen in both myself and in others. The order of these stages never varies, though the circumstances may vary. Unfortunately, many people get “stuck” at a particular stage and can’t seem to move to the next one.

1.  Numbness/codependency.
A person at this stage is still living with or involved with their abuser(s). They are in a state not unlike a victim of brainwashing or an active cult member. They have been led to believe (through the manipulations of the abuser — gaslighting, projection, isolation, and all the rest) that they are worthless, crazy, stupid, and the one at fault for all that has gone wrong. They question their own sanity because they have been told by the abuser that everything they believe is not true. They may even identify with their abuser (codependency) or look to them as their only reason for living. At this stage, they will do anything for the abuser, and can’t figure out why they feel so depressed and why their lives (and possibly even their health) is falling apart and everyone seems to have turned against them, sometimes even their own families.  They blame themselves, and have no idea that this is something being done to them by their abuser. A person at this stage may have shut off their ability to feel any emotions, and tell themselves (and may even believe) that this is normal.  Suicide is a real possibility.

2. Righteous anger and No Contact.
If an abuse victim is lucky, they will reach a point where they realize they have been abused, and that they are not the one at fault. Usually, this leads to righteous anger, and the victim may begin to express this. Because you can’t reason with an abuser, and they will not tolerate your honing in on the truth, in most cases the victim will realize they need to break away from the abuser. The anger the victim feels overrides the fear, depression, and numbness they felt previously, and gives them the motivation to do what they need to do to get away. In some cases, such as when there are children, going No Contact may be more complicated and it may be only possible to go very low contact.

The rage the victim feels may remain for a time (some longer than others). This is the stage that many narcissistic abuse bloggers are at when they begin to write about what happened to them. While unremitting rage will eventually poison the soul if the danger has passed and it has nowhere left to go, it’s still a lot healthier than remaining stuck in an abusive relationship and slowly dying a soul-death.

Unfortunately, many survivors seem to remain stuck at this stage. It almost seems as if the anger becomes a sort of addiction.  But I won’t write about that here;  I have other posts about that.

3. Asking questions, seeking answers.
At some point (for most people), the rage (which served its purpose) burns itself out. Some survivors grow weary of the unremitting hatred toward the personality-disordered and seek to understand the behaviors of those who caused them so much pain instead, while still remaining No Contact with abusers. They may spend time reading about the disorders of their abusers, and otherwise educating themselves. In time, this gives them a more balanced perspective, while they still acknowledge how dangerous such people can be. During this time, the survivor also learns how to navigate the world and relationships with better boundaries, practice being mindful, and also is better able to detect red flags to avoid being abused again (this may have begun during Stage 2).

4.  Looking inward, self awareness.
It’s not until a survivor can forgive their abusers (while never forgetting the harm they caused) that the healing can truly begin. Survivors continue to practice having good (or at least better) boundaries, and practice being mindful.

At the same time they may begin to look inside themselves to see what their own role(s) might have been in the abuse they endured. They may realize they tend to be codependent, or didn’t set good boundaries (usually because they were never trained to have good boundaries by their own abusive parents) or in some cases, may even be personality-disordered themselves (this kind of self-awareness can come as a huge shock but isn’t possible as long as a person is stuck in anger and hatred).

Though the survivor might have played some role in the abuse they endured, this doesn’t mean what happened was their fault or that they could have stopped it. The self-defeating behaviors and/or codependency that led to a person becoming a victim are almost always unconscious and programmed into the person during early childhood by abusive parents.

It’s during this stage that a survivor will often decide to enter therapy or some other type of psychological or spiritual counseling (this can happen as early as Stage 3).

5.  Coming together.
This last stage is when an abuse survivor begins to put all the pieces together, begins to understand the complicated dynamics between abusers and victims, and in some cases, becomes able to to use their own experience to consciously help others heal, even seeing what happened to them as a kind of blessing.   It’s at this stage that real freedom and happiness can finally be achieved  because the person has developed a sufficiently strong sense of self that is no longer attracted to (or attractive to) abusers.

I believe I’m somewhere between stages 4 and 5, though I have frequent relapses.  Remember: relapse is part of recovery!  Don’t beat yourself up.

Family estrangement.

 

scapegoating

Psychology Today has an interesting article about why family members become estranged.  In most cases, it’s an adult child between the ages of 25 and 35 who initiates the severing of the parent-child relationship.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/domestic-intelligence/201512/the-persistent-pain-family-estrangement.

“A difficult parent is that which the daughter or son experiences as being at the cusp of rejecting the child, or casting them out as a result of disapproval, disgust, or disappointment. When a daughter or son made the difficult decision to sever the relationship, it was usually because they felt that maintaining it was too emotionally costly, that they had to distort their soul into shapes that did not feel right to them in order to please or pacify a parent.”

In other words, No Contact.   I think most cases of an adult child severing their relationship with their parent(s) are due to feeling as if they have already been rejected or emotionally abandoned by the parent, so there isn’t as much guilt over severing contact as there might otherwise be.   But there is still sadness and grief involved, especially during holidays and possibly on birthdays.  The grief isn’t over what was lost so much as what never was or what could have been.

Tragically and unfairly, there is stigma against adults who lack family support or relationships.  Most people don’t really sympathize with you if you are estranged from your family, because they don’t understand it.  Most people think family will always be there for you through thick and thin, and in an ideal world, that is how it should be.  We are tribal creatures, wired for attachment, even as adults.

So when things go wrong and your family has cast you out of their midst, either because you became the scapegoat, or your values or lifestyle are disapproved of by the rest of the family, people from normal, loving families think the problem must be with YOU.  They can’t imagine that any family would cast out or reject one of their own, so you must be the one at fault.    If you have gone No Contact, they think that is a cruel and unusual thing for any adult child to do to the people who gave them life.   But because they weren’t the children of narcissistic parents, and have no clue what being the family scapegoat is like, they cannot understand the pain of staying involved with people who cannot love you unconditionally and are rejecting and abusive toward you even if they haven’t outright cast you out.

Many estranged ACONs are financially vulnerable due to having dismally low self esteem that kept them from acquiring the confidence and drive to be successful in a career or the self esteem to build satisfying, healthy relationships.  Many ACONs are divorced (often from other cold and rejecting abusive or narcissistic types much like their parents), unmarried, impoverished, and lonely.  Many also find it difficult if not impossible to build a surrogate family of close friends, because of their difficulties making friends for the same reasons their other close relationships don’t last.  They simply don’t have the self esteem or social skills needed for that.   A rejecting family who then turns around and blames you for your “failures” (due to not having given you the tools that most children got from their families to do well in life)  is like salt rubbed in an already gaping and infected wound.   It’s beyond unfair.  Add to that the sad fact that scapegoated adult children are usually left out of any will, if there is one.

Social service agencies and charities don’t help much.  They are temporary measures at best, and have limited resources.  They don’t love you unconditionally like a family would; in fact, they don’t really care.   So scapegoated and marginalized adult children often have no resources to which they can turn when things are rough (and they usually are).  They are vulnerable in every way it is possible to be vulnerable, due to poor mental and often physical health and without the means or the tools or the friends and family to give them support when they most need it.   Then, much like their own families did, society blames them for their failures and poverty, telling them it’s their own fault they have so few resources and insults them by calling them worthless drains on society.  It wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that most homeless people were the scapegoated children of narcissistic families.  Having been dealt such a lousy hand in life’s lottery, you’d think there’d be more suicides among estranged adult children.   But the survival instinct is strong with us.   It had to be, or we wouldn’t still be here.

The price of being the most emotionally honest member in a narcissistic family is a high one.

3 questions to ask yourself if you raised kids in a dysfunctional home.

Nobody’s perfect, and that goes for parents too.  There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There’s something called a “good enough” parent though, which means that you are going to make mistakes raising your kids, no matter how much talent you have for the task or how well adjusted you are.  Children don’t come with instruction manuals, and some of the mistakes you make might even be pretty bad ones.    But overall, you’re “good enough” if your kids know you love them no matter what mistakes you made, and they turn out to be functioning, reasonably happy adults.

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the world than the “normals” who had “good enough” parents.  Our narcissistic parents were not “good enough” and we were emotionally handicapped because of that.  Even if we aren’t narcissists ourselves, our children still suffered the fallout of our own abuse.    This could have manifested in many ways:

— we may have “parentified” our children (looked up to them as parental figures and shared things with them that should not be shared with children)

— we may have neglected them more than we should have, or put our own needs first

— we may have been unfaithful to our spouses or had affairs

— we may have overindulged in alcohol or drugs to ease our pain

— we may have had health problems due to trauma that interfered with our ability to be there for our children

— we may even have assigned the “scapegoat” or “golden child” role to our kids, albeit with less intensity than narcissist parents would have

— we may have been hospitalized for mental illness, which took time away from us being able to be there for our kids

— we may have been emotionally unstable, clinically depressed, always angry or quick to lose patience

— we may have been too permissive with our kids, in a misguided attempt to make up for our own miserable childhood, if our parents were very strict and controlling.

— we may have slept our days away out of depression, ignoring the needs of our kids

—  there may have been constant arguing and fighting in the home

— we may have stayed with an abuser, knowing the danger to the children

— we may have failed to protect our kids from an abusive spouse

I wasn’t guilty of everything on this list, but I was guilty of some of them.   I have a lot of guilt and regret over that, of course.   I beat myself up a lot over what I should have done differently.   And of course, I should have, but I was also at the time in a highly codependent marriage to an emotionally abusive malignant narcissist who gaslighted me and projected every bad thing he could onto me every chance he got. He was slowly but effectively driving me insane, and he tried to turn our kids against me too (in the end, he did not succeed).

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Somehow, my kids turned out alright.  Sure, they have problems.  But so does everyone.     Neither has NPD that I can tell.   I worry about them constantly though, frequently “seeing” pathology in them that in reality doesn’t exist.  I think it’s my guilt over my less than ideal parenting that makes me do this.  Because I was unintentionally under-protective of my kids when they were very young, sometimes I think I’m trying to “make up” for that now, when they are young adults and over-protectiveness is no longer appropriate or even healthy.

If you know you were a less than ideal parent due to our own trauma, ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do you have a good relationship with your children today?
  2. Are they functioning adequately in the world for their age group and mental ability?
  3. Do they have the capacity for empathy, friendship and love?

If the answers to these questions is “Yes,” then in spite of how bad a parent you think you were, you were “good enough” under the circumstances of simply not having the emotional tools that would have made your job as a parent easier.

If you know your parenting left a lot to be desired, encourage your adult child to talk to you honestly about what it felt like to be raised by you.  Listen to what they tell you, without interrupting, judging, or criticizing, even if what they tell you isn’t what you want to hear.  Chances are, even if your relationship with them has been damaged, allowing them to open up to you this way without fear of judgment is a step toward healing your relationship and building a healthier, more loving one.

Child roles in dysfunctional families.

dysfunctional-family
Credit: Artist unknown.

 

Wikipedia has an excellent, detailed article about dysfunctional family dynamics. Here I am just going to talk about the roles various family members play, and the kinds of families that become dysfunctional. If you’d like to read the whole article, click on this link:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysfunctional_family

Dysfunctional families are usually of two types:

1. One or more of the parents are active alcoholics or addicted to drugs.
2. One or more of the parents have a Cluster B disorder, usually Narcissistic Personality Disorder but sometimes Borderline Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, or Histrionic Personality Disorder (or a combination of any of these).

The Cluster B Connection.

Outside of alcoholics and drug addicts, dysfunctional family dynamics are most prevalent when one or both of the partners suffer from a Cluster B disorder, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Malignant Narcissism.    After NPD, BPD is the most common disorder seen in the head of a dysfunctional family, though because it’s more common in women and Borderlines have more empathy than narcissists, BPD is most often seen in the codependent, passive partner.

ASPD (psychopathy or sociopathy) rarely appears by itself in dysfunctional families, as antisocial people and psychopaths tend to not be raising children at all (either because they’re incarcerated, their children have already been removed from the home, or they simply have no interest in raising children,) but a parent could have Malignant Narcissism, which is a combination of NPD and ASPD.   Also, people with pure ASPD, though more likely to be criminals or involved in illegal activities, tend to be less emotionally abusive than people with NPD or even BPD. They are merely selfish and lack empathy, and they are manipulative to get what they want, but they don’t care about getting emotional supply from others so they don’t engage in mind games like gaslighting, triangulating, projecting, and scapegoating (unless there is a material reward involved or they are trying to avoid culpability). However, some people with ASPD are sadistic and enjoy tormenting family members for fun.

Of all the Cluster B disorders, HPD is probably the least toxic (Histrionics are shallow, attention seeking, and dramatic, but not usually that abusive), but HPD is usually comorbid with another Cluster B disorder, such as NPD.

cluster_b_chart

In some cases, a non-Cluster B mental illness (such as Bipolar disorder) that causes abusive acting-out behavior may be the culprit, but it’s less common because most other mental disorders are less easily hidden from others and the person appears “crazier.” Non-Cluster B disorders are also more easily treated with drugs or therapy, and except for psychotic disorders such as Schizophrenia, the afflicted person knows they have a problem and are more likely to seek help.

Cluster B and addictive disorders. 

Parents of dysfunctional families can also be both mentally ill and addicted to drugs or alcohol. The two often go together. In fact, alcoholism and drug addiction are extremely common in people with Cluster B disorders. Alcohol and drugs are their attempt to fill the emptiness they feel inside themselves.

Even if an alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t have an underlying Cluster B disorder, the behavior of an active addict/alcoholic is very similar to someone who has NPD. The only difference in the behavior of a narcissist and someone with active alcoholism is that for the narcissist, the “fix” is emotional; for the alcoholic, it’s chemical. A non-Cluster B active addict or alcoholic can be every bit as emotionally abusive, self-centered, and manipulative as someone with NPD. Only getting their next fix is important. (As an aside, it’s interesting to me that the 12 steps of AA and other 12-step programs almost all address the problem of narcissism by encouraging humility, responsibility, and amend-making. A person on a so-called “dry drunk” is basically a sober person acting out in narcissistic ways, which may be their nature).

The Codependent Partner.

Sometimes only one partner has a mental disorder or addiction, but the non-afflicted parent is always going to be codependent to them. The codependent parent, whether they have a disorder or not, almost always suffers from PTSD or Complex PTSD. If both parents have a Cluster B disorder (which I think is usually the case), the one who has NPD or Malignant Narcissism is almost always going to call all the shots and dominate the other family members. If a Borderline is paired up with a Narcissist, the Borderline is almost always going to be codependent to the Narcissist, colluding in the abuse but also being abused themselves. Similarly, if a Covert Narcissist is paired up with an Overt Narcissist, the Covert one is going to be codependent to them and possibly abused. Such a scenario can lead to the Borderline or Covert Narcissist developing Stockholm Syndrome (identifying with and colluding with their abuser). Non-Cluster B codependents can also develop Stockholm Syndrome, because it’s a complication of C-PTSD. The codependent parent often (but not always) has a high degree of empathy, which is what drew them to the narcissist in the first place, in a misguided belief that they could “fix” them or they were led to believe that the narcissist could “rescue” them.

The Roles of the Children.

In the ACON community, there’s a lot of talk about Scapegoats and Golden Children, but there are other roles children can play in a family that are rarely addressed. In a two child family, most likely there will be a scapegoat and a golden child, but in larger families, there can also be a Lost Child, a Clown, and a Rescuer (codependent). It’s unhealthy for a child to be in any of these roles, but the Scapegoat and Golden Child role are probably the most dangerous to a child’s mental and emotional health, for different reasons. Even in a two-child family, the roles can shift back and forth (according to the Wikipedia article, families in which the children’s roles change and shift are called Balkanized families–this alludes to the constantly shifting loyalties and borders of the Balkan countries in Eastern Europe).

1. The Scapegoat.

scapegoat

Both this and the Golden Child role are the soul-killing roles, but for different reasons. The Scapegoat is the child who is targeted by the narcissistic (or alcoholic) parent. The parent often is able to get the rest of the family to serve as flying monkeys and gang up on that child, projecting anything they don’t want to “own” onto them. Like the sacrificial goats described in the Bible who were banished to the wilderness and tormented by villagers, the Scapegoated child carries all the shame the rest of the family doesn’t want to confront or deal with. All the unwanted emotions and bad qualities are unloaded and projected onto them, so the abusers don’t have to confront or deal with these problems in themselves.

Usually it’s the most sensitive child of the family who becomes the Scapegoat, because that child tends to be the Truth Teller, the only family member who can see the dysfunction and may even react against it. The most sensitive child, being the child who shows the most emotion, is also a threat to the narcissists in the family because emotional expression is such a frightening thing to them. In many, if not most dysfunctional families, the expression of emotion is not allowed. So the most emotional or sensitive child becomes the scapegoat, especially if they rebel against the dysfunction or criticize it.

The Scapegoat may be assigned the role of Bad Child, the Loser, the Stupid One, the Ugly One, the Crazy One, the Weak One, or any combination of these. No matter what they do, they cannot please the parents (or the siblings who have been turned against them). Scapegoat Children usually develop severe C-PTSD or possibly another mental disorder, and having been trained to be victims and never given the emotional, financial or other tools to succeed in life, tend to fulfill their families’ predictions of being “losers,” so then their families can say to others, “See? This child really is worthless.”

Scapegoated children also tend to attract other abusers throughout their lives and are at risk for being targeted for bullying even as adults and for entering into abusive relationships. If the adult child doesn’t go No Contact, the abuse continues, usually through some form of isolation, silent treatment, or exclusion. Scapegoated adults are talked badly about by the family and not invited to family functions. They are given no emotional or financial support, even though other members of the family are given these things. It’s not unusual for a scapegoated adult child to be living in poverty, even if their families are wealthy–not only because they were denied financial support when they needed it, but also because their self esteem took such a terrible beating that they have no confidence at all and never take any risks that could improve their lives. Severe C-PTSD can also cause a person to have an inability to focus or concentrate or set realistic goals.

A Scapegoat isn’t always a child. It can also be a parent, in which the children are turned against that parent by the abusive one.

2. The Golden Child.

girl with a gold medal and cups.

The Golden Child, often (but not always) the eldest child, is the parent’s trophy, pride and joy. The parents may seem to love that child, but being incapable of real love, their “love” is conditional and is based on their fantasy of what they want that child to be, not on who the child really is. The child is assigned to be a Mini Me of the narcissistic parent.

The Golden Child, basking in constant approval, showered with toys and gifts, never held accountable for any wrongdoing (which may be projected onto the Scapegoat), and often recruited as a co-abuser in the abuse of the Scapegoat, grows up entitled, grandiose, and spoiled. Because their Real Self has never been appropriately mirrored and their less than perfect traits are ignored or projected onto someone else, and because they were rewarded for playing a the role of the Perfect One, a Golden Child in a family is the most likely to develop NPD and become a clone of the abusive parent. In this way their souls are destroyed even more than the Scapegoat’s. To continue to be the parent’s favorite, they had to play a role which became internalized. This becomes their False Self. After awhile, they are no longer able to access their Real Self at all. Golden Children who have become narcissistic continue their entitled, bullying, manipulative, grandiose behavior into adulthood and are likely to head dysfunctional families themselves, continuing the cycle.

A non-Golden Child, even a Scapegoat, can become a narcissist too (usually the covert form of NPD), for self-protection, but Golden Children tend to develop the grandiose, malignant form of narcissism and as such, are the least likely to ever seek help for their disorder or admit they have become abusers themselves.

3. The Lost Child.

lostchild

In larger families (three or more children), one child is likely to be ignored and treated as if they don’t exist. This isn’t a form of silent treatment; it’s as if the parents don’t notice the child is there at all. The Lost Child isn’t victimized like the Scapegoat, but they aren’t spoiled either. They may or may not be recruited to assist in the abuse of the Scapegoat, but they won’t necessarily be punished if they don’t cooperate; they will simply be ignored. The Lost Child tends to be quiet and shy, and not make any waves. They are probably aware of the family dysfunction and may sympathize with the scapegoat (but don’t let anyone know this). As they grow older, they may crave attention or develop addictions, or they may remain shy and retiring throughout their lives. They tend to avoid confrontation and drama, and may become extremely introverted.

4. The Clown/Mascot.

classclown

The Clown/Mascot attempts to divert attention away from the family dysfunction (and also get attention for themselves) by making light of everything. Everything becomes a joke to them, and they even use their own families as sources for humor. Clowns can be disruptive in class as children, to get attention, but because of their ability to see the humor in things, they tend to be outgoing and develop a large circle of friends during adolescence and adulthood (even if they are never taken very seriously). Family Mascots are almost never scapegoated, because they entertain everyone and take the focus off the family problems.

David Sedaris, a writer and humorist, is a good example of this dynamic at play.  Several writers in the ACON community (and even outside that community) were outraged by Sedaris’ callous essay (“Now We Are Five,” which appeared in the New Yorker after his younger sister, Tiffany, committed suicide).   Tiffany was clearly the family scapegoat and had evidently gone No Contact with the rest of the family. At the time of her death, she was living in poverty and only had, as her father put it, “two lousy boxes” of belongings. I don’t know all the details, but it seems as if she was offered no support, either emotionally or financially, in spite of the family’s wealth and Sedaris’ success as a writer. She was probably mentally ill, but her mental illness may have been due to being the family reject.

In a candid interview Sedaris gave for Vice, he describes Tiffany and her relationship with the rest of the family. His words are very telling.

Even as a child I looked at my sister and wondered what that would be like, not to feel the warmth of my mother’s love. Tiffany didn’t. There was always a nervous quality about her, a tentativeness, a desperate urge to be in your good graces. While the rest of us had eyes in the front of our heads, she had eyes on the sides, like a rabbit or a deer, like prey, always on the lookout for danger. Even when there wasn’t any danger. You’d see her trembling and think, You want danger? I’ll give you some danger

It’s been suggested that David Sedaris is himself a narcissist (possibly the golden child) and that could certainly be true, but I also suspect he served a secondary role as the family Clown/Mascot. His callousness toward Tiffany in his famous essay (and grandiosity about how great the rest of the Sedaris family was–it’s very common for narcissists who were golden children to hold their dysfunctional families up as paragons of perfection) seemed to be drawn both from narcissism and from a need to hide his anger and pain behind a wall of humor. Here’s a link to his essay (it’s heartbreaking and may be triggering):

Now We Are Five

The accompanying photo is interesting. Tiffany, the second to youngest child in a family of six children, sits in the bottom right hand corner. Her hair is cut short and unkempt, and she looks very unhappy. David, wearing the glasses, stands above her. Actually, none of the kids look very happy. Not a smile in the bunch.  Something’s definitely not right about this family.  It’s common to see family portraits where no one is smiling in the 18th or 19th centuries,  but not in the late 1960s, when this photo was taken.   Here’s another photo, from the Vice interview, where only Tiffany (again in the bottom right hand spot) looks desperately unhappy and disconnected from her siblings.

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Credit: Vice.com / Left to right: Amy, David, Gretchen, Paul, Lisa, and Tiffany

I used to enjoy Sedaris’ writings and looked forward to his books and essays, but after this essay, I just can’t read him anymore. (Augusten Burroughs is a better alternative and doesn’t seem to be a narcissist).

In spite of their raucous and jovial manner, Clowns are likely to be depressed because they have never learned to confront or deal with their true feelings.  They hide behind a wall of laughter.  Their sense of humor is really just a cover for their pain. Many Clowns become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and a few become suicidal. Many of our great comedians served the Clown role in their families. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of them had drug issues or killed themselves.

5. The Rescuer.

superman_child

This is the codependent child who attempts to “fix” the family dysfunction by being obedient, always good, non-confrontational, overly generous, and self-sacrificing. The Rescuer may be highly empathic. The Rescuer tries to serve all the needs of the narcissistic/addicted parent, which of course is not possible. They will never argue with or criticize the narcissistic parent, and are always trying to get everyone to get along, which also is not possible. They may be the only family member who doesn’t abuse the Scapegoat, but they might if they feel like it’s required. However, even if they do collude in the Scapegoat’s abuse, they will be less abusive than the other family members, tending to take a back seat or even sympathize with the Scapegoat in private. In trying to please everyone, they please no one, and grow up feeling impotent and helpless. It’s a no-win situation.

When Rescuers become adults, they tend to unconsciously look for other abusers to “rescue,” having failed to do so in their families of origin. Like Scapegoats, Rescuers are likely to become abused themselves as adults, but it’s hard for them to leave an abuser because of their high level of empathy which keeps them tied to the abuser in their attempt to want to “help” them. They also tend to fall for an abuser’s promises to change and are easily “hoovered” back into a codependent relationship.

Shifting Roles.

In Balkanized families, the child roles can shift. The most common situation is a Golden Child becoming a Scapegoat, often upon reaching adulthood, if they fail to fulfill the unrealistic expectations put on them. (“You were such a disappointment to me!”) If a Scapegoat goes No Contact or leaves the family for some other reason, another child, possibly the Lost Child, becomes the new Scapegoat. Someone has to carry all the family shame.  If the family only has two children, the Golden Child may find themselves suddenly scapegoated or serving both roles.

Children who serve as both Scapegoats and Golden Children (very common in only children)  often develop Borderline Personality Disorder as well as severe C-PTSD and possibly other mental disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (almost always the result of severe emotional abuse).

Serving as both a Scapegoat and Golden Child is the ultimate mindf*ck because there isn’t even any consistency. The child never knows if they will be punished or rewarded from one minute to the next. Their only advantage (if they are an only child) is that they don’t have siblings who have been turned into flying monkeys who collude in the abuse.

If the family ever develops a need for a new Scapegoat (if the Scapegoat goes No Contact, dies, or disappears), the Lost Child is usually picked as a replacement, due to their non-confrontational, malleable temperament and lack of any real pre-existing role in the family.

Envy is my worst character trait.

envy
Envy, by Marta Dahlig, Deviantart

I’m about to write a painful, bitter post. It’s about something brings me a great deal of shame, so much shame I hesitated writing about it at all. It’s about what’s probably my very worst quality. But my need to be honest on this blog (because it may help both me and others), no matter how ugly or socially unacceptable my feelings may be, overrode any misgivings I had about what I’m about to write.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an envious person. Having been programmed by my FOO to be a perpetual victim, honed and chiseled by master artisans to become a dysfunctional, self-loathing adult unable to achieve even the normal comforts, supports, and pleasures non-abused people enjoy and take for granted; seemingly set up to always fail (and then get callously blamed for my failures by the very people who programmed me to fail), another unpleasant side effect of being programmed to be a “loser” is a nasty tendency to envy others for having those things that should have rightfully been mine too.

I’m not talking about winning the lottery or acquiring a new Ferrari (though those things might count too). I’m talking about envying those who achieve or acquire normal good things that most people who were raised in loving families take for granted–landing a great job, acceptance by a publisher, a place to go and be supported unconditionally when their luck is down, a wide circle of friends, an inheritance earned through simply being who they are and being a member of a family that cares about them unconditionally.

If such a good thing happens to a person I always knew had those things, someone who never seemed surrounded by darkness and always seemed to have things pretty easy, I envy them a lot less than if those things happen to someone I had met when they were still on “my level”–in other words, a fellow victim who suffered abuse and is still reeling from its fallout, struggling (and failing) to find their footing in a world that seems so cruel and cold, the way I continue to do and feel like I will be doing until the day I die. If such a person’s fortunes suddenly change, I fall into a slimy, nasty cesspool of envy. Instead of feeling inspired and encouraged that yes, the good thing that happened to them could happen to me too and I should just be patient, yada yada yada, I just feel consumed by that bitter, horrible emotion that does no one any good, least of all its bearer.

easter_outfit
Coveter-in-training: being a hybrid mini-me/scapegoat/golden child to someone I knew even then I could never aspire to set the stage for my tendency to envy others.

I think I know why it’s easier to envy people who suddenly came into a great opportunity to change their lives than those who already had things easy. It’s a “misery loves company” kind of feeling: when you feel victimized by life and all the people you ever had to answer to, it helps to know that others feel exactly the same way because it means you’re not alone. It’s not that you want the person who’s fortunes changed to feel as badly as you; it’s not even that you’re not happy for them. It’s more that there’s a sense of solidarity in being able to wallow in a communal pit of misery together, and suddenly that feeling of solidarity is broken. It’s that feeling of realizing, “it’s not just me after all! I’m not alone!” being thrown into doubt because that person is suddenly able to lift themselves out of a hellish existence and you are still not. In all honesty, it feels like a kind of…well, betrayal.

I know it’s not really that at all. All of us who were victimized by narcissists all strive to break out of the trap of a life of failure set up for us by our abusers early in our lives. During our wallow in communal unhappiness, we feel strong solidarity. We support each other, cry on each other’s shoulders, feel angry on behalf of each other, and wish each other the best with utmost sincerity, as we wish it for ourselves. But then one one is suddenly lifted up out of the mire, you can’t help but feel left behind. You’re completely unprepared to feel that way, because this person was an angel to you and came to you at a time when she was most needed. You looked to her for inspiration, advice and support. So you beat yourself up over your envious feelings because you know feeling this way is wrong and sinful. You feel like a hypocrite, since in theory, you wanted what was best for this person and still do. You know they deserve good things and there is a part of you that is happy for them, but it’s corrupted by the unwelcome thought, “why not me too?” like mold on a delicious chocolate cake.

You know their reward was not undeserved. We are all at different parts in our healing journeys, and some are farther along than others. The person you so envy is farther along their spiritual and emotional journey than you are. You’re well aware of that fact and it never bothered you. You saw that person as a teacher and guide. You know that perhaps you’re just not ready yet to handle something that good happening to you yet and that’s why it hasn’t happened. First you must learn to better appreciate the things you already have, to see the glass as half full.

Of course you wish this person no harm; your envy is not the sort that wishes to take away anything or try to sabotage the person’s good fortune. But the bitterness and sense of unfairness is still there, eating away at your insides like an unwelcome and potentially lethal parasite. You know better but you can’t help it. Exhausted from your bitterness, you feel tired an depressed. You shout at God in frustration and exhausted rage: “When is MY ship ever going to come in?” You don’t want to take away anyone’s good fortune; you just want to have some for yourself too.

I think it’s hard for ACONs to learn to trust. The people in our lives have proved to be anything but trustworthy. We’ve been hurt, betrayed and disappointed by everyone we thought mattered. We learned to expect the worst from people. Many ACONs turn to God or religion as a respite. Desperate to trust someone, anyone, they fully embrace God and throw their worries blindly at the feet of the Almighty. Their faith seems perfect. Others, like me, have more trouble. How can we fully trust an entity we can’t actually see? How do we even know there’s anything there at all? We overthink everything and overthinking makes faith difficult to attain. I pray for faith constantly, because I know that’s the only thing that will take away my fear, self-loathing, suspicion of everyone, and my envy. The person I envy right now has faith that seems nearly perfect. How can I get to that point?

I pray that one day my envy can be transformed, that I can be genuinely happy for the good fortune of someone else, and even be inspired by it. I also pray that the person this post refers to doesn’t judge or condemn me for feeling envious, but something already tells me they will not. I will always be grateful they came into my life.

****
Further Reading:
My Envy

My online friends.

goodfriends

While I wouldn’t wish narcissistic abuse from either families of origin or ex-lovers or spouses on anyone,  I’m grateful there are others besides me who have experienced it and that we have found each other.   If it weren’t for the Internet, that never would have been possible, and I’d still be reeling from the abuse all alone and wondering why no one else in the world could relate to my pain.   Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without my little community of ACON bloggers and readers who have suffered this type of trauma.  Very few people you meet in daily life get it.   It’s also not something you can just tell people about.  The anonymity of the Internet helps give us the courage to speak up.

It makes me sad to hear your stories, but at the same time, it’s great to be part of a found online family that is so supportive of one another and give each other virtual hugs and hope.

I’m very grateful to each and every one of you.  Thank you for being my friend and a friend to one other.

 

The awkwardness of being a Borderline ACON.

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I won’t lie.  It’s incredibly awkward being a blogger who blogs about two things that seem diametrically opposed to many people in the narcissistic abuse community:  being a victim of narcissists, and having a Cluster B disorder (BPD).   To those of you who aren’t familiar with the ACON (adult children of narcissists) blogosphere,  there are a few ACON bloggers (not too many on WordPress, fortunately) who seem to think if you have BPD then you can’t also be an abuse victim and certainly shouldn’t be blogging about it.  Because, you see, if you have BPD then you are one of the soulless abusers.  If you are any kind of “cluster B person” blogging about abuse, then of it follows that you must have an “agenda.”  What that agenda is is never specified though.

I have been accused of many things, none of which are pretty, and few of which are true. Most are crass generalizations made out of ignorance and a refusal to think outside the box or consider that not everything is all black or all white or that all people can be shoved into a box. .   Here are just a few of the things I’ve been accused of.

  1. I have an “agenda” and dishonest motives.
  2. I am not really an abuse victim.
  3. I am being paid off or otherwise compensated  other people (like Sam Vaknin) or psychiatric organizations (like the APA) to promote my “evil” views and blur the lines between Cluster B disorders and complex PTSD caused by abuse.
  4. I’m “evil.”
  5. I’m crazy.
  6. I’m confused.
  7. I only care about being “popular”
  8. As a Borderline, I have “no right” to be writing posts about narcissistic abuse.

To these accusations,  here are my responses:

  1. Um, no.  I’m not clear what “agenda” it is I’d be trying to promote. My only “agenda” is healing for myself, fun (because I love to write), and hopefully, helping a few others along the way.
  2. I guess some people never really read this blog because it’s filled with personal accounts of narcissistic abuse by both my family of origin and my ex-husband.   Oh, that’s right.  I’m just making it all up. 🙄   I couldn’t make up these accounts if I tried.  I try not to dwell too much on the abuse though, because doing that doesn’t help me and only makes me miserable.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, though.
  3. This really makes me scratch my head.   It almost makes me laugh how far a few people are reaching by saying this.  The only monetary compensation I get is about $30 – $40 a month from running ads on this blog.   I still live in poverty and I don’t have any kind of shady business dealings with any organization or person.  I write this blog because I want to.
  4. That’s quite a value judgment there.   You don’t even know me.   I don’t point fingers and call anyone evil unless I have real good reason to, and even then I’m hesitant because I don’t want to be a judgmental person (I can’t stand judgmental people).   I think it’s always better to use the term “evil” for actions, not people.   I guess this idea that I’m evil is because I’m zOMG “Cluster B.”  I’m not a narcissist (even if I do have a few of the traits) and I’m not antisocial and I do have empathy and an almost excessively strong conscience.   But some people have the idea that even if you’re a self-aware borderline who practices mindfulness, you’re still as bad as one of the narcs.  “Sociopath” is another thing I’ve been called but it means pretty much the same thing.
  5. Maybe there’s a bit of truth to this.  After all, I do have four mental disorders–BPD, complex PTSD,  Avoidant PD, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  I can act pretty crazy sometimes too.   But at least I’m self-aware crazy and can see myself pretty objectively and control my urges to act crazy when they get out of hand. But just because you don’t agree with me doesn’t mean I’m crazy.  I just have a different opinion than you do.  Deal with it.
  6. There’s also some truth to this.    It is VERY confusing being both an abuse victim and having a Cluster B disorder, even though the Cluster B disorder was caused by abuse!   And like it or not, I DO think BPD and complex PTSD are almost the same disorder.   Of course, this is just my opinion and no one’s paying me off or brainwashing me to “blur the lines.”
  7. No.  My primary motive in blogging is healing myself and helping people.   A secondary motive is fun.    Yes, of course I look at my stats and always get a small thrill when they’re growing, but I don’t write to be popular or famous.  Yes, I’d like to write a book someday and be able to make a living from my writing, but who wouldn’t?   Even if I never make a penny from my writings and even if no one read my blog, I’d still be doing it because it’s something I really like to do.
  8. As a Borderline, I *AM*  victim of narcissitic abuse.  (see reply #6).  ANYONE who was an abuse victim and wants to heal from the damage they endured has EVERY right to blog about it, and yes, that even includes people with self aware NPD!

me_and_my_evil_crazy_me_in_minecraft_by_sonatathesiren-d90wfu7
“Me and My Evil Crazy Me” (Minecraft image by Sonatathesiren)

I know my opinions are sometimes controversial and won’t sit well with everyone, but unless I’m presented with a convincing argument to discard my personal beliefs and opinions, they aren’t going to change.   I ‘m a critical thinker who likes to explore all angles of an issue and then form my own opinions when I’ve gathered enough information.  I’ve always walked to the beat of my own drummer, rather than mindlessly following what other people tell me I “should” do or believe.   Being a “lone wolf” who walks to the beat of my own drummer and refuses to conform to the “popular” view is one of the biggest reasons why I was ostracized by so many people all my life–including my own family.  But you know what?  I don’t care.  This is who I am and I’m going to keep running with it.     I seriously don’t understand why people who dislike my opinions and views so much keep reading my posts anyway if it’s only going to make them angry.  No one is forcing my opinions on those people. Just hit the backspace button!  It’s easy.

I’m aware some people have a problem with this because it doesn’t fit into the almost cult-like mentality I’ve seen among certain (fortunately only a few) ACON bloggers. If you piss them off, be prepared to be mobbed. Maybe they’ll leave you alone on your own blog but make no mistake–they will be trashing you and your character on their own blogs. At the same time, there are so many more people (and bloggers) who appreciate my reluctance to put people into boxes and think in only black and white terms.  There are many beautiful shades of grey in between the extremes.  That’s one of the best takeaways of moving away from BPD black and white thinking and replacing that with critical thinking and mindfulness.  If that’s evil and crazy, then evil and crazy I guess I will be.   But I really don’t think it is.

balance

Many people have told me my more open-minded approach has been refreshing and has helped them come to terms with the abuse they had to endure and move past the rage and anger they felt coming out of their abusive relationships, or when they went No Contact. At the same time, one of my aims has become reducing the awful stigma against people suffering from BPD. It’s a delicate balance, but I don’t think it’s undoable.

Being a borderline and a trauma victim who writes about narcissistic abuse issues as well as my own (and other) cluster B disorders,  it’s sometimes a delicate balance.   But they are not mutually exclusive.   I  feel driven to write  about my disorders as they relate to my abuse and attempt to reconcile them because I need to for my own sanity and healing.

Adult poverty and scapegoat-hood: a connection?

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I’m copying and pasting this from the comment section under another post, because I think it’s an important issue that needs a lot more awareness and research than it currently has.

I always felt like an outsider in the world because I’m one of those rare people who came from an upper middle class family but fell into a lower class financial lifestyle. I thought I must be horribly defective for that to have happened. From everything I’d ever read until recently, it was believed the only people who would fall so far down the social ladder into poverty (who weren’t born into it) were those who were mentally challenged, drug-addicted, or insane (and even then, their wealthy families would continue to help them financially, if not support them). As a person with a high IQ, I found the theory that “people who become poor are dumb and lazy” incredibly insulting.  I’ve worked hard my entire adult life and I’m far from stupid.  I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink, and I don’t have the type of mental illness that keeps a person from being able to take care of themselves. I knew my poverty had everything to do with my dismally low self esteem and wondered why this wasn’t ever considered a cause of poverty in adulthood.

It wasn’t until I found the ACON community that I realized I wasn’t alone: this seems to be a phenomenon almost exclusively limited to adults who became the designated scapegoats of narcissistic families. It’s as if we were not only isolated from the rest of the family by our narcissists; we were also kept from being able to take our rightful places in the functioning world. Whether we’re male or female, we were castrated and crippled, then we were blamed for it. We were told we were “losers” or “stupid” or “lazy.” But we never had a chance.  To make matters even worse, once poverty befalls us, we are further isolated and rejected because we “embarrass” the family.

So many of us became poor but didn’t grow up that way. Obviously something’s significant is going on here. I think studies need to be done on family scapegoats/black sheep and poverty and find what the correlations and causes are. I would suspect the lack of normal familial support systems, isolation from others, and emotional coping tools due to horrible self esteem are the culprits. Awareness needs to be increased.

Right now, a number of ACON bloggers are writing about their own experiences with it, so it’s starting there, at the grass roots level. Hopefully, in time this very real social issue becomes more noticed and addressed in the general realm. I hope in the future there’s more empathy and tolerance toward the poor in general, who don’t all fit in the same box. We aren’t all lazy slackers and we weren’t all born poor. In fact, many of us are intelligent and college educated. We just don’t know how to navigate the practical side of life as well as others, and we lack the social support networks others have, because of what was done to our self esteem by our narcissistic families.

Further reading:

Why Family Scapegoats Become Lifelong Victims

Outcasts, Scapegoats and Black Sheep of the Dysfunctional Family

Scapegoating in Families: What We Need to Know