“Let me be your voice” project – Sleeping with the enemy…

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.

Comments here are disabled. Please comment on the original post.

Also, please follow Cyranny’s Cove.  She has an awesome blog!

Cyranny's Cove

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!*


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I decided to talk today, because I kept this story for myself for too long. And I cannot believe I…

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If Facebook was real life.

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I’m sitting in a group therapy session for people with complex PTSD and other problems caused by childhood trauma, telling the group about the chain of events that led to my becoming the family blacksheep.   Tears trickle down my cheeks as I relate how victimized I felt by my family.  The two people on either side of me reach out to touch my shoulders.   I feel the beginning of connection, of a sense of belonging and community I never had at home, or anyplace at all.    I feel safe in this place.  I feel like my secrets will never go beyond the confines of this room.   Outside, the world may be dangerous and unfriendly, swarming with treacherous and cold-hearted people who wish me ill, but inside these walls, I feel welcomed and loved.

Suddenly the door opens.   It’s my niece, who I’ve met exactly three times in my life.  I haven’t seen her since she was a little girl.   She’s armed with an album of photos of her latest vacation and the big party the extended family threw for her on the birth of her latest child.  I wasn’t invited to this party.   She walks over to me and starts shoving the the pictures in my face, making me look.    I politely shuffle through the stack, then hand them back to her.  I feel violated and envious.  “Do you like them?” she demands.  She won’t leave until I say I do.  Apparently satisfied, she leaves.

Then someone I barely know from an old job walks in the room.  He tells me his business has really started taking off and he’s raking in so much money he is having a custom vacation home built right on the beach.   He shows me pictures of the house-in-progress he and his gorgeous new wife are building.  “Oh, yes, and we just found out she’s pregnant–with twins!” he crows.  Finally, he leaves.   I turn toward the group, ready to apologize for the rude intrusion.

But I never have a chance, because then my daughter’s  BFF from her middle school days bursts through the door, crying and cussing because her babydaddy is back on drugs and hasn’t payed child support in over a year.    My polite but sympathetic nods constitute a “Like” and satisfied with that, she leaves.   My boundaries feel like they’re under siege by this point.  I turn back toward the group, but am interrupted again.

Some stranger walks in and shoves a piece of paper at me.  I look down at it,  It’s a test called  “Which Celebrity Pet Do You Look The Most Like?”  Annoyed, I crumple it up and toss it on the floor.

A guy I’ve never seen before but who calls me “Friend”  invites me to play a game.   He starts tossing game cards at me, which contain pictures of things like barrels of apples, litters of piglets, bushels of wheat, and clucking hens.

Stop, please!  I want this room to be my sanctuary again.   I feel inhibited and self conscious now, because at any moment some random person from my past, a random relative, someone from an old job, or an old classmate might invade the room again, crashing over my boundaries.  No place is safe.

I have one more visitor.    My mother enters the room, fixes me with a penetrating stare, and tells me she heard everything I said about her in this room before all the interruptions started.    I feel like the floor just dropped out from under me, leaving me stranded in mid-air.   I stare at my mother.  Her eyes are opaque and unreadable, but her small, knowing smirk tells me everything I need to know.

Guest post: 7 Red Flags of a Nasty Narcissistic Personality (By Richard Grannon aka SpartanLifeCoach)

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I’m honored to feature an original post by SpartanLifeCoach, Richard Grannon.  His website can be found here.

7 RED FLAGS OF A NASTY NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY
By Richard Grannon

Here are tips for the modern human seeking to avoid becoming entangled in personality disordered unpleasantness.

Here’s the LOW DOWN:

Many psychologists think we may be facing a full blown narcissism epidemic.

And NO, this doesn’t just mean middle aged baby boomers whinging about girls at the gym loading up their Instagrams with selfies. We are talking a full blown narcissistic personality disorder epidemic on the real. Academics and clinicians are (quietly) holding seminars and conferences about it as we speak.

The difference between a touch of vanity and malignant self obsession?

According to Freud a narcissistic phase is vital to the healthy psychological growth of infants. If people are traumatised at a certain age in a certain way they “get stuck” in a rather infantile phase of development giving them the morality and compassion of a 4 year old toddler tyrant.
This very overbearing “me, me, me” phase is essential to the development of self regard and boundaries in a young child. It is extremely toxic when still present in a fully grown adult.

Lets clear up some confusion: Having pronounced narcissistic traits can be an advantage in certain situations, yes. Many people think the essence of narcissism is self love and/or vanity, if you are talking about narcissism with a little “n” then perhaps. You want to look your best, dress well and take of your self, this is normal.

However, Malignant Narcissism is a world away from a little dose of narcissism.
A full blown NPD has experienced a dramatic and long lasting break from reality as a result of trauma. This trauma is usually from being objectified by a highly narcissistic parent who has used that child as a kind of narcissistic supply by proxy (a bit more complicated to explain, I’ll get into that elsewhere).

Malignant NPD means a shell personality has been constructed around the authentic self as a defense mechanism to a hostile environment. Onto that shell the NPD projects a false, idealised self. They really are living inside “their own little bubbles” of narcissism. Their relationship with reality is by definition, warped.

Make no mistake–being vain and self-interested does not Narcissistic Personality Disorder make!

What this means for you:

If the psychologists are right and full blown narcissistic personality disorder is both currently under-diagnosed and on the rise then you might want to be extra careful you are getting intimate with a new partner.

Take more precautions, learn what the red flags of NPD are and if you see it, disengage, disengage, disengage.

Always? Yes, always.

Can’t I just dip my toe in? Can’t I save them? No and no.

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The risk:

Getting involved with a full blown NPD can be disastrous and can leave the partner with PTSD-like symptoms that seem at first to be a kind of intense heartbreak but actually signal a crisis of self identity and of the individuals relationship with reality itself. Yes, that’s how dangerous and damaging a relationship with an NPD can be. Look online and you will see countless stories of people losing money, property, jobs, businesses, self worth and sanity all at the hands of an NPD.

How can this happen?

Someone with NPD could be considered to be an un-personality. Instead of an individual with feelings, wants and desires there is only a shell who is hell bent on garnering certain types of emotional responses and attention from those around her/or him.

Because of this unique (and previously very rare) condition they are excellent actors and superb social chameleons who can tune in to their selected victims dreams, fears and desires and then be exactly what the victim thought they had been looking for their whole life.

Clue 1: If its too good to be true, it probably is.

Nobody is perfect, thankfully, what a dull world it would be if it were not so. If you meet a girl or a guy and they seem to be weirdly PRECISELY what you think you were looking for then stop and go back and check again.

Clue 2: Too fast, waaaay too fast.

The NPD accelerates the relationship at lightning speed. They instantly will want there to be zero boundaries between the two of you.

Most of my clients tell the same story: whirlwind romance, we moved in together within a matter of weeks, she told me she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me and I was the love of her life, soul mate and or perfect life partner…and so on…

Why? The NPD is a close cousin to the well known Psychopath (Anti-social Personality disorder). These are personality disorders defined by a lack of boundaries. Between themselves and others, between what they think, perceive and what they feel, and their fantasies and reality.

So why is that such a big deal, wouldn’t that make a person a bit of a dreamy, artistic, creative type? Fundamentally good natured if a little frustratingly scatter brained at times.

No.

Why?

Because of the essential traits of this cluster of personality disorders: exploitativeness, entitlement and a strong urge to punish.

I wont get into whether NPDs are truly sadistic or not here, but Cluster B disorders (malignant Borderlines, Narcissists and people with Anti-social Personality Disorder) are very focused on power dynamics and maintaining the upper hand at all times. It is an expedient way to exert power over someone, to simply hurt them and make them feel distress.

They want to be intimate rapidly with you, not because they love you “SO MUCH” (sorry to bring what will be to many, very painful news) but because it makes them feel significant, indispensable, powerful.

And the Cluster B has little to no impulse control, so why not just get all the way inside your life straight away? It feels sooooo good.

Clue 3: Love Bombing.

The harder and more fiercely they love you at first the more savagely they will treat you when the axe falls. And it always falls.

Why?

Intimacy terrifies the NPD. It’s a loss of control. If they “lose themselves in the game” they may start feeling their authentic feelings for you. This will make them frightened and angry and then they will give way to their “talionic impulse” (look it up, see how well this shoe fits!) and punish you for making them feel feelings for you.

If the girl or guy you just met is mauling you with adulation and love, be advised: step away from the relationship.

Take a few days to cool off and clear your head. In the early phases of a relationship this should be fine and they should not be upset by “taking a breather”, if they freak out about it and get angry (NPD) or pour scorn on you/make dramatic displays of self pity (BPD) or threaten to kill your dog (ASPD), that’s a MAJOR red flag that we are not dealing with a sane boundaried adult looking for an equal relationship. Amiright? (See Clue 4)

Why?

Even cults have figured out that the human condition is fragile and insecure and that if you “love bomb” (literally bomb someone with compliments, gifts, adulation) it makes the target feel really intense feelings of happiness and recognition all associated in their brain with YOU. Or the guru of the cult. This gives them the initial hook into you. Kind of like a crack dealer letting you have your first few hits for free.

Why are they always mean afterwards?

It’s fuelled by the mechanism called the “talionic” urge, and it’s preconscious. It’s likely that they know they are doing it, but it’s very unlikely they actually know why. These are not people who spend an awful lot of time on genuine introspection, questioning their own motives!

Its called the “cycle of idealisation and devaluation”. They put you, or rather their fantasy of you, up high on a pedestal, because it makes them feel good to do so. When you, eventually, refuse to be the fantasy they want and are annoying enough to be the real person you are, you inflict an outrageous insult against them and they are disproportionately angry (this is called narcissistic injury and narcissistic rage) and will fling you into the gutter with total savagery.

To say they are cruel is an understatement. They have a sense of your suffering but simply do not care one bit if you are totally destroyed by their cruelty. In fact they would prefer it. It would be further proof of their power and uniqueness if you were crushed by their dismissal.

Clue 4: Does not respond well to the word “no”

Or indeed to any boundaries being set.

At all.

If you tell another sane, adult, who is being truly honest with you and doesn’t have an ulterior motive the word “no” politely and they have a major emotional response to that, or indeed you just try to set a boundary and they get very angry or upset, well, you don’t need a psychology degree to see that that just is NOT healthy.

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Why? A boundary being set is them being locked out. A boundary being set is them losing controlling. The NPD experiences a boundary or a “no” as a hugely outrageous insult to their assumed superiority and they will respond with rage or an uber-sulk session that will last for days. Both have the same intent: to punish your disobedience.

Clue 5: Jealous and/or Controlling Behaviour.

Come on, I know that he or she is really hot and they are great in bed and funny and charming (the NPD as a great actor and social chameleon can really turn on the good stuff when its getting them what they want) but are you really going to ignore another sign of them being moody, bratty, bossy, petulant, jealous or just plain manic control-freakish?

Why do they do this?

The NPD is an infant trapped in an adult body. They think they have a right to everything, all the time, all of you, every part of you. NOW.

Clue 6: You Don’t Feel So Good

One of the symptoms of being with an NPD is a dysregulated HPA axis. Sounds fancy, in this context it essentially means that your brain systems “threat assessment software” has gotten out of whack as your frontal lobes and limbic system have gotten into a fight with each other about how dangerous this person is. This means you will feel exhausted, depressed, anxious, hyper vigilant and prone to over react to stress you can normally deal with. If it goes on long enough you will experience adrenal exhaustion.

Why?

One part of you is sending a signal saying: WARNING! This person is dangerous. And another part of you, encouraged by the NPD is saying: no, no, she is lovely and she loves me and I want this to carry on.

This creates a split in you in which two opposing versions of reality fight for dominance and that’s very, very stressful. Watch out for the insomnia and bad dreams!

Clue 7: You Become A Detective

You start checking their social media profiles. Maybe a sneaky peak on their phone checking whatsapp, facebook messenger and even emails. You aren’t proud of it, but goddamn it its becoming an obsession. There is an alarm ringing in your head that you are missing something and if you could just find the missing link you would know for sure and then you could relax. You being to obsess over the person. This has swung from a dream come true to a waking nightmare.

Why?

Because you aren’t stupid, your intuition is functioning and is telling you that you have been the victim of a con, ripped off, lured by a classic bait and switch. But if you face that reality you face catastrophic loss. So like any good addicted gambler you double down and pray for the best by day. And by night you are guiltily stalking your own girlfriend or boyfriend on social media or checking their phone, or looking at receipts in their wallet looking for some clue, ANY clue that proves your suspicion waiting for the other shoe to fall.

Sounds like being a tragic character from a Poe story doesn’t it? Doomed to slow death by Gin and melancholy.

The light at the end of this gloomy tunnel? I’ve helped thousands of people overcome the effects of being emotionally abused by an NPD so I know that it is possible. But it leaves scars and it changes people. Sometimes it changes them for the better, sometimes though they are left simply bitter.

Don’t let this be you.

It would be much more effective if people could learn to avoid the narcissists altogether. Learn these clues. If you have any doubt or suspicion take a big step back.

A normal sane person can permit you a few days breathing room where the NPD cannot, so doing so gives you an effective test of sanity and emotional stability. Attributes which are, according to the psychologists, sadly on the demise.

Be well, stay safe!

Richard Grannon (SpartanLifeCoach)
https://www.youtube.com/user/SPARTANLIFECOACH

A dicey situation.

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“Dicey Situation” by Johnny Corduroy, Deviantart

I always hesitate before posting anything about my N mother, because I know she reads this blog. But then I think about two things: 1. what can she do? and 2. no one ever asked her to read this blog. It’s mine. If you don’t want to get burned, keep your hands off the stove. So here goes.

Yesterday when I talked to my mother about my dad, she said she wants to come visit me in the fall. She cannot afford a hotel room, and I can’t afford to put her up in one. She pretty much invited herself, saying, “Well, I will have to stay at your place.” Immediately I felt my self-protective shackles kick in: Danger! Danger! Boundary violation!

In most families, letting your mom stay with you fore a few days wouldn’t be a problem. But my family isn’t most families.  My mother is very judgmental of me and my lifestyle, which, although I’m satisfied with it, is less than glamorous and I know she would not/does not approve of the way I live (which really isn’t my fault anyway because I don’t have the financial resources to live better).  Even if she says nothing about my mismatched furniture, the sagging, stained couch, the buggy old-fashioned kitchen with its tiny 1970s electric stove, an old summer camp steamer trunk used as a coffee table, the box TV in the living room, the ancient windows that don’t open, and the black mold on one side of the house (which my landlord has yet to do something about), I know she will go back to her extended family and tongues will wag. I know she has devalued me to the rest of the family and puts me down, disapproving of the way I live. She cloaks these criticisms with “concern,” saying things like, “I just don’t know why Lauren always makes such bad choices,” or “it’s so sad the way she lives but she made her own bed.”  Or she talks about how mentally unstable or immature I am. Even though my mother is far from wealthy and even borders on as poor as I am, she has always put on airs of being of a higher social status than she actually is, and to be fair, she does a good job of it. Even if I was of a social class she approved of, our tastes and interests are vastly different. I’m far too “bohemian” for her liking and I’m pretty sure I still would be even if I was rich.

I also know she wouldn’t approve of my housemate, and they would get in each other’s way. The idea of the three of us having to share a roof, even for a few days, gives me the willies.   I wouldn’t be able to tolerate feeling like I have to apologize for the things I do while she is here.   If I tell her no, she can’t come, I know she will go back to the extended family and tell them I’m “hiding something.” She seems to think I still have my ex living with me and am saying nothing about it. This is of course ridiculous, but I know it’s what she’ll tell everyone. She can’t understand why I wouldn’t be thrilled to put her up on my couch for several days and I don’t have the courage to be honest with her. The fact she reads this blog and knows I’ve pegged her as a narcissist (even though I don’t think she is malignant, she is a textbook example of a woman with intractable NPD) doesn’t seem to faze her in the slightest. Being the narcissist she is, she simply is incapable of understanding why I wouldn’t be jumping for joy for the “opportunity” of putting her up on my couch for a few days.

I had no time to prepare for this, so I said weakly, “well, you will have to sleep on the couch then, because my roommate has the other room.” She responded with, “oh, you have a roommate?” As if this is some life choice of mine and isn’t a matter of financial necessity.  It’s also interesting to me that I have never been invited to see her where she lives.  The one time I suggested going to visit her there, she told me my half sister didn’t want me there (they share a townhouse).   I think she was lying, because my half sister barely knows me.  I haven’t seen her since 1986.   I think it’s actually my mother who doesn’t want me to come there, because I would “embarrass” her in front of the family, so she put words in my sister’s mouth.    Even if my sister doesn’t want me there, it was probably my mother who turned her against me.

I’m in a dicey situation, and I’m praying she changes her mind about coming. Just in case she isn’t, I guess I’ll have to start saving enough money between now and then to put her up in a local motel, which I should be able to do given the time frame. Then all I need to do is think of some reason why she can’t stay at my house (repairs? haven’t cleaned it?) She would like a motel better anyway with its pool, sterile rooms, flat screen TV, and a real bed. The fall is still a few months away but it will be hard for me to save the money because I’m trying to save enough money to go see my son in Florida in September. I think she might know this too, but she doesn’t care.

Being firm with spammers.

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Yesterday I had a new commenter who I must have hit a nerve with one of my posts. Some of you probably know what I’m talking about. He or she comments IN ALL CAPS, says their keyboard is stuck but I don’t believe it. This person proceeded to comment all day, saying pretty much the same thing over and over. The comments were poorly written and made little sense. He or she implied that I was stupid because I didn’t understand what they were saying. I doubt anyone else did, though.

Now I’m a pretty tolerant person, and usually allow comments that don’t agree with my posts, even to the point where the comments become trollish. I find it hard to say “NO” and not approve or delete comments that constitute as troll posts or spam. Setting good boundaries has always been a problem for me. But at this point, I feel like this site is being violated, and these continuous unreadable comments are flooding my inbox and this blog.

For awhile I stopped replying or “Liking” these nonstop comments but continued to approve them (“don’t feed the trolls”), but that didn’t stop them from coming. Whoever this is seems to be on some sort of crusade–for what, I’m not sure. It doesn’t matter. I had about eight more of these comments waiting for me this morning. Finally I replied saying that if they continued I was going to have to delete them, because they are distracting to the main content of this board and could run off my regular readers.

I apologize to the rest of my visitors who may have been put off by this spammer or afraid to comment themselves. I need to work on setting firmer boundaries, and I’m starting right here, right now. NO MORE OF THESE ALL CAPS SPAM COMMENTS will be approved. To you, SPAMMER, go spew your badly written vitriol somewhere else.

Self-sabotage.

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I think I had an interesting therapy session last night. I was talking to my therapist about the way my father stole the little illustrated stories I wrote when I was about 7 (which I wrote about in this article). This long ago incident seems to have set the tone for my entire life, because after I’d realized my intensely personal little creations (that were intended for no eyes but my own) were stolen, I felt overcome with shame and I felt as violated as if I’d been raped (and I have been raped so I can vouch for the similar feeling of violation). I remember what I did with those little books after I stole them back: I destroyed them.

This has been a refrain throughout my entire life.  It’s like that song you hate that keeps playing in your head until you’re ready to shoot yourself in the head to make it go away.  During my session last night, I made this connection: whenever I felt there was a threat of something that came from my true self (usually related to my creativity which meant being vulnerable) being violated or taken away, I sought to destroy it. Sometimes this “destruction” simply meant losing interest in whatever it was or giving it up. When I was 19, I had some expensive camera equipment and loved to take pictures as a hobby. When my 35mm camera (which I’d saved for months for) got stolen one day, I gave up photography. Only recently, have I been taking pictures again (on a crappy Smartphone).

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But there are other examples where something wasn’t literally stolen from me as my camera was or my illustrated books were, but where my boundaries were violated (or I perceived them to be violated, or believed they were about to be violated). I’ve never stuck with anything I loved doing for too long, because sooner or later it wasn’t just “mine” anymore and it was either held up for judgment, or criticized (to me, these feel like boundary violations and make me feel too vulnerable). For several months I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out why I’ve been losing interest in blogging, which has been so life-changing for me and has brought me so much happiness. I realized it was because “running naked in public,” while incredibly liberating and having many rewards, also means you’re vulnerable to judgment and criticism. I don’t know how to handle judgment and criticism. I take everything too personally; any sort of criticism is a personal assault–again, like being raped. Even worse is having to deal with trolls and bullies, which feels like gang rape (and reminds me of my childhood at the hands of bullies both at school and at home).

A person with a healthy sense of self and normal self esteem might feel somewhat offended by a hurtful comment, but would be able to move on from that and wouldn’t give up or find themselves losing interest in something they’re passionate about. They might even fight back or take a stand. But when I’m attacked, or even criticized, I get triggered and become the defenseless and helpless child I used to be (and that I rejected a long time ago). I can’t handle reality, which means confronting both the good and the bad. And so to avoid being “raped” again, I’ve turned off my ability to be interested by much of anything at all (and then resent the hell out of whoever I feel violated me). That way, I don’t put myself at risk of being judged, which in my mind always leads to being rejected. Tied in with this is the fear of failure: I was raised to believe I was incompetent, so if I don’t attempt anything, I can’t really fail at it. Right? But the bottom line is, hiding behind my fear of failure is a absolute terror of being found defective, and hence rejected.

I don’t know whether this unfortunate tendency of mine is indicative of BPD, C-PTSD, or Covert NPD or something else (I do not know what my therapist has diagnosed me with and I’m afraid to ask), but I think writing about this is a step in the right direction. I want to explore this further when I see my therapist again and am going to show him this post (he knows I have a blog and write about psychology and NPD, but I haven’t shared the link with him yet).

An upsetting memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong, so wrong about all that.

What’s up with this crazy idea that narcissism and Aspergers are the same thing?

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As a person with Aspergers who has been a victim of narcissists all my life, the difference seems pretty clear to me, but to some people, including mental health professionals, high-functioning autism (Aspergers) and narcissism are seen as the same disorder!

A thread on Wrong Planet, a forum for people with autism and Aspergers (a high functioning form of autism) discusses the confusion, with people on both sides of the Aspergers=Narcissism fence. Cited there is an article from Psychology Today, which quotes Sam Vaknin who believes narcissism is an autism spectrum disorder! The British psychiatrist Dr. Khalid A. Mansour concurs.

Clearly, some people don’t understand much about high functioning autism/Aspergers. Yes, I believe it’s possible for a person to be both a narcissist AND on the autism spectrum (an example might be Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook, especially as he was portrayed in the movie “The Social Network“), but they are two vastly different disorders.

Appearances are only skin deep.

aspergers_narcissism

I understand where the confusion comes from. On the surface, the two disorders can appear similar. People on the autism spectrum may seem as if they lack empathy because they do not express their emotions well, which of course includes showing empathy. They also sometimes blurt out inappropriate or hurtful things, not because they mean to, but because they honestly don’t know any better: they have great difficulty reading social cues. They can appear selfish and sometimes get angry or upset when their routines are interrupted or they are forced to pull themselves away from their solitary pursuits to engage with others. They can also violate the boundaries of others. All of these surface behaviors may look a lot like narcissism.

But appearances are only skin deep, and this is where any similarity ends. Lack of empathy seems to be the most commonly mentioned “characteristic” of both Aspies and narcissists. But in actuality, as far as empathy is concerned, a person with autism/Aspergers is the polar opposite of a narcissist. A narcissist cannot feel empathy, but can act as if they do. They are good actors and can fake emotion they do not feel. They can lie well; Aspies cannot lie or lie very badly. People with Aspergers and high functioning autism are great at picking up the emotions of others around them and are even sometimes overwhelmed by other people’s emotions (which sometimes makes them withdraw and that can make them seem like they lack empathy). They can be bad at expressing empathy because of their inability to read social cues or know what to say and do. Therefore, Aspies can feel empathy but often act as if they do not.

autism

Narcissists can say hurtful or damaging things because (a) they don’t care how you feel; or (b) because they want to hurt you. People with autism/Aspergers say hurtful things too sometimes, but it’s never intentional and they do care how you feel. If they are told they said something hurtful, most autists/Aspies are consumed with guilt and will sincerely apologize. They blurt things out because they sometimes do not know it’s not appropriate to do so.

Aspies and autists hate to have their comforting routines interrupted because repetition is something that grounds and relaxes them. A low functioning person with autism will sometimes perform repetitive movements or repeat a phrase over and over. This is how they cope with too much stimuli coming in. If they are interrupted, a low-functioning autist may fly into a rage or have a temper tantrum. Disengaging and switching gears is impossible for them.

At the higher end of the spectrum, an Aspie or high functioning autist may not repeat the same word or action over and over, but they have their hobbies and obsessions which they pursue with a single-minded intensity. They tend to hyper-focus on whatever interests them. If they are interrupted from whatever their mind is focused on, they may snap at you or become very annoyed. They can switch gears if they must but they hate doing it.

A narcissist may also snap or become annoyed, but not because they have difficulty switching gears but because they are just plain selfish and don’t want to do something that might please someone else besides themselves. Think of the narcissistic husband playing a video game. His wife comes into the room and asks for some help opening a stuck window. The husband flies into a rage and tells her he’s busy and to do it herself. It’s not because he’s that engrossed in the game or even cares about it that much, it’s because he doesn’t want to put himself out for his wife. For an Aspie or autist, the game engages all of their senses and their mind is extremely focused. They simply can’t pull away from it.

aspie_misdiagnosis

A person with autism or Aspergers can and do violate the boundaries of others. Again, this is because they can’t read social cues well enough to know when they are violating someone else’s boundaries. A narcissist knows full well when they are violating boundaries, but they simply do not care.

A forum member on Wrong Planet sums up the confusion this way:

To me it’s as absurd as comparing the small narcissistic child recklessly driving a car, to a person trying to cross the street in a wheelchair, and saying they have a lot in common because they both have a set of wheels.

I think mental health professionals and others who believe narcissism and Aspergers are on the same spectrum need to dig a lot deeper before they make such sweeping generalizations. They are not the same disorder at all and are certainly not on the same spectrum. Aspergers/high functioning autism is a neurodevelopmental deficit and really a type of learning disability; narcissism is a moral deficit.

For further reading, please see my article, People with Autism Do Not Lack Empathy!
Also see The Spectrums of Autism and Narcissism.

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

victim_badge

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

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

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

How to tell if you’re a victimized adult.

depressed_woman

1. You find it difficult to make friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How being an adult victim can further damage us.

sad_and_lonely

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

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

2. You feel unloved by everyone.

3. You believe you have no value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why personal boundaries are so important.

do_not_cross

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

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

unhealthy_boundaries

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

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

Can anything be done?

boundaries_quote

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

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

my_personal_area

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

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

You are worth it.

Narc attack!

Shark attack

Sigh.
I can’t get rid of them.
Today I thought I died and went to narc hell.

My narcissist sperm donor has finally moved into his own place. I’d been storing a lot of his crap in my house (for no charge) since I kicked him out over a year ago. Many times I felt like just hauling it all to Goodwill but he kept begging me not to so I didn’t. Of course any attempts to collect financial compensation for storing his crap were met with deaf ears or excuses.

So anyway, today he came over to pick up his stuff. I had most of it packed in bags and boxes for him so he wouldn’t have to stay long rummaging through my house. I didn’t want him to invade my boundaries, but of course asking a narc not to invade your boundaries is like asking a mosquito not to bite you. They are every bit as annoying as a mosquito too.

mosquito
He kept walking from one room to the next, trying to take things that weren’t his or that had been both of ours but I wanted to keep. I had to negotiate with him over at least 20 items, including the little bit of wall art that I have, and the few decorative items in the living room. He kept trying to take my little white Buddha that sits next to my bamboo plant in the kitchen. I finally convinced him why I needed to have it (“it makes my plant grow”–it really does!) He wanted to take my geodes off the kitchen sill. I wouldn’t let him have them.

He was here for two hours, wanting to go through EVERYTHING, opening every drawer, rummaging in the closets for things I might have missed (there was nothing of his left), even pawing through all the stuff in the medicine cabinet, the cabinet over the toilet, and the kitchen. I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.

But no, this wasn’t all. I didn’t just have one narc following me around the house going through my stuff–I had TWO! My annoying narcissistic roommate was following us around too. Any time I have company she is ALWAYS out of her room, making sure she’s noticed and hijacking the conversation with her inane blabber. She followed us from room to room, talking nonstop about nothing as usual and asking an awful lot of questions that were none of her business. I finally told her I was stressed and I would prefer she didn’t follow us around asking questions, so she went back in her room (sulking, of course), but 5 minutes later was out again, saying she was “just getting some air.” The nonstop talking resumed. I just tried to ignore her but it was hard.

tired

The ex didn’t take much besides what I had packed, but dealing with him being here and pawing through my belongings felt like a huge violation of my boundaries. Meanwhile being yabbered at nonstop by my idiot narcissist roommate was another type of boundary violation. Even my ex was getting irritated with her.

Can you imagine being in your own home followed around by two narcissists, one who wants to rummage through (and possibly take) your belongings, and another who never shuts the hell up?
After he left (finally!) I was so exhausted I had to take a long nap. They just suck everything out of you. Like vampires.

At least my house feels like mine again and I have a lot more room for my OWN stuff now.