The golden child and scapegoat in the Trump family.

Because I am fascinated with child roles in narcissistic families, this video was interesting to me.    I’ve suspected for awhile that Tiffany (the daughter of Trump and Marla Maples, his only American-born wife) is the scapegoat among Trump’s children.  He never talks about her, seems distant from her, and doesn’t seem to idealize her the way he does his other children, particularly Ivanka, who is obviously the golden child.

This video explains more.   Trump admits himself that physical appearance is extremely important to him, and he’s disappointed in Tiffany’s appearance.   Tiffany also isn’t a successful businessperson like the rest of his adult children.  She tried to make it as a singer instead, but things didn’t go well for her and she didn’t get a recording contract.

What I find extremely disturbing is the way he sexualizes his daughters.   In this video, Trump is shown being interviewed about the infant Tiffany, and he talks about her legs in a suggestive way, and later jokes about her “inner beauty” not being as important as what’s on the outside.    Even Tiffany’s siblings admit that Ivanka is obviously Trump’s favorite child.      I don’t think that’s news to anyone, but could Tiffany actually be the scapegoat?   Most families like this have one.   I think she could be it.

Ironically, of all the children, Tiffany seems the most normal acting, humble, and well adjusted. She looks and speaks like a down to earth girl who just got out of college. So, even though she may be Donald’s scapegoat or at least his least favorite child, Tiffany wasn’t raised by him, like the others. She was raised by her mother instead, so she probably wasn’t exposed to Donald’s malignant narcissism as much as the others were. So she’s probably the most emotionally healthy.

 

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Narcissistic Parents

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.

tiffany_sedaris
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.

The Ten Commandments of the Narc Cult family.

angry_god

Narc families are like cults.   They swarm with Cluster Bees (sorry, couldn’t resist!) particularly Narcissists, and there is usually one Leader who is a Malignant Narcissist that rules over the Lesser narcissists and their supporters. There is always one member who serves as a sacrificial lamb who all imperfections can be dumped on. The Narc-family Cult has a set of unwritten Commandments. If you break these Commandments, you will be turned viciously against.  Oh, no one tells you about the Commandments; there is no Holy Book or Bible; it is just assumed that you know them and you had better learn them well and not break any if you want to keep your place in the Cult.

  1.  Thou shalt not “enable” anyone down on their luck.   Everyone should be able to take care of themselves and not expect help.   To help someone means you’re a “codependent” or “enabler” and indicates your own unfitness to remain a Cult member.
  2. Thou shalt not be weak.  Weakness means financial, emotional, physical, or mental vulnerability of any kind.   Weakness also means showing empathy or true (as opposed to fake) kindness and charity. (see above).  You are to pull your self up by your own bootstraps no matter what challenges confront you, not cry or whine, and be a self-made man or woman. Do not expect financial, emotional or any other kind of support because such support is only for weak people.
  3. Thou shalt not ask for help.  Ever.  You are to pick yourself up even if you’re bleeding to death and not expect help from others because only weak people do that.  If you die of your wounds, oh well, you were too weak to deserve to live anyway.  If you do commit the sin of asking for help, expect to be judged, scolded and criticized for daring to be so “entitled” to expect help from others.   Each man out for himself.
  4.  Thou shalt value monetary and material success above everything else.   Be a self made man or woman and have lots of material goodies to show what a strong and successful person you are.   Qualities like empathy, compassion, and kindness are only for the weak.
  5. Thou shalt never become poor.  Becoming impoverished is proof of your weakness and unfitness to live in this world.   Poverty is a heinous sin, brought on by your own unfitness, stupidity, and incompetence and is evidence of your worthlessness.   Go die somewhere, loser.  You brought this on yourself.
  6. Thou shalt keep a perfect “Temple.”   Becoming fat, even a little overweight, or having any physical flaws you do nothing about (even if you are not able to do anything about them) or not dressing fashionably  is a mortal sin punishable by rejection and shunning.   You are not worthy of a place in the Cult if your Temple shows any cracks or imperfections.
  7. Thou shalt not expect support after age 18.   When a Cult member turns 18,  he or she is expected to fully support themselves, expect no help from any Cult member, and not ask questions.  Our responsibility to you ends on your 18th birthday.    Exceptions may be made for the Golden Child.
  8. A proper Cult family must keep a Sacrificial Lamb for ritual abuse.  A Sacrificial Lamb, or Scapegoat is a necessary accessory in any proper Cult family to carry any shame the more worthy family members want to be rid of or deny.   All unsavory or shameful traits can be unloaded and projected onto the Scapegoat, since a worthy Family member must be perfect at all times.  This Scapegoat should be banished when their purpose has been fulfilled or when they are no longer of any use.   There are no restrictions on how badly a Scapegoat can be treated.  They are fair game for any kind of abuse anyone wishes to  inflict on them.  Should the Scapegoat protest this treatment or attempt to blow the whistle, they are to be banished forever.  If they die, even better.  Their souls must be destroyed.
  9.  A proper Cult family must have its Golden Child.  The golden child is a Cult Leader in Training.  Every Cult family must contribute to the causes of the Cult by presenting its best and brightest (and most obedient) member and holding that child to lofty standards and a bright future.  The Golden Child should be trained to project any undesirable traits of their own onto the Scapegoat because they too must be perfect at all times and show no imperfections.
  10. Thou shalt learn the Rituals of the Cult.   Worthy Cult members must learn the ancient and sacred techniques of Gaslighting, Blame-Shifting, Triangulation, Recruitment of Flying Monkeys, Manipulation, Faking Emotion (for personal gain), Silence (for both punishment and control), Devaluation (and Discard), Denial, Smearing, and Character Assassination (to be used against the Scapegoat).  Any Cult member who fails to learn these techniques or refuses to use them is committing a heinous sin and risks demotion to Scapegoat status.

I think my brain just exploded.

This is just all kinds of wrong. A mother KNITTED a replica of her golden child son, because he doesn’t want to cuddle with her anymore (he’s a teenager). The replica requires a human wearer to bring it to “life” though. The mother’s younger son (who I bet is the scapegoat) has the “honor” of wearing the replica and pretending he’s the older son.

When Her Teenage Son Didn’t Want To Cuddle With Her Anymore, She Did THIS… I Can’t Stop Laughing!

Scroll to the bottom of the article to view the video.

Finding meaning in life after narc abuse and in poverty

Katie’s life trajectory has been so much like my own it’s downright spooky, but I think God brought this woman’s spiritual wisdom into my life as part of my journey in recovery. Her blog has become one of my favorites.

This article was so triggering and upsetting to me I almost stopped reading it (because it was like reading about myself) but something (God, maybe?) told me to keep reading anyway, and I’m glad I did because by the end (as with all Katie’s articles), my soul was lifted up.

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“Narcissism–Living without Feelings”

narcissus1_caravaggio

I just read one of the most detailed and comprehensive articles about NPD I’ve ever come across, and also one of the scariest. It’s very long so you’ll need to set aside an hour or so to read all of it, but it’s definitely worth your time.

Some (but not all) of the issues discussed are the difference between healthy and unhealthy narcissism; how the borderline differs from the narcissist; childhood origins; the dynamics of narcissistic families (scapegoats, golden children, and bystanders); the 23 characteristics of narcissism (which take into account the less obvious Covert Narcissist); the development of the false self;  the physical characteristics of narcissists (this is new to me); and narcissism in modern society.

Narcissism by Richard Boyd, Perth WA – Energetics Institute, Copyright 2010
Narcissism – Living Without Feelings
http://energeticsinstitute.com.au/narcissism/

The word narcissism is one that has in recent years has been increasingly used in popular press to describe personalities and lifestyles. One form of Narcissism is however a little understood personality disorder which is increasingly showing up in our leaders across political, business, sporting, psychological and spiritual institutions(Behary:2008).

Indeed narcissism and narcissistic is increasingly being used to describe the mass cultural shift to a “self” obsessed culture where there is rampant consumerism, the pursuit of power, excesses, and the abuse of others in the pursuit of these ends, notes Martinez-Lewi(2008).

The word narcissism comes from the Greek mythological figure, Narcissus, who upon seeing his own reflection in a pond, fell obsessively in love with himself and his own image. As you will see in this article, the true unhealthy narcissist we see today, while maintaining a false self or “mask” of achievement, perfection, and the attainment of all the symbols of success and power, hides underneath a self hating, insecure, fragile real self, which fears being uncovered and exposed at any moment.

The key point here is we all need a healthy dose of Narcissism, as else we would not back ourselves in life, nor have a healthy sense of self. There are healthy forms of narcissism. However unhealthy narcissists do not have a healthy sense of self but instead have learnt to live life from a false self.

narcissus2_andecho

Unhealthy Narcissists are not in touch with their true self, instead becoming a chameleon type of personality who seek to project an idealised image to others, and then seduce and control all others that have some value or utility for them, until that persons utility value is exhausted, and then they are dumped and abandoned without remorse by the narcissist.
In some ways unhealthy Narcissism is seen by some schools of thought as a form of depressive disorder as the narcissist underneath the false mask, moves between depression and aggression. The aggression is most prevalent where there is a threat to being uncovered or exposed as being false, wrong, corrupt, or exploitative(Ransky:1998).

The narcissistic person may be male or female, and is obsessive in their primary pursuit of satisfaction, whether that be power, money and other resources to prop up the false self. Another common term for the narcissist in the business context is the Corporate Psychopath, notes Paul Babiak(2006), a noted specialist on the corporate version of this pathological individual.
According to body-mind researcher and M.D, Alexander Lowen, in his book, Narcissism – Denial of the True Self, narcissists share many common traits with bullies, but due to their ability to project a compelling false, idealised self image, and high intelligence, are more likely to “get away with it”, and escape accountability.

Some narcissistic people are “healthy” in their approach to life and achievement, but they are not of the type to be discussed throughout this article. A healthy and productive narcissistic person goes about their lives in a passionate way, achieve their goals, but retain empathy, consideration for others, and often a mindset of contributing to their community. Healthy Narcissism has more of the following characteristics according to Lewi-Martinez(2008) and Meir(2009):
Life is not all about them;
They are able to have stable and enduring marriages, relationships and business careers;
They are often are involved in charity and community service;
These people make and keep promises to others and to themselves;
They can give and take from a grounded place;
They are usually empathic and engaging;
A determined leader who seeks recognition where due and earnt;
Confrontational and accountable to self and others;
Wisely fearful and knows limits;
Self possessed but not selfish;
Very competitive and likes a challenge;
Vain in their achievements but the achievements are real and earnt;
In contact with own inner needs and wants and the difference of each.

cslewis_quote

This article concerns itself with the unhealthy forms of narcissism. Narcissists are found in all walks of life. After reading this article you may identify your spouse, co-worker, friend, relative, parent, boss, therapist, spiritual mentor, favourite athlete, or local or international political figures as potential unhealthy versions of narcissists. They key aspect of these individuals is their grandiosity, and their overstated sense of self entitlement in life often despite often not working hard to earn any such rewards.

Some unhealthy narcissists will be seen to be hard working and have their own achievements to own. Normally these types of Narcissist will also overstate their own achievements and minimise others and their achievements(Lowen:1986). There is often an arrogance in their personality.
Achieving Narcissistic personalities normally have a strong rigid-perfectionistic streak which gives them the discipline to set goals, focus and achieve, but there is a clinical coldness or unfeeling aspect to their natures(Lowen:1986). Many unhealthy Narcissists appear to achieve but in fact are predators who feed off victims they encounter in life, using their victims’ efforts, skills, and hard work, which get assumed and taken by the narcissist as their own, without remorse, recognition or meaningful reward for those around them(Babiak:2006).

In a narcissist’s world, It’s all about them, as Narcissists possess no real empathy, they feign or act empathic, while they delude themself that they are entitled to special treatment, and to not having to bother with detail or drudgery(Babiak:2006). These narcissists often gather a following of helpers or “sidekicks” to manipulate into doing any effort based work for them. Instead they spent their time managing their “image”, being a “visionary”, being “strategic”, establishing key “contacts”, that they argue only they are able to successfully do(Lewi-Martinez:2008).

gaslighting2

Some narcissistic personalities have an obsessive base in the personality where they micro-manage their own life, from work tasks to how they groom and dress, as they do not trust others or their standards of work. Other less rigid types are more focussed on positioning themself as indispensable, yet at the same time try to be unaccountable, being hard to track down, hard to get them to put things in writing, and they will avoid team roles where they are not the leader(Meier:2009).

Where possible they will delegate the work to a co-worker or “sidekick”. Narcissists hate mundane jobs and tasks that are “beneath them” and avoid them by manipulating others where possible to do such jobs on their behalf(Babiak:2006). Narcissists necessarily include others in their life so as to get the other person to do what they are unable to do, do not want to do, or what they feel is beneath them to do.

Read the rest of this article here.

“The Narcissistic Mother”

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

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

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

The Narcissistic Mother

gretel-ella-smith

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

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

divide_and_conquer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

maternal-narcissism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

child_support

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 Psychological Services, Inc.

How I became a Cluster B basketcase.

left-out_child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cognitive dissonance and NPD.

narcissism_childhood

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of cognitive dissonance and its role in creating a narcissist or turning a narcissist into a malignant one.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.

–Wikipedia

A computer will crash or stop working when given conflicting sets of instructions. Although people are not computers (because we have emotions and a soul), if we receive conflicting sets of “instructions” or information about ourselves, it causes so much mental distress that a personality disorder can develop if the conflict appears very early in life.

A child who is constantly invalidated by narcissistic parents tries to correct the cognitive dissonance by “becoming” what the parents tell them they are. If the parents tell them they are evil, bad, always misbehaving, etc. they may become aggressive, overt narcissist themselves to “match” the parents’ assessment of them. If they are told they are incompetent, a loser, stupid, etc. they may develop covert narcissism or BPD instead.

Golden/spoiled children.

Veruca-Salt

Spoiling a child is actually a form of abuse, because being a golden child negates the child’s own reality that they are human and less than perfect. The spoiled, golden child will either try to be as “perfect” as they are told to match their parent’s unrealistic assessment (and a grandiose false self develops from that) or they know they can’t ever be the image of perfection their parents insist they be, and to correct the cognitive dissonance they may become rebellious or adopt covert narcissism (in which the child believes they are worthless and the parents are wrong) as a coping strategy.

Other personality disorders.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also a way to correct cognitive dissonance. I think BPD develops in many children who were both golden children and scapegoats (which is often the case with onlies) who were given inconsistent parenting, sometimes abused, sometimes treated like little gods. That’s why they’re so conflicted and seem to act in contradictory ways that confuse themselves and those around them.

Not all abused children develop narcissism or BPD, but it’s my belief almost all children of narcissists develop personality disorders, all of which are the adult incarnations of childhood attachment disorders.

Malignant Narcissism.

monsters-nietzsche

Malignant narcissism is NPD that is high on the spectrum and mixed with antisocial (ASPD) traits. A low-mid spectrum narcissist (or even a non-narcissist!) can turn malignant during adolescence or even as an adult. I think this is almost always due to some choice they made or action they were forced to engage in that went against their conscience. Let me explain how this works.

M. Scott Peck in his book, “People of the Lie,” (the book that popularized the concept of malignant narcissists as “evil”) told the story of a man who narrowly escaped becoming evil/malignant. The man, a non-narcissist who loved his family dearly, suffered from debilitating panic attacks when crossing a certain bridge on his drive to work. Even though he didn’t believe in the devil, one day while suffering a severe panic attack he made a “deal with the devil”–he told the devil he could take his favorite son’s life in exchange for allowing him to cross the bridge without having any more panic attacks. Of course nothing happened, and the son was fine. The man, filled with remorse over having these thoughts, told Dr. Peck about it, and was told he did the right thing to repent, because otherwise he would have become evil himself, especially had something actually happened to his son. If he had turned to darkness and narcissism, it would have been to correct the cognitive dissonance between what he had done and his internal moral compass. He would have had to discard his previous moral standards and embrace darkness.

A person forced to engage in something they find morally reprehensible, such as a soldier forced to kill innocent civilians, can turn toward darkness. Many veterans return suffering severe PTSD and in some cases seem to have lost the souls they went to war with. Many, who have committed atrocities in war, correct the cognitive dissonance created by doing something that went against their conscience, by discarding their conscience altogether. This isn’t a conscious choice usually, but is the end result of severe PTSD. (I think all personality disorders are, in fact, manifestions of severe PTSD caused by chronic abuse starting when the personality was still forming.)

It’s my opinion that adolescence is when malignant narcissism is most likely to develop, because adolescents are by nature risk-takers and trying to establish a separate identity from their their parents. This usually takes the form of some type of rebellion, and rebellion is normal as long as it doesn’t go too far. Some adolescents may be “dared” by their friends to engage in antisocial activities. Adolescents are so eager to be accepted in a group of their peers that sometimes their desire for acceptance overrides their conscience, which isn’t fully developed yet. If these antisocial activities hurt others (such as robbing someone’s house on a dare), the teenager’s fledgling conscience is halted in its growth, and may be discarded altogether. It’s at this point an adolescent can turn to malignant narcissism. This is why the choices kids make are so important. Here’s an excerpt from my article, “Healing Narcissism: Stephen’s Story,” in which a fictional boy I called Stephen turns to narcissism as a coping strategy, and it all began with a dare.

The Choice.

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

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

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

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

This is an example of cognitive dissonance. Stephen would not have been able to live with himself had he not turned to narcissism as a coping strategy. The irony here is that, the more intense the child’s guilt or shame over committing an act that goes against their morals (or the more heinous the act), the more likely it is they will turn malignant, because to do otherwise would mean the overwhelming shame they feel could likely cause them to become severely depressed or even suicidal. This isn’t an excuse for anyone to turn to narcissism (or malignant narcissism) as a coping strategy, but is an unfortunate reality.

Acquired narcissism.

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Sometimes people who become extremely successful, such as celebrities, sports stars, business leaders or politicians, can become narcissists, even if they were not narcissistic before their success. It doesn’t happen to all of them, but if it does, this is another example of how cognitive dissonance tries to “correct” things. In order to close the mental gap between their actual assessment of themselves as imperfect humans and the adulation they receive from the outer world that treats them as if they’re somehow more than human, a successful person can turn to narcissism to align their self-assessment with the way they are regarded by others. This is why some celebrities become so full of themselves or manipulative. It’s a form of acquired narcissism, but because it’s acquired fairly late in life and isn’t due to a choice, this type of narcissism may be temporary and only last as long as the person remains famous or very successful. If they fade into obscurity, the person faces a narcissistic crisis, but after that I think they can return to a non-narcissistic way of being in the world.