Narcissistic mothers never really change.

I started this blog over four years ago partly because of my discovery that I had been spending more than five decades of my life trying to please and win the unconditional love of a mother who simply wasn’t capable of giving me that kind of healthy love a normal parent has for a child.    Emotionally, I was still a child trying desperately to please a parent who could never be pleased, and in fact, resented me because of who I was.

I went No Contact with her at the same time I went No Contact with my malignant narcissist ex husband.  During the first two years of starting this blog, I wrote extensively about both of them, and learned so much about myself and also how to heal from the narcissistic abuse both of them had inflicted on me.

Distance made me think over a few things.    I also came to understand exactly what a malignant narcissist is, and after some time, I realized my mother is not one.    Malignant narcissism is a mixture of NPD and Antisocial Personality Disorder with paranoid or sadistic traits.   My mother, while highly narcissistic, is not at all antisocial or sadistic, but she does check off most of the criteria for NPD (narcissistic personality disorder).  She also fits much of the criteria for Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Unlike a malignant narcissist, my mother does have a conscience and knows the difference between right and wrong.  She doesn’t “think like a criminal” and would never do anything illegal.  She has a sense of ethics.   She’s not sadistic and doesn’t enjoy seeing people suffer.  She likes animals and children.  She doesn’t have much empathy, even for her loved ones, but she isn’t the sort of person who enjoys watching others suffer or tries to cause them suffering;  she is mainly just cold and indifferent to the troubles of others, and fails to take responsibility when she has emotionally hurt someone.

Even so, as a parent, she was still very damaging.   Along with my borderline/narcissistic dad, who also was an active alcoholic during most of my childhood and adolescence (addictive disorders and alcoholism tend to exacerbate Cluster B personality types), there was lots and lots of drama, instability, fighting, screaming, accusations, gaslighting, hiding the truth from others, and abuse both physical and emotional while I was growing up, and it was mostly directed at me.  Needless to say, my growing up years were painful and traumatic.  As the only child in their marriage, I was constantly scapegoated and gaslighted and held to impossible standards, the implication being that I was never good enough and could never measure up.

Things could have been worse, but the damage was done.   I never felt like a full adult, and my self esteem took a beating.  I came to believe I wasn’t capable of very much in life.  My high sensitivity was used against me, treated like a defect or a weakness, instead of something that would ultimately become one of my greatest strengths.  I never really found my niche career wise, and I married an abusive, sociopathic husband who in many ways mirrored the emotional abuse I had suffered at the hands of both my parents as a child.

I felt especially uncomfortable, impotent, and childlike whenever I was with my mother, and this lasted into my fifties.  I’m not sure why this was so.  Perhaps because of my parents, she was the more narcissistic one, the one who seemed to always disapprove of me no matter what I said or did.   She would constantly gaslight me, give me “left handed” compliments that were really criticisms, find ways to embarrass or shame me in front of others (and then say I was being too sensitive or “imagining things” when I objected to this treatment), or blame me for things that weren’t actually my fault.   She never seemed to empathize whenever I was victimized at work or bullied at school and would instead tell me why I was bringing those things upon myself.

Going No Contact with her was necessary and freeing, and as I wrote about our relationship, I discovered many things about myself I never knew.   I discovered that I was not the failure and loser she’d always led me to believe I was, but my emotional growth had been stunted.   Anger followed but that passed.  Once it passed, I started to realize she was who she was because of the abuse she had suffered as a child.    I didn’t want to resume contact, but the more I read about narcissism, the more I realized she was simply a garden variety narcissist (which in a parent, is still very bad!) and did not meet the criteria for Malignant Narcissism.

For four years I avoided her phone calls (after awhile she stopped calling) and only sent cards on her birthday and Christmas.   But one day a few months ago, I took a phone call from her.   I figured it must be important since she rarely tried to call me anymore.  After all, she’s in her late 80s and it could be an emergency I needed to know about.   So I took the call (it turned out to be something pretty unimportant, though I can’t remember the specific reason she called).  She might have just been love bombing me, though there’s no way to know for sure.

Rather than tell her I had to get off the phone (as I would have earlier in my recovery), I decided to find a neutral subject that wouldn’t lead to an argument and we might be able to find some common ground on (a kind of grey rocking).  Since I was so caught up in (and disturbed by) the Trump presidency, I sent this up as a trial balloon and asked her what she thought about the latest debacle (which at the time was the cruel child separation policy at the border).   Politically,  we’re on the same side, and like me, she is horrified by Trump and what’s happening to this country (this is another way I can tell she’s not a sociopathic or malignant narcissist).   So for about half an hour, we actually had a pleasant (well, if you can call a conversation about the current political situation pleasant) conversation without any arguments or putdowns or gaslighting.    For once, I didn’t feel like a defective five year old.  For perhaps the first time, I felt like she was treating me like a fellow adult capable of thinking for myself.  It felt good!   We spoke for almost an hour, and right before we hung up, she said something she had never said to me before.

She said, “I have really missed you.  I love you so much.  You are such a good person.”

“You are such a good person.”   Whoa!  That’s simply not something a narcissistic mother would say to her child.   Nothing about my external appearance or my financial status, social class, worldly “success” or lack thereof.    Not only that, she sounded sincere, almost on the verge of tears.  I began to think that perhaps, I had misjudged her, and she wasn’t actually a narcissist at all.  Maybe she was just a borderline or maybe she had changed with age and was no longer a narcissist.

I didn’t speak to her again for another few months, but I began to toy with the idea of cautiously breaking my No Contact rule and going Low Contact.    It took me a long time to call her again, but the night before last week’s election, I finally shored up the courage to give her a call.

I decided to use the impending election as a way to start the conversation, since politics had worked the last time.    And it’s true we agreed about who we wished to see win the midterms and how much we both hated Trump and the GOP.   But this time the conversation wasn’t the same.   It felt forced and tense.   She kept interrupting me to say I was being too negative and dwelling on negative things too much, just like the old days before I went No Contact.   She seemed to want to change the subject, and kept asking me personal questions about myself.  I talked to her a little about the kids (her grandchildren) but when she asked me about myself, I clammed up.  I felt like she was prying and I didn’t want to tell her about myself (not that there’s much to tell).    Then she started saying she wanted to come visit me in the spring.  I don’t want her to come visit in the spring, or at all.   Just like in the old days, I felt diminished, put down, like a defective five year old again.   I realized nothing had really changed at all.

But that begs the question, what had made her say, with tears evident in her voice no less, that  I was a ‘good person’?  That’s just not something you hear someone with NPD say.   She seemed to mean it; I don’t think it was love bombing (though it could have been).    Perhaps for a fairly low level narcissist who isn’t malignant (but is still dangerous to others due to their disorder), the clouds occasionally part and they can actually see things clearly, the way they really are, without lying to themselves or others about what they see.     Perhaps she envies the fact I care about others, and am politically involved, and while normally such qualities might make her resent me,  at that particular moment, her guard was down and she realized she actually admired those qualities in me.

I’m pretty sure that on some level, my mother does love me.  At least I know she means me no harm.  And I love her too; she is my mother, so how can I not?    But the truth is, she is still a narcissist, and I simply can’t have any kind of serious relationship with anyone on the narcissism spectrum, especially someone I have so much unresolved childhood baggage with.   So it looks like it’s going to be just us exchanging cards on birthdays and Christmas, and we’ll see what happens as far as any future conversations go.  I just know for my own mental health, staying Very Low Contact is best.

 

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

I’m giving this post another day in the sun. This is for anyone with children at home who thinks their own issues might be negatively affecting the way they raise their kids. I hope this helps.

Lucky Otters Haven

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

But for survivors of narcissistic abuse, things are a little more dire.   Because many of us suffer from mental disorders caused by abuse–C-PTSD, BPD, OCD, anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental maladies–we probably entered parenthood with less of a sense of ourselves and our place in the…

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When people tell you to respect your family…

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What I Know About Autism And NPD Families And You Should Too by Rick London

I really didn’t want to post another article about the dysfunctional Trump family today, but I just finished reading this and I think it’s too important to pass by. The writer of this post has autism and was raised by NPD parents who kept him isolated and alone. Here he discusses Barron Trump and how being isolated alone on his own floor of the Trump tower is very toxic for his emotional development, especially if he in fact suffers from autism, as many people have speculated.

Rick makes a case here that such isolation is a form of scapegoating or abusing a child, and if Barron is autistic, it would make sense that his father would target and punish him for being less than perfect.

Rick London Syndication

This blog story is not only a follow-up for those interested in the horrors of the NPD and/or malignant narcissist family and hiding away the “different” child in an attic or entire floor alone”, it is for those who want a layman’s experience with the topic. Barron Trump lives on the entire top floor of Trump Towers alone. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you just love to have such an amazing childhood?  Please keep reading.

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To make it clear, this is not an attack of Barron, anything but.  It is a wake-up call to
bring awareness to the “NPD Family Model” and how the IP (Identified Patient) or
scapegoat is tortured (for life usually unless proper psychiatric intervention who recognizes it treats it).

I am told the majority of NPD scapegoats do not make it into adulthood and those who do, unless they get a maximum amount of very good…

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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.

 

My kids escaped cluster B hell.

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I’ve lived a harder life than most people.   All my life, I’ve been surrounded by Cluster B people and many of them had substance abuse issues too (alcoholism and drug addiction are closely correlated with Cluster B personality disorders).

I was raised by a somatic narcissist mother and a covert narcissist/borderline father.   Both were alcoholics.  I never knew my half-brother and sisters, who were not raised by my parents after I was born.   My grandparents all died when I was still young, but from all the accounts I’ve heard, they were also all Cluster B or codependent in a cluster B marriage   In 1986, I married a malignant narcissist/sociopath (also an alcoholic and drug addict) and was the codependent victim in that relationship until just three years ago.    Surrounded by so many cluster B people, it was almost inevitable I would develop a cluster B disorder myself (as well as severe C-PTSD) and so I did.   I almost became an alcoholic myself.   Our extended family is fragmented and shattered, with various factions scattered across almost every part of the United States.  I’m not close to any of them.   Some of them I have never met and probably never will.

Somehow, the family mental illness appears to have skipped over both my children.  My daughter, who is 23, was a difficult teenager, frequently in trouble.  For a few years she hated me and sided with her dad (she was his golden child and he frequently tried to use her as a pawn against me).  Due to her problems in school and at home, she was diagnosed with several things, including Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) which often becomes a cluster B disorder in adulthood.   But she never did and during the last two years, has shown she has a lot of empathy for others and is also finally making some good life choices.    My son, 25 now, never seemed much at risk; he was his father’s scapegoat and a target of bullying as a child (much like I was),  yet he seems to have escaped having even Complex PTSD. His worst problem is he’s very obsessive-compulsive and has anxiety issues (don’t we all?) Of course, they are both young,and sometimes symptoms of BPD or NPD don’t really manifest until later, but as far as I can tell, they both seem free of those disorders.   If either of them does become Cluster B,  it would break my heart because I don’t think I could bring myself to go No Contact with them.   But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I think a lot of things led to my kids never developing cluster B disorders (or at least not seeming to), not least of which was pure luck.     I think they knew that as disordered as I was and as hobbled as I was as their mother due to my codependent nature, my love for both of them was the real thing.     Although I wasn’t protective enough when they were children; now I find I’m almost overprotective, even though they are adults.   It’s as if I’ve been trying to make things up to them.  I think educating them about NPD (they both know their father has it), narcissism in general, and other cluster B disorders,  and how they affected our family and its dynamics, have helped them to understand why their father and I acted the way we did.

My son may have escaped having these disorders because during his last year of high school (2009 and 2010), he lived for several months with the family of a friend of his, whose mother was a police officer and an excellent mother to her own sons.  This wasn’t a “foster child” situation; it was my son’s choice.   He told me he could no longer tolerate the toxic dynamics at our home and this officer’s family cared about him as if he were one of their own.   Since he was almost ready to graduate I didn’t see a problem with him staying there for awhile, though I did feel hurt and missed him a lot.   I could see that it would benefit him, even as sick as I was at that time.  I knew that this was a good family who would set a good example for my son.

My life has been difficult in almost every way one can imagine, but I feel so grateful that I have a great relationship with both my children now that they are adults.   Both of them recognize their dad as an abuser, and think I was the better parent.  My daughter liked her status as her dad’s favorite, and felt like she was required to “hate” me and now feels bad about that.  I told her not to feel guilty, because what he did to her was also a form of abuse.   As for my son, we’ve always been close.  I feel like these two young people would both be good friends of mine even if they weren’t my own children.   I love them, but I also LIKE them.   I’m so proud of them both.

“I have no childhood memories because my N-mom threw out my ‘garbage’.”

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Recently I read that looking at photos of our childhoods can help us heal.   It can hurt to see how lost we looked or watch the real body language of yourself and other family members in reaction to you, but it can also shed light on the truth and prove to us that we really weren’t crazy.

I don’t have more than 8 photos of myself as a child and almost all of them are of me by myself.   A large pastel portrait of me at about age 6 my father proudly used to hang over the mantel has been lost for years (I suspect it was thrown away).  I remember sitting for it in Old Town, Chicago, wearing a yellow summer dress, and how proud I was to sit in front of that bohemian street artist.  It was one of my few happy childhood memories and was a special moment with my father.   I remember looking slightly sad in the portrait though, and remember my dad saying he rather liked the sad look in my eyes, even though I don’t recall being sad as I sat for that portrait and emotions that weren’t “positive” were always dismissed or scolded anyway.  I would really love to have that portrait now.  In fact, I long for it. I’ve even been trying to figure out how one would go about placing an ad asking if anyone had seen that painting (I don’t think that would be possible or that anyone would have seen it anyway).

No one seems to know where any of the old family albums that had me in them are, and I doubt they would want to hang onto them, so my guess is they were tossed at some point as trash (my mother always hated clutter).  I guess any memory of me is just clutter as well.  My emotions were not acceptable; I was not acceptable.  Why keep any reminders that I existed?

I have no family, no continuity to any kind of past or any roots.  I feel like an orphan and have felt that way for years.  Sure, some could say that I threw them away (moving far away from them, No Contact, etc.) but I was pushed away emotionally and every other way for years before I decided that any further contact with them, especially my mother, was just too triggering and painful.

Evidently I’m not alone.  There’s a whole thread on Reddit about just this.

Scapegoated adult children find themselves in this position a lot, without even any pictures or tangible objects to help them better remember their childhoods.  This is another way narcissistic parents hobble us — by not even allowing us to access photos and mementos that could bring us clarity into the role we served within our families and the reactions of other family members to us.   Tangible things that give us a sense of having come from somewhere, of having belonged to something, even if it wasn’t a very good something.  Tools to help us heal were denied to us, just like everything else.   It’s as bad as having your face ripped out of every picture your family ever had of you.   As if they were trying to erase you.

The rich? They really are different. . .

Something I’ve suspected for a very long time has been confirmed.

The study cited in this article could explain why wealthier (mostly upper middle class, who are still trying to achieve “upper class” status) are more likely than others to be narcissistic and have scapegoat and golden child children.   I have found that many upper middle class families are extremely competitive and value material and financial success over familial compassion, a sense of “we are in this together,” and unconditional love.   Of course not all of them are like this, but many are.   Middle- to working-class and poor families are much more likely to stick together and try to help each other out, even when funds are lacking.    This article will explain why it might bode better for your future to be the loved child of a poor family than the scapegoated or rejected child of a wealthier one.   Less wealthy people tend to be more emotionally intelligent.

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Here are two related articles from the same blog.

https://richardbrenneman.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/the-upper-class-pays-less-attention-to-others/

https://richardbrenneman.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/in-a-throwaway-culture-people-are-discarded/

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“The rich are different from you and me,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Rich Boy,” [Thanks, Postman]  and now science is proving he was right.

Keri Chiodo of the Association for Psychological Science explains:

Upper-class people have more educational opportunities, greater financial security, and better job prospects than people from lower social classes, but that doesn’t mean they’re more skilled at everything. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds surprisingly, that lower-class people are better at reading the emotions of others.

The researchers were inspired by observing that, for lower-class people, success depends more on how much they can rely on other individuals. For example, if you can’t afford to buy support services, such as daycare service for your children, you have to rely on your neighbors or relatives to watch the kids while you attend classes or run…

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Family estrangement.

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Wikipedia has a good, in depth article about the sad phenomenon of family estrangement, which is related to shunning or ostracism.  Family members who have been estranged (ostracized or scapegoated) are likely to develop PTSD and have dismally low self-esteem.

Family estrangement occurs for a number of reasons, and is most common in societies that value individualism over the family, tribe, or community, so it’s more common in the United States than in other countries.    It’s also my personal opinion that it’s more common in upper middle class families who value material and financial success over loving relationships.  An adult child who fails to toe the line and make the family “look good” becomes an embarrassment to the family’s upwardly mobile aspirations, and becomes the scapegoat or is even rejected from the family.   They are also likely to be disowned.  The ostracized adult child, lacking financial and emotional support and a healthy sense of self worth (because nothing is more devastating to a person’s sense of self esteem than being rejected by one’s own family), often falls into poverty, illness, or mental illness, further shaming the “perfect” family.

The sense of shame of having been rejected by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally is emotionally, spiritually, and even physically devastating.  It’s the worst kind of soul murder.  To make matters worse, it’s often the “truth teller” (the one who sees through the toxic family dynamics) or the most sensitive or vulnerable child who is shunned in this way.  The scapegoated or ostracized adult child is then blamed for their “failures” and told they brought their hard luck on themselves.

Cluster B personality disorders are very common in families where members become estranged, scapegoated or ostracized, because people with these disorders tend to lack empathy, which is the glue that holds families, tribes and societies together.   Substance abuse is also a common factor and may be co-morbid with Cluster B disorders (substance abuse being a very common but maladaptive coping tool among people with these disorders).

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

The day you realize it never was you.

“First you start to feel like maybe there never was anything wrong with you.  That perhaps the people you called family were just horrible human beings that foisted their nefarious motives on you.  They lied about you, about your worthlessness and your unlovableness and your hopeless loser life.  Lies!”

Katie, Dreams of a Better World Blog

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I read somewhere (sorry, I can’t remember the source) that the “truth teller” who usually becomes the scapegoat of a narcissistic family, is actually the most mentally healthy family member, even if the family has everyone convinced that person is the craziest one.