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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Confusing patterns.

This is an older post about a very confusing time for me during my recovery journey. It’s very common for people with Complex PTSD who survived narcissistic abuse to believe they are narcissists themselves, but if you think you are one, most likely you are not. I definitely have narcissistic traits, some that I picked up from my abusers, others that may be inherent, but I don’t have NPD.

Two years ago, I became so certain I did that I actually started a second blog about it. That blog has been taken down, though some people did tell me they found it helpful and that makes me happy. It’s very common for people with C-PTSD to believe they have NPD. but I just couldn’t leave the blog up because it started to feel like a lie.

Lucky Otters Haven

confused2

In the almost year and a half since I’ve been blogging, an interesting picture has emerged. I started to blog after I went no contact with my ex (actually very low contact since we have children) as a way to process having been a victim of narcissistic abuse, first by my family of origin, then by my ex. My focus for the first six months or so was primarily on my abusers, and my rage at narcissists in general. Most of my articles were about narcissists and narcissism, and I read everything I could about it too. I became close with other ACON (adult children of narcissists) bloggers. I wasn’t ready yet to take a good long look at myself and what I could do to help myself, other than staying far away from abusive people. But it was a very good start to a journey that proved to be…

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Oh, for the love of Christ. Fooled by another f*cking covert narcissist?

Crocodile Tears

This time it’s a damned covert narc.  At least I think that’s what I’m dealing with.  Do I sound mad and upset?  You bet I am.   I hope I’m wrong but I know the red flags when I seee them.  I’ve had enough experience with them.

Hell, about two years ago (as some of you probably remember) I spent many weeks and maybe even months reading and studying everything I could find about all the symptoms and signs of covert NPD because I was so certain I must be one myself.   I probably qualify for an advanced degree in this disorder.  (Happily, I finally realized I am not one, but CPTSD, an earlier diagnosis of BPD, and my narcissistic “fleas” had me fooled.)

You may be aware I live with my daughter, who is 25.   She’s a good girl, hardworking, sweet, empathetic, intelligent, and beautiful (and I don’t just say that because I’m her mom).   Sure, she has her bad, even bitchy, moments, but don’t we all.   She’s overcome a lot due to her father’s abuse, my complicity and enabling, and sexual abuse she suffered at school.  There was a time back during her teens both her therapists and I were afraid she was developing a personality disorder, probably ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) because she had a diagnosis of ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) as a teen.  She could not function in a regular school setting because she was in trouble constantly and suspended several times for things like stealing and fighting.

Finally, she went into residential treatment and was helped immensely (she was very cooperative with the very strict program) and today is a much different young woman. She has a ton of empathy I never knew was there.    I am beyond grateful for that, and today I can say we are the best of friends.   She is also clean and doesn’t do drugs anymore so I am incredibly grateful for that too.

But there’s a downside too.  Over the past several years, she’s been engaging in a dead end lifestyle I can only call serial monogamy.   She gets serious about one guy, they seem serious about her (for a time), and they even start talking about marriage, but things never progress any further.   There’s always something wrong with the guy: he’s too controlling, becomes abusive, or starts to see other people on the side, or she gets tired of them herself.   At least one who seemed too good to be true turned out to be a dangerous psychopath.

All of these relationships end, and then she quickly moves onto the next man (she’s attractive and personable so it’s easy for her to find new lovers).   I’ve talked to her about furthering her education, deciding on a career (she works in a series of dead end service jobs none of which last very long),  and focusing on just herself, but she’s just like I was at that age: she seems to lack the motivation gene or any idea what she wants to do in life (besides find a man she can marry and will support her).  She seems incapable of tolerating being single.   That’s how I was at her age and I will always regret never developing myself to my full potential and not being more serious about finishing a higher education and finding something I’m passionate enough to turn into a career.  She is certainly intelligent enough, but she’s emotionally damaged.  Getting her to go to therapy is futile.  She simply won’t do it.  But that’s a whole other issue I won’t get into here.

It’s painful watching her take the same non-path I took –a road to an adulthood of constant near poverty, frustration, lack of intellectual and creative fulfillment, relentless financial insecurity, and now, for me — a terrible dread of old age without any real safety net.  I may be living on the streets if Medicare and Social Security are abolished, and that is terrifying.  I don’t have a life partner to provide emotional support, since I never knew how to pick one who didn’t turn out to be an abuser.  I  feel like I’m way too old (and still too afraid) to enter the dating scene again (I hate dating with a passion).  I’d rather just stay single and see how things play out.

Getting back to my daughter, her latest paramour is a man 14 years her senior (he is almost 40).  He gives the impression of a very sweet, kind, and sensitive person.  In fact, he appears to be a very emotional person who shed tears easily and is constantly apologizing.   That should have been a red flag.

At first I thought, “oh, how sweet, a sensitive man not afraid of his emotions,” but I actually think he uses tears and emotion to manipulate others to get his way or to get attention.   Using pity is a red flag of a covert narcissist, especially one of the “fragile” or “vulnerable” type.   They’re common (especially in women but can be found among men too).  They’re dangerous because they’re so hard to spot.  We expect narcs to be mean, arrogant, verbally abusive, and never apologize for anything.  But not all of them are like that, even though on th inside, they are all pretty much the same and just as self obsessed and entitled.   No matter whether their style is grandiose or self pitying, there’s always a yawning black hole where their heart ought to be.

covertnarcissism

The reason I came to the conclusion he’s probably a covert narcissist and not just a big softie with a huge heart is the way he appears to string both of us along, causing immense anger and frustration.

He has been promising to get her an engagement ring and propose.  He was supposed to do it on our vacation last week.  We had agreed ahead of time that he would give me  half the money for the hotel, plus half of all expenses (meals, etc.).    The tab came to over $400.   Originally he was supposed to have the cash for me when we got to the hotel and I would pay the whole tab on my credit card.   Well, it turned out his employer made a mistake on his check and he didn’t get paid.  How convenient.

His employer promised they would rectify this on Friday, the day we returned from our trip.    I believed him, sort of.  At least I wanted to believe him.   But there had been one or two other red flags previous to this, that I didn’t think much of at the time, but I suddenly remembered them and began to wonder if he was trying to find a way to get out of paying me, or if he was getting cold feet about the engagement, since without the money, he couldn’t put the final payment down on my daughter’s ring.

I wanted to have a good time, and forget about all this unpleasant business, and so we did.   It seemed worth it, since we all had a great time and he was nothing less than wonderful to both my daughter and me.  Not another sign of narcissism or abusiveness, covert or otherwise.

But after we got home, he called his employer and found out they “forgot” again.  He was promised they would write up a check from petty cash the next day, which was Saturday.  Something felt wrong.

On Saturday he had a sudden “episode” of fainting and an ambulance had to be called.   My daughter went with him to the hospital, which said he would be okay.  It had something to do with heat stroke from too much sun, plus another chronic medical issue he’s been struggling with.   It wasn’t that I wasn’t empathetic or thought he was faking, but the timing of this “emergency” was just really weird.  Of course he could not go get his check, so now it would have to wait until Sunday.    Even my daughter mentioned to me that she was afraid he might be faking so he could put off getting the money.   I have to admit I thought this was a possibility.

I was growing very angry over his failure to pay me back the $400 he had promised me almost a week earlier.    We had never agreed that the vacation would be a gift.  I also considered that this might be his way of getting “cold feet” since his inability to get the money meant he could not finish paying off her ring and therefore there would be no proposal right now, if ever.  What a cowardly way to call off or delay an engagement, if that was what he was actually doing.

Of course, when he got back from the hospital, he was all apologies and tears.   He was hugging both of us and saying “sorry” over and over again.  I felt a little nauseated by this over the top display of emotion because I felt it wasn’t really sincere and was just a way to keep stringing us both along and buying more time.

So last night, he was all happy and excited and told both of us his company had finally issued a check (it was handwritten).  He waved it proudly at both of us.   He wanted me to take today off from work to film him proposing to her (this was supposed to have happened at the beach, but oh well).  I agreed to do this because it seemed important and I didn’t want to miss it.  I had also promised them I’d film the moment.    He said he would cash it first thing in the morning and then he would go get her ring and then we’d all go out somewhere special where he would propose.

Well, guess what.    This morning when I woke up he was gone.  My daughter was in her room mad as hell (not crying, just furious).   I asked her what happened, and she said the check was postdated for next week!   I asked her if he had failed to look at the date and she said, no, he definitely had seen it but chose not to mention it because he was afraid she’d be mad at him and he “couldn’t bear to hurt her again.”    She said she was sick of his lying and game playing so she made him leave until he could get everything fixed and get the money for both her ring and the $400 he owed me.   She said if he failed to do that, she was done with him.   That’s a good decision on her part.   Meanwhile I’ll still be out $400 which he bilked from me to get a free beach vacation, but I guess things could be worse.   He promised her he had a way to get the money today.  We shall see.   I’m skeptical.

Anyway, I’m glad my daughter is beginning to catch on to when she’s being manipulated and abused, because this is abuse, even though this man hasn’t uttered one nasty word, called her any names, or physically abused her.

Abuse comes in many forms.  Covert narcissists (and many borderlines) often use tears, guilt tripping, begging, financial abuse, “stringing you along,” and other underhanded, insidious techniques to get what they want.  Because they are less obviously abusive and can seem so “nice” and even emotionally fragile and needy, they can instill guilt and pity to get their way.  Their marks are empaths who fall for that sort of shit.    If they never deliver on their promises, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a person who is never going to be honest with you and will make your life an endless carousel  of frustration and anger that’s difficult to target on that person because they “never mean it.”

So, at this moment, I’m (maybe foolishly?) waiting for him to come back with the money he owes and make good on the promises he’s so far broken.    But I’m not getting my hopes up, that’s for sure.

Grandiose and “vulnerable” narcissists: how do they differ?

This got buried for awhile, but I think it’s one of my best posts about narcissism, so here it is again.

Lucky Otters Haven

beggar_king
Both the beggar and the king could be narcissists with a different M.O.

An interesting article in Psychology Today explains the difference between grandiose (invulnerable) narcissists, and “vulnerable” narcissists. Either can be somatic or cerebral, and either can also be malignant or non-malignant.

The two kinds of narcissists can seem very different on the surface:

Grandiose narcissists can seem emotionally cold, convinced of their achievements or success, and rarely if ever talk about their fears or their problems. They can be very quick to judge others though. On the surface they seem strong and tough. You won’t see them show emotions other than rage or pride, and if they are ever sad or fearful, you will never see that side of them. Like all narcissists, they are never happy,but they can “act” happy if they need to. And like all narcissists, they are incapable of love but may be able…

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Donald Trump, Psychopath

dtangryface

Here’s an interesting, informative article from Patheos.com in which the author, Andrew Spitznas, makes an excellent case for Donald Trump being afflicted with Malignant Narcissism — Antisocial Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and traits of both Paranoia and Sadism.  Donald Trump displays all four elements, and the author gives examples of each.

Donald Trump, Psychopath

My only criticism is the author states that malignant narcissism is the same as psychopathy.  I disagree.  Psychopathy (as opposed to sociopathy, which it’s often confused with) is a congenital condition in which the brain is missing the structures responsible for the development of a conscience and empathy.   Thus, a person can be a psychopath even though there was no unusual trauma during childhood.  Psychopathy is not a personality disorder, but really a developmental disorder of the brain.  Psychopaths are often “bad seeds,” but not all psychopaths are criminals and some can even be trained to be prosocial (even though prosocial behavior will never come naturally to them).

Malignant narcissism is NPD plus ASPD (antisocial personality disorder), with traits of paranoia and sadism, and it is not a congenital condition.  Both NPD and ASPD are Cluster B personality disorders that develop due to early childhood trauma or neglect.  Children are not born with personality disorders; they are acquired.  While malignant narcissists are quite sociopathic and usually lack a conscience  (garden variety, non-malignant NPDs are not sociopathic, they usually have a conscience, and even sometimes have limited amounts of empathy), they are not psychopathic.    The sociopath’s — or malignant narcissist’s — emotional development was arrested so they never developed empathy or a conscience.   There is no evidence that anyone has ever been cured of malignant narcissism, though in rare circumstances, they may become self-aware.   Donald Trump is most certainly not self-aware, nor is he likely to ever become so.

While it’s entirely possible Donald Trump may be both a malignant narcissist and a psychopath, they are not the same thing.  It’s possible to be one without being the other.  I think the confusion arises because the behavior of a psychopath and a malignant narcissist (or a person with antisocial personality disorder/sociopathy) can be so similar.

Why doesn’t Trump ever talk about his mother?

Mary_Anne_Trump

Mary Anne MacLeod Trump

This is a very interesting article from Politico about Donald Trump’s relationship with his mother and what role she might have played in his personality development.   It’s interesting that he always praises his father but almost never talks about his mother, Mary.

The Mystery of Mary Trump

Most people who recognize Trump’s narcissism and sociopathy tend to think it was primarily his father who was to blame.   Fred Trump was very much like Donald, an emotionally distant and unsupportive taskmaster who instilled his own values of greed and materialism in his sons, and served as a role model for unscrupulous and dishonest behavior.   Donald Trump, the second youngest of five children and the middle son of three, felt unnoticed in his large family.  Desperate to gain the approval of his demanding father, who ruled his home with an iron fist, Donald essentially became a carbon copy of him.

Donald Trump Family

From left to right: Donald Trump, Fred C. Trump, Jr, Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry.

 

While Fred Trump may have contributed to Trump’s character disorders,  it was his mother Mary who might have been unwittingly responsible for the development of his NPD (I know he has no official psychiatric diagnosis, but since he fits all 9 traits of NPD, I think it’s pretty safe to assume he has it, in addition to Antisocial Personality Disorder or sociopathy).

When Trump was two years old, Mary gave birth to his younger brother Robert.  While the birth of a younger sibling usually doesn’t pose a huge problem for toddlers other than the normal sibling rivalry,  the birth almost killed his mother and she was basically unable to care for Donald for two years due to her medical issues.

For a two year old, this is devastating.  Two year olds are too young to realize this may not be their mother’s fault and has nothing to do with a sudden withdrawal of love.  The child’s sense of self is still forming and the sudden emotional or physical absence of a parent (especially the mother) creates a void in the developing personality.    Attachment trauma before the age of 6 or so very often leads to personality disorders.  The toddler years, when the child is just learning they are a separate individual from the mother, are especially critical.

For Trump, “middle child syndrome,” combined with a father who was both unempathetic and a questionable role model, and a mother who was suddenly absent when Trump was a toddler, was a perfect storm of events that eventually led to Trump’s dangerous personality.   I also think the event that cemented his burgeoning personality disorder into place was his parents sending him away to military academy at the age of 13 — another critical age in psychological and moral development.  Being sent away to military academy both confirmed in Trump’s mind that he was too unloveable to be allowed to stay home, and further instilled hyper-masculine values that, combined with his narcissism and sociopathy, would lead to toxic masculinity and the worship of “strongmen” and dictators later on.   Almost sixty years later, he’s still trying to please his father and has taken America hostage in doing so.

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Donald Trump and his parents in the 1980s.

I find it both ironic and tragic that Trump is allowing Border Patrol and ICE agents to deliberately separate immigrant Hispanic children from their mothers and families.   Such egregious cruelty can only be carried out by someone who is lacking both a conscience and empathy.   Even if these children are eventually reunited with their parents (which is unlikely), they will almost certainly suffer serious psychological trauma, leading to attachment disorders such as RAD (reactive attachment disorder).  RAD very often leads to antisocial, borderline, and narcissistic personalities when these children reach adulthood if there is no psychological intervention.  At the very least they will struggle with lifelong C-PTSD and other trauma based disorders, especially if they are being farmed out to human traffickers.

It’s almost as if Trump is taking unconscious revenge on his mother for suddenly “abandoning” him by forcibly causing toddlers at the border to be separated from their mothers.

Trump’s Neanderthal toolbox.

caveman_trump

Artwork by Roman Genn

This is a brilliant Twitter thread by @HoarseWisperer, who often posts threads about Trump’s probable NPD/sociopathy.   In fact, I think this short write up about Trump’s narcissism is the most spot on description I have ever read, so I’m posting the thread here in its entirety (with the author’s permission).

I also like the sense of hope it left me with.   The nightmare will not last forever because of the nature of NPD is ultimately self destructive.  Trump will burn all his bridges before he can take down an entire nation.   At least I hope this is true.

Here is the thread.

1.  As I’ve often talked about, I’ve seen Trump’s narcissism up close. It’s as familiar as an old movie, so let me put today in some context…

2.  People with severe narcissistic personality disorder like Trump are driven solely by the shallowest of primitive impulses. They are incapable of complex reasoning. They are emotional cavemen.

3.  Their entire world is an endless, futile effort to avoid facing the humiliating shame their own failings deserve. Their lives are empty, contrived caricatures of what they think others will approve of and admire. They’re broken child-actors.

4.  Trump exists solely to mimic what he imagines is worthy of esteem… and since that is so vulgar, crass and unsuccessful, he fails and fails and fails. He’s an actor addicted to the reviews but who gets panned after every performance.

5.  A functional person would be capable of insight and reflection. They’d be capable of learning. They’d take social cues. They’d adapt. They’d grow. Again, back to the caveman bit, Trump is incapable of any of that.

6.  The only primitive tools Trump has in his Neanderthal toolbox are anger, blame and lying. Whenever he feels the weight of his own failure, he pulls out a combo of those three clubs and beats on someone. Sometimes the media. Sometimes someone around him.

7.  The net result – and it is always this way with severe NPDs – is that there is endless chaos in their inner circle. It only briefly calms when they’ve turned over the entire cast – because they briefly think the new cast buys the shtick.

8.  Trump is going through the automatic destruction cycle of an ordinary narcissist. The narc I know well went through it every two years. I could set my watch to it. Entire circle burned to the ground and replaced…

9.  Trump isn’t done yet. He will fire and replace numerous others. He will purge multiple others he sees as disloyal… …but he will leave a few people who merely hide their disdain and put on a better act.

10.  Those people will carry the tribal knowledge of Trump’s failings to the newest members. They’ll poison the new cast… …and within weeks, we will be hearing rumblings of the next purge wave coming.

11.  While the replacement of a Tillerson with a Pompeo stokes the fear that an authoritarian is building a regime, in reality, Trump is a deeply, deeply dysfunctional man utterly incapable of keeping from burning down his own house. Trump is a destroyer of his own circle.

12.  There is no chance that Trump will assemble a new cast that will survive and work together functionally. Trump is a toddler gorilla utterly compelled to fling his own feces on everyone around him. Thus it is. Thus it will be.

13.  If you are worrying that Trump is building something that will worsen and endure, breathe a little easier. This is a cycle. It will repeat and repeat. Today’s appointees will be next month’s casualties. There will be nothing more than build-and-burn loops.

14.  Last year it was Bannon, Gorka, et al. Now it will be Pompeo and newbies. This cast won’t last. No one will ever last. Narcissists burn down their own houses. No one lasts.

15.  So, as best you can, breathe deep and exhale. This is the cycle of narcissism. It’s a rollercoaster. Watch with detachment. After all the hills and drops, a month from now, Trump’s dysfunction will be right where it is today. No better. No worse.

16.  As they say in the support world: Don’t get blown about by every breeze. Today has been windy but we shall not topple. Stay strong, stay centered. This too shall pass. We shall make it so.

caveman_trump2

 

 

 

 

Projection and Trump’s snake story.

thesnake

When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
— Maya Angelou

 

Several times at his rallies, Donald Trump has done something out of character — he has delved into literature to make a point, specifically poetry.  Ironically, the poem Trump has chosen to recite to refer to the immigrants he dislikes so much was written by a black 1960s soul singer and social activist, Oscar Brown Jr.

The other day, in front of the White House lawn, a huge crowd of supporters gathered,  and once again, Trump recited the words of “The Snake:”

On her way to work one morning

Down the path alongside the lake

A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-frozen snake

His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew

“Oh well,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you”

“Take me in oh tender woman

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

She wrapped him up all cozy in a curvature of silk

And then laid him by the fireside with some honey and some milk 

Now she hurried home from work that night as soon as she arrived 

She found that pretty snake she’d taken in had been revived

“Take me in, oh tender woman 

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried

“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now you might have died”

Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight 

But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite

“Take me in, oh tender woman 

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in oh tender woman,” sighed the snake

“I saved you,” cried that woman

“And you’ve bit me even, why?

You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”

“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin 

“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in 

”Take me in, oh tender woman 

Take me in, for heaven’s sake

Take me in oh tender woman,“ sighed the snake 

To those of us who have a knowledge of malignant narcissism and have connected that to Donald Trump’s poisonous character, the snake he refers to here isn’t actually the immigrants he so despises — it’s himself.    The “tender-hearted woman” who took him in are his gullible supporters, who “took him in” and continue to support him, even though his policies will hurt them too.

Donald Trump is the snake, and he knows it.   In almost everything he says and does, he reveals who he is.   This is a psychological defense mechanism known as projection, which is really a form of gaslighting.   It’s also sometimes known as blame-shifting.

Pay attention not to who he demonizes and blames, for that is not the real message he is sending, but to what he is blaming them for.   His negative projections onto others are code (probably unconscious) for what he himself is doing or feeling.   In that sense, he is very transparent and doing us a huge service by warning us how dangerous he is.   There are so many examples of him doing this I won’t even list them all here.

All malignant narcissists project, and once you’re aware of it, you can’t miss it.   A narcissist always reveals himself or herself through the blame they try to shift onto others.  Whenever a narcissist starts pointing fingers, listen to the words they use and then put the narcissist in the place of the person or group they are projecting onto, and you will learn the truth about who they are.   It’s a very handy skill.

 

We need a lot more awareness about narcissism and psychopathy.

darktriad

Elizabeth Mika is one of the 27 mental health professionals who contributed to the  bestselling book,  The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.   She is a psychologist who writes about narcissism, psychopathy and authoritarianism (specifically Donald Trump’s authoritarianism) on her Medium blog.  I follow her on Twitter (she’s under @yourauntemma if you want to follow her too) because I never want to miss one of her articles.    The other day, she tweeted this in reference to the many pleas to “remember the Holocaust”:

Unless we teach about the conscience-impairing character defects, like psychopathy & narcissism, shared by genocidal leaders & their followers, these calls for remembrance will remain hollow.

She’s absolutely right.   Even though the Cluster B personality disorders, specifically those in the Dark Triad — Narcissistic Personality Disorder, psychopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder), and malignant narcissism (a combination of both disorders with paranoid traits)  — are getting a lot more attention than they used to, they still don’t get nearly enough.   There are a few terms formerly confined to the narcissistic abuse community such as  “gaslighting” and “blame shifting” that have recently become household words since Trump took office, but if you try to talk about narcissistic or antisocial personality disorder or malignant narcissism with most people you will still usually get a blank stare, especially if you try to talk about it in regard to the dangers these disorders pose to us all when a world leader is most likely afflicted with one or more of them.

Until — and if — the general public receives education in how these personality disorders work and how to recognize them, people will still fall prey to the phony charm and false promises of a narcissist in their personal lives, staying with friends and family members who are psychologically destroying them.  But even worse than that, people will still believe the lies and promises of con-men like Donald Trump or Adolf Hitler.  They will keep trying to find the goodness that must exist under all the flash and bluster, even though in all likelihood, there is nothing hiding under the mask but a black void of hate and fear.

Hitler rose to power because he promised to “make Germany great again.”  He promised jobs, a thriving economy, and a better life for all Germans, and people believed him, at least at first.  Later, when the deportations and roundups began, and militarized police began knocking on doors late at night, people may have begun to suspect Hitler was dangerous, but they still wanted to believe he was what Germany needed, so they told themselves what he was doing wasn’t really that bad or even was necessary (but well-meaning).   This is called “normalization” and it happens both in countries and in families headed by a malignant narcissist.    When there are too many outrages, people can’t process them normally, and things that were once seen as outrageous or shocking begin to seem normal.   As the dividing line between what is “normal” and what is “not normal” continues to shift, more and more “not normal” behavior is tolerated.   This is how a psychopathic or narcissistic leader conditions average, non-sociopathic people to accept the unthinkable.   It takes time, but eventually even genocide begins to be seen as acceptable or at least doesn’t raise any eyebrows.

hitler

Leaders with malignant narcissism and/or psychopathy tend to be very charismatic and forceful.   They seem extremely confident and this makes people trust them.   They say things like, “I alone can fix it” (this is always a red flag) or “I am all you need.”  They make lofty and unrealistic promises.  They brag about past accomplishments and  exaggerate what they have accomplished (which often wasn’t much).  They take credit for things others have done.  Whenever they are found to be lacking, or when they are called out for their lies and hypocrisy, they will never accept that blame and will either deny their wrongdoing, or blame it on someone else.   They never apologize.

They may seem to care about you, but they don’t, for they have no empathy.   They see everything in black and white.   They are blind to nuance in others.   You are not a person to a narcissistic or psychopathic leader: if you are not useful to them in some way (if you are useful they will shower you with praise — in relationships this is called “love-bombing”),  then you are the enemy.    And when you become an enemy, you are fair game for vengeance.   These people believe in revenge and “getting back at” their perceived enemies.

They speak in superlatives.  What they have done is always the best, the biggest, the most, the greatest.  They had the biggest crowd at their inauguration, they have created the most jobs, and they are the most beloved or respected leader in the entire world or even in all of history.   If their lies or misdeeds are pointed out to them, they become enraged.  Sometimes this rage manifests as self pity, and their self pity is as grandiose as their self-aggrandizement.  When they think they’ve been wronged, no one else has ever been so wronged or so mistreated as they have been!  They turn self pity into another contest of superlatives:  Trump whining to a group of Boy Scouts about how he was the most misunderstood and poorly treated politician in American history!

If they have deemed you an enemy (which doesn’t take a lot — you need only disagree with them to be devalued), you are the worst person on the face of the planet and have no redeeming qualities.  You will be devalued and called hurtful names, and that’s just for starters.    Leaders with malignant narcissism are very paranoid and always suspect others — often their political rivals or people who merely disagree with them, but have no ill intentions — of plotting against them, talking badly about them, or trying to destroy them or take away their power.    They pre-emptively fight back by attempting to discredit, dehumanize, or destroy their rivals or perceived enemies.

These kinds of leaders (who are almost always male) are fixated on toxic masculinity.  They admire and emulate those who they see as “strong.”  Thus, they glorify war, forceful oppression, abuse of power,  police brutality, and total control.   They value authoritarianism much more highly than democracy, which requires cooperation and some semblance of empathy.   They look down on higher values like compassion, humility, forgiveness, or love as “weak” or “feminine.”   They also like to “punch down” — which means enacting draconian policies or shifting blame onto the most  vulnerable or the weakest.   It’s schoolyard bully behavior writ large.  They hate anything they see as soft or vulnerable or “weak” because they are so afraid of their own vulnerabilities.   Deep inside, they have little to no self esteem and hate themselves, though they will not ever admit it and may not even be aware of it.   They puff themselves up to mask their own feelings of worthlessness.

Because these kinds of leaders can initially convince people they are strong and powerful and can fix every problem themselves, and because they seem so confident in their ability to do so, people continue to be duped by them and believe the lies they tell.    They ignore the red flags (which includes making lofty promises and saying “they alone” can fix things), because they have not been educated in what to look for.

malignantnpd

If awareness and education about NPD, malignant narcissism, and psychopathy were more widespread (perhaps it should even be a required part of school curriculums), people would learn how to recognize the red flags and avoid such people in their personal lives — and avoid voting for leaders who have these traits.   As long as people remain ignorant about the red flags of these personality disorders, we will still be vulnerable to electing sociopathic, dangerous leaders and being taken in by dangerous people in our personal lives.   We will still find ourselves under the thrall of people and leaders who see us as nothing but marks.

All that being said, there has been more awareness about this problem since at least the 1990s.   I wrote about the history of narcissism/narcissistic abuse awareness over the decades in this two part post — please give it a read!

How Did Narcissism Get So “Popular”? (part 1) 

How Did Narcissism Get So “Popular”? (part 2)  

So things are better than they’ve ever been, but we still have a long way to go.   If there was enough awareness, we would not be in danger of repeating what happened during the Holocaust.

 

Narcissism, politicians, and Trump.

trump

Most successful politicians are narcissists, or at least have more than average narcissistic traits.    Narcissism is almost a requirement to be a successful politician, since it takes a high level of self confidence and an affinity for self-promotion.   One must be competitive and like being in the public eye.  People with high levels of narcissism are attracted to professions that put them in the public eye or give them power and influence over others.

If one looks at past presidents (pre-Trump), it’s fair to say that almost all of them have been narcissistic to varying degrees.   Bill Clinton is one of the most obvious examples, given his actions with Monica Lewinski in the Oval Office and his subsequent lying about it.   Nixon was also a narcissist, and in many ways his actions during Watergate and the hearings that followed mirrored Trump’s, but even he had his limits and eventually resigned, apologizing to the American people  — which proves even Nixon still had a conscience.    Nixon also accomplished good things during his presidency — he created the EPA and expanded Medicare and Social Security.   He tried to pass a bill that promised a guaranteed universal income.   The only president in my living memory who may not have had an excess of narcissism was Jimmy Carter.   He may not have had enough narcissism to be very successful.   Carter’s humility may have been one of the reasons why he didn’t get a second term.  Humility is what made Carter an exceptionally good man, but not really fit for the presidency.

While most politicians are narcissists or at least have an excess of narcissistic traits,  most probably fall short of full-blown NPD and are not sociopaths.   Past presidents had  narcissism of the healthy variety.   There were limits to their narcissism, and they were not devoid of a conscience or empathy.   Trump’s narcissism is an entirely different animal from other presidents.’   He is a narcissistic sociopath — a malignant narcissist — which means that he shows all the signs of someone with NPD as well as those of Antisocial Personality Disorder.   It’s extremely dangerous for any nation when it elects a leader with this particular combination of Cluster B disorders.

Dictators and despots throughout history have had the same dangerous pathology as Trump.   Devoid of a conscience or any sense of accountability to their country or their people, they believe themselves to be above the law and their actions are thoroughly corrupt and cruel.    They lie more easily than you or I breathe.  In fact, they lie even when it’s not necessary to lie, because they literally can’t see the truth.  All they see is their own reality, an extension of their narrative of invincible greatness, and woe be to anyone who dares challenge their greatness or who tries to uncover the truth about them or hold them accountable for their immoral actions.   To a narcissistic sociopathic leader, who sees everything in black and white, there is only “us” and “them.”  If you are not with them, if you do not kiss the ground they walk on, you are the enemy.   That’s why Trump can’t work with Democrats or liberals and why he regularly demeans and insults them, something no other Republican president has ever done.

Trump holds his rallies to garner narcissistic supply for himself, all the while telling his rabid supporters grand lies about all the great things he’s accomplished, the size of his inauguration crowd (which he’s still obsessed with after a whole year), how many jobs he’s brought back, how his tax bill will help middle class people (it will only help the rich), how much he is loved, and how leaders of other countries admire and revere him.   He emboldens his crowds by suggesting it’s okay to physically attack journalists or protesters.    He demeans the free press, even tweeting offensive memes in which he’s stepping on the CNN logo like a bug.    There’s an odd timing to his rallies — he holds them whenever the press has been especially critical of him.

Trump, like all narcissistic sociopaths, attracts people much like himself who serve as his sycophants and flying monkeys.    It’s astounding how sociopathic everyone in the Trump administration seems.  Has any one of them ever apologized for anything, or shown any sense of accountability or empathy for the people Trump’s policies are hurting?    These people lie for him, back up his lies, and attack those who challenge those lies.    People with any conscience have already left the administration or been fired.  Trump cannot afford to have anyone with a conscience or who is critical of him in his cabinet, so if they don’t leave on their own, he gets rid of them.

No other president has so egregiously attacked past presidents (Obama), political rivals (Hillary Clinton), politicians belonging to the opposing party (Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Democrats in general), people and organizations trying to uncover the truth about his connections to Putin and Russia (Bob Mueller, James Comey, the FBI), or anyone else who challenges him, tries to hold him accountable, or doesn’t treat him like he’s God.

No other president has held meetings in which his cabinet members are required to shower praise on him, as if he’s some two-bit dictator in a banana republic.    Like his rallies, these meetings give him the adulation he craves in order to function, especially when he’s feeling too vulnerable because his malignancy and cruelty is exposed or called out.

No other president has been so unempathetic and self-congratulating when a national tragedy strikes.  His insensitive, tasteless tossing of a roll of paper towels at the people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island said everything we need to know about how he feels about the Puerto Rican people.   He made fun of the Mayor of San Juan and said the people weren’t helping themselves enough (even though under the circumstances, they had no way of doing so without outside help).   After two of the recent hurricanes, he told people who had lost their homes to “have a good time.”  What president with an ounce of empathy says that?   Nor has he ever apologized for anything he’s said and done, no matter how insensitive or wrong, because Trump’s malignant narcissism will not allow him to.    People do not exist to Donald Trump.   People are objects to him; they are either useful to him or they are enemies.   There is no middle ground.

No other president has banned words, the way Trump has done with his list of seven words the CDC is no longer allowed to use, knowing full well this will hinder their ability to do their job properly.    The fact the words “vulnerable,” “transgender,” “entitlement,” and “diversity” are in this list of banned words tells us everything we need to know about how he feels toward vulnerable people, including those needing social services (“entitlements”), transgender people, and minority populations.    Trump’s contempt for science and scientific research is evident in his banning of the phrases “science-based” and “evidence-based.”  The banned word “fetus” is obviously a dog whistle to his evangelical donors and supporters.    Banning words and otherwise undermining our First Amendment rights is very Orwellian and dangerous to a functioning democracy.  It’s a slippery slope that leads to totalitarianism.

No other president has mocked the disabled (the way he mocked a disabled reporter) and bragged about grabbing women by their private parts — and then lying and insisting he never said it, even though it’s on tape that he did.

No other president has openly admired authoritarians and dictators like Russia’s Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan, and the Phillippines’ Duterte, while dismissing or insulting democratic leaders of the developed western world such as Germany’s Angela Merkel or Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull.

Every day this malignant narcissist gaslights the nation.  He insists lies are truth and truth are lies.  Anything critical of him becomes “fake news.”    This has resulted in many Americans feeling extremely stressed because he makes them question their own reality and sense of what is true.    I’ve read articles where mental health professionals say Trump is all their patients talk about.   They are feeling traumatized, under enormous stress, and off balance because of this president.   He’s having the same effect on an entire country that a malignant narcissist parent has on their children.    And just like a family headed by a malignant narcissist, he has scapegoats (Democrats, the free press, his rivals and critics, vulnerable populations, and anyone who speaks the truth), golden children (his sycophants in the White House and others who support him, and of course, his daughter Ivanka), and his enablers and flying monkeys (white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, far right evangelicals, and his base of deplorables who attend his rallies).

No other president has had such a toxic effect on this country.   Trump, unlike other presidents who may have been narcissistic, has done nothing beneficial or good for the people while in office, but he’s certainly created chaos and destruction.  He has not fulfilled any of his promises, but he has broken many.   Rather than making America great again, he and his administration are deliberately and systematically destroying everything that made America great and transforming it into a dystopian nightmare.