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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Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.

This article has been picking up in views lately, so I decided to reblog it. Several people have told me they’ve found it helpful. I know this trick has helped me in dicey situations when I can’t go No Contact with a narcissist.

Lucky Otters Haven

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Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking.  I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.

How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.

It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible.   But sometimes it isn’t.    For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them.  Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job.  Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave.    Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.

In these types…

View original post 1,040 more words

Family estrangement.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 ways letting go of my “narc-hate” has changed me for the better.

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Back when I started this blog, I was a narc-hater. I think such an attitude is both justified and normal when you’re trying to go No Contact with an abuser. In fact, your rage gives you the courage and motivation to make your escape, because righteous anger overrides fear. Without that anger, you’d stay stuck in fear and codependency and that has an extremely high price, maybe even your life.

But too many abuse survivors (I prefer the term “survivor” to “victim”) can’t or won’t move on from the rage and hatred. Although that enables them to get to the point of going No Contact with their abusers, they seem to remain stuck in a victim mentality that keeps them from progressing or moving past the abuse in their minds, even though the narcissists are out of their lives.

Here are 8 good reasons why letting go of narc-hate has made my life better, and can make yours better too.

Not everyone is going to like this post, and I understand. It’s controversial to some people. But these things have been an important part of my recovery and without them, I’d still feel like a victim instead of a survivor!

1.  Education.  After I ditched the hate, I realized I wanted to learn the real facts about NPD. I found out that not all of them are evil or don’t want to change. I learned this mostly by reading forums for people with NPD and found they are just as human as anyone else, but have adopted certain defense mechanisms that cause them to project onto and act out toward others.

2. Looking inward.  Letting go of hatred made me able to look at myself and see my own narcissism (I was shocked to learn I had quite a few N traits of my own!) I am working on those now in therapy. I would not have been able to do this if I hung onto my “us versus them” mentality.

3. The victim mentality sucks.  I found out that by hanging onto rage, when it has nowhere left to go, you start to become paranoid and start finding narcissism in normal human behavior. You begin to suspect everyone of being a narcissist.   You even run the risk of becoming narcissistic yourself.   I’ve seen it happen too many times to people who had no idea it was happening to them.  That’s no way to live and a sure recipe for misery and continually feeling like a victim.

4. Pity removes their “teeth.”  I started to feel less like a victim. By realizing my abusers did what they did because they couldn’t help themselves, and not because they were inhuman, evil monsters, somehow that made them seem to have a lot less power over me. They began to seem sort of…pathetic. Which they are.

5. They can teach you about yourself. Slowly, I realized that although what they did to me was terrible, that they chose me as a target precisely for those qualities which are my strongest and which I want to reclaim (having tried to hide them due to shame) and develop even more: sensitivity, vulnerability, empathy, and the ability to love. Framed this way, narcissists can be very important teachers in our life’s journey. I’m beginning to realize just how valuable these lessons were. Whatever they seem to hate about you are those things you should work to develop and use even more. They hated you because you had strengths they envied and feared.

6. Strength.  Having grown up in a family full of narcissists, I had to become strong. I think I’m a lot stronger and think more deeply about human nature and life in general than I would have if I had been raised in a normal home.

7.  Shades of grey.   I found out that nothing is black or white. Everything is just shades of grey. Narcissists usually also have PTSD and adopted narcissistic defense mechanisms, and those of us who aren’t narcissists are still often on the spectrum somewhere. There’s a lot of overlap between the “victims” and the “abusers.” Often a person can be both.  Realizing this has made me more empathetic in general and less likely to see everything in terms of black and white.

8.  It’s better to be a survivor than a victim.  If I continued thinking of myself as a “poor victim” instead of someone who could actually learn something from the narcs, I would not have come so far in my recovery as I have.

Karma comes a-calling for my malignant narcissist ex.

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Sometimes you can actually see what happens to a narcissistic abuser when they alienate everyone and have nothing left.

My MN ex has effectively alienated not only his ex wife (me), but also both his children. He has no other living family (and his deceased mother was also a malignant narcissist).    He runs off potential friends the first time they disagree with him and becomes abusive toward them and starts badmouthing them to anyone who will listen, so he has no friends either.

Most of you no I am No Contact with my ex.    He finally stopped trying to hoover me and these days does nothing but badmouth me to our children because I am no longer of any use to him.    My children are sick of it, and they’re sick of him.   My son can see right through his lies and bullshit, and has been able to do so for years.   Without his narcissist father in his life, he is doing very well and is reasonably happy.  He has supportive friends who serve as a kind of surrogate family to him.    He has only a few scars (Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder, including a rather pathological fear of germs) from having been his father’s scapegoat growing up, but is working on that in therapy, as well as his lingering issues with self esteem and depression.

My daughter, who got “rewarded” when she was younger for being the golden child and her father’s flying monkey recruit, is over it–and she’s over her father.  Since he had no one left in the family to bully, lie to, steal from, triangulate against, gaslight, and abuse, she became his newest victim and scapegoat!   If you’re the golden child of a narcissist, never get too comfortable.   They will turn on you in a heartbeat if no other supply is forthcoming or their original scapegoats defect.  You, too, are merely an object for them to feed off of so their false self doesn’t fall to pieces.

There have been two incidents lately that made her finally wake up to the truth about him.  About a month ago, he stole her entire savings–almost $300, that she’d been so proud of and diligently adding to for over three months.   He not only lied to her about the theft, he tried to blame ME and suggest I might have taken it.   Even her tears didn’t move him–his own DAUGHTER’s tears, and he continued to deny that he had taken it and told her she was overreacting.

A week ago he broke into her car at work (somehow he got a spare key) and stole more money and some of her prescription medicine she takes for anxiety.    She was always too trusting of him–and she’s too trusting in general.  She tends to be codependent, the way I used to be.    But now she knows her father isn’t a loving person who will support her; he is treacherous and has zero conscience or empathy.  Like everyone else, she’s just an object to him.   This was a hard and painful truth for her to realize, and she hasn’t spoken to him since this incident.   Although she’s not officially No Contact, she is taking No Contact actions by not having anything to do with him.  She does love her father, but she is starting to realize he never loved her, or anyone, because he’s not capable of it.  She knows it’s nothing she did; it’s because he is very sick.

Now he has no one left and still lives with my daughter’s ex boyfriend because he can use him too and he’s too lazy to look for a place of his own.   The ex boyfriend (who is still friends with my daughter) is tiring of his mind-games and his constant demands too and never talks to him anymore, even though they are living in the same house.  He thinks the way he treats his own children is appalling.  He continues to allow him to live there, because he helps with the bills in exchange for the room, but he doesn’t like him and barely talks to him at all.

The strain is showing.  My MN ex is beginning to lose his mind (whatever was left of it).    My daughter’s ex tells us he is acting more and more erratic and bizarre, talking about things that make no sense that sometimes sounds like the word salad some schizophrenics are known for.  He threatens suicide all the time and spends his days and nights abusing random people on Facebook and trolling political websites, abusing and bullying the people he finds there.   He’s unemployable.  Even if he could find work, no one would hire him.  He not only acts insane, he looks it too.   He never bathes and dresses strangely or barely at all.  And so he just sits in his room all day, never coming out except to eat or use the bathroom.

My ex is an example of a malignant narcissist who has no supply left to inflate his false self–no family, no friends, no job, no recognition of any kind, ill heath, and he’s losing his looks with age and both mental and physical illness–and now he’s completely losing his mind.   He’s unrecognizable from the charming, handsome, ambitious, and charismatic person I met in 1985.   He doesn’t even try to hide his malignancy behind a “nice” mask anymore.   He’s openly mean, nasty and negative.  He appears to have completely lost any soul he might once have had and now he’s batshit crazy to boot.   Soon he will probably need to be housed in a mental institution, if he doesn’t take his own life first.

He’s a perfect example of a narcissist way too far up the NPD/ASPD spectrum to ever admit he needs help or realize that he has sabotaged himself by running off everyone, including his own family, with his repellent personality and refusal to accept any responsibility or blame for the pain he has caused them. He still constantly projects his own malignant narcissism onto the people he was supposed to love but never could.    I don’t see this man ever becoming so beaten down he would go into therapy to try to understand what his own role in this might have been.   He denies he is a narcissist and always will.   He has zero self awareness and always will.   If he ever “hits bottom” (which he’s really close to now), all I see him doing is committing suicide.   He’d be too proud to humble himself and willingly renounce his ways.  He’d rather die than do that.

I don’t exactly enjoy seeing his deterioration, but a part of me can’t help but think it’s all due to his choices and refusal to take any kind of responsibility and that he’s just finally getting what he deserves.

Guest Post: Descartes and the Killer Bees (by Anna Girolami)

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A reader named Anna Girolami (she has a blog called Good Red Herring) emailed me wondering if she could write a guest post for this blog.    I felt honored that she wanted to do this!  The post she wrote is definitely out-of-the-box and thought-provoking and has some intriguing ideas about handling people with various personality disorders, especially the Cluster B’s. I had to laugh at the reference to the “Killer Bees” (and will overlook the fact that technically, I’m included in this category, but since I’m recovering or maybe already recovered from BPD, maybe not).

I do want to add a disclaimer, however.   Anna’s thoughts about “managing a narcissist (or other disordered person)” are interesting, but I don’t think it would be wise in most situations, at least not for any length of time, and certainly not for any malignant narcissist or sociopathic personality.    No Contact, is of course, ALWAYS the best way to “manage” a narcissist, but there are situations where going NC may not be feasible.   In those cases, there is a technique known as “grey rocking,” which basically means being so mind-numbingly boring to the narcissist they go elsewhere and leave you alone.  Even that doesn’t always work, but I don’t think it’s really feasible to “manage” a disordered person without doing damage to yourself.  I think to try to manage a narcissist or another person with a personality disorder in this manner would prove extremely exhausting at best, and soul killing at worst.  Essentially, it means providing them with narcissistic supply!  So I don’t recommend it, but perhaps it’s something you can try if all else fails. It might work for the non-“Killer Bees” like the obsessive-compulsive or dependent PDs that Anna mentions; I’m not sure though, since I’m not as familiar with the Cluster C category of personality disorders.

That being said, I do see Anna’s logic here, and perhaps with a narcissist who isn’t very high on the spectrum or someone with a different personality disorder, this type of management might be an option.  Or, it might work in a pinch, when you can’t get away but you’re only with the disordered person for a short time, say at a party or a meeting.  It might work on a boss, too, if you really don’t want to leave your job and grey-rocking might seem too rude. (Never tell your Histrionic boss they’re sexy, though!)

Descartes and the Killer Bees.

By Anna Girolami

Blog: Good Red Herring

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René Descartes is regarded by many as the father of modern western philosophy. For most of us, he boils down to a single, famous phrase:

Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am).

A lot of disordered people, however, operate on a variation of this theme. I’m talking about Cluster B people – the Killer Bees. They don’t think, they really don’t want to think. That’s the last thing they want to do. No, their being depends upon something else:

Videor, ergo sum (I am seen, therefore I am).

Equally important to them, is the flip side:

Non videor, ergo non sum (I am not seen, therefore I am not).

One of the hallmarks of disordered people is “splitting” – the simplistic belief that things are either completely wonderful or completely dreadful. Anything more ambivalent than that is just too difficult to deal with.

For our Killer Bees, this habit of splitting combines with the above dictum in a catastrophic way. They can admit only two possibilities – either the whole world is watching them and thus they are alive or no-one at all is watching them so, arrrrgh!, they cease to exist.

Given that very terrifying choice, which one would you go for? A Killer Bee has no real option but to cling desperately to the belief that every single person in the world is watching them for every second of the day. It’s either that or existential obliteration.

This belief requires that – consciously or not – they beat down any aptitude for empathy that they may have. Iris Murdoch (who was a philosopher before she was a novelist) nailed this when she said “Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real.”

I take some issue with this as a definition of love. As a definition of empathy, however, it’s absolutely bang on.

The proper acknowledgement of other people’s autonomy and identity is a highly evolved function – one that many people seem unwilling to develop, on the very understandable grounds that it would deprive them of a great deal of secondary gain.

A Killer Bee cannot afford to acknowledge that anyone else is real. Even those – especially those – they ought to love the most. Other people are merely robots whose only function is to watch the Bee and thereby preserve them from extinction. Ideally, they should watch and approve. But even watching and disapproving is better than nothing.

What the watch-bots simply cannot be allowed, is any independent thought or action or intent of their own. That would mean they might stop watching the Bee for a while and then the Bee would cease to exist.

For a Killer Bee, it really is that simple – and that important.
Non videor, ergo non sum.

*****

If you’re married to or in some other way entangled with a Killer Bee, it is futile expecting them to notice you, support you or in any other way treat you as if you are real. They can’t do it. Not without professional help and not unless they want to. Very, very few want to – why should they give up this way of living that means lots of lovely attention and never having to think about anybody else?

So, what do you do? If your Killer Bee is of the mild-to-moderate variety, you have three choices:

1. Suck it up, suck it all up.
2. Ditch ’em.

Or..

3. you can manage them.

If you can’t/don’t want to ditch them, it seems obvious that your best option is to manage them. They’re quite primitive machines and, if they’re not too far gone, it is possible to manage them once you understand the clockwork. Oh sure, it makes you seethe, having to “manage” an adult, simply to stop them behaving like a three year old with low frustration tolerance. But it’s either that or suck it up, suck it all up.

Remember: videor, ergo sum.

Each variety of Killer Bee needs to be seen in a slightly different way.

–The Narcissist needs: “I see you, darling, you’re amaaaazing.”
–The extraverted Histrionic needs: “I see you, darling, you’re sooo sexy.”
–The introverted Histrionic needs: “I see you, darling, you’re so pretty but don’t get up, you’ll spoil the effect. Just you sit there and look perfect, I’ll do everything.” Or something like that.
–The Obsessive-Compulsive (OCPD, not OCD) needs: “I see you, darling, you’re trying so hard.”
–The Dependent or the Borderline needs: “I see you, darling, don’t worry. I’m here, I’m always here.”
(Yes, I know obsessives and dependents aren’t technically in the Cluster B group, but they often wander over into their territory.)

If you don’t know exactly which type you’ve got, just go with “I see you, darling, you’re wonderful.” That will keep most of ‘em happy, it’s the seeing that really matters. When Killer Bees are happy, they can actually play quite nicely.

This sounds easy enough but here’s the thing – you have to do it all the time. Every waking second of their day, or near enough. Once a week simply doesn’t cut it.

Remember: non videor ergo non sum.

They genuinely feel that if they are not sufficiently seen, then they don’t exist. When that happens, anxiety quickly overwhelms them. The narcissist will rage and belittle you, the histrionic will weep, the obsessive will sulk. Whatever.

It’s exhausting (and maddening) to have to supply this amount of constant watching with, inevitably, no reciprocation. It is, however, less exhausting than the tantrums. It may help if you realise that it doesn’t always have to be you who does the watching. They’re not fussy, these people. No one is real to them. One watch-bot is as good as any other.

So if you can do it reasonably, consider offloading some of the watching duties onto others (although not onto your children, that’s absolutely not supposed to happen. It’s a tragedy that it so often does). My own particular Killer Bee, an Obsessive with a heavy histrionic topcoat, is good at running, so I encourage him to enter as many races as he can. When he does well (which is usually. He’s an obsessive, after all), he gets a big chunk of lovely watching and approval from a whole host of other people – and I get a bit of time off. Its almost win-win.

Our holidays aren’t very restful though.

Have a great week,
Anna

Should you ever try to out-narc your narc?

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DISCLAIMER:

I don’t recommend trying to out-narc a narc unless you feel up to playing such wretched games, or if there’s no other choice.   If you can’t go No Contact right away, a technique known as grey rocking is better and won’t violate your conscience or morals .   But grey rocking works best with people you aren’t that intimate with.   In a very intimate relationship, such as a marriage, out-narcing the narc could prove more effective.   Always keep in mind you are not as skilled a player as the narcissist in your life.   You’ll know if it isn’t working.  Then STOP.    

 

Out-narcing my narc.

After years of codependency to my MN sociopath ex, always skulking around like a frightened church mouse and not daring to defy him (but inwardly seething the whole while)– and about a year before I finally got a restraining order and finally made him leave–I started to get mean. In other words, I had learned his games (hey, I had the best teacher!) and decided to use them against him.

I think when our rage rises to a certain level, or has been building up over a long time, there’s a pressure cooker effect, and you either explode–or if you can keep a measure of control, you can mirror the narcissist in the most negative way possible — by reflecting back to them the nasty and evil things they have been doing to you.  In other words, you can “out-narc” the narc.

It can be hard for abuse victims to out-narc the narc,  because we don’t have as many allies (they’ve all been turned against us), and anyway, we don’t recruit flying monkeys to make sure our commands are carried out. We also have a stronger conscience and some empathy, maybe a lot of empathy. If we’re really empathic, we might be much more prone to try to “rescue” the narcissist from themselves rather than give them “tough love”–forcing them to taste their own nasty medicine. poison.    If we have compassion and especially if we still love the narcissist, we don’t want to see them suffer at our hands.   If you don’t feel comfortable doing this or it goes against your morals then you shouldn’t.   Grey rocking is a nicer alternative.

But if you get mad enough, the anger might override your compassion temporarily.  It did for me, for about a year, until he as served the restraining order. Mostly I gaslighted him (told him coldly he was imagining things when he accused me of something I didn’t do, etc.), verbally abused (insulted him), using what I knew were his buttons (things he was sensitive about) against him, and most of all, I gave him the silent treatment.  (If you’re not all that skilled in narc tactics, the silent treatment is one of the easiest to use).  I don’t recommend using insults–they’re not very effective (they will be turned against you) and likely will enrage the narc.  So try not to use them, unless they’re very subtle or you have the ability to be sweetly sarcastic. Then, if he picks up on it, you can tell him, “oh, you must have been imagining things!”

I hated to be this way to anyone–it just isn’t me–but my survival at the end depended on it.  The narc had zero sense of boundaries, and my seething  rage and fear with no way to vent it was destroying me.   Out-narcing him for a short time made me feel stronger and readied me to do the (at he time) unthinkable: kick him the hell out.   While rage shouldn’t become a permanent place to live (in fact, it’s downright dangerous to you if you can never move past it), righteous anger when you’re going no contact is perfectly justified.

My narc-mirroring definitely turned my ex a lot colder toward me, but it also made him stop trying to suck the lifeblood out of me and stomp all over my boundaries 24/7.  He learned, and rather quickly, that I wasn’t having it anymore, and I also think he recognized himself in the way I treated him.  It didn’t make him remorseful or ashamed and it didn’t bring self-awareness either, but it made him STFU and leave me alone until I had the courage to file a restraining order on his sorry ass.

dontfuckwithme

Finally...

If you do decide to a out-narc your narc, don’t do it for an extended length of time because after too long,  it will take a toll on your spiritual and emotional integrity.   It should only be used for the short term, when you simply can no longer tolerate the N’s behavior, but going No Contact isn’t possible yet (but will be–start saving money now if you have no place to go).

Further reading:

Grey Rocking: If You Can’t Go No Contact

 

 

Grey-rocking: if you can’t go No Contact.

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Lately I’ve been hearing a new term in the narcissistic abuse community: grey rocking.  I don’t know if it’s a new term or not, but I haven’t heard it before.

How to Grey Rock a Narcissist.

It’s always best to go No Contact (or Very Low Contact) with the narcissists in your life, if it’s at all possible.   But sometimes it isn’t.    For example, you may have underage children with your narcissist and shared custody of them.  Or your boss or a coworker may be a narcissist and you’re not willing to leave your job.  Or you may be in a marriage or relationship with one, have no options for leaving right now and are biding your time until you can save enough money to leave.    Or perhaps you’re still living at home with narcissistic parents and don’t have a place to go yet.

In these types of situations, you probably are not able to go completely No Contact (or even VLC in some cases) but you still need a way to keep the narcissist and their manipulations at bay.    Fortunately there is a solution.   It’s called grey-rocking.

Grey rocking means acting like a grey rock: being completely boring and uninteresting.   It means going emotionally No Contact even if you can’t physically do so.   It isn’t the silent treatment though.  Giving a narcissist the silent treatment will send them over the deep end and they may up the ante.  You have to be more sneaky (you have to think almost like the narcissist!)

So when the narcissist is trying to get information from you or is love bombing or trying to hoover you, what you do is talk about something boring, like the weather, or how much your car needs an oil change, or how expensive milk is these days.  Change whatever sensitive or personal subject they bring up to something unrelated, impersonal, and dull.   If you can, try to make a getaway.  You can tell them you have an appointment and can’t stay around to chat.  If the narcissist has been eyeing you as potential prey, grey rocking them will make them lose interest and they will move on to greener pastures.   After a quick and boring exchange, POLITELY make your exit.

If you’re already prey (for example, if you’re living with a narcissist), grey rocking will be trickier and may take longer to work.  Don’t lose patience or give up.  Keep at it and eventually your emotional unavailability will frustrate them to the point they may throw a temper tantrum initially, but you’re not actually being mean or ignoring them so they can’t rage too much without seeming childish and unreasonable (yeah, I know, they already are).  Don’t allow them to push any of your buttons.  Show no emotional reaction to anything they say, no matter how hard this is to do.   If you keep at this, eventually they’ll grow bored, give up and discard YOU as they begin to look for a new source of supply (you have to be prepared for that).

Here are two examples of grey rocking in two different types of exchanges.

In a work/casual situation:

Narcissist Coworker (looking for a juicy tidbit to start a nasty rumor about you using triangulation):   So, how did you and Tim like working together?  Personally I can’t stand him.  I think he’s an idiot in over his head.    I hear he likes you though.  (winks on the word “likes”)

You:   Oh, do you know if it’s supposed to rain tomorrow?  I completely forgot to check the weather forecast this morning.

Narcissist Coworker:  (shrugs) I dunno…So, anyway, Martha was saying…

You:  Hey, listen, it was great talking to you.  (looking at your watch) But I have to run because I’m already late for my appointment.

Narcissist Coworker (perking up): Appointment? What kind of appointment?

You:  (pulling out phone and pretending to look for a number):  It was great chatting but I gotta make sure they hold my appointment.  (Wave cheerfully, turn around and walk away and start talking into the phone as if someone’s on the other end).

****

In a more intimate relationship:

Narcissist Husband:  You know, you really act crazy sometimes.   Even our neighbors noticed the way you acted at that dinner party last night and asked me if you had a “problem.”  I didn’t know what to say.

You:  Oh, really?   Well, listen, I’m on my way out to a meeting so I can’t stay and chat with you about this.

Narcissist Husband: Wait just one minute!  I’m not finished.  Why are you avoiding the issue.  This is very important!

You:   I feel just fine.  Don’t worry about me.   I really have to go to that meeting.  Let’s talk about this later.

Narcissistic Husband (projecting):  There you go, denying you have a problem.   Always thinking it’s me with the problem saying I’m worrying too much.  I don’t worry too much.  I love you.  I’m only trying to help you. You act like you’re afraid of me.

You: I know you love me.  But seriously, I’m required to be there in 15 minutes.  You know how much my boss hates it when anyone is late.  I don’t want to get chewed out.  (you turn to go out the door).

Narcissist Husband: Wait! (running after you).  I’m not finished!

You (getting in the car and waving): See you later!

Narcissist Husband turns around and storms back into the house, slamming the door.

Obviously, the second situation is a lot more tricky and you will have to face him later.  The “meeting” you’re attending is bogus, but it will give you a chance to get out and think about how to deal with him later. (You can also use these escapes to plan your permanent escape!)

When you get home, keep changing the subject or “getting distracted” by other things so he never has a chance to make any headway and eventually the subject will be dropped (saying you’re tired and going to bed is a good distraction–be sure to yawn a lot!).  Talk about things you know bore him, like your book club or the cute shoes your friend wore at lunch.  Always keep them impersonal–for example, don’t mention how much YOU want those cute shoes.

Naturally he will try to upset you or press your buttons. Count to a thousand if you must, but show no emotional reaction (remember, your reactions are his fuel).   Try to remain as calm and cheerful as you can (even if you want to throttle him, which is probably the case)–you don’t want him to suspect anything!   Remind yourself this is only temporary until you find a better solution (a way to leave).     Of course, this scenario will play itself out many times before he gives up on you.  But he isn’t going to stick around too long if you’re not giving him any opportunity to feed off your emotions.  But by the time that happens, you may already be gone.

****

Further Reading:

Going Grey Rock With a Narcissist

HSPs and empaths, take heed! You cannot heal a narcissist!

sad_angel

In my readings and observations of people in the narc-abuse community, I’ve become aware that Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), empaths in particular, are highly attracted to narcissists. The reverse is also true–narcissists see an empath and smell blood.  As an HSP myself (though not an empath), I have always been drawn to narcissists as friends and romantic partners.   This has gotten me into a world of trouble and almost destroyed me until I finally learned to resist their “charms” and go No Contact whenever possible.

Why Empaths are so attracted to Narcissists.

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It’s a psychological truism that we tend to be attracted to people similar to the people who raised us.  For those of us who were the most sensitive child in the family and as a result, became the family scapegoat, developed codependent personalities, or even developed a form of Stockholm Syndrome toward our abusers, we continue to carry our legacy or “people pleasing” into adult life and find ourselves drawn toward other narcissistic people, who are very good at promising us the world and vowing to solve all our problems.   But getting involved with a narcissist is the ultimate bait and switch–they make a lot of empty promises to love you unconditionally and never betray or hurt you, but they don’t deliver.  Not even close.  All they care about is feeding off of your love and generosity in order to keep their false self inflated like a balloon toy.

Not only are we fooled into believing the narcissist will be the answer to all our woes and fill our own inner emptiness, HSPs and empaths are also drawn to the “hurt inner child” inside every narcissist.  Most people can’t see the emotional void and deep unhappiness at the core of an NPD; they just see the narcissist as either a likeable charmer or a huge A-hole (depending on their role to the narcissist or stage of the relationship), but empaths see beyond the “false self” to what really lies beneath the carefully constructed facade.    This is why empaths and HSPs were so often scapegoated as children–because they were children who could see the ugly truth and sometimes even blew the whistle on the narcissistic parent–and nothing terrifies a narcissist more than being exposed as living a complete lie.

I’ve talked to quite a few empaths who actually seek out narcissists to love, in spite of having been educated about narcissistic abuse and the very real dangers they pose both spiritually and emotionally.  Empaths who choose to love a narcissist and think “this one is different” really ought to know better.   They look at a narcissist and don’t see a predatory, toxic individual who only seeks to use and abuse for their own gain; instead they see only the “hurt inner child” living in darkness beneath the bright, cheerful facade.

Their observations and feelings are actually not wrong.   Because empaths can see the truth about people, the damaged person they take so much empathy on is real.  Narcissists are indeed hurt, damaged, deeply unhappy people, although some abuse victims prefer to think of them as inhuman devils without souls at all.   Narcissists are definitely human, but they are dangerous, and especially deadly to an empath, because of how much such a person tends to give of themselves and how codependent they can become.

Like moths drawn into the flame.

moth-to-the-flame-3

Narcissists are drawn to empaths because (even though an empath can see beyond the false self, which scares narcissists), they give them everything they want.   Deep inside, what every narcissist really wants is someone to love them unconditionally, and empaths are more than capable of doing that.  They are also deeply envious of the empath’s ability to feel with no shame, even if they deny and hide their own feelings.   Empaths are compassionate, patient, self-denying, always willing to listen without judging, and generous with their time, money, possessions, emotions, and everything else they have to give, both tangible and intangible.  An empath’s love for a narcissist will cause them to stick by them no matter how much abuse gets dumped on them in return.   Empaths are perfect candidates for Stockholm Syndrome.   They will keep giving and giving, while the narcissist gives nothing in return except heartache and pain.

Some empaths may seem masochistic because everyone else can see that the narcissist is sucking the empath’s lifeblood away, turning them into a dried up husk of the whole person they once were, but the empath, like a moth driven to a flame, continues to give and give and give until they have nothing left to give.   It’s not masochism that drives an empath to stay with the narcissist and allow this abuse, though–it’s the deep belief empaths have that their unconditional love alone can heal the narcissist and make them whole again.

It’s a beautiful idea, that unconditional love can heal a narcissist and transform them into loving, authentic human beings.  It would be nice if things really worked that way, but only in fairy tales and movies do such things happen.   The Beast is won over by Beauty’s love and is transformed into a loving prince;  the miserly Scrooge is transformed into a generous and compassionate philanthropist;  The Grinch grows a huge heart out of the hard little stone in his chest when he hears the Whos singing down in Whoville in spite of having all their Christmas presents stolen;  Jerry McGuire changes overnight from a selfish, materialistic jerk into a nice guy.  Usually it’s the love of someone else–often a woman or child–who is the catalyst in getting the narcissist to change their evil ways.  These movies and stories touch our hearts and bring tears to our eyes because we wish life were really that way.

grinch_heart grinch_heart2

It’s tempting, if you’re an empathic type of person, to want to reach that hurt inner child inside your narcissist and through your unconditional love alone, give them the courage to jettison their false self and let that inner child out, and finally learn how to love.   But what’s far more likely to happen is that in spite of your best efforts, the narcissist will not change and will resist or even attack your efforts to transform them.   They will just keep taking from you, for they have no idea how to give of themselves or how to love.  You become drawn deeper into their web of misery and darkness, and eventually have nothing left to give and finally, your soul is destroyed beyond repair.

The only way to help a narcissist.

You cannot help a narcissist by giving them your love.  The best way to help a narcissist is to stop giving them narcissistic supply–in other words, going No Contact.   Only then is there a small chance that without that fuel, they will be forced to confront their own emptiness and pain, which could lead to them seeking professional help.   But don’t count on it.  Most likely, they will just move on to a new source of supply or try to hoover you back in.

I’ve stated many times that I don’t think most narcissists are beyond hope.  I’m one of the few narc-abuse bloggers that holds to that view, and sees narcissists as a different, more dangerous type of abuse victim.   It’s not a very popular view, but it’s mine and I’m not likely to change it.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about Apostle Paul, a malignant narcissist if there ever was one, who was changed by the Holy Spirit into a righteous (if still slightly arrogant) devoted follower of Christ.    I know of NPDs who are in therapy or treatment, or were in therapy and have actually been deemed NPD-free or are at least working hard to change their ways and become more authentic, loving people.  NPDs  are sad people who know their lives are empty and shallow and essentially meaningless, even if they never admit it.  Some even become consciously aware of how exhausting and essentially unfulfilling their dependence on others to feel good about themselves (and what they feel good about isn’t even who they really are) really is.

I’ve always believed that with both self-awareness (knowing one is a narcissist) and willingness to change (disliking what one has become), that healing becomes possible.  But change isn’t something that can magically happen through an empath’s unconditional love.   If it’s going to happen at all, it takes years and years of difficult and grueling therapy by a trained professional who knows exactly what works for this disorder (and what doesn’t)–and because they are trained in this, are not going to get pulled down into oblivion by allowing the narcissist to feed on their heart like a predatory animal.   Healing can also come through an act of God, as it did with Paul.    We can love a narcissist (but from a safe distance!), and we can ask God to help him or her–and maybe that will turn out to be God’s will too.  You never know.  God may have a special mission for them and decide to remove the scales from their eyes.   But please, empaths and HSPs, never try to cure a narcissist yourself through your unconditional love.   It won’t work.  You don’t know how to do it.  Leave it to the professionals and God.

A dicey situation.

dicey_situation_by_johnnycorduroy
“Dicey Situation” by Johnny Corduroy, Deviantart

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

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

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

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

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

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