What is Love?

Thought provoking article with some interesting answers to the age old question.

Please leave comments on the original post.

QuantumMediocrity

The concept of love predates mankind as a species. Some claim, it is even older than time itself. Whereas our ancestors knew mutual respect, comradeship and shared understanding is essential to the continued survival of their tribe, we believe we perceive love in a more sophisticated light…but do we, really?

“One result of the mysterious nature of love is that no one has ever,
to my knowledge, arrived at a truly satisfactory definition of love.”

However, nothing can restrain the curiosity of spirit. Over the epochs, we have attempted to fit love into various categories, such as eros, philia, agape; perfect love and imperfect love and so on…In a very real sense trying to understand love is attempting to examine the unexaminable and to know the unknowable. It is different every time and with every person in very apparent but also quite subtle ways. Overall, love is too large, too…

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Are you a victim of gaslighting?

gaslight

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person is made to doubt their own reality or judgment.  It’s a very common way that narcissists, psychopaths, and other abusers manipulate their victims.

The term comes from the 1942 movie of the same name, in which the heroine is victimized by her abusive husband into believing she is going insane, when she notices the gaslights in their home going on and off seemingly by themselves, when it is actually he who is doing it to torment her.

Here are a few examples of gaslighting:

Your partner calls you hurtful names, and when you object, tells you you are being “too sensitive,” “acting crazy,” “playing the victim,” etc.  (blaming the victim is very common in abusive personalities).

Your parent, who was physically abusive to you as a child, says it never happened and you are just imagining things.

Your partner steals money from you while you’re asleep, and then when you bring it up the next day, says you must have misplaced it or didn’t count it right.

Gaslighting occurs on the societal level too and is a favorite tactic of sociopathic leaders to maintain control of their narrative and keep their opponents off balance and fearful, but that is beyond the scope of this short post.  I have covered that topic elsewhere in this blog.

Gaslighting is death by a thousand cuts.   While an individual incident of gaslighting might seem minor and nothing to get that upset about (and all of us, at one time or another, have probably gaslighted someone else),  these incidents tend to add up over time and cause a person to doubt their own reality to the point of developing symptoms of trauma or even PTSD.

A person who is the victim of gaslighting becomes fearful, unsure of themselves, feels as if they’re “walking on eggshells” all the time, afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing.   If you feel uncomfortable, ill at ease, or fearful around a particular person, or clam up when you are usually more outgoing, chances are you are being gaslighted.

Here’s a handy table that will help you know when to tell.

gaslightingfacts

How a narcissist really sees you.

I saw this meme yesterday describing how narcissists really regard their victims.  This analogy is as accurate as anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s true.   There’s no need to elaborate any further.

I have no idea who wrote this, so I can’t give credit.

narcissisttowel

 

Family problems.

whenyoufeel

I thought I’d return from Florida well rested and ready to tackle real life again.   I did have a wonderful, relaxing time and got to spend a good bit of it with my son, unlike other trips there, when he had to work most of the time.

Since returning, my daughter and her husband seem to be coming after me for blood.   I’m too emotionally distraught right now to even go into much detail about what happened, but in a nutshell, she is gaslighting me and lying about things I did/said, making me out to be a terrible, selfish person who doesn’t give a shit about anyone but myself and prefers my son over her.

This started well before I left for my trip.   I pushed it on the back burner, but her behavior lately has been bothering me.  It reminds me very much of her father’s abusive behavior before I finally had enough and made him leave the house five years ago.     She has been calling me terrible names, saying I said things or did things I never said  or did, and calling me narcissistic and “clinically insane.”    She thinks I’m crazy because I sometimes am critical of her or tell her I don’t like the names she is calling me.   In other words, reacting like a normal person does when attacked.   She’s gaslighting me.   I told her to stop, for whatever good that does.  She insists it’s not gaslighting.  Instead she flips it around and accuses me of gaslighting her.

It seems she is projecting onto me, and became a narcissist or some facsimile of one when I was not looking.  Her husband, who seemed sweet to me at first, has become quite cold toward me.   I think she has turned him against me.

We share a crowded house, and I don’t earn enough to pay all the bills on my own (and am too old to take a second job, nor should I have to take a second job!) but she angrily attacked me this morning for “being a bitch” to her,  and said she would no longer pay any rent to me because of that.

She says she needs to save money to move out.   That would be perfectly reasonable under other circumstances.   It would be fine if I earned enough that I could afford  to give them a break so they could save money, but I don’t and she knows it.  I could be renting out her room instead and she knows that too.   I also doubt she will actually save money and move, since she has never been able to save money before and can’t seem to hold onto a job.

Her brother wants to mediate (he’s good at mediating) but there’s no way for that to happen since then she would know I told him everything, and she is predisposed to not cooperate since she’s jealous of the more positive attention she thinks he gets from me.  They have become distant from each other partly because of geographic distance, but also because she thinks he judges her harshly (he doesn’t, but is reasonably critical and she can’t seem to deal with criticism).

I’m not sure what to do.  My daughter went out in a huff after flinging a litany of insults at me, and is currently (most likely) over at her father’s house (where I’m pretty sure they are all sitting around badmouthing me and talking about what a crazy, narcissistic person I am).   And yes, I do realize how narcissistic and paranoid I sound, but I’m absolutely sure that’s what is going on.   I feel like I’m reliving the nightmare I went through before I finally worked up the courage to go no contact with her father.    He freeloaded off of me too and told everyone I was the crazy one when I objected to his crazymaking antics and exploitation of my good will.

Now she is accusing me of “playing the victim.”   It appears that gaslighting comes naturally to her.  She must have been paying attention when I talked to her all those times about narcissism and narcissistic abuse, because now she not only knows all the terms and phrases, she has weaponized them, using them against me.

When did my daughter become her father?   I never thought she would become a gaslighting abuser or a narcissist because she always seemed like a high empathy person to me.  It’s like I turned around and instead of seeing her standing there, it’s her father all over again.

Until recently, and since her father left the house (at my insistence) in 2014, my daughter and I  have gotten along great.  I’m not sure when things started to go downhill or even who changed.  Was it her or was it me?  I feel like it was her.   But I just don’t really know.   It seems like it started to happen around the time of her marriage in January.  But her husband doesn’t seem like a narcissist to me, just a quiet guy.  But since he doesn’t talk a lot, I have no idea what he is actually saying to her.    All I know is that during the past few months, our relationship has been very tense and prone to lead to arguments.  I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells with her, and I know that’s a huge red flag.

Maybe she needed to go out and just calm herself down and give herself some space.   So I will see when she returns if she’s more reasonable.  But if she still refuses to cooperate with my house rules, I may have no choice but to make plans to move out myself and leave the two of them to figure out how to pay for everything themselves.   That’s not being spiteful, but I simply can’t live with someone (even my own daughter) who takes advantage of me the way her father did years ago.   It’s a form of abuse and extremely triggering.    I know she will be furious if that’s what I ultimately decide, but what else can I do?  I feel trapped and helpless.  I feel like I have no power or control over this situation at all and very few options open to me financially.

I guess I’ll see how things go after she calms down.   She’s done this sort of thing before and then apologizes later.   She always does say her father treated me like crap and I should have left sooner.    I just don’t know what to think anymore.  It’s times like this I just feel so backed into a corner and helpless.

I just had to vent.  To get this off my chest.   This post reminds me of my early articles, when I first started this blog and was realizing I had been abused throughout my life, and set about describing the mental and emotional abuse that was inflicted on me by my ex and by my family.   It seems I still haven’t broken that pattern and it snuck in again when I least expected it.

I have no idea what to do, really.

Healthy boundaries.

goodboundaries

Credit: unknown

The narcissist’s dark and twisted brand of empathy.

Originally posted on August 20, 2016

twisted_tree

Do narcissists have empathy?  Yes, and some of them have a lot of it, but it’s probably not the kind of empathy you want anything to do with.

Some lower spectrum narcissists do have some capacity for normal emotional (not just cognitive) empathy, but it tends to be selective–that is, they can turn it off when it’s too dangerous or it makes them feel too vulnerable. That’s why, for example, a low-to-mid spectrum narcissist can feel empathy for fictional characters in a movie or novel and even shed tears for them, or can feel empathy for a stray or sick animal, but when you tell them you just lost your job, or that what they just said hurt your feelings, they turn into a block of ice. Their reaction to your pain is about as heartwarming as the Siberian wilderness in January. If they’re love-bombing or trying to hoover you, they may FAKE emotional empathy, but they don’t really feel anything.  They show you what appears to be tender compassion in order to manipulate.

It’s not news that most narcissists are ultra-sensitive, but their sensitivity is retained only for themselves, and that’s why they are so easily offended. But that sensitivity seems to have a switch that turns to “off” when it comes to other people and they can appear appallingly insensitive. Many narcissists were so sensitive as children they were actually potentially empaths. Their empathy didn’t really go away, but remained in a twisted and barbed form. Their developing disorder transformed their natural emotional empathy into something dark and malevolent. Some experts call he kind of empathy narcissists have cognitive empathy–which means the narcissist KNOWS how you feel, but can’t share your feelings or care how you feel. If they are malignant or sociopathic, they may even want to hurt you. Because most of their emotions went into hiding as a form of self protection, the emotional, caring aspect of any empathy they might have once had disappeared too, and what remains is only the cognitive portion. Narcissists have an uncanny and unsettling way of knowing EXACTLY how you feel–and if they are malignant, they use their twisted brand of empathy against you. For a malignant narcissist, empathy–a quality we normally associate with loving concern–becomes a weapon used to control, attack, and belittle you.

homer_simpson
Cognitive empathy.

On HG Tudor’s website, Knowing The Narcissist, he wrote a post about the way some narcissists mock their victims using mimicry of their emotional reactions as a form of abuse. I am going to quote a portion of that post, because of how well it illustrates the way a malignant narcissist uses cognitive empathy as a weapon to cause pain. It’s quite amazing how well they know EXACTLY how their abuse is making you feel, but instead of feeling remorse and apologizing the way a normal person would, they instead use that knowing empathy as fodder for their mockery cannon. My ex did this to me constantly, and Tudor’s description of the victim’s feelings of overwhelming helplessness and frustration at the receiving end of this type of abuse is absolutely spot on.
WARNING: THIS MAY BE TRIGGERING.

When you stood there crying with frustration and I drank deep of the delicious fuel you provided me, I would raise my hands to my eyes and draw pretend tears on my cheeks and make a sobbing noise to humiliate you further. Here I was letting you know that I copied everything that went before yet now I copy again but not with the perfection I once exhibited. I allow the sting of sarcasm and the malicious mockery to infiltrate my copying of your behaviour so that your hurt and bewilderment was increased. You would shout at me and I would shout back using the exact words before standing and laughing at you as you burned with frustration, unable to find any response. You might stamp your feet in exasperation and I would do the same but with a leer of disdain writ large across my face.

There were times when you would scream. A terrified scream as my vicious manipulations would take their toll and as you tried to curl into a ball and hope you might just disappear and escape this nightmare, I would lean in close to you and mimic your scream into your ear, creating this fabricated falsetto of distress in order to further your own. Every reaction to my devaluation of you had the potential to be met by a mimicked reply from me in order to further your misery and demonstrate I did not treat your responses with any sincerity or concern.

Another way a narcissist can use cognitive empathy is to scope out your vulnerabilities–knowing exactly which buttons to press to upset you. In the comments, Katie provided a great example of this. Her mother, who scapegoated her and knew she was sensitive about her poverty, used this against her, saying things like, “Oh, Katie dear, it must be SOOOOO hard to be living the way you do and never have enough money for the basic things.” And then followed that up by crowing about how successful her siblings were and the vacations and new cars they were buying. My mother used to use my sensitivity itself, knowing I was sensitive about my sensitivity, saying things like, “It must be so awful being so sensitive.” What’s happening here is a kind of fake, sarcastic “empathy” is thinly veiling a cruel jab at one of your buttons, which their cognitive empathy is used to discern. And then, should you complain, they will act all hurt and innocent and tell you they were only trying to be nice or were showing concern for your well being. This is a vicious kind of gaslighting.

Please keep in mind that cognitive empathy in itself is not a bad thing.  It could be a tool used in mindfulness training to help a person learn to “walk in someone else’s shoes” before acting out against them.  Cognitive empathy can be learned, but emotional empathy cannot be taught–it’s either there or it isn’t.  Most empaths have both cognitive and emotional empathy.  Cognitive empathy lets them know how someone else feels, but the emotional aspect allows them to care.

Five types of gaslighting narcissists.

Lucky Otters Haven

Gaslight-2

I haven’t written an original narcissism article in awhile, and I was thinking about gaslighting today, so I thought I’d write a post about it.

Gaslighting is a defense mechanism commonly used by narcissists in order to diminish their victims and make them doubt and question their own reality.  The term comes from the 1942 movie “Gaslight,” in which a young wife is abused in this manner by her husband, who almost succeeds in driving her insane by telling her she is imagining the gaslights in their house going on and off, even though he has been secretly playing with the gaslights himself to make her think she’s going insane.  Gaslighting is one of the most sinister and crazymaking things a narcissist can do, and over time your self esteem and even your grip on what is real and what isn’t begins to erode.   Dealing with a gaslighting narcissist…

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Toxic positivity.

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking.  But it’s become fashionable in recent years to shame “negative thinking.”  I put that phrase in quotes because sometimes “negative” just means being realistic.    Too often, being positive is the same thing as denying reality: The 3 pack a day smoker with a chronic cough insists they are healthy when you suggest they see a doctor (of course, this could be fear on their part too).   The abused wife tells you everything at home is fine even though she has the demeanor of a whipped dog and flinches whenever her husband speaks to her.   Your “friend” tells you you’re being paranoid when you (correctly) observe that he hasn’t called you in several weeks and is always “busy” whenever you’re around.    He is gaslighting you.

These are examples of toxic positivity.  Empathy is not a factor when it’s directed at someone else’s concerns.    Toxic positivity sounds more like criticism or gaslighting when directed at another person, or just plain lying or denial when it’s about yourself.   In both cases, it helps no one.

I don’t know who made this chart, but I like it because it shows the difference between toxic positivity and real positivity, which includes empathy.

toxicpositivity

Further reading: 

Where I Stand On Positive Thinking

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

This article is a must read for empaths and HSPs, and anyone vulnerable to narcissistic abuse:

These 7 Traits Make You Vulnerable to Narcissistic Manipulation

By Kim Saeed

Comments here have been turned off.  Please leave comments under the original post.

She also has a great site!  Be sure to visit.

https://kimsaeed.com/

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.