It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

No Contact is for you, not for your Narcissists

We all know we can’t change other people—just ourselves. But for those of us who have chosen No Contact as a way of dealing with our narcissistic parents, that knowledge can be difficult to embrace because we expect those NPs to respect our wishes and not contact us.
If we think about it logically, that is not a particularly realistic expectation, is it? I mean, if they can’t be bothered to fix the things we have told them time and again are alienating us, why would we think they would respect our wishes for having no further contact with them? The very core of narcissism is to be self-serving, so it is pretty inevitable that our narcissists will, regardless of any apparent agreement on their parts, do exactly as they please.
This drives many of us nuts. Some of us get outraged, others of us hurt, still others feel bewildered and demoralized by the continued calls, cards, uninvited drop-ins, and flying monkey visitations. We have made our wishes known, why won’t they cooperate and just leave us alone?

Because they are narcissists, that’s why.

So how do we handle this? We are NC—let’s not break it just because they haven’t chosen to go NC with us. Don’t forget, we are the ones who chose to go No Contact—they didn’t. And just as we are not bound by their demands on our behaviour, they are not bound by our demands on theirs. Yes, it would be nice if they could be respectful and accede to our wishes, but these are narcissists we are talking about, remember? Respect for anyone or anything that doesn’t advantage them is just not their forte.

So why go NC if they aren’t going to respect it?
Because going NC means that you are not in contact with them. It means you will no longer rise to the bait, no longer engage, no longer to respond to their messages, provocations, or manipulations. NC is for you, it is your declaration of independence, autonomy, and sovereignty. It is you cutting the puppet strings, even if they do not agree, accept or respect your act of separation. NC is for you, it is about you, and it is controlled by you: you do not need their consent, permission or even their compliance. You do it because it is necessary for your well-being.
Imagine you have strings attached to your wrists, ankles and knees and every time your mother tugged on one of those strings, a part of you moved in response. Now, imagine you have a sharp pair of scissors and you cut each string cleanly in half…now what happens when she tugs on one of the strings in her hand? Well, provided you have completely severed the string, nothing can happen, can it? You can see the string dangling, you can see it bounce around futilely as she yanks and jerks on it, but nothing happens as long as it remains detached from you, right?
And guess what? She cannot reattach the string without your assistance! It is absolutely impossible for her to reattach any of those strings unless you help her—you are in full control of this!
You can be guaranteed that she will keep trying. She will come up with a multitude of ways to try to reconnect with you. She will not respect your NC until and unless she comes to the conclusion that she is wasting her time, that nothing she does gets a response out of you and, without response, there is no NSupply.

Think of it as junkmail or spam…
When you open your mailbox at home, what do you find? I remember coming home from work and pulling out a dozen or more pieces of mail almost every day. I would come into the house, put down my handbag and quickly riffle through them, sorting the junkmail directly into the trash and putting the rest of the mail into two piles: real mail and “not sure what this is.” Then I would pick up the “not sure” pile and open each envelope and, if it was more junkmail, sort it right into the trash.
Did I get upset at the junkmail? No. I had long since learned that junkmail will happen, that there was nothing I could do to stop it, but I did not have to respond to it. I accepted that cleaning junkmail out of my mailbox was inevitable and I had no control over whether or not some company was going to send it to me. But I had the ultimate control because I was the one who decided what I was going to look at. So let them waste their time and their money sending me shit I don’t want—when it arrives, it goes straight into the bin. No angst, no second-guessing, no regrets because I know just exactly what is in those envelopes: solicitations for me to give up something I want to keep (my money) in exchange for something I don’t want (their crap).
I handle phone solicitations the same way. If they are clear in the first few words that it is a sales call, I hang up the phone. If they are not immediately clear about the purpose of the call, I interrupt and say “Is this a sales call?” If they don’t answer the question, I ask one more time. If they respond “Yes,” I say “I am not interested. Have a nice day,” and hang up the phone. If they don’t answer my question the second time, I hang up the phone. You see, it is my phone and my time and I get to choose how to use them and with whom. These callers are intruders—I did not invite them to call me—and by remaining silent and listening to their spiel I give them permission to continue talking and sucking up my time, even when I do not want to be listening to them. But I have the option of taking control of the situation and I do that by hanging up the phone, taking my time back to spend it on what I want instead of wasting it listening to a stranger trying to pick my pocket from over the phone.

Contact from your Ns and their flying monkeys is no different!!

Seriously! Mail from your Ns, phone calls from flying monkeys—they are the junkmail and telemarketing calls of the hoovering narcissist and you handle them the same way I handle junkmail and telemarketers: dump the mail in the bin and hang up on the sales calls. Just like a telemarketer cannot sell you a timeshare condo in the Gobi unless you listen to her long enough to get sucked in, so you cannot be sucked into a conversation with your long-lost cousin about your poor NM and how distraught she is over your exit from her life. Just as the junkmail solicitation cannot suck you in to buying a set of 200 pieces of the latest in cutlery technology if you don’t open the envelope, so can you avoid being sucked into their drama—or hurt by their sophistry—if you dump their mail (and email), unopened, unread, unseen, straight into the bin.
You are in control of this and I know it feels alien and you perhaps don’t know exactly what to do, but the truth is, you completely yanked control away from your N the minute you went NC and the only way s/he can get it back is if you return it.
NC is for you, not for them. It doesn’t matter if they cooperate or not because this is not about them, it is about you. You are in control of it, you get to decide what you will put up with and what you will not (but remember, the more you put up with, the more they will throw at you).

So, if they won’t cooperate with your NC, start thinking of their attempts at communication like junkmail, spam, and telemarketing calls. You are under no obligation to respond…you aren’t even obligated to be especially polite. Imagine calling someone you haven’t spoken to in years and trying to tell her how she needs to talk to her mother—is that rude and presumptuous? You bet it is—so what makes you think you need to use your best manners in dealing with someone who has the temerity to call you and waste your time with that kind of disrespectful twaddle? Cousin Lou in Bumfuck, Arkanbama, who you haven’t seen or heard from since great-grandma’s funeral when you were in the tenth grade, calls you out of the blue to tell you how upset your mother is over your silence and admonishes you that the Bible says to honour your mother—exactly how is this her business? And why be reluctant to tell her that? “I appreciate your concern, Lou, but this is my business and I will handle it as I see fit. Thank you for calling.” click.
You do not need them to cooperate for NC to work. You need you to set your boundaries and then honour and respect them. You need you to resist their blandishments, your misplaced, toxic guilt, and second-guessing. The only thing you need to make NC work is a commitment from yourself to yourself to find ways to make it work instead of reasons why it won’t or can’t. Every time they find a creative way to get through to you—sending mail to your office in an envelope with a typed label and fake return address or getting an auntie to send an email or leaving a voice mail on your office phone—discard whatever it was and try to find a way to block that access.
Commit to finding ways to making it work, work on making it work, and don’t give them access to those tattered pieces of string dangling from your wrists and ankles. They can’t reattach them without you giving them access.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Poor Little Narcissist…

In March of 2012 I wrote a blog entry entitled “Empathetic Narcissist = Oxymoron.” In reviewing that post recently I came across this line: “Empathy is that quality that allows us to identify with the feelings of another…Narcissists don’t know how to do this—they don’t have the capacity and because of that, they find no value in it.”[1]
In re-reading this line it occurred to me that some will read this and their own natural empathy may lead them to feeling sorry for the narcissist. After all, the narcissist is being deprived of something natural and fundamental and even essential to the building of character. That which most of us take for granted has been denied, either through trauma or the fickleness of nature, to narcissists and some of us are prompted not only feel sorry for them but find the fact of this privation sufficient to give them a pass on their behaviours. This may be our natural inclination but, believe me, to do so is a grave mistake.
While it is true that narcissists lack empathy—it is one of the defining features of narcissism, after all—it is not necessarily true that the narcissist experiences suffering as a result of this lack. Empathy is not part of our survival instinct, selfishness is, because selfishness helps us to hoard resources that guarantee our survival, even at the expense of others. If we had empathy and shared our resources, we might die.
Very young children are naturally very selfish and lacking in empathy. Your infant doesn’t care how sleep-deprived you are, he only cares that his discomfort is relieved. Empathy is supposed to evolve as the child matures and becomes more cognizant of others and more capable of fending for himself. Children are supposed to gradually outgrow this selfishness, to become increasingly aware not only of others but of the needs and feelings of others and eventually to respond to them with emotional resonance. By the time we reach adulthood, if our development has been on track we not only can read and write and have the basic skills necessary for autonomy, we have developed the empathy for others that allows us to function well socially.
Unfortunately not all of us develop that empathy—narcissists are chief among those who lack it. We who have grown up with an ingrained sense of empathy find it difficult to grasp that someone can be without one. It is further difficult to grasp that they don’t miss it at all.
How is this possible? Well, think of it this way: if you had never eaten jellied moose nose[2], would you miss it? You might even think that it was an undesirable thing to eat and be glad you’ve never tasted it and have no wish to ever do so. And because you have never tasted it, you most definitely would not miss it, would you?
Well, narcissists lack empathy. They have never had it, they don’t recognize it when it is directed at them, and when they realize that it can make you very vulnerable, they don’t want it. They like to see it in others because it gives them a way to manipulate those others, which is precisely why they don’t want it for themselves. Narcissists do not miss being empathetic because they have never experienced it—they quite literally do not know what they are missing. But, like you and the jellied moose nose, they aren’t exactly eager to experience it.
So, ask yourself—should I feel sorry for you because you have never tasted jellied moose nose? Should I excuse bad table manners and look the other way when you eat your spaghetti with your hands—both hands—because you, poor thing, have never been able to eat jellied moose nose? If you don’t care about it, don’t want any for yourself, and don’t feel deprived by the lack, why should I feel bad for you because your life—and diet—has been deficient in the jellied remains of a moose’s nose? Wouldn’t I be guilty of wanting it for you more than you want it for yourself? What business, actually, is it of mine?
Is it any different with empathy? If the narcissist doesn’t miss it (because he never had it) and doesn’t want it (because he believes it leaves him open to manipulation), why feel bad for him? Don’t say “I know how I would feel…” because that doesn’t matter—what is germane here is how that narcissist feels. If you think he feels the way you would, that is projecting (which is a narcissistic trait—check yourself for fleas!) and it has absolutely nothing to do with how that narcissist feels.
So, because he lacks empathy, he doesn’t know any better and you should cut him some slack, right?
Nope. Unless he has been living under a rock in a cave in the bowels of an ancient volcano, he knows better because the clues are everywhere. Movies and TV shows often are no more than elaborate morality plays that effectively demonstrate that characters who lack empathy end up negatively. Books, news articles, overheard conversations—all contain the general consensus that people who lack empathy are assholes and idiots, disliked and disrespected.
That means that narcissists know what empathy is and they know that the society expects some degree of it from all of us. The narcissist also knows that he can use the vulnerabilities that empathy exposes to manipulate others—which means that if he develops empathy he will be vulnerable to people like himself. The narcissist well know what empathy is and she knows that it is a powerful means to manipulate and control others, either by manipulating their empathy or feigning her own.
The truth is, you cannot miss something you have never had. You can want it, you can yearn for it, but you can’t miss it. If you are inclined to feel sorry for a narcissist for his lack of empathy, imagine how you would feel if I were to feel sorry for you for your lack of jellied moose nose experience? You might appreciate that I was thinking of you, but if I offered to bring you a nice big plate of it, wouldn’t you quickly decline my offer?
And so it is with the narcissist and empathy—she doesn’t feel bad, she doesn’t suffer from her lack of empathy any more than you feel bad or suffer from your lack of acquaintance with the jellified moose snout. You might think the narcissist is missing out on something beautiful and necessary but the narcissist will have a very different—and quite valid—point of view.
Why is it valid? Because it never works to want something for someone more than they want it for themselves. Because, no matter how much we believe we are right, we don’t have the right to impose our wishes for someone onto them, not even narcissists. They have the same right of self-determination as you and I do, and it is just as sacrosanct, even if it is self-serving and counter-productive. Because we don’t have the right to try to change other adults to suit ourselves, no matter what. But most important, because that narcissist has a perfect right to be a narcissist, to continue being a narcissist, and to even enjoy being a narcissist. We do not have a right try to change them or even to expect them to change.
This can be difficult to accept because their lack of empathy can make life very difficult for us and when something is going wrong in our lives, we have a natural instinct to want to change it. If our narcissistic parent is wreaking havoc in our lives it is natural to wish for that parent to change and stop doing it. We impute the same emotional processes to the narcissist that we, ourselves, enjoy and so we believe that those things that motivate us will motivate them. But we are wrong. You cannot appeal to the empathy of a person who has none and you cannot give empathy to someone who doesn’t want it.
Most of all, you cannot empathize with a feeling that is not there. When you feel bad for the poor narcissist who is devoid of empathy you are not empathizing, you are projecting. You are assuming that the narcissist is feelings the same pangs you are feeling when, in fact, the person is not feeling bereft at all. That is how you believe you would feel if your empathy were to disappear tomorrow and you are projecting onto that narcissist—it is not at all the nothingness that the narcissist is feeling.

1.      Sweet Violet. “Empathetic Narcissist = Oxymoron.” The Narcissist’s Child. (accessed January 19, 2018).
2.      Wisniewski, Laura. “Fresh Eyes: Jellied Moose Nose.” Bozeman Magazine. (accessed January 19, 2018).