I have been the recipient of an unpleasant and trolling email.
When I tried to respond, the mail bounced back, so it qualifies as a "drive by"--an attack from someone who is ensuring that s/he will receive no information that might pry open their shuttered little mind and inject something contrary to what they have decided is the truth.
In the FB group I regularly remind people that in seeking support, you must also seek truth. Many ACoNs believe that their Ns intentionally targeted them, that their behaviours were for the purpose of hurting them. But in most cases, this simply is not the case: Ns are self-focussed and their behaviours are intended to advantage themselves--if you happen to get hurt as a result, that is fallout, not their intent. Yes, they lack empathy and don't care that you are hurt, but they didn't spend your tuition money on a new Louis Vuitton bag for the purpose of hurting you, they did it because they wanted the bag and there was all that money, not yet spent...
Yes, you were treated badly and you deserve--and should seek--support for that. But supporting your feelings, acknowledging you were ill treated and hurt, is different from assigning a reason for a person's behaviour. To heal, you have to seek the truth and embrace it, even if it is contrary to what you want to believe.
My drive-by correspondent has received information from a person who is angry with me, a person who has not told the truth. My drive-by correspondent doesn't want the truth because she has denied me the opportunity to respond. So here is what my bounced-back email said:
"There are two sides to every story. You reveal your character by accepting one without ever hearing the other."
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.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Thursday, November 17, 2016
This morning I received the following email:
“You are not who you say you are. You do not live in South Africa. You live at 3126 Oak Road, #420, Walnut Creek, CA 94597 from 10/13 to present since you are divorcing Eric H. Janssen. Your home was foreclosed on 7/27/15 and sold by trustee sald 15-12800. Original loan $365, 500 10/28/94, parcel 149-304-026-3 with transfer value $214,000 for a 1,162 sq.ft., 3 br, 1 bath home built in 1947. You are do not have a narcissist daughter or son. You have a minor child living with your ex. You have 4 traffic offenses in Contra Costa, CA. I could go on. You get the point. Either take this fake blog with lies down or I will post all this information and anything else I may have in my possession on the internet for everyone to see. You also need to close your FB group The Narcissist's Child or I will reveal your ruse to the world! You messed with the wrong people this time.”
I—and this blog—and the Facebook group—have been targeted by an internet troll.
This troll has taken my Facebook screen name, done an internet search on it, and found some hapless woman in California with the same name—but for her it is her real name—and decided to “blackmail” me with the information found in the search.
Anybody who has been around this blog—or the Facebook group—for any period of time knows that I use a screen name. I started with the name Sweet Violet back in the mid-90s as a tribute to my grandmothers: one, actually named Violet, died in 1992; the other, who collected Japanese post-War china in the Sweet Violets pattern (of which I am now the proud owner), died in 1994. Sweet Violet as a screen name seemed a fitting honour to them both. Unfortunately, I woke up one morning a year or two back to find that Facebook had frozen my account and would not thaw it out until I gave them a real-sounding name: they weren’t buying “Sweet” as a first name or “Violet” as a surname (they should visit South Africa where you can meet people with names like “Education January”). Since everybody on line knew me as Violet at this time, I opted to keep Violet as my first name and added, for a surname, the name of a street near where I was living at the time…and like magic, my FB account was restored and I was back!
One of the problems narcissists have is an inability to see beyond what they perceive: if they believe it, it must be true because they cannot be wrong. This is a form of arrogance, for which narcissists are well known. My troll, labouring under the delusion that her perception was truth, obviously spent a great deal of time and effort—and possibly even some money—to find out the “truth” about who I am. Unfortunately, she found some poor woman in California whose real name is the same as my screen name—and who seems to be having a real tough time of it just now—and has convinced herself that the California Violet is me…and that by having all this internet-generated information about that Violet, she has some kind of power over me.
I tried to respond to the email, to set the troll straight with some truth, but the troll used a Gmail email address that no longer exists. I am guessing she opened the email account, made her attack, then closed the account. This is what I call a “drive by”—a person spits out a malicious message then takes an action that prevents the target from responding. It is designed to prevent the other person from providing information that might run contrary to what the attacker believes: it ensures that not a single grain of truth might penetrate the attacker’s self-righteous—but incorrect—beliefs. It is also designed to frustrate the victim by depriving him of a means of defence and to make sure that any witnesses (usually members of the attacker’s crew) don’t get infected with truth from the victim.
What kind of person does this? Somebody who simply cannot be wrong. Somebody who is petty, spiteful and vindictive. Somebody who doesn’t care about truth, only about creating the illusion that she is right, even when she knows, deep in her heart, that she is wrong. By utterly destroying her victim, the troll wipes out any chance that a) anybody ever finds out she is wrong and b) she might have to acknowledge that she is wrong—because acknowledging she is wrong destroys her self-perception and makes her vulnerable.
Anyway, I tried to set the troll straight lest she do some harm to the California Violet, so I sent this email and it bounced back: “Apparently it hasn't occurred to you that 1) there might be more than one Violet Janssen on the planet and 2) Violet Janssen might not be my real name.
This is a perfect example of how internet research can lead you to faulty conclusions. It exemplifies everything that is wrong with believing everything you read and how an otherwise rational person can be led to absurdly false and embarrassingly incorrect conclusions. This is how anti-vax people get sucked into junk science: they start with a faulty premise and then seek information (regardless of the validity of the source) to support it rather than seek to discover the truth—which might be contrary to the premise they are trying to validate—through bona fide sources. If you start with a false premise and then seek to prove it, no amount of information can truly validate it because the initial premise is false in the first place. And that is exactly where you have gone wrong here: you have started with a false premise and all of the time and effort you have put into your research has brought you to an incorrect conclusion.
I hope you realize that the behaviour you are exhibiting is spiteful, vindictive, and narcissistic in nature. If you aren't seeing a therapist right now, I recommend that you do so. If you ARE seeing a therapist, I recommend that you tell him/her what you have done and discuss it and your need for vengefulness. And if you feel reluctant to do so or you are indignant at my suggestion (because how dare I suggest that you might be wrong!), I strongly recommend that you explore that reaction because that means you know your behaviour is wrong but you are unwilling to acknowledge it...another behaviour common to narcissists.
Just a word of warning, though—if you try to take any action against the Violet Janssen in Walnut Creek who, according to your research seems to be pretty hard up against it anyway—you could be committing a crime. She doesn't know who you are or why you would be targeting her and if you are in a different state, your crime could be federal in nature (because it crosses state lines). Don't let your arrogance lead you to believe what is not true: that you have found the “real” Violet and have acquired the power to destroy her.
I would like to thank you for this email and your threat because I have been searching for a topic for my next blog entry and here you are, handing it to me on a silver platter! Blackmail only works when the target has something to hide...and I do not.
Hugs and love,
So, by now everybody has to be wondering what prompted the troll attack. The last sentence in the email to me gives the clue: “You messed with the wrong people this time.” This clearly references some interaction between me and the troll (“people” instead of “person”—the troll is puffing up like a cat to make herself look bigger and more intimidating). It comes from a recent dust-up in the Facebook group.
Membership in the group is by invitation only. You get an invitation by contacting me and demonstrating to me why you would be a suitable member of the group. I do this because I get lots and lots of requests from people who are not ACoNs, people who have a narc sibling or boss or ex or neighbour, people who are narcs themselves and are butthurt that their adult kid had gone NC, narcs who perceive themselves victims, and even Lookie-Lous—people who get their jollies through the pain of others. These people have to be screened out to maintain the integrity of the group. Once past that, each potential member is emailed a copy of the group Boundaries indicating the basic rules of the group: confidentiality, respect, taboo topics (and the reasons they are taboo), etc. An invitation to join is conditional on accepting and agreeing to abide by the Boundaries. So, every person in the group presumably knows the rules and has agreed to observe them before being granted entry—and a copy is posted in the group Files section if anyone needs to refresh their memories.
One of the things the Boundaries limits is recommendations to members of the group. While there are no limitations on what a member may believe or practice in her private life, there are limits as to what can be brought to the group. Specific to this prohibition is such things as junk science, alternative medicine, and other modalities that are not scientifically validated. Again, if you think detoxing your eyelashes with blue paint enemas works for you—go for it. But don’t bring it to the group. Another Boundary has to do with privacy and confidentiality: if you violate the Boundaries or if you have an issue with a Boundary, that is to be a private issue between the member and me. Nobody should be publicly embarrassed by the group leader announcing that Suzie Queue has broken a rule and needs to get her shit together: that is public humiliation and Suzie’s counselling/reprimand are none of the rest of the group’s business. And people are free to dislike the Boundaries but that is not a topic for the group because it is a distraction from the main focus of healing from the legacy of being raised by narcissists. Boundary discussions are supposed to be private with me and, if you can present me with good reasons for changing a boundary, I will consider it.
A member violated the rules. I sent her a message asking her to remove a prohibited reference. She ignored me so I removed her post (FB doesn’t allow me to edit other people’s posts, so in such a circumstance, I can only delete the whole post). This prompted additional rules violations and considerable lashing out. We had a Private Message (PM) conversation in which it became abundantly clear that the member believed some conspiracy theories and held her own internet “research” to be superior to the research done in bona fide studies and published in peer-reviewed journals. And she became quite indignant at my refutations of her beliefs in both the conspiracies and the junk science (I reiterate--that was ALL done privately so the member was not exposed to any kind of embarrassment in the group).
But leaving in a high dudgeon and dragging those few acolytes with her wasn’t enough. She began sending emails and PMs to members of the Narcissist’s Child group, trying to recruit them for a new group she was forming. This prompted a flurry of email and PMs to me from angry and alarmed group members, complaining about the rules violations. It was clear that she was intent upon on destroying the group.
So why is she so angry that she is out to destroy me and the blog and the group? Because somebody who has credibility could see right through her and would not allow her to violate the boundaries with impunity. Because somebody said “no” and made it stick. Because she was unable to come to a way to be in control…and that is what she is still trying to do…get control because when she is not in control, she is vulnerable. The big narcissistic rage has two reasons: 1) to intimidate and 2) to vent her frustration at being unable to prevail. She is afraid: she is projecting that I will do to her the same kind of thing she is trying to do to me: to silence her and, in doing that, take away her power—and without power, she feels vulnerable and afraid. And only by taking away my voice in this blog and in the Facebook group does she feel safe from the retaliatory attack she is sure will come.
At some point she must have taken the prohibition against voicing junk science in the group as a prohibition to mean she cannot believe what she wants; that, or she decided that she is not bound by the Boundaries, that somehow she and her message were sufficiently important that it was ok to violate them. But at no time is any member ever prohibited from believing whatever they want to believe in their lives outside the group…the only limitation is what is brought into the group. Think about it this way…if you are invited to the home of a non-smoker, is it appropriate for you to light up in their living room? Or do you respect their house rules and refrain from smoking in their home? Does this mean you cannot smoke in your own home or car? Obviously they have a bias against smoking…does it mean they have a bias against you, personally?
And if you light that cigarette in their house anyway and they ask you to either put it out or leave, are they out of line for enforcing their house rules? Or are you out of line for violating them? What if you take the attitude that your belief that you have a right to smoke wherever you want, even in the home of a person who clearly does not like it—what if you think their rules in their home don’t apply to you? Well, that is absolutely textbook narcissistic behaviour, to believe that you are the exception, that you are so special that you are exempt from the same rules that apply to everyone else.
The troll failed: out of nearly 300 members in the group, fewer than 2% left and many of those who left emailed to tell me they were leaving due to the instability the troll had caused, not because they were following her. Expecting a mass rebellion, the troll got a few disgruntled or easily swayed souls and nothing more. Obviously this was unsatisfactory and did not satisfy her desire for vengeance or her need to silence me, so Phase 2 was launched: internet blackmail.
The only problem, however, is that for blackmail to work the blackmailee has to have something to hide and I don’t.
So here it is: this is what the troll plans to use to destroy my credibility on the web. The only problem here is that my real name isn’t Violet Janssen and that has never been a secret.
FYI--the troll cannot appear on this blog: all comments to the blog are moderated so you don't need to worry about the troll attacking here.
FYI--the troll cannot appear on this blog: all comments to the blog are moderated so you don't need to worry about the troll attacking here.
Friday, August 26, 2016
You know how narcissists can take any situation and find a way to make it about themselves?
Well, many of us have the exact same talent. Let us be in the proximity of any kind of dysfunction and we will find a way to feel guilty, or responsible, or obligated to fix or mitigate or otherwise resolve the issue. Mother’s an alcoholic? you must do something to intervene and fix it… Golden child brother wrecked his car and got thrown out of his house by an angry wife? you have a spare room—well, no you don’t but your kid won’t mind sleeping on the couch while your brother stays there… Husband cheated? you tear your brain apart trying to figure out what you did wrong that would make him cheat… You never met a problem you couldn’t find a way to make your fault or responsibility: the “Me” flea—whatever is wrong, it has to be linked to me.
Anybody recognize yourself here?
One of the first things I learned in therapy was that I was “overly responsible.” I found this difficult to wrap my mind around because I had spent the better part of my life hearing about how irresponsible I was. I grew up in a house full of mixed messages and no key—no clue—to figuring them out. I was supposed to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes after school and my brother was supposed dry them and put them away. If he refused and I told my mother, I was tattling; if he refused and I didn’t make him do it, I was irresponsible and hopeless and a failure. My solution was to take on the responsibility myself and dried and put them away in order to prevent a maternal meltdown, a behaviour choice which, I later discovered, was being overly responsible.
As an adult and married to the laziest narcissist west of the Mississippi, the same continued. He had a car but he refused to maintain it. And while it is all well and good to say “let him suffer the consequences of his inactions,” the truth was, our budget couldn’t handle him blowing up car engines regularly because he refused to put water in the radiator or have the oil changed. I managed the household funds because he refused to—he just spent until it was gone—, I decided what work needed to be done around the house and who was to do it…and, like my brother, he simply refused to do the work that was his.
It occurred to me that if he had some choice in which household chores were his (as opposed to me assigning them to him like he was one of the kids), maybe he would be more inclined to do them. That was when I discovered that he considered himself exempt from anything resembling labour because he earned more money than I did. Bottom line—if I wasn’t willing to do something myself or delegate it to a kid, it wasn’t going to get done, no matter what the consequence—and that included a blown engine in his Mustang.
Oddly enough, I was irritated about this from a superficial feminist perspective—I worked as many hours as he did and if I was contributing to the household income, then it was only fair that he contributed to the household labour—but the idea that I, alone, was responsible for running and managing the household and his obligation was to perform the occasional assist, never occurred to me as being innately unjust. I had always been the one to whom responsibility fell and I had never questioned it. The responsibility had always belonged to me and where it was not specifically given to me, I simply took it.
I recall sitting in a job interview and being asked about my problem-solving process and saying that the first place I looked was to myself…was I responsible for the problem? And if so, I would then find a way to correct it. The first place I would go would be me. When anything went wrong in anything, my first question was always “what did I do to cause this? And what can I do to prevent it from happening again?”
It doesn’t help that this is actually very pragmatic question to ask. If you have to spend money on a mechanic or a plumber or a repairman of any kind, it is a perfectly rational question to ask: knowing what caused a problem allows you to take steps to prevent a costly recurrence. But for me, it was more than that…it was finding out where *I* screwed up so I could pro-actively prevent it from happening again…so I wouldn’t be at fault…and have to feel the anxiety of having screwed up…again.
I can’t say I felt much guilt—that is not something I even spent a lot of time with—because the anxiety overshadowed it to the degree of virtually obliterating it. My childhood was one of waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next blow to land, the inevitable punishment to fall. I didn’t have an opportunity for guilt—guilt was seldom elicited because it didn’t give my NM anything she wanted. She wanted me to be afraid of her—she even told me that she would rather have me fear and obey her than love and respect her. Each and every time I fell short of the impossible standards she set for me (often without even telling me what the standard was), each and every time I did something, I waited anxiously for the pronouncement from her just how far off the mark I was and what the consequences were to be. No matter what the assignment or even who it was assigned to, Violet was the responsible party in the end—Violet was the de-facto project manager who had no authority, all the responsibility, and bore the brunt of any shortfall.
Objectively speaking, it may not actually have been as dire as all that, but that was my perception, even in childhood, and our perceptions are our realities. My reality was that I would be punished for anything that went wrong in our household and to minimize that possibility, I became what my NM called “bossy.” Only by having control over every possible bit of my environment did I feel I had a chance to forestall blame and punishment. I rigorously self-examined, looked for facial expressions in the mirror that were suitably bland so as to not provoke NM’s eagle eye for evidence of defiance or insubordination. I practiced tone of voice that would be informative but neither whiney nor timid and fearful: I was to be afraid of her but not in an obsequious manner that might cause notice in others. There was no aspect of my life that I did not examine in one way or another, seeking ways to stay away from my mother’s “bad side.” No small feat, considering her “bad side” was pretty much all she showed at home.
And so everything became about me. The expression on my face, my tone of voice. What I did—what I didn’t do. When I overheard my mother expressing displeasure to a friend on the phone or to my father, my mind immediately turned to myself: what did I do to cause this? What did I fail to do? What can I do to mitigate it and reduce the consequences? How can I control this, spin this, avoid getting caught in this?
Things did not improve in adulthood. The “Me Flea” followed me everywhere. If there was no business in the club where I was dancing and waitressing, did I do something to cause it? What could I do to improve attendance the weekend before payday? If the bus was late getting me to work, what could I do to make sure I got there on time tomorrow? Take an earlier bus? Take a chance on this bus again? My focus on life was its faults, its problems, and how I caused them, contributed to them, and/or could fix them. It was all about me…my choices, my actions, what other people thought of me, how they viewed me, what they might do to me, how much power they had over me and what could I do to take that power so as to protect myself. Things that could not possibly have been my fault became my fault: tree fell over at a neighbour’s house? I should have seen that it was diseased or damaged and warned the neighbour—it was therefore my fault that the tree fell down. Washer broke? I should have known that odd noise heralded a catastrophic failure of the motor…my fault. Co-worker’s brother died in the war? I managed to find a way to feel responsible for that, too—my brother was in the same war and he was alive and well, so I felt that somehow I should have been able to prevent her suffering and failed to do so: it was her brother who died, but my feelings of empathy for her loss were all but obliterated by my anxiety about my lack of power to control the world around me.
Through this all, I did not see how self-oriented I was. My perception of the social expectation was that I would keep a clean house, that I would see to disciplined children, that I would have meals on the table, laundry done, groceries bought, that I would see to a tidy home, obedient children, and a well-fed, happy husband and if I could not achieve that, I was failing my duty. Never mind that there was no committee judging me—not even my NM was looking over my shoulder—never mind that the nebulous “they” who I was trying to satisfy did not actually exist: everything in my life was about living in such a way as to not further provoke the anxiety that overshadowed my life. Without even consciously realizing it, everything was about me. About manipulating everything in my life to assuage my anxiety, to minimize my potential for feeling guilty. Even though it did not look like it nor did it feel like it, in reality, everything was about me.
I have to wonder how many of us go through life under the influence of the Me Flea without even realizing it. How many of us make choices that are dictated by the Me Flea without seeing what we are doing? Every time you do something out of Fear, Obligation or Guilt, you are succumbing to the Me Flea because you make those choices so that you do not have to feel guilty, or because you are unwilling to take the consequences (fear) or because you feel obligated, even when you are not. Every time you choose to expose your kids to their toxic grandmother, every time you do as bid by your N rather than say “no,” every time you get upset with the behaviour of a flying monkey, you are acceding to the Me Flea, putting your unwillingness to bear the brunt of an NTantrum ahead of the well-being of your children, allowing your fear of your NM’s reaction to usurp your time, permitting the opinions of people who don’t care about your feelings to actually dictate those feelings.
When the Me Flea dominates your life, you cannot live a healthy emotional life because the Me Flea does not put your well-being front and centre. The Me Flea lives in an environment of fear, reaction, and irrationality. It controls you and leads you to sacrifice not only your own well-being but the well-being of others in your life, like your children, your spouse, even friends. It is a selfish Flea that demands all other aspects of your life be subordinate to it: rather than stand up to unreasonable demands and protect your children, you worry about the repercussions from your N or you try to avoid guilt by succumbing to the Me Flea. Living your life giving in to the F.O.G. is actually a very selfish mode of existence because it sacrifices everything else in your life to it.
The Me Flea is no more powerful than any other Flea in your life: you have absolute control over it, but too often we refuse to exercise that control because we aren’t willing to deal with the consequences. But all of life’s choices have consequences, so even choosing not to stand up to the Me Flea has consequences: you allow yourself to be exploited and your children and spouse, marriage and friendships become sacrifices to your unwillingness to take the other consequences…the consequences of shutting down the Me Flea and standing up to the Ns and Flying Monkeys in your life.
Like so many other things, the decision to continue succumbing to the Me Flea or the decision to stand up to it and face down your Ns is a personal choice. But be clear on this: when you choose to let the Me Flea rule your life, when you choose capitulation because you don’t want to feel guilty or afraid or you don’t want to bear the consequences of refusing to fall prey to a feeling of obligation, when you succumb to the F.O.G., you are choosing to sacrifice others to save yourself. And that is how the Me Flea operates.