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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Demeaning, criticism and denigration: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 5

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris

5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.

The Word Reference website offers the following definitions:
Demean: cause to suffer a severe loss of dignity or respect.
Criticise: disapprovingly indicate the faults of.
Denigrate: criticize unfairly; disparage.

Undermining is what she does; demeaning you, criticising you, and denigrating you…that is how she does it.

She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general.

The “little ways” is actually key. Like water dripping ceaselessly on a rock, each drop is small and seemingly harmless. But let enough of them fall over a sufficient period of time and even granite can be worn away, diminished, even cracked and broken. Complaining about her incursions into your peace of mind makes you seem petty and hypersensitive because her jabs are too often easily reinterpreted by those who are not her constant target. And if you are the daughter of a MNM, may heaven help you because she is not beyond setting you up.

I was supposed to be the smart one, as evidenced by my (unwelcome) mid-year promotion from second to third grade. Forever after, this was used against me. No help was forthcoming when I asked for it—instead, I got “You’re supposed to be the smart one, you figure it out.” Of course, this set me up for a lifetime of failures because few people “figure it out” and do it perfectly the first time and every one of my failures was an opportunity for her to ridicule, demean, criticise and denigrate me.

An example: at the age of 10 or so, washing the kitchen floor on Saturday mornings became my chore. I was a skinny kid, not very strong, so I had difficulty moving the kitchen furnishings and moving a full bucket of hot water. Everything I tried garnered criticism, but not once did she give me suggestions as to how to manage the task better. And, to make matters worse, NM would tell her friends, hooting with laughter, about my mistakes on the way to learning something, like how I spilled a bucket of water I had balanced on the edge of the sink, soaking myself as well as the floor, how I just “pushed dirty water around” because I didn’t have enough water in the bucket to properly rinse the string mop…or the strength to properly wring it out. If I tried rinsing the mop under running water in the sink, I was wasting water. Nothing I could come up with worked (and wouldn’t until I was physically big enough to do the job right), which gave her endless opportunities to make me feel inadequate and stupid and useless.

My GC brother, by contrast, never suffered such indignities. His chores were always done, she would remind me. He didn’t have to be reminded, he did them properly, and didn’t make stupid mistakes like I did, trying to get attention. Right—I suspect she knew that I did his chores for him. If they weren’t done, I got punished because it was my job to make him do his chores and if I failed, I was punished for my failure. Since he refused to do them as he knew the consequences for his inaction would fall on me, I did them to spare myself from NM’s wrath. A side benefit for him, of course, is that it polished his halo, raised his esteem in NM’s eyes, and the fact that is was all based in falsehood meant nothing to either of them.

In any contest with another, if your NM is the judge, you lose. If you win and you are proud of yourself, you are a poor sport. If you lose, you are worthless. If you don’t compete, you are lazy. In fact, you may occasionally realize with surprise that you are actually in competitions you never signed up for—to be the smartest or the cutest or the most obedient or helpful…or even the worst, most incorrigible…child among those children NM can observe, including famous children she can know nothing about personally, but whose imagined attributes you are put into competition against. And you always, always lose.

If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person's side even if she doesn't know them at all. She doesn't care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you're never right.

This can be taken to grave extremes. When I was frightened by a man exposing himself to me in the school yard late on a Saturday and I ran screaming through a small creek in my escape, she was totally unsupportive. She labelled my story as a lie and an “attention getting device” and an excuse to ruin a pair of shoes I hated. As a result, subsequent sexual assaults upon my person I never reported to her…I knew I would not be believed and that I would be held up to ridicule and maybe even punished.

Because I knew my NM would not support me in anything, I never told her of being bullied or teased, isolated or ostracized in the school yard. I fully expected her to take the side of the others, much as adults took her side when I complained of being beaten at every opportunity. “Whatever did you do provoke her that she would do such a thing?” I have been asked, and when I answered “nothing,” I was not believed.

She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): "You were always difficult" "You can be very difficult to love" "You never seemed to be able to finish anything" "You were very hard to live with" "You're always causing trouble" "No one could put up with the things you do." She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she'll complain about how "no one" loves her, does anything for her, or cares about her, or she'll complain that "everyone" is so selfish, when you're the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.

Mine was an ignoring malignant narcissist…they don’t find it necessary to hide their nastiness, at least not from their victims. I wasn’t difficult, I was “incorrigible,” to hear her tell it, so incorrigible that I was to be sent away to reform school. The judge, however, disagreed with her since I had never been in trouble with the law nor at school, but it didn’t change her view of me…if any thing, it made it worse. Despite the fact that I didn’t attend the hearing, NM later accused me of “charming” the judge and making her out to be a liar, something worthy of a lifetime of animosity.

Less blatantly antagonistic NMs, however, likely eschew such direct accusations and unashamed lies. For them, subterfuge and manipulation, back-handed insults and digs, damning with faint praise or seemingly innocuous remarks accompanied with a snide tone of voice giving away the insincerity. And MNMs are not above adding these tactics to their arsenal. I wrote a term paper once that took months of research and a lot of hard work to put together. I got an A+ on it. Proudly, I handed it over to be read and she put it on the coffee table. Weeks later I found it under a pile of newspapers and magazines and when I asked what she thought of it she said “You already got an A on it. What do you want? A medal?” She had not bothered to read a word.

Remember, NMs are not the only people who engage in this kind of demeaning, denigrating behaviour. If you are a DoNM, you were raised by someone who set you up as a purveyor of Nsupply and other Ns can smell it. You will attract both male and female narcissists to you, so if you have a friend or lover or spouse who criticises you relentlessly, makes comments that make you feel small or inadequate, who makes you feel small and weak rather than strong and empowered, you could be dealing with a narcissist in best friend’s clothing…

She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn't like as much. She'll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn't - the carefully unspoken message being that you don't matter much to her.

There is more than one way to accomplish this. Malignant NMs often do these kinds of things with a conscious intend to wound and because they have no conscience or sense of familial loyalty, they can turn other family members into their flying monkeys in order to use them to hurt you. In my case, it was my daughter who was used in such a way. She became a substitute for me, and because she bought into the bullshit, she became a better daughter than I was. Of course she had to jump through a lot of hoops, turn her back firmly on the truth and even “forget” some hurtful things my NM did to her, like the time NM told her that she wished she had never had kids, that she had just stuck to cats instead, which sent my daughter to me in tears—“If she never had kids then I wouldn’t be here!” she wept. “Doesn’t she want me?”

One cannot mistake the message left in a will that disinherits one child and three of four grandchildren. The ones left out, the ones specifically singled out in the will to be told they were being rejected one last time, know they never mattered, and probably knew it long before that final confirmation.

She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations ("I think you read too much!") and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations ("Uh hunh!" "You don't say!" "Really!"). She'll then make it clear that she didn't listen to a word you said.

This is pretty much true of just about any narcissist when dealing with information that they don’t like, don’t want, or don’t agree with. If they can denigrate the messenger, then they don’t have to pay any attention to the message.

When my NM was 65, she had a heart attack. After a quintuple bypass she was given certain instructions, chief among them to stop smoking, change her diet (less fatty foods) and take certain meds. On a “duty visit” to her (with my now-late husband along—I would never, ever visit with her alone! She watched her mouth in the presence of witnesses!) I watched her light up cigarette after cigarette and finally had to ask what her doctor had to say about her smoking. “That young pup?” she said. “What the hell does he know?”

Later on, as she continued her litany of complaints (that’s what a “conversation” with her consisted of: her complaining and everybody else nodding and making the appropriate noises at the appropriate times) she complained about how expensive her medicine but that she, clever thing that she was, found a way to cut the cost in half—by only taking it in half the dosage ordered by her doctor! When I observed that if half the dose would do the job, surely the doctor would have ordered the lower dosage. I was completely ignored and she went on a diatribe about how expensive everything is and how she could barely afford to live…this from a woman who was on Medicare and had just inherited a small fortune from her own mother.

Her mother, my grandmother, lived 21 years after her triple bypass, but quit smoking, changed her diet, and took her medications as prescribed. My NM lived only four years after her surgery. She would take advice from no one, not me, not her doctor, not from any source. With the arrogance of a true narcissist, what she “knew” trumped anything anyone else could tell her, and she held our contrary knowledge and opinions in disdain.

It killed her.

Next: Part 6. She makes you look crazy

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Undermining: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 4

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris

4. She undermines.

Undermine: weaken, dent, chip away at, challenge, destabilize, demoralize, undercut, damage.

Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished.

When I was in the second grade, it was discovered that I was bright. I was completing my classroom assignments so quickly, the teacher was giving me workbook pages she hadn’t even addressed in class yet, and I was completing them quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, she told my NM which precipitated a bit of an educational crisis…the second grade was too “slow” for me, so somebody (I wonder who?) suggested I be promoted to third grade in the middle of the school term.

NM had bragging rights on this one. her kid was brilliant, advanced, skipped a grade…the fact that I was struggling with math concepts like multiplication that nobody bothered to teach me elicited no sympathy in her—I was smart, I should just do it (maybe why I just hate that phrase!). Like owner of a race-winning horse or prize-winning dog, she was proud that she was the parent of such a child. That pride, however, did not extend to me or to helping me…I was expected to stay smart and continue bringing home brag-worthy grades no matter my private academic difficulties. This actually shaped many of my class choices in high school, leading me away from math and science and anything I thought might be difficult because I feared her reaction to my possible grades. I stuck with things required by the State for graduation credits and made sure my electives were, in my estimation, easy. I even refused to be in the Honours classes my senior year because I knew that the classes were harder and I might not make the grades that would keep my NM from sneering, berating, and punishing me.

Even so, my senior year of high school brought a string of straight A report cards that earned nothing for me in acknowledgement from her: nothing less was expected and anything else was worthy of punishment…anything less was not brag-worthy.

At about the same time I was uprooted from my second grade class room and flung, unprepared into the third grade, it was discovered that I could sing. Really sing. Suddenly, although I retained my role as ScapeGoat child, my mother turned from largely ignoring to engulfing. I had always considered a lot of attention from my mother to be a dangerous thing—the longer I was around her, the more likely she would think of something for me to do or a reason to punish me…seriously, by the time I was seven, I knew that out of sight was out of mind, that my greatest chance of safety lay in being quiet, unobtrusive, and invisible to her.

But finding out I could sing changed all that and I was suddenly the Golden Goose—with my voice and her management, I would be famous! (And she would be rich.) I didn’t want to be famous, but my big voice got me a lot of (unwanted) attention, which she basked in. I don’t think she ever forgave me for screwing up her dream by refusing to cosy up to smelly, disgusting old men who were casting movies and for finding ways to get out of singing engagements with fake sore throats and an inability to stay on key (which, since my singing teacher said I had “perfect pitch” was obviously fakery on my part). But while she viewed me as “the next Shirley Temple,” NM fairly glowed as the person responsible for my talent and my cuteness—and my clever little costumes and custom-made audition outfits made and designed by her.

Aside from my brief stint as a potential generator or riches, NM was pretty much uninterested in me except in ways I could be of service to her. I had chores well beyond what is reasonable for a child of my age (would you expect an eight-year-old to bake a cake twice a week with no adult supervision, in a gas oven that required a match to light?) and I was expected to perform in such a way as to reflect well on her (perfect grades, become a famous singer/actress) all with no regard to the costs to me or what I might want or be interested in.

Most of us DoNMs didn’t have stage mothers but we have all lived the disheartening experience of not being good enough as ourselves, as children, but only worthy of note because of our accomplishments. What you did was what was important, and what you did was important only if it gave NM bragging rights (made her look superior because she had a kid that did something worthy of remark) or, perversely, your behaviour was so bad as to bring her sympathy for being your parent. Otherwise, you weren’t worthy of her interest. It is hurtful, demeaning, damaging, and if we internalize it (and most of us do) it haunts and harms us for the rest of our lives.

Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn't come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it's no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn't as much as you could have done or as you think it is.

I was fortunate enough to spend my sophomore year of high school (10th grade) with my father and stepmother. Away from NM, no longer afraid that if I sang around the house she would hear me and try to take my life away from me and make me into a painted puppet to earn her a fortune, I began singing again. I joined the school choir and was quickly put in a place of prominence.

The following year I returned to NM’s to live and I joined the choir there as well…and quickly became the “go to” soloist for my vocal range. During those two years of high school, in every concert we put on, my NM did not attend a single one, even though I was a featured soloist in almost every concert. And when my choir made the All City competition, at the last minute she rescinded her permission for me to attend the event, leaving the choir without one of its soloists. As much as she could have had bragging rights (“I made sure she had professional singing lessons when she was little—just listen to that voice”), I suspect the fact that there was no prize money, no payday for her at the end of my performance made her angry and she refused to go partly as punishment to me for thwarting her, partly because, without money to collect, she had no motivation to go. Go to see me excel, go to give me moral support, go because she was proud of me? Not a chance—and I knew it. There was nothing in it for her, and nothing else mattered.

Likewise, my academic award presentations were ignored, and my having an after school job was not countenanced until she figured out a way to pocket half my paychecks.

This is typical of NMs and the typical DoNM comes away from the experience feeling that no effort put forth is ever sufficient. Even engulfing NMs who attend every function can impart the same message with competitive commentary: somebody got more awards, you didn’t get the highest award, or if you did, how your appearance or your acceptance speech or even your posture or how you walked in high heels are all fair game to bring you down a peg, to keep you from feeling too “full of yourself,” to keep you humiliated and humbled,

She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you.

If you have ever caught yourself holding back from trying something you really wanted to do because you feared failure, you probably had an undermining parent. Rationally speaking, we all know that nobody is going to everything right the first time. We didn’t learn to walk with our first step, we didn’t learn to ride a bicycle or roller skate the first time we tried…but somehow, over time, we internalized messages that we have to do everything we attempt perfectly on our first outing. No mistakes allowed.

Once we have internalized that message, nothing is easy, especially if you have an NM because now you carry her with you in your head, everywhere you go, everything you do. Once you have internalized her unreasoning perfectionism, the criticisms that say you are going to screw this up, you can’t handle the stress, you never follow through, or whatever her undermining tactics tend to be, she becomes right…because you stress yourself out listening to her and worrying about yourself, her prophecy becomes fulfilled. You choke up, you fail, and eventually you may ever stop trying.

If you think you need help with something, you may find she intentionally withholds it, from giving you consent to do something to prying a few of her precious hours away from the TV or whatever her particular addiction is, and donating those hours to helping you to succeed.

You see, she doesn’t want you to succeed. You are supposed to fail and all of her undermining and refusal of support and help are for that reason. If you succeed, you get the glory, the attention, the kudos—not her! Depending on how malignant she is, she may even intentionally set you up to fail, just so she can read the good inner feeling of being right.

And don’t think for one minute that this kind of behaviour is limited to our NMs. Those of us raised to be Scape Goats somehow give off some kind of signal detectable by narcissists of all kinds, like a sick or injured animal gives off a scent detectable to the local predators. If you were raised as a Scape Goat by a narcissistic parent and you haven’t attracted narcissistic “friends,” lovers, even husbands, you are one seriously lucky person!

In my case, I managed to attract Jack, a particularly malicious specimen. Because I had no idea, because he was sooo nice to be in the beginning (or so I thought), because his narcissistic abuse of me was insidious, I didn’t really catch on to what kind of person he was for many years…years in which I increasingly thought I was losing my mind.

Jack was big on winning. I have seen him trounce a 6-year-old at Monopoly with no shame and a lack of understanding why I thought it was a horrible thing to do. What’s so bad? He won—was he supposed to let the kid win? For years I didn’t tip to what Jack was doing to me, but in retrospect I can see it started long before we were married. Jack loved to set me up to fail and when I succeeded he would fall into furious rage.

On one occasion, I wanted a new car. We had only one car and sharing it was not convenient for him. He suggested a second hand car, but I wanted a new car with a warranty, one I wouldn’t have to worry about breakdowns. I was going to school and I had a baby who had to be ferried around to day care and doctors and such.

Jack decided to teach me a lesson and gave me a low budget, $2,500, saying if I could find a car for this price or less, he would buy it for me. This was in 1974, when a new Mustang went for around $3,500. It took me weeks, but finally one morning spotted a new Pinto for $2442 and dragged him out of bed to go look at it. And the end of the day I had my new Pinto and he had a complete meltdown. I was completely confused because I expected him to be overjoyed not only that I had found a car within budget, but a NEW car that would not cost him extra money in maintenance and upkeep and repairs. I could not fathom his rage at all.

Later, it came out. It was a test and I was supposed to fail. I was not supposed to find a new car so cheap, I was supposed to fail and come to him, tail between my legs, admitting I was wrong and he was right and then gratefully accept the second-hand car, the crumb, he wanted me to have. It was the first of many such tests and eventually, like a good little DoNM, I learned to fail, to be less so he could be more, to be dumb so he could be smart, to be wrong so he could be right. My NM’s daughter.

NM was the kind who withheld all kinds of assistance. When I was 17 and pregnant, she wanted me to have an abortion (illegal in the US at the time but she didn’t care); when I thwarted that, she decided to give me a “choice.” It was the famous manipulator’s choice—to make the appearance of reasonableness by giving what looked like a choice but which was, in fact, only a choice between two onerous possibilities. In my case, I could live at home during my pregnancy, provided I agreed to give the baby up for adoption or if I insisted on keeping the baby (an almost untenable choice in 1964) then I would have to go to a maternity home, essentially a locked institution, and be on my own.

Now, you would think that getting married would be one of the options for me but no—that would give me a way to keep my baby and she was not looking for that. No, she wanted the baby gone…and the offer of the maternity home? Well, in those days it was commonplace for the babies to be seized and the young mothers coerced into signing them away…I knew that and if I did, you can bet she did too.

Eventually, however, I got married. She was livid. She told me that I had made my bed and I had to lay in it and not to come to her for help when times got rough. So I didn’t and, even when she could see how much I later struggled as the single mother of two pre-schoolers, she offered no assistance. Why should she? Well, aside from the fact that she was my mother, she and her husband owned four businesses, four houses, and 21 apartments. You think maybe an offer of a job, grandma babysitting and an apartment at an affordable rent might have been the offer of a loving parent, right? All I got from mine was “You made your bed…” and a continued gloating at my failures.

She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you've done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.

Fast forward 15 years. I have married Jack, who was a minor executive with a Silicon Valley tech firm. I drive an English sports car, have a corporate job myself, own a large home, wear nice clothes. Jack has a trade show in Las Vegas and invites me to come along…and my NM lives outside of Vegas, so I agree to go…and she agrees to meet me for dinner.

I show up for dinner in a form fitting silk dress, killer high heels, real gold earrings, professionally coiffed hair. Men in the hotel lobby turn their heads as I walk through to the restaurant, a few make appreciative comments. I look like a million bucks and for once in my life, my NM has got to look at me with pride. I look gorgeous and prosperous and successful.

She gets into the elevator with me…she hasn’t seen me in ten years…and the first thing she says to me is “You’ve gotten fat.”

We had a strained dinner, I went downstairs and declined her offer of a lift back to my hotel. I took a cab and cried every second of my way back, only to have Jack look at me disdainfully when I got back to the hotel room and say “your mascara is running and you look like hell.” It’s what narcissists do.

Next: Part 5. Demeaning, criticism and denigration.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 3

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris


3. She favoritizes. Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat.

And if you are unlucky enough to be an only child, you get play both roles, depending on her mood—that has got to be extremely confusing for a kid, ya know?

The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family.

This is something I think a lot of people—especially those who were scapegoats—fail to recognize: the GC may get a lot of privilege and attention, but it is at a heavy price. This child is at grave risk for becoming narcissistic him/herself, having been raised with a totally unrealistic sense of entitlement and no sense of family cohesion and loyalty. Their view of the world and their place in it is no less twisted than the scapegoat’s, just twisted in a different way.

The GC is spoiled but there is that unspoken threat underlying it all: do as I say or it can all go away.

Another thing that often goes unrecognized: the GC need not be one of the narcissist’s own children…or even a child! Hindsight being what it is, I can look back and see that my NM divided the world up into Goldens and Scapegoats…and you could be “demoted” from Golden to Scapegoat but never promoted once the Scapegoat mantle settled on your shoulders. My NM had two brothers, her older brother Gary and her younger brother, Pete. NM despised Gary (although she was not above cozying up to him when she needed something from him) but she worshipped the ground Pete walked on. She was the same way with her four grandchildren: the boys were all ignored but my daughter, Annie, was the Golden GrandChild. When NM died she specifically disinherited me and her grandsons, leaving her entire estate to be divided between the two Golden Children: my brother and my daughter. Favouritism and the selection of Goldens and Scapegoats need not be limited to the narcissist’s own children.

The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring.

Scapegoats actually do have needs, but are ignored to as large a degree as possible. Whenever I needed something like fillings or glasses or new shoes, I generally got a heap of abuse along with it—or even accused of faking the need or having caused it through neglect or wilful destructiveness. And when the need was fulfilled—I got the visit to the dentist or the new glasses or the shoes replaced, it was always with a stack of guilt, as if I was taking resources away from someone or something more deserving, more entitled, than I.

I suspect every NM treats her scapegoat child differently but that there is a common thread that links us all. In my case, I was pretty much tasked with taking care of my younger brother, something that started when I was much too young for that kind of responsibility. I was to keep him from running out in the street, make him do his chores, keep him out of trouble (but not tattle about his misbehaviour). I had to make his breakfast and lunch—including coming home from school at noon and opening a can of soup or ravioli or such, heating it on the stove, then get him back to school before our lunch break was over. I was two years older, but I was a skinny, gangly kid and he was a husky, hefty boy who was taller than I was.

In my teens, my responsibility for him expanded to include ironing his school clothes and “making sure” his room was clean. In practical terms, it meant doing his chores for him because I would get punished if they weren’t done and he well knew it. Scapegoats become not only convenient receptacle for blame in the N-driven family, they are often treated like household servants, as if they need to earn a place in the household, earn their food, shelter, and maintenance, rather than those things being the entitlements they are to the Golden Children.

Certainly children should have chores and contribute to the household, but in narcissist-headed family, that can be twisted in such a way that one child does a disproportionate amount of the labour or is assigned chores more suited to older, larger, or stronger children or, as in my case, find it necessary to do the chores of another child in order to avoid being punished for not “making” the other child do his/her work.

The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault.

Certainly Golden Children do wrong…but it is rationalized or overlooked or ignored by the N-parent to the degree that a child reporting the bad behaviour of a G-sibling get punished for tattling, the Golden’s Child’s behaviour ignored as part of the punishment!

A perfect example of the scapegoat being at fault was my NM’s proclivity for punishing me when my GCBro misbehaved: I got punished because I didn’t stop him from getting into mischief or make him do his chores or whatever it was that a parent or sitter should have been doing. He was two years younger than me, but a hefty, husky boy who outweighed me by several pounds.

Even when we were younger, NM expected me to control and be responsible for his behaviour. My grandmother once told me a story of how she had come to visit us when my brother was just toddling. He recognized her car as she came up the street and went tearing across the lawn, obviously intent upon running into the street to greet her. Behind him, according to my grandmother, I was running, arms outstretched to grab any part of him I could, tears running down my face. She stopped the car only to hear me screaming that he should stop because “Mommy will spank me” if he ran out into the street. Where was his mother while he was outside playing in an unfenced yard…and why was a not-quite four-year-old put in charge of a sturdy, rambunctious toddler?

Scapegoat children are often made to blame for other things that go wrong in a family or household: I was once told that everything that was wrong in my NM’s life was my fault because I had been born. She had plans…grand plans, mind you…that did not include being “saddled” with a baby at 17 (she was married). How strange, by contrast, when I learned I was pregnant at 17 (and unmarried) I was ecstatic to have a baby on the way...that baby was my plan!

This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her.

This is another uncanny peek into my childhood. I can remember feeling hatred for my mother…inextricably mixed with fear…from as young as eight years of age. By this time I had been exposed to enough other households to realize that other little girls weren’t spanked every day, that spanking was a rare and serious punishment reserved for serious breaches of the rules, that other mothers spanked with their hands, not a thin leather strap that left whip-like lash marks on the skin and, most importantly, other mothers punished the siblings of my friends when they did wrong, not my friends. I was not a stupid nor unobservant child and by the time I hit second grade, I knew without a doubt there was something wrong with my mother.

My brother, on the other hand, was a suck up. And a self-righteous supercilious little tattletale of a suck up, as well. For an intelligent person, sometimes I am a little thick and it took me quite some time to realize that the rules were different for the two of us: whenever I did something he had done with impunity—thinking that because he got away with it, I could too, I would find myself hauled up short and punished. If I said “But Petey did it and it was OK,” I would get “Well, maybe so, but you’re not Petey,” as a response between lashes with the strap. Sometimes he would simply lie—make up a story out of thin air—and tell NM in order to get me punished. I remember getting a thrashing for dancing naked in my room when I was nine—except I never let him see me naked, I always closed my bedroom door when I changed clothes—and I wasn’t dancing, naked or otherwise. On another occasion, he wrote his name on the wall in the hallway in pencil and told NM that I did it and when she asked why I would do that, I said “I didn’t do it!” and he said “She did it to get me in trouble!” I’ll bet you can guess who got in trouble, can’t you? I remember being totally surprised when a classmate at school expressed love for her younger brother who was a mean little brat cut from the same cloth as my own brother. “Because he’s my brother,” she responded when I asked why. “Don’t you love your little brother?” I didn’t…but I didn’t tell her that.

That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother's actions.

This is also very true. NM constantly compared us against each other and, invariably, I came up short. The ways parents can compare their kids to each other are legion, but when the parent is a narcissist, the comparisons go only one way: against the Scapegoat child. So, if the SG excels at music or art and brings home good marks, they will be denigrated in favour of the GC’s marks in math—something “important.” If the SG excels in math but the GC is an outstanding athlete, math will be devalued in favour of sports. The Golden Child’s accomplishments will always be more important, more favoured, more worthy of remark or reward than those of the Scapegoat child whose accomplishments are more likely to be ignored or ridiculed than acknowledged or praised.

Because the Golden Child reaps rewards from his position and because, at least in the beginning, we are talking about a child, the GC sticks up for and defends the narcissistic parent—he has no objective sense of right and wrong or good and bad, after all, as all he knows is what has been learned at the NM’s knee. And just as the parent rationalizes and justifies her behaviour, so will the Golden Child. There is something in it for him/her, after all, even if it is only to be spared the tempers of the NM…but often the reward is tangible and, being a child, the abstractions of justice don’t come into play. Often these Goldens grow into adults whose development of conscience and ethics stay stuck in childhood where their collusion with the Nparent not only let them off the hook for their behaviour but brought them rewards as well. They are well compensated for adopting the narcissistic mother’s viewpoint, for defending the NM, for adding the weight of their support with rationalizations, justifications and even outright lies.

When my NM wrote her will, my daughter, the Golden Grandchild, couldn’t wait to tell me that my mother planned to split her considerable estate between my Golden Child Brother and her, cutting me and the three grandsons out completely.

“Does that seem fair to you?” I asked.

Her voice was flippant. “Well, it’s not like you and Gramma had any kind of a relationship.”

That her brothers and cousin were cut out didn’t even occur to her and the fact that NM and I had a poor relationship was, in her eyes, justification. To make that rationalization work, however, she had to buy into my NM’s gaslighting and rewriting of history—and she did. She did to such a degree that, ten years after NM’s death she suddenly stopped communicating with me because of my blog (see 46 Memories) , claiming everything in it to be a lie and encouraging other family members to sever contact with me. Interesting, you see, because most of what she called “lies” occurred years—even decades—before she was born, so she could have no first-hand knowledge of the veracity of my memories. My NM was dead, so the only person available to her to corroborate the stories would be my GC Bro—and what’s in it for him to tell the truth except to reveal him for the flying monkey and errand boy in collusion with our MNM for so many years?

Even more interestingly, my daughter refused to accept corroboration from family members and friends who supported my memory of events (some of them having actually been there). For example, although I was pregnant with my daughter when I married my first husband, he was not her father—I was four months pregnant with her when we met. Her biological father was my high school sweetheart who, upon learning of my pregnancy, disavowed paternity—an all-too-common event in those days before DNA testing. My NM tried to have my high school sweetheart arrested for statutory rape because I was only 17—but so was he so it didn’t work. When I married, NM apparently “forgot” all about my high school sweetheart and declared my husband the baby’s father.

The man I married was sterile, which he knew at the time he married me. Indeed, over the course of our marriage and his two subsequent marriages, he never fathered a child. I told my daughter the truth about her parentage; my first husband told my daughter the truth; my father and stepmother corroborated that I did not meet him until I was four months pregnant with her. But her biological father, when contacted, maintained that he was not her father (he was married and a father by this time and had never told his wife) and my NM continued to insist that my first husband was my daughter’s biological father—and my daughter chose to believe her grandmother rather than me (even though I was present at conception and NM was not). “Why would Gramma lie about such a thing?” she asked me. I have to wonder why she didn’t ask “Why would Mama lie about such a thing?”

The power of a narcissist to divide a family is the stuff of which horror stories are made. Before I was five years old, the seeds of dissention had been sown between my brother and me and NM nurtured them like they were precious. Binding the GC to her and making me the scapegoat was not enough, however—she had to take her poison to the next generation and sow her noxious crop there, as well.

My sons were not present at the reading of NM’s will and so my daughter took it upon herself to lie to them. Instead of telling the truth, which was that she put in her will that she was deliberately disinheriting me and my two sons “for reasons they already know,” (they didn’t—she never even met one of my boys [by her own choice—she refused my invitations] and the other one was very hurt when he learned that she had not provided for him in her will as she had once said she would) my daughter told her brothers that half of the estate was left to all three of them but she was to administer it. This, of course lasted right up to the moment she wanted the lion’s share of the money to buy something for herself. My oldest son, who is disabled, asked her for some of “his” money to buy a car and she turned him down saying it was all gone—she had spent it on her new McMansion.

The schism in my family created by my NM more than 50 years ago continues to this day: my GCBro and I have not seen or spoken to each other for more than 20 years; my daughter and one of my sons do not speak to me, nor does my daughter’s young adult son. Her ex-husband, upon being freed via divorce from her, told me how she forbade him and her son to contact me once she discovered my blog (the 46 Memories) and how she called me a liar. NM laid down the reigns of power with her death, but my daughter picked them right up. Who knows what the next generation will be like?

The bad news is that the evil wrought by a narcissistic parent can infect multiple generations of a family—the worse news is that narcissists are not just narcissists at home. That narcissism is carried with them everywhere they go, into everything they do, into their workplace, their politics, their morals, their sense of social responsibility. And they fall short…very, very short…of the marks we expect of the average citizen. My NM once told me, with unmistakeable pride in her voice, that she had never voted. She had never even registered to vote, not once in her entire life. Not because she lacked political opinions—she had plenty of them and was not shy about sharing them. No, she had never registered to vote because she was under the impression that the voter’s rolls were the source of jury duty candidates and by never registering to vote, she believed she would never be called up for jury duty! She didn’t vote, and she had no compunctions about dabbling on the edges of the law, either—I can recall her crowing to her friends about “kiting checks” so she would have cash available to go bar hopping on the weekend, the pride in her cleverness evident. When one friend asked “Isn’t that illegal?” NM’s response was “Only if you are caught, Bea, only if you get caught.”

If you have ever had the misfortune of having a narcissist for a boss, you’ve gotten a taste of what it I like to be the child of a narcissist. But whether you were the Scapegoat employee or the Golden One, at least you got to go home and you had the option of quitting the job…children are stuck in the craziness, often unable to escape even when they become adults and have homes and families of their own.

The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother's tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn't have to do that herself.

This can be seen quite blatantly in families in which some children are allowed—even encouraged—to bully others. More subtly, however, there are families in which the Golden Child is encouraged to prey upon the Scapegoats: taking possessions, ordering the sibling around, expecting one sibling to always step aside in favour of the Golden Child.

My NM’s particular means of putting my GC Bro in control—even though I, as the eldest, was nominally “in charge” of him—was to ignore his transgressions and punish me for “whining” or “tattling.” As long as his incursions into my possessions or my safety didn’t result in an injury that required a doctor’s visit (thereby costing her money), I was a whiner or a tattler if I complained of his physical abuses which ran the gamut from simple pushing to actual punches. To say I was afraid of him would not be an exaggeration.

I do not know how she missed the fact that he was bigger than I was. And to this day, I do not know how she expected me to make him do those things he did not want to do, like dry the dishes or take out the trash. I had no authority, when I complained about his lack of compliance I was punished for tattling and then told to “make him do it,” despite him being both taller and heavier than I was. She simply could not be bothered to take care of him herself and expected me, at the tender age of seven, to know what to do to elicit compliance from someone who didn’t respect me and who could…and did…beat me up.

Narcissistic mothers are, as far as I can tell, exceedingly lazy and selfish when it comes to actually caring for their children. Even the Golden Child doesn’t get the benefit of a fully focussed and loving parent, but gets indulgence and a false sense of entitlement in lieu. As a mother who is too focussed on herself to bother with the well-being of her children, the narcissist finds ways, through choosing favourites and scapegoats and playing them off against each other, to absolve herself of the responsibilities of parenting. Nobody benefits from this style of parenting…not even the favoured Golden Child.

Next: Part 4: Undermining

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 2

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris


2. She violates your boundaries.

This assumes you are allowed to have boundaries in the first place. I can’t speak for how engulfing NMs operated, but I know that exhibiting any kind of boundary to my ignoring NM was like waving a red flag in font of a bull!

You feel like an extension of her.

Even with an ignoring NM, this is true. I was the extra arms to carry stuff, legs to go get stuff, body to do stuff she didn’t want to do. Believe me, I truly believe that kids should have chores and contribute to the household they live in, but turning them into servants, especially giving them tasks they are too young to do or not giving them training or instruction on how to do something properly, that is a whole different thing. I remember my homework being interrupted to make her a cup of coffee or bring her a glass of beer, my trek from the kitchen to the bathroom interrupted to change the TV channel (no remotes back then), my entire after-school period eaten up by work totally unsuited to a child—who asks an eight-year-old to peel potatoes or to bake a cake several times a week?

Your mind is an extension of hers, too. If she can think it, she believes you will do it; if she likes it, you do too; “of course you like liver…stop being so difficult and eat it!” Autonomy is beyond your grasp because you do not exist except as she perceives you, no matter what you think!

Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you.

Pets, toys, clothes, books—you name it, she gave away without my agreement…usually without my foreknowledge, as well. I would come home and it would be gone. And the sheepdip would hit the fan if I objected or protested in any way, complete with blaming ME for the disappearance: “You didn’t take care of him,” “He made you sneeze,” “It will be easier to clean you room with less junk,” “You don’t play with them (or you don’t wear it) any more.”

Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate.

Sweets were a rare treat in our house. Until my parents divorced, we got Easter baskets every year. I don’t think I ever got to eat the ears of a chocolate rabbit until I was old enough to buy my own. Sounds petty, I know, but if you only get candy to eat once a year, can’t buy it for yourself, and your mother—who can buy it for herself everyday if she wants—steals yours, it is a big deal, especially if you are only eight years old! I could not have a treat of any kind without her “gimme a bite of that” or “gimme a chunk of that.” Do you think she shared her treats? Yah—not bloody likely!!

Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours.

“I gave it to you, I can take it away!” And she did. Mostly, however, I had little to repossess. Until my senior year of high school, with the exception of some lovely things given to me by my father and stepmother, the majority of my wardrobe were cast-offs from NM’s closet. Aside from the fact that her taste was atrocious and she had a penchant for cheap, tacky stuff, these things were pretty much ten or more years out of fashion, something of critical importance to a teen aged girl. The summer before my senior year I stayed with my grandparents and worked picking crops, then spent the whole wad on school clothes before NM got there to pick me up.

She was livid, especially when my grandmother (her own mother) fibbed and said she’d already burned the tags and receipts so the clothes couldn’t be returned for a refund. I was not allowed to have money—“parents are entitled to the fruits of their child’s labours”—she used to tell me. So, whether the money was a birthday gift, a prize I won, or money I earned, she took it. Even the job I had my senior year of high school—she gave me an allowance for bus fare and school lunches out of my own earnings and kept the rest.

Nothing was mine. Everything I had was because she “allowed” me to have it, from my clothes (all those pretty new things I bought for my senior year? An extension of her closet, it her eyes) to my earnings to my time. I never had a sense of belonging, or of anything belonging to me…until I got pregnant at 17.

Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn't like kumquats.)

Oh, yes! All of those wasted Saturdays and exhausting nights while she tried to make me into the next Shirley Temple…I would have fame and she would have my fortune. I didn’t want singing lessons, I wanted to take ballet. I didn’t want to go to auditions, talent shows, singing contests—I wanted to play dolls with Janie across the road. I didn’t love being on stage like she said, I didn’t want to be in movies…I just wanted to be a regular little girl like the ones I went to school with.

And school—ok, by now you’ve probably figured out I am no dummy. I did well in school. I learned early on that, unlike home, in school if I did well, I would get praised. I loved it! I did better and better until it backfired on me: I did so well that I completed a semester’s worth of worksheets in only a few weeks. My mother was told. Conferences were held. Over my father’s objection, I was promoted mid-year from second to third grade. “Oh, she will love it!” NM assured the school officials that this is what I wanted as well. But it wasn’t. I wanted to stay in Miss Bryant’s second grade class where I could excel, not go to a new class where I didn’t know anybody or anything. Nobody listened to the seven-year-old; everybody listened to the lying mother.

You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there.

Yup, that too. Mostly a long, humiliating listing of every transgression ever committed plus the projection of motives that had never occurred to me, crowned with crowing noises about how she thwarted my evil plans. Yup—I could have been in Timbuktu, for all that she cared if I heard her exaggerations and outright lies. Nothing was sacred…not even the truth.

She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs ("Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!")

I don’t think this applies so much to ignoring NMs as it does to the engulfing. She never seemed to know when I needed anything, paid as little attention to me as she possibly could, and got angry if I needed anything like dental work, glasses, or allergy meds (she would actually yell at me to “stop that damned snorting and sneezing!” when her Persian cat would set my hayfever off!).

You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations.

It was made very clear to me, early on, that I was not allowed to have any privacy…ever. I was not allowed to “hang on the phone” so there were no conversations to eavesdrop on, but she regularly went through my purse, wallet, coat pockets, schools books and notebooks, dresser drawers and closet. If she found something, she had no compunction about presenting it to me for she had no shame about breaching a privacy I was not permitted to have. When I was about 12 my father (whom she had divorced a couple of years previously) gave me a dollar to use for an emergency if I needed to call him…I was serious when I said I was not allowed to have money. I kept it hidden in the toe of my shoe. One morning when I was in the shower, she found it. She beat me black and blue over that dollar, then took it away from me and kept it. No privacy whatsoever…

She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you.

I am not sure how much this applies to the ignoring NM, although I learned early on not to let her know what I loved…that was a guaranteed way to put the object of my love into jeopardy, whether it was a pet or a book, a toy or a dress, or even a photo or letter. Later on, I learned to appear non-committal about things, including friendships and boyfriends, to keep her from knowing how I truly felt. Only if she did not know what I valued emotionally could I hope to keep it safe. I volunteered nothing of import, although I chattered a lot in her presence to keep her from thinking too deeply on any one thing.

She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.

Oh, you could pretty much guarantee that if I said I felt like chicken for dinner, chicken would not appear on the menu for at least a week. I was pretty good at not expressing wishes in her presence simply because I knew that was a death knell. It was as if she went out of her way to keep me from having anything I wanted.

For much of my adolescence, I wanted to go live with my father. During a rare moment of bravery I said to her “You don’t want me…you’ve told me you don’t want me…so why won’t you let me go live with my Dad?” Her reply was that he wanted me and she would be damned before she gave the man anything he wanted! I thought it very peculiar since she was the one who wanted a divorce and he had given her no grounds. I later figured out not only was she being spiteful, but that I was worth money to her in the form of child support.

Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you're punished for your insistence ("Since you're old enough to date, I think you're old enough to pay for your own clothes!") If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”

Now this is a peek into my life.

When I was 14 and spending part of the summer at my father’s, NM went on a road trip with her live-in boyfriend (a no-no in the early 1960s!) who just so happened to be the man my parents bought their first house from. (Nobody ever confirmed it, but I suspect this man was the reason my mother divorced my father.) As the first day of school loomed closer and closer and we heard nothing from her, we began to wonder what to do.

Labor Day weekend we got a telegram from her—she was still in Texas with her lover. They had gone to watch his son graduate from Air Force Basic Training (this is the same mother who, a few years hence, would skip my high school graduation) and weren’t coming back for a while…I should enrol in school from my father’s.

My stepmother was in a frenzy! Here she was with a well-developed 14 year old who had hairy legs and underarms, bushy eyebrows, clothes suited to a flat-chested 10 year old, and no appropriate underclothes for a young woman. In one weekend I had to learn to shave my legs and underarms, tweeze my eyebrows and wear more makeup than lip gloss. I had to learn to curl my hair and style it, use deodorant, perfume, and other feminine products, and generally grow up from an overgrown child into a young lady in the span of two days! You see, my NM had absolutely forbidden me to do such things!

Oddly, when I went back to live with her at the end of the school year, she said nothing about the more adult hair, clothes, underclothes, shoes, and make up except to complain when I told her I needed hairspray or something like that. In fact, she pretty much ignored me unless I did something she took issue with…unless I wanted something she could use to hurt me. I tried very hard to keep from letting her see what could hurt me.

One place she was inflexible, however, is that she simply could not abide anything that made me attractive to men. I had several two-piece bathing suits (that covered me pretty well—much better than suits today) and we lived near the beach. One day I came home from school and after my chores were done, went to put on a suit and head for the beach. I had to walk her dog after school, so I would usually combine that with a dip in the surf or working on my tan.

I went into my dresser and my bathing suits were gone and in their place an old one-piece of hers. Against everything I had been conditioned to do, I went into her room, into her dresser and retrieved one of my suits. I was furious—I put her suit back in her drawer and took mine back to my room.

When I got back from the beach, dog leash in one hand, chemistry book in the other—I had been doing homework—she was waiting for me. Uncharacteristically, I ignored her and went to my room to change. She followed me in with a yardstick in her hand and began yelling at me, calling me a “little tramp,” and then she hit me on the bare thighs with that yardstick! For the first time, I fought back. I went ballistic, snatched the yardstick out of her hands, broke it in half and threw it at her, then pushed her out of my room screaming that I was too big to spank like a little kid and from now on, when she hit me, she’d better do it where it wouldn’t show in my gym uniform.

Pathetic, huh?

But she never “spanked” me again. That was the beginning of the stinging slaps and marathon hair pulling…

Next up: Part 3—Favouritism

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 1

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at  Copyright 2007, all rights reserved

[There are two basic types of narcissistic mothers, the ignoring type and the engulfing type. These may—and often do—overlap but most NMs have a basic style and will be primarily one or the other. Some of the following points may not apply to your NM simply because they describe an engulfing characteristic when your NM is an ignoring type—or vice versa. But our mothers are not the only narcissists we will encounter in our lives. In fact, being raised by a narcissistic parent actually sets us up to be prey for more of the self-centred emotional vampires as we go out into the world, from girlfriends who are anything but friends to lovers who love themselves best to husbands who are the mirror image of dear old mom. So, whether something looks like it applies to your NM or not, read and consider it carefully—it may give you the awareness necessary to avoid the predator lurking around the next bend. As ever, my comments are shown in violet. -V]

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is. ~ Chris


1. Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you.

I came home from school one day and almost all of my toys were gone. She had given them to the Goodwill. She was doing me a favour because I hardly ever played with the stuff (which actually wasn’t true, she just didn’t see me playing with them because I was usually behind closed doors, hiding from her) and with fewer toys it would be easier to keep my room clean. It was my fault she gave them away...and she was helping me...

She rarely says right out that she thinks you're inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you've done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn't live through her abuse would never believe the connection.

This sounds so much like my childhood it is creepy. My Golden Child Brother (GCBro) could do no wrong and when it did, it was someone else’s fault…like if he did not do his chores after school, I got the beating because I didn’t make him do them! If I got an “A” on my report card, it was expected; math was hard for me and when I proudly brought my grade up to a “B” I was reminded that GCBro got “A”s, what was wrong with me? I received numerous awards in high school for music and academics—she attended none of the ceremonies and I had to get rides from friends in order to attend and receive my awards—assuming I could get permission to go, that is.

When I was little she discovered I had a big voice and went from ignoring to engulfing. My whole life was about the singing career that was going to make me famous and her rich. That I would rather play paperdolls with the little girl across the street was ignored—my life was taken over with costume fittings, singing lessons, auditions, singing engagements…and I hated it. Eventually I pretended I couldn’t sing anymore and the whole thing was dropped, and NM went back to being ignoring, although she remained suspicious. It was not until nearly five years later that I joined the school choir and quickly became one of the featured singers. But NM never attended the concerts, never came to hear me sing. In my senior year, I was chosen as a featured soloist in my school choir for an all-city choir competition. At the last minute she forbade me to go…

She didn’t attend my high school graduation.

She only attended my wedding because my step father dragged her there, and then she showed up in mid-ceremony, wearing a white dress!

Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She'll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you've also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you're no good without saying a word…

The woman across the road had the perfect teenaged daughter, to hear NM tell it. I, of course, fell far short of the mark. Interestingly, NM would not allow me to use the sewing machine, the washing machine, or cook dinner but the praise she lavished on the neighbour girl for helping her mother with those tasks was awesome to behold...and I fell far short by comparison.

She'll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you're always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.

When I did well on something or did a good deed and told my NM, she would accuse me “tooting my own horn” or call me “Miss Goody-Two-Shoes” in a voice dripping condemnation. There was no pleasing her at all—the best that could be hoped was to be invisible and you got that by being perfect. If all of the chores were done to her satisfaction and I was out of sight, I was most likely safe. I say most likely because if she had a mood going on, either the nits would be picked or she would embark upon a recitation of my sins from the day my birth (no exaggeration or hyperbole here—she would remind me of her emergency C-section and blood transfusion and complain about her stretch marks, that I had colic and wouldn’t let her sleep and on and on and ON!)

No remark on my part was permitted, not even an “I’m sorry,” which she would have interpreted as mocking. I must sit and attentively listen, changing the expression on my face to ones that she expected (learned from bitter experience on my part) as her litany rolled endlessly on. To interrupt, to contradict, to ask questions, to fail to show the correct expression during her tirade of what was wrong with me from the day I was born was to invite The Strap, a thin leather dog lead (sans metal clip) that hung on the back of the kitchen door and left red whiplike welts when applied forcefully to the tender skin of my thighs and buttocks.

Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her…

How true this is! NM went through friends like a monkey through peanuts. She was glib and charming (in an intense, slightly tawdry kind of way) and highly intelligent. She would make friends with people…never with women more attractive than she was, however…who were useful to her in one way or another. They were flattered by her friendship, and because it doesn’t occur to people that someone will lie about their children in negative ways (they might pump up a child’s abilities or attributes or achievements but not the reverse), when NM said bad things about me, people paid attention—including family members—and belived every word. This, of course, is a neat trick to discredit me in case I ever screw up the courage to speak up. And it works: when a teacher once saw the marks on the back of my legs and took me aside to query me about them, she wanted to know what I had done to make my mother so mad as to mark me like that!

She's also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She's very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don't wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she's done.

Yup. A teacher sent me to the school nurse because I couldn’t see the black board; the school nurse tested my eyes, then called NM to tell her I needed glasses. She told the nurse I was “faking it,” that is was just another one of my “attention-getting devices” and there was nothing wrong with my vision. It was not until she was threatened by the nurse that she would call the County and report her for neglect that I got my first pair of glasses…but I paid a heavy price in haranguing, disbelief, threats of doom, and a disdainful, dismissive attitude.

The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public.

She even hid it from my father. He worked a part time job at night and she would make me lay across the bed, pants down, and beat me with that strap. When she was done she would warn me that if I breathed a word to my “precious father,” she would give me twice as much the following night. And yet, if you saw us out in public, you would think we were the iconic Fifties family, well-behaved (terrified of misbehaving is more the truth) daughter, mischievous little brother, loving parents… And, of course, she was always the sweet, loving mother saddled with the impossible child…

She'll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don't know what I can do for her!”)

Mine, being an ignoring mother, wouldn’t know enough about my life to say something like this and to do anything for me went against the grain—I was supposed to do for myself, if I wasn’t so (expletive deleted) lazy. But false concern can be directed elsewhere and in such a manner that it gets an ugly, painful, passive-aggressive message across to the real target. NM “felt sorry for those poor girls” next door and nearly had them taken away from their mother whom she disliked because the woman was a focal point of neighbourhood sympathy (she was a war widow with two young daughters). Oddly, my NM managed to do the exact same thing to two other mothers…express “concern” over the children in such a way as to try to get the kids away from their mothers—those mothers, of course, being her real target. By slamming other people until their reputations are in tatters, and then expressing sympathy for the children, she locks in her own rep as a “good guy” so that later, when she sets the machinery in motion to separate the kids from their mother, people believe it is an act of benevolence to spearhead taking innocent children from someone who is, in truth, a perfectly fit mother.

As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!”).

This is painfully true. Additionally, those who do believe them can end up on the receiving end of a smear campaign or find themselves cut firmly out of your life. Only people who believe the narcissistic mother’s slander get to stick around…at least until they learn how they are also being slandered behind their backs and move on.

My NM had a friend I’ll call Beatrix. Bea had a son a bit older than me, a great hulking, fleshy brute of a kid I’ll call Grant. I didn’t like Grant—he was clumsy and grabby and not particularly bright and NM kept shoving us together…I was about 13 and Grant was 14 or 15. One day, en route home from some event, Grant and I were shoved together in the back seat of NM’s car (with my GCBro, who was also a bulky kid) and Grant wouldn’t keep his hands to himself. At one point he tried to kiss me and shove one hand up my skirt, thrusting his tongue into my mouth whereupon I bit him. Of course he let out a roar of protest, I got a slap from my NM and we all rode in silence until we got to Bea’s house. Bea jumped out of the car and hustled Grant inside, incensed at me for hurting him. NM was also pissed at me for tossing a monkey wrench into her friendship with Bea. That he was sexually assaulting me in the backseat of the car with my brother sitting right there and both our mothers in the front seat seemed to be of no issue. “Bea thought you were such a nice girl!” NM told me later. “Guess you proved my point about you, huh?”

Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist's defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I'm sure she didn't mean it like that!”)

I didn’t see a therapist with any degree of seriousness until I was in my mid-thirties. My own experience was positive as I found therapists who specialized in adults who had lived through abusive childhoods. But not everyone is so lucky. If you are seeing a therapist and s/he invalidates you (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that” or similar discounting), move on to one who is supportive. It is impossible to heal without a support system and if your therapist is undermining you or trying to get you to see things from your N’s point of view, that is not supportive and you need a new one!

Next: Part 2 Violating Boundaries

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Accusations Against Me (Part 5)

Part 4

Danu Morrigan/Tracy Culleton, operator of the website Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, after banning dozens—if not hundreds—of vulnerable women from her site’s forum without explanation, got wind of the fact that not all of these callously rejected women crawled off into dark little holes to lick their wounds. some of them decided to fight back by publishing their experiences with her on the web, a fact that apparently sent her scrambling to do damage control. Ultimately, she published a rebuttal to the accusations she found on the web, a rebuttal that was laced with subtle and not-so-subtle untruths, and which left no space for disagreement, correction, or comment.

Herewith, the truth about Tracy’s rebuttal to the truths published on the web about her:

(My remarks are in violet, Tracy's quotes from SoaringDove’s blog are in blue)


The last time I checked, Danu Morrigan, (wasn't that a red flag that she wouldn't even disclose her real name?) has at least 13 websites, all coming from a different angle, but with the same motivation. Making money. On her business marketing site she refers to potential customers as *food*, to be trapped, hunted, or farmed

I do have a number of websites, yes, although I'm not sure it's as many as 13. It could be I guess. And yes, all the others are business websites with the aim of making money. It's called capitalism.

What nobody says here is that Danu and Morrigan are both goddesses, Danu being the Celtic mother-goddess. Grandiose, anyone? And, interestingly, Tracy doesn’t address the issue of her failure to use her own name. She does address the insignificant issue of how many websites she has (I could only find ten, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t more out there), but sidesteps the very salient issue of her hiding her real name. She claims on the site that it is to keep her family ignorant of her site and activities (plausible to DoNMs because we don’t want our narcissistic mothers to know what we are doing lest they find a way to spoil it for us) but it was relatively easy to find out and now, at this point in time, it is dead simple: a quick Google search will turn it up. Considering what the name means and considering that since her real name has been public knowledge for at least two years now, one must wonder why she continues to cling to the pseudonym, even to the point of publishing a book using it. Can she, after all the disclosure to date, still privately think of herself as a Celtic mother goddess?

To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised. My research has turned up evidence that she is a self-proclaimed expert on vegetarianism, breast feeding, home schooling, and eco-building, among other things. Very Mother Earthy stuff. As I said earlier…grandiose, anyone?

As for the metaphor of customers as food to be trapped, hunted or farmed - this is a metaphor originating with marketing expert Dan Kennedy, and shows the difference between a sustained ‘farming’ model of agriculture where you keep in touch with existing customers and look after them on the one hand, and a ‘hunting’ model of marketing where you are desperately looking for new customers all the time.

It was a metaphor. I’d never have used it if I’d known it was going to be twisted like this. And I can only say that I do not view the members of my DONM forum as food or prey or anything like that.

Of course it is a metaphor, you silly twit! Do you think we are so stupid as to think you actually farm and hunt customers? It has not been twisted at all. The fact of the matter is that this choice of metaphor is demeaning, degrading and dehumanizing and you don’t seem to even see that!

Interesting that Tracy doesn’t offer the link so you can see for yourself, isn’t it? Well, here it is: Some excerpts: “... ‘farming marketing’, better known as Relationship Marketing…With this type of marketing you plant your seeds, tend your crop by weeding, watering and fertilising, and produce a predictable and consistent harvest.

Relationship marketing, at its simplest, works by:
- Taking names, addresses and e-mail addresses of customers
- Keeping in touch with them - e.g. newsletters (and lots of other ideas too)
- Offering them special offers and discounts
I can help you organise and arrange this relationship marketing. It would be like hiring your own personal farmer to do all the sowing seeds etc - you just enjoy the harvest.”

Think about this for a minute—isn’t this strategy just exactly what she applied to the DoNM website forum? “Planting the seeds” of EFT as a cure-all, “weeding” by eliminating people who she does not think are susceptible to her blandishments, “watering and fertilising” by dropping in once day and selecting a few posts to give personal attention to… She not only farmed us using this technique, she milked our histories and our experiences and our pain for gain, not just on the website, but in her upcoming book as well.

And what difference does it make if she didn’t invent the concept? She used it, never expecting that anyone at the DoNM website would ever find out, ever catch on. She used a different name on the DoNM site and if people Googled her, they would never connect her with her real name, her other activities, or this. In fact, I doubt it ever occurred to her that people might be offended to be referred to as food to be farmed…I doubt she has the empathy.

Again, you'll make up your own minds about that, as you should.

As for not using my real name, I explain on my website about that - I would prefer that my family not find out about this. I wasn't keeping my identity that much of a secret or Kate and others wouldn't know it.

Oh, that’s just hogwash. Two years ago I had to track it down using multiple websites and deductive reasoning, starting with Whois. Today her real name is easy to find because she’s been outed by people like me, but two years or further back, it took a bit of digging. I suspect her reason for not using her real name was to keep the women joining the DoNM site from finding out who she really was so they would not be able to connect her to her other lucrative sites and scams. She had to create a sympathetic persona, someone they could relate to, someone soft and non-threatening they could rely on. And isn’t this exactly how a narcissist operates? Which brings us to Kate’s next point…

I am not a mental health expert, but I would peg Danu and Light as textbook Ns

You'll need to make up your own minds about this too.

Danu's EFT credentials aren't that great either. The last I checked she had the equivalent of several weekend seminars of instruction.

I have done a lot more than that; I have been undergoing continuous training and learning for the past seven years. But it’s true that I did not attend a year-long or two-year long course. Those things don't exist. Just as the first people in any evolving model aren't officially trained or certified by some central body, neither are EFT people.

Again: there is nothing available on the web, even from websites that publish articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, that indicate any independent studies have been done on EFT and confirmed its efficacy. Additionally, at around the time Tracy wrote this apologia, I had done some research on her and among the things I investigated were her educational credentials: she was only a Level II “practitioner,” (basically still a beginner) even though to read her self-promotion you would think she was a master.

I thought about posting this anonymously, but I can't make that work, so let the chips fall where they may. I would be glad to talk with you via email. Let me know if that is something you would be interested in. There is a growing community of women who have all had similar experiences and I'm sure they would be more than welcoming to you if you'd like to process this [the shock of being unexpectedly banned –V] with others who have been there.

It’s true that I have made a lot of enemies doing this. Whether that’s because I’m N and have hurt a lot of innocent people as Kate and Soaring Dove claim, or whether it’s because I’m an ordinary DONM who has banned a lot of trouble-makers, trolls, and Ns in my turn, I leave it to you to decide.

Please notice that it is Tracy who creates the negative paradigm by referring to the women she banned as “enemies” while Kate talks about welcoming women and processing the experience of being banned with sympathetic fellow-sufferers. Tracy creates herself the poor misunderstood, misperceived victim who was just doing things to help…and those of us whom she banned without warning or explanation are “enemies.” Neat little piece of twisting history and reality into a reasonably subtle gaslighting episode, eh?

And now we find even more reasons she finds acceptable for banning people: “troublemakers, trolls and Ns”… This from a woman who claims no education or training in psychology and who is not an expert on narcissism—suddenly she is competent to judge whether someone she has never met is a narcissist or not. And, given her proclivity for redefining words to fit her needs, what she calls a “troublemaker” or a “troll” may, in truth, simply be someone who is persistent in wanting some information she doesn’t want to give out, someone who is trained and is trying to correct some incorrect bit of data published on the site, or even someone who has grown weary of walking on eggshells and speaks her truth, damning the consequences. Remember, earlier Tracy claimed that only by contravening her Terms of Use could you get banned…here the truth finally comes out: all she has to do is label you a troll, troublemaker or narcissist and you are out. You get no appeal, no explanations are allowed, and no warnings or explanations are given. Pretty cruel and one-sided, if you ask me, an archetypal exhibition of all the empathy and compassion you would expect of an N.

Did you notice that Tracy did not even acknowledge Kate’s mention of a “growing community of women” who have experienced the same? Tracy is aware of the group for which I serve as an administrator and rather than acknowledge and bring attention to the fact that there is such a group, she just ignores it. How do I know that she knows? Because, according to private sources (anything you can read on the internet she can read as well and this is one area where I must protect my sources), she now discourages women on the site from using social media or joining outside groups. Do you know that this isolation technique is a red flag for abusive behaviour? An absolutely fundamental tactic of the abuser is to isolate the victim(s) to eliminate outside support and make the victim(s) emotionally dependent on the abuser. This way the abuser becomes essential to the victim’s emotional life and later, when the real abuse starts, the victim has no place to go. Tracy, combines the “farming” techniques noted earlier with classic abuser tactics—isolation, tightly proscribed behavioural ground rules, gaslighting, threats of (and actual) banishment all to control the members of her forum.

I do not wish to escalate this or get involved in the drama or such. I am just answering the accusations. I do not expect anybody to comment in my favour on Soaring Dove's blog - that would just escalate the whole thing.

Mercy me, heaven forbid people go to SoaringDove’s blog and, with their hits, boost its rating on Google. And let’s not even consider the possibility of the comments on that blog post, comments that support it and reveal even more victims. Nope, can’t have that…don’t go, don’t write, just let it die right there so she can get back to the business of binding you to her so she can pick your pockets and feed just a little bit more…

I have spoken my truth now and people can make up their own minds. I have no attachment to what they decide.

And if you believe that, I have some nice real estate on the moon for you, with a terrific view of the Big Blue Marble… Of course she has an attachment. If she didn’t, why bother to write this long paean to herself and her purity of intent and action? Throw a monkey wrench into her forum and lure the members away, like she did to Dr. McBride, and see how much attachment she has to their decisions. But, I didn’t expect much truth from her in the first place. Did you?

Next: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers