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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

She destroys your relationships: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 23

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 23. She destroys your relationships

Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted.

Yup—I have heard it over and over again, families fragmented and divided into factions of pro- and anti-NM. In the case of a woman I will call Leah, she had virtually no communication with her sister or any of the FOO on her mother’s side with the exception of one uncle, a man who is estranged from his sister (the NM) because of the way NM treats her. For years she believed her NM had succeeded in alienating her father’s side of the family as well, but after her father’s death she was to learn that they cared for her very much. But it wasn’t until after her father passed that she was reunited with his family, having been separated from them for decades because of her NM’s control of the family through triangulation. Only when Leah’s father died and nobody was notified of his death and cremation—not even the poor man’s own brother—did her NM’s true dreadfulness become obvious and people rallied around Leah.

In my case, NM successfully alienated my entire family from me, via triangulation, including my father and his family. When her lies began oozing out, when the family began to see the truth, there were those who continued to cling to the lies and with whom I was never able to re-establish a relationship. I find it not coincidental that those who continued to suck up NM’s lies were the ones who ended up with legacies from NM’s estate while I, and others who had finally had the scales fall from their eyes, received nothing except an abusive message actually written into her will.

Relationships outside the FOO are also at risk with an NM in the picture. As a teen I was prohibited from dating some perfectly acceptable young men because their surnames were “foreign,” or their fathers did not have good enough jobs or they were the wrong colour or religion (this from a woman who never, ever set foot inside a church), or they lived in the wrong part of town. She also dictated my female friendships, forbidding me to hold parties, sleep-overs and other normal adolescent rites of passage. When NM found out my best girlfriend was Jewish, she was forbidden from entering our house again. I was kept in childish dresses with no bra and forbidden to shave my legs and underarms, which made me an object of derision among my peers. When I finally began dressing and grooming myself in an age-appropriate way, it was too late. As an adult, I was alienated from my FOO and she later succeeded in alienating my own children from me.

I know of women whose romantic relationships and even marriages have fallen apart because of the interference of an NM, people whose employment and employment relationships were damaged by an NM. There is no limit whatsoever to the lengths and depths an NM will go to have her way, even if it means isolating you from everyone you have ever cared for, destroying your friendships and romantic relationships, and even giving you grief at work.

Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all.

This mirrors my own experiences and the experiences of numerous other DoNMs I know. When your NM selects you as the family scapegoat and another child as the GC, the other siblings, if there are any, will align with the GC out of self-protection. When these children are grown, those who finally see who and what their mother is may no longer align with the GC, but it is unlikely they will align with the scapegoat simply out of self-defense: they don't want to be on the receiving end of the treatment they have seen the scapegoat receive for all those years. The GCs often grow up to be “flying monkeys,” minions of the NM who will do her bidding. In Leah’s case, her NM had Leah’s sister contact an ex-boyfriend of Leah’s (like 10 years ago ex) to tell him a bunch of lies about Leah, making her look like she was doing terrible things to hurt her mother and alienate NM’s brother from her. Out of the goodness of his heart he called Leah’s uncle (as requested by Leah’s Nsister), who was estranged from his sister (the NM) to try to foster a reconciliation. It was a stupid thing for NM and GC to do because the man got an earful of truth from the uncle about the kinds of nasty things NM was doing to Leah.

Even a strong father cannot necessarily control a narcissist. Mine was strong, but when he was divorced from NM and could only see his children on weekends, what kind of control could he exert? During one of their separations, NM found out he had found a girlfriend and this upset her even though she had initiated their breakup and forced him out of the house. When she asked him to return, he broke up with his girlfriend, telling her that he had to go back for his kids’ sake (I heard this from the girlfriend who later married him and was his wife for more than 50 years). When he lived with us, she was still able to prey on me when he was at work and keep me from telling him what went on in his absence with threats of increased violence and abuse. My GC brother became NM’s flying monkey, tattling to NM about anything he could think of…even making things up…to get me punished. It was no surprise, then, that he spied on me as a young adult and embellished his observations to the point of perjury when she applied to a court for guardianship of my children. Even our Father’s strong stance on honesty did not penetrate his GC devotion to our lying, conniving NM. She played us off against each other as children, and I was always the one coming up short. As adults, she set us against each other in her plots, employing him as her flying monkey, me as the target. My brother and I have not seen each other since our grandmother’s funeral in 1994 and have not spoken since NM’s death nearly 15 years ago. The rift is irreparable.

Leah’s father was not so strong…he remained married to her NM for Leah’s entire life and that had to wear a man down. Near the end of his life, weakened with cancer and completely at her mercy, he could do nothing to control his wife. After her father’s death, Leah’s mother became even worse and Leah’s flying monkey sister joined in. She and her sister have the same irreparable rift, also caused by a predatory NM.

In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don't communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children's lives. Watching people's lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don't have any empathy for their misery.

I think it is more, deeper, than simply enjoying the control. The power and control they derive extends much farther than simply setting their children against each others like cocks in a pit. In my case, my little brother spied on me constantly. I could not even have a word alone with my father because he would always be there, listening and ready to report anything I said or did to NM. I could not, therefore, say anything to my father about the way she treated me in his absence, complain about her unfair treatment between me and and my brother, or tell him that she left us alone at night for hours, while he was at work, while she hit the bars. Pitting us against each other made it safe for her to engage in activities that her husband would definitely find objectionable with no fear of discovery because of a blabbing child.

But they do enjoy the drama they create, the trouble they stir up. I can still remember my NM’s glowing look of triumph when Mrs. McKenzie moved away, her crusade to get her out of the neighbourhood a success, her campaign to turn a woman to whom the neighbourhood had been compassionate and sympathetic, she being a war widow who worked nights to support two young daughters, into a pariah and undesirable brought to fruition.

The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy - the most corrosive emotions - to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I'll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.

Fortunately for me, NM stopped having children after my brother was born—there were only two of us. But she still used this tactic to make him angry with me, telling him we couldn’t go to the marina (where he liked to fish) because I wasn’t done with my chores when, in fact, she didn’t want to take him to the marina. By giving me extra chores or finding fault with my regular chores so they had to be done over, she neatly shifted the blame to me so it became my fault that he couldn’t go fishing. And, because he emulated NM rather than our more peaceable father, he assumed the right to punish me which could be manifested passively aggressively by doing (or failing to do) things that would get me into trouble, or actively by destroying something of mine or physically hurting me.

When my parents separated for the final time, my father got up early one morning, fixed us breakfast, and told us that he was moving out of the house. I was devastated. He asked us, if we had a choice, which parent would we want to live with and I unhesitatingly chose him. My brother not only chose NM, he was outraged that I did not do the same. From that moment onward—I was about ten—my life was a living hell, trapped in the enemy camp. Both NM and GCBro saw my choice as a betrayal of the deepest proportions while I saw it as a way out of a life of being beaten daily for things I didn’t do or could not control.

The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don't see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses.

Well, that is certainly how it was with me…I definitely viewed my mother as capricious and cruel. The rules changed daily without notice: what I got into trouble for not doing on Monday would get into trouble for doing two days later. I learned not to let her know what I loved because that would be the first thing permanently taken from me when she wanted to punish me by hurting me. And nothing was sacrosanct: she gave away the parakeet I had raised from a fledgling, my dog, my cats, my dolls, my clothes, my books…nothing was sacred. My brother, on the other hand, excused and/or agreed with her every move. I deserved what she meted out, I had no one to blame but myself…even when my punishment was a result of his actions or inactions.

Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse.

In truth, I could not say if she actively recruited him or not, but he most certainly did display the same contempt and entitled attitude towards me that she did. He took the attitude that nothing was wrong—she never punished him or gave him a hard time, so it must be me, not her. What I later found quite funny was, at the age of 14 I had the opportunity to live with my father for a year and I jumped at it. GCBro stayed with NM. Within six weeks GCBro was at Dad’s front door, suitcase in hand, wanting to move in as well. Why? Seems that with me gone, he got to play both roles, GC and scapegoat. He also got all of my housemaid chores. He would never say a word against her…which muzzled me in my father’s house for fear anything I said he would report back to her…but he could not live with her without me there to do the dirty work and take her abuse.

The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.

This was a little different in my life. Oh, she certainly kept tabs on GCBro and on at least two occasions before she died, they shared a house. But until she decided to take my kids for her childless younger bother to adopt, both she and GCBro stayed away from me. I could have fallen off the face of the earth for all they knew…I ceased to exist until I represented some kind of use to them. The juicy gossip and “concern” NM fed to the family was about me and my children, prepping them with the notion that I was somehow unfit. She got GC Bro to come visit me out of the blue, and he added his voice to her campaign. She tried to get Child Welfare into the picture, but their report was in my favour, so she didn’t go that way. By the time she was ready to launch the active portion of her plot to take my kids, she had filled the family with horror stories about me designed to raise everybody’s hackles against me and see her as a tragic figure: a mother forced to save her innocent grandchildren from her own depraved daughter.

Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She'll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.

I know of families in which this occurs—the only time this happened with me was when she got bitten with the stage mother bug when she realized my singing voice might actually make her money. I was about six years old at the time, and according to her I was going to be the next Shirley Temple and be famous…and incidentally make her rich. !!!Epiphany time—I just this second realized that NM and my NexH had this in common—it was not enough for them to work and live comfortably as most of us do—both of them were always pursuing shortcuts to fortune rather than put their noses to the grindstone and perhaps eventually amassing a small fortune through honesty and hard work, as NM’s immigrant father had done. My therapist was right when she said I had married my mother!!! Anyway, while she would sing my praises to anyone who would listen—praises that always included how rich we all would be and how we would move to Hollywood and have a Cadillac—I never got more than criticism and slaps and belittled for my stage fright and unwillingness to practice.

My memories of this period are pretty self-focussed (I was only 6 when this began, self-centeredness rather normal at this time) so I can’t say with any certainty what was up with my scapegrace, GC brother. I do, however, remember being envious of him not being required to give up his Saturdays to singing lessons and practice or having to sit still for make up and hairstyling or stand for costume fittings which invariably involved being poked with pins. Whatever he was up to at the time, we still had our Mexican “housekeeper” because he wasn’t in school yet…I don’t think his life changed much at all. But mine became a nightmare because not one minute of it belonged to me any more.

NM would brag to her friends about how much she “sacrificed” for my “career.” I don’t know if anyone realized just how selfish she was being, pursuing her dream of fame and fortune through me, who would rather be playing dolls with the neighbour girls. I don’t know if my brother resented the attention I got for all of this, but I know my father was adamantly against it and she just ignored him. She always had her trump card: if he didn’t step back and allow her to do what she wanted, she would simply throw him out and divorce him—again.

The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.

Not just the communication between the children, but between the various factions created by the narcissist. Leah’s NM would send letters to her brother, telling him terrible things about Leah, the objective being to poison his mind against her own daughter. My NM did the same thing with respect to me. In the beginning, this kind of thing is generally done to gain something for the NM—sympathy, for example, for what she has to put up with. It is done to silence and isolate a child who might not be taken in by the NM’s manipulations, it is done to discredit the child, to set the stage for her not being believed when she reports what is really going on in the family. I, for example, had an “over-active imagination” and while the phrase “drama queen” had yet to be invented, that was the gist of how NM painted me to the family. In a situation in which numerous motives might be at work, NM always selected the worst possible one for me, regardless of what was truly going on in my mind. Over a period of years a picture of me was formed in the minds of family members who rarely saw me and when they did, the reality of me was overshadowed by the picture in their minds.

When NMs do this, it sets the stage for later predations. If everybody “knows” how bad you are, they have no empathy for you even though you are a small child. They feel bad for your poor mother and admire her courage and bravery in continuing to deal with you and even love you despite your awfulness. Cousins ignore, disdain and/or bully you. It becomes a habit to hate you, a habit to blame you, a habit that becomes entrenched and unquestioned after so many years, and it spreads from one family member to the next like a disease.

Triangulation is a powerful weapon used by narcissists everywhere because she who controls the flow of information controls the family—when you control what people know you control what they believe...and when you control what they believe, you control them—and control is essential to the narcissist in order to keep up her fa├žade. The absolutely worst thing you can do to a narcissist is tell the truth and so it is in the narcissist’s best interest to pre-emptively discredit any who might do so, even their own children.


Next: Part 24. As a last resort she goes pathetic.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

She blames: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 22

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 22. She blames

She'll blame you for everything that isn't right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.

From “True Confessions”:
“This is all your fault, you know,” Mother said…“If you hadn’t been born, none of this would be happening, my life would be different…better. But no, you had to come along and ruin everything!”… “You know, I had it all figured out. Your grandfather, that rigid, old-fashioned old fart, wouldn’t let me go out or do anything. Oh, Pete and Gary could come and go as they pleased…they were boys, and even though Pete was two years younger than me, Grandpa let him do whatever he wanted while I had to ask permission to do just about anything other than take a pee.

“And then one night I was at a high school football game and there was this cute sailor in the stands, home from the war. And I flirted with him and when the game was over we went off on his motorcycle for some ice cream and he took me home.”

“I had to sneak out after everyone had gone to bed to see him, Grandpa wouldn’t let me go out with him because he was Hill People…you know, poor dirt farmers who lived in houses with no plumbing or electricity. But I knew he was my ticket to freedom.

“So one night, just after school was out for the summer we sneaked away and got married. He was 21 and I was almost 17. His leave from the Navy was almost up and he was going to be shipped out to China…the Navy was going to send me money every month as his wife for living expenses…and as a married woman I wouldn’t have to answer to Grandpa anymore. I could take that money, move out of the Godforsaken little gossip-ridden hick town, and live my own life, no father…and no husband, either…to tell me what I could or could not do…At least that was the plan…

“But things didn’t work out that way…Gramma Janssen wrote to the War Department and told them that he was their only son and they needed him to help out on the farm and the War Department discharged him. There went my freedom…he wasn’t going to go to China and there wasn’t going to be a monthly check from the Navy and before my father could put together an annulment…guess what happened?

“I found out I was pregnant. With you. And then it was all over for me…I swelled up like a poisoned pup. I got stretch marks all over my belly, my boobs, I got so fat I would barely waddle. Then, when I went into labour, you wouldn’t come out. I was in labour for 36 goddamned hours before they finally decided to do a caesarean section…your head was pointed from being crammed against my pelvic bones for so long! And then I almost died. I had to have a live transfusion from Grandpa because that tiny little shit-assed town didn’t have a decent blood bank. I got milk fever. You lost weight because I didn’t have any milk and those blockheaded nurses wouldn’t give you formula.

“And once I got you home, all you did was cry. All day, all night, you cried. Then you got the goddamned eczema and had raw, open sores all over you and I had to keep your diapers and your bedding and your clothes sterilized…but we were living in that drafty old shack next to Gramma Janssen’s house with no electricity or running water. And I couldn’t drive, so I was stuck out there living like a goddamned heathen, only ten miles from town, but I might as well have been in the goddamned middle of nowhere! So there I was, stuck out in the sticks with a screaming baby…it wasn’t at all what I expected, you know. You can’t put a baby back in the closet and close the door when you are tired of playing with it. I was stuck in that horrible little shack with Gramma Janssen always looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do and no way out!”

“And all because of you. If you hadn’t come along, I’d have had that annulment and found another way to get away from Grandpa. But you ruined it all.”

Always, she'll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren't so difficult. You upset her so much that she can't think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink.

My NM used to call it “backsass” and any word I said that was not in full agreement with her could be so interpreted. In fact, even agreeing with her could be dangerous if I wasn’t very careful with my tone of voice and facial expressions. I was once backhanded and knocked half way across the kitchen after she said “don’t you look at me in that tone of voice” and I, not comprehending, didn’t make the appropriate change in expression in time.

And I quite clearly remember being cautioned against “making” her abuse me. “Don’t make me hit you,” or “You can only blame yourself for this,” as she beat me with The Strap (a thin leather dog leash with the metal snap removed—it left welts that looked like whip marks) or whatever else was handy. Or, heaven forefend she should smack me with her hand and break a blood vessel! “Look what you did, you little bitch! Look what you did!! I ought to beat you within an inch of your life!”

This can cause some serious issues with children abused in this manner. Whether the abuse was physical or emotional, the child grows up with the idea that all the bad things in his life and in the life of those around him are his fault. Unless the child is unusually aware and can see the absurdity in this…or at least question (in his own mind—questioning the NM is off the table) how he came to be at fault for things over which he had no control, a child can grow up feeling guilty about things that have, in truth, nothing at all to do with him! It can also cause a kind of free-floating anxiety, a kind of living under the Sword of Damocles, forever waiting for it to drop…you never know when you are going to be blamed for something you had no part in but you know you will and eventually you just come to expect it.

This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty. Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.

Of course there is always “what did you do to provoke him?” or “boys will be boys and you shouldn’t have been playing with him,” or “can’t you just stay out of his way?”

Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.

Or, of course, you have terrible taste in boyfriends, she could have told you this would happen, or you should have expected it, a boy like that wouldn’t stay with a girl like you for long, or what did you to run him off? Or a host of other remarks that are less than comforting.

She'll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can't believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing. She'll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can't believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.

Or you will have to cancel your own plans because she has committed you to watch her boyfriend’s children—and she laughs uproariously when you ask what you will get paid. Or she will borrow and ruin something of yours and you won’t dare show how upset you are about it lest she find a way to blame and then punish you. She will take anything of yours anytime she wants it and dispose of it in any way she sees fit and if you dare object, it will somehow be made your fault (you didn’t brush the dog so she gave it away, you didn’t clean your room so she gave your toys away) and if you don’t drop the subject when ordered, you run the risk of punishment.

Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example [giving away your dress] shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is 1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable. 2) Manipulating. She's making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties. 3) Being selfish. She doesn't mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way. 4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it's all your fault. 5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours. 6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She's a martyr who believed the best of you, and you've let her down. 7) Parentifying. You're responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.

This is so true of the narcissist’s ability to get lots of mileage out of a single predation. It also explains why so many people are taken in by the narcissist. When she tells them, “Can you imagine? I gave an old dress of Susan’s, one she hasn’t worn in ages, to a friend of mine for her daughter—they don’t have much money since she lost her job, you know—and I could not believe how selfish Susan was, how upset she got, when she realized it was gone! You would think she’d welcome the room in her closet, she has so much stuff crammed in there already!” She doesn’t bother to tell them that the dress is seasonal and right now it is out of season—or that maybe it is a party dress and you haven’t been to a party lately—only that you hadn’t worn it recently, which is strictly true but not the whole truth. She doesn’t bother to tell them that her friend was fired from her job for cause and they are hurting for money because she’s content to live off her unemployment even if it means depriving her child of something. She doesn’t let on that she’s getting a million self-administered strokes for “saving” her friend, for doing Susan the favour of thinning out her stuffed closet, for putting up with her daughter’s selfish, hoarding ways. So she manages not only to get seven hits on you with her altercation over taking your dress, she gets lots of sympathy and pats the back from her friends when she relates the incident, all for stealing your dress!

I sometimes wonder how the conversation went when NM gave away the dog. If was my fault for not brushing him regularly, she told me—did she use this as a reason she was getting rid of him? “My daughter wanted the dog but she just won’t take care of him…you will see how knotted his coat is…and I have to work full time, so I can’t do it. She agreed that his care would be her responsibility, but I should have known better than to believe her again…” Of course she would never mention that we didn’t get him as a puppy but as a fully grown dog whose coat was already a mess, and certainly she would never mention that her daughter was a scrawny 7-year-old with a match stick arms who was literally incapable of pulling a brush or comb through an adult Collie’s coat. No, she would never have mentioned those things because they might exonerate me and even put some of the blame onto her, being an adult who was unwilling to do the work a child was unable to do.

Narcissists blame…it is what they do…and the reason every narcissistic mother has a scapegoat child: if you blame, you must have someone to put the blame onto.

Next: Part 23. She destroys your relationships


Monday, August 27, 2012

She doesn't acknowledge people’s feelings: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 21

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings

This is her lack of empathy in a nutshell. Without awareness and concern for the feelings of other people (and animals as well), it is impossible to have empathy for them. And without empathy for others, people behave as if they were the only people in the world who have feelings.

She'll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn't that she doesn't care at all about other people's feelings, though she doesn't. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings.

This is very true…it is as if the filter that most of us have that keeps thoughts from popping out of our mouths is not present. Where you and I might think something rude or inappropriate, we keep it to ourselves either because we don’t want to look like insensitive clods or we don’t want to hurt another person’s feelings: NMs think they are right about everything and don’t expect others to view them as insensitive but as right. And the feelings of others is simply not part of an NMs thought processes—only her feelings matter.

Malignant NMs take it a step further. They intentionally say callous, cruel things for the purpose of stirring up some drama, whether it is to get a rise out of somebody or because they expect the other person to react. My MNM was a racist and didn’t care if anybody heard her, including members of the group she was disparaging. My best friend in junior high and high school was a Jewish girl and everything was fine with my NM until she found out the girl was Jewish, then the shit hit the fan. I never told my friend, but I am sure she wondered why I quit inviting her over to my house: my NM had not forbidden me to see my friend, but she had forbidden me from having a “dirty kike” in her house. But even if she hadn’t forbidden her presence, I would not have invited her anyway—it was very unlikely that NM would keep her antipathy to herself with a real live Jewish person…a vulnerable teen aged girl at that…in the house.

Her insensitivity and lack of awareness of the feelings of others, the complete lack of empathy, is best embodied in her attitude when I had a miscarriage and, due to a serious infection, nearly died. She was in California, I was in Boston, and my husband was overwhelmed with the duties of taking care of two toddlers and trying to work. Expecting a normal mother response (“Oh no! My daughter is sick in the hospital and my grandbabies need me—I’m going to Boston!”) he got a shock when she chewed him out and told him to stop calling her. Then she called me and, completely disregarding how I might feel being just out of isolation, after days of unconsciousness and the loss of my baby, she proceeded to tell me that the miscarriage was a good thing because I didn’t need “more brats clinging to my skirts,” that if I didn’t have contraception to keep my legs closed, and to stop malingering and playing the doctors to get their sympathy so I could stay in the hospital and get home to my husband and kids so he would stop calling her!

Fourteen year old girls can be hormonal, hypersensitive, contrary creatures. When my daughter was fourteen, she spent some time talking with her grandmother on the phone one afternoon and when she hung up, she was in tears. When I asked why, she told me that Grammi had spent most of their conversation complaining about her own children, finishing up with “I wish I have never had children—I should have had cats instead!” My daughter turned to me, eyes streaming tears, saying “If she never had children, I wouldn’t be here! Does she wish I was dead?” It obviously had never crossed NM’s mind that my daughter would be hurt by her words…and if she had seen my daughter’s reaction, she most likely would have accused her of “deliberately misunderstanding” and “turning on the water works for sympathy.”

An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits [herein] described.

If you are not sure if your mother is a narcissist or not, this is the trait to watch for. But don’t be fooled by fake expressions of empathy—narcissists, especially older ones who have had a lot of practice, often know the words and facial expressions and social conventions and can make a convincing act. It is away from the situation that you find the real person. It is what they say when they think they are not at risk of being found out that tells the truth.

In the old days, when people regularly had servants, they didn’t care what they said in front of “the staff” because they weren’t really people to them. Narcissists are much the same way inside the family and even with a few friends who share or tolerate their disorder. So, where your mother might coo and ooh and ahh over a relative’s new baby, out of earshot she will say rude things—like my NM when her aunt had a baby late in life. I was excited about having a new baby in the family…NM was congratulatory on the phone and sent the expected card and gift—it was her mother’s sister and it would not do to slight Nana’s sister—but once she put the phone down, she was nasty. Auntie was “disgusting” to have a baby at her age; she and Uncle should be “over that by now” and on and on and on. She had no joy for her aunt and uncle, no pleasure at her new cousin’s arrival…her feelings were centre stage.

Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal. She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital. She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia. She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.

Actually, psychopaths do know right from wrong, they just don’t care. This scholarly article explains a study done in 2009 to determine if they did or not. For those not up to reading the whole article, here is the abstract: “Adult psychopaths have deficits in emotional processing and inhibitory control, engage in morally inappropriate behavior, and generally fail to distinguish moral from conventional violations. These observations, together with a dominant tradition in the discipline which sees emotional processes as causally necessary for moral judgment, have led to the conclusion that psychopaths lack an understanding of moral rights and wrongs. We test an alternative explanation: psychopaths have normal understanding of right and wrong, but abnormal regulation of morally appropriate behavior. We presented psychopaths with moral dilemmas, contrasting their judgments with age- and sex-matched (i) healthy subjects and (ii) non-psychopathic, delinquents. Subjects in each group judged cases of personal harms (i.e. requiring physical contact) as less permissible than impersonal harms, even though both types of harms led to utilitarian gains. Importantly, however, psychopaths’ pattern of judgments on different dilemmas was the same as those of the other subjects. These results force a rejection of the strong hypothesis that emotional processes are causally necessary for judgments of moral dilemmas, suggesting instead that psychopaths understand the distinction between right and wrong, but do not care about such knowledge, or the consequences that ensue from their morally inappropriate behavior.” Psychotics may not know the difference, but psychopaths and narcissists both know what the society around them considers acceptable.

Narcissists, like psychopaths, seek to advantage themselves and simply do not care about right and wrong except as they define and rationalize it. A narcissist will blame the victim, saying “Look what you made me do,” or “Don’t make me hit you,” when, in fact, the N has many choices other than hitting, and the victim is not compelling the N to choose hitting. The narcissist rationalizes and minimizes her transgressions and fully expects the victim to do the same. And while the narcissist may well know that whatever it is she is doing may not be “right” in the eyes of the neighbours or the authorities, the narcissist’s denial of reality coupled with her ability to rationalize and justify has the narcissist convinced that the others are wrong, and probably too stupid to even realize it. Punishments of children that normal people might consider to be over the top are viewed as necessary, desirable, clever, guaranteed to be effective (even in the face of repeated failure) to the narcissist. The outrageous is normalized in the eyes of the narcissist, although it may well be hidden simply because she is aware that other people might take exception to her methods.

One of the problems this creates is that the children brutalized in this manner also normalize this kind of behaviour and punishment. It can give rise to children of NMs who, while not liking severe punishments meted out to children, wholly believe in their appropriateness, necessity and effectiveness and go on to use them with their own children, lacking other parenting tools. And the normalized inappropriate treatment is not limited to physical abuse, which seems to be more the hallmark of the Malignant NM. Psychological and emotional abuse are no less devastating—and no less likely to be adopted by the children when they become parents if they have no alternative behavioural models…this is called “having fleas.”

I once knew a man whose stepmother gave birth to her first—and only—child in her 40s. She did not want a child, she was dismayed and distressed at the whole prospect of pregnancy and childbirth—and the inherent messiness of children just added to her unhappiness. He daughter was a very headstrong child, adding further to her issues. When her two-year-old misbehaved the mother would slap the child repeatedly on any body part available and yell at her “You stop this or I won’t love you any more!” She would also threaten that her father, who absolutely adored her, wouldn’t love her anymore, or that she (the mother) would “run away from home.” Since the mother did not appear to be an N in other respects, I suspect this was a legacy from her own mother, a woman with nine children who was born and raised in the 19th century.

Whether the mother commits this kind of psychological abuse on her child out of narcissism or fleas is immaterial: the result is pretty much the same. A child threatened with the loss of love of her parents as a result of her behaviour can become terribly insecure and fearful; a child whose mother threatens to run away develops abandonment issues. And, because the mother clearly implies these dreadful things will happen as a result of the child’s behaviour, the child may also come to have an over-developed sense of responsibility, to feel anything bad that happens in her family is her fault, even if she cannot clearly see or articulate why. No mother, flea-ridden or narcissist, can inflict this kind of abuse on a child if she is aware of the child’s feelings, if she has empathy for the fear and pain this can inflict on the child. The mother with fleas may do it because she simply has no other tools for managing her child and even empathize with the child’s pain but know no other way to discipline. Hopefully, their own empathetic pain drives these mothers to seek out alternative means of disciplining their child.

But the narcissistic mother, even if she also has fleas, differs in that to her, the child has no feelings or, if she acknowledges the child’s feelings, they do not matter. What matters is the NM getting what she wants from the child, regardless of cost to the child, because what the NM wants is all that really matters.


Next: Part 22. She blames.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

She is never wrong: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 20

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 20. She is never wrong about anything.

This is more than just crazy-making—this is a situation that can be devastating to a young child’s ability to learn to think critically and make accurate assessments of the world around him. Having a mother who will tell a child is he wrong in order to make herself right skews a child’s perceptions and sets up a cognitive dissonance in the child. Cognitive dissonance makes people uncomfortable, even children, and so the child is placed in the position of having to find a way to resolve that uncomfortable dissonance. The basic choice open to someone in this position is to either stick with one’s own perception or adopt the alternate perception. When the alternate perception comes from the person upon whom you depend for your food and shelter and protection, a young child is not be blamed for accepting that person’s “reality” over her own.

What happens now, however, is that the child begins to doubt her own perceptions and over time loses confidence her ability to make decisions or accurately perceive what goes on around her. She becomes accustomed to adopting NM’s beliefs, perceptions, and opinions as reality and when dissonance arises she automatically resolves it by discounting anything that runs contrary to NM.

Some children don’t succumb. They either outwardly dispute the difference in perceptions or they pretend to accept NMs views while silently holding their own. Either way, they don’t learn that their mothers are rational, trustworthy people, nor do they have a model for rational observation and thinking.

No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.

This assumes, of course, that she can be brought to an apology. My NM died when I was 52 and I cannot, over all of those years, ever recall a single apology from her, ever. Not to anyone for anything. Not even a perfunctory “sorry” when she bumped someone or stepped on their feet: it was their fault for being in her way, why should she apologize to them? She once punished me for something my GCBro did and later found out he had actually done it and then punished him for it as well. I waited for her to apologize and when it didn’t happen, I screwed up my courage and asked her about it. Her response? “Consider it punishment for something you did do that I didn’t catch you at.” Even when she knew she was wrong, no apology ever escaped her lips.

Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting”…

Many of my DoNM friends call this a “fauxpology.” And that is exactly what it is: a false apology.

My NM might have made these comments, but they would be made in an exaggerated, condescending, and sarcastic tone. She was never really sorry for anything because she was never wrong. Children of such a mother learn that apologizing is undesirable, even bad, and something to be avoided...but something to be extracted from others as a punishment or humiliation. The last thing they learn is remorse and the cleansing nature of genuine apology: instead they learn to rationalize, lie, and blame others. My NM might say something like “Well, Miss Priss, I am soooooo sorry that I hurt your little feelings. I’ll be sure to be more careful around them next time,” in a tone just oozing sarcasm, but she would never say anything that could be construed as a genuine apology.

“I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive”

I was often accused of not having a sense of humour as a kid. My stepfather, Frank, liked to tease me and I invariably took him seriously. NM labelled me gullible, but I had grown up in an environment in which it was downright dangerous to mistake something NM said as a jest. It was always safer to err on the side of seriousness. Often I would hear “Oh, for Chrissakes, it was a joke! What is wrong with you?”

I never knew where I stood with her. When I was about 16, I was in the kitchen with her one evening, wearing a skirt I often wore to school and a long pull over sweater. She smacked mein the stomach with the back of her hand saying “pull your stomach in! you look like you are 3 months pregnant!” I don’t (and didn’t even then) particularly like very tight clothes but if wearing the comfortably loose things I preferred made her suspect I was pregnant, then I probably needed to snug a few things up a bit. I took a dress that had been given to me by my stepmother and took it in a little, enough to show off my figure a bit more but still loose enough to sit comfortably. NM had a screaming fit, accusing me of being a slut and a whore and trolling for customers! It did not occur to me until years later that the dress made it plain that I had a much better shape than she did and the whole meltdown was because of jealousy—I just thought that I had misinterpreted, mis-read what she wanted from me yet again.

It was not until years later I could look back and see how capricious she was, and how insensitive. She regularly called me “hypersensitive” and if one of her cruel remarks hurt me, I had better not let her see it. For one thing, if she saw my nose go red or my eyes start to smart, she would get angrier at me…and further cruel and disdainful. “Oh, for god’s sake,” she would say, “not the water works again!” Or “Don’t you start that damned blubbering again,” or the classic “If you want to cry, I’ll really give you something to cry about!” Secondly—and perhaps most important—was that if I let her know what upset me, it gave her a weapon to use against me again and again.

I was hypersensitive and she was never, ever wrong, therefore my tears weren’t genuine, they were “crocodile tears” designed to play on her sympathy.

“I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.

This is a very manipulative kind of thing to say. And it is passive aggressive. And self-pitying. You, who have been wronged and are owed an apology, get from her a fauxpology that makes her the victim and you the bad guy. How’s that for neatly turning the tables and twisting the truth? And what does this do to children growing up under this kind of influence? Depending on whether you are a scapegoat or a GC, you could learn that everything…or nothing…is your fault; that apologies are not for soothing hurt feelings and making amends, they are weapons to be used to humiliate your victims either by extracting them from those who do not owe them, or by twisting the ones truly owed to victimize the victim even further.

My own NM went to her death having convinced herself that her lies, from little ones to whoppers than changed the lives of other people, were true. By rationalizing and justifying her lies and her nefarious deeds, she could believe herself right and justified in everything she did, even reversing herself and remaining right both in her original deed and in the undoing of it—a neat trick, if you ask me. For example, she married my father and later divorced him…but she would never say that marrying my father was a mistake because she was always right—she didn’t make mistakes. Her rationalization was that marrying him was the only way she could get away from her oppressive Old World father, therefore it was the right thing to do. That she was 16 and her father was no more oppressive than the fathers of other 16-year-old girl of that era was not material: she wanted to run her own life and marrying my father was an immediate and certain way to do that. So, even though she divorced him later, she did not consider marrying my father a mistake: it was merely an means to an end, he served his purpose and then she got rid of him. Without remorse, without regret, without any thought for the feelings of the people who would be hurt by her actions.

And not an apology in sight because you only apologize when you are wrong and, of course, she was never, ever that!


Next: Part 21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings


Monday, August 20, 2012

She projects: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 19

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 19. She projects.

She projects. This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do.

In projection “... a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people. Thus, projection involves imagining or projecting the belief that others originate those feelings.”

Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you.

“My MNM was a master at projection. When I learned to set a proper table in my Home Ec class and tried to replicate it at home, my mother’s immediate reaction was to assume I wanted something from her. When I later asked for a ride to my Girl Scout meeting, she assumed that I was “buttering her up” so she would be inclined to give me that ride, the fact that I needed a ride every week somehow forgotten. When I did something unexpected, her response was often to think I was “buttering her up” or the contrary—“are you trying to make me mad?” There was some kind of calculating motive behind virtually everything she did and, in true projection mode, she believed others operated just as calculatedly as she did…and often she ascribed to others the feelings or reasons that would have been her own motivations.”

When I was older and spending more time out of the house, NM began accusing me of behaviours that, in all truth, had never occurred to me. Years later she resurrected some of those accusations by telling me that she never could trust me, that she knew I was “running around with men,” and other only slightly veiled accusations. I didn’t understand it when it was happening…I mean, where on earth did she get those ideas??...but thanks to my father I understood it the second time around. It was my father who explained “projection” to me and told me that the things she was accusing me of were the very things she had actually done when she was my age. Decades later, one of her brothers confirmed that her behaviour during her teens was anything but circumspect, so I ended up getting punished for things she did as a teenager, because she was projecting her behaviour onto me.

This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to. An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter's weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women's weight and so accepts her mother's projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn't true.

I am really not sure if this applies to my NM or not—I didn’t see many similarities between us although I suppose her obsession with my romantic life could apply. She was quite convinced I was trying to attract the attention of her boyfriends and later, her husband. She gave me a bad time about “modesty”—sorry, but this was beachside Southern California during the height of the surfing craze—we girls lived in bikinis and shorts and tube tops. Also, my bedroom was actually one end of the kitchen—no door, no curtain, no nothing to separate it from the rest of the apartment. And, to top it off, I was not allowed to lock the bathroom door so Frank could (and did) walk in on me whenever he felt like it. But her eyes saw seduction on my part probably because that is what she would have been doing in my place.

However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She's enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you'll talk about it when you've calmed down and are no longer hysterical.

It is important to realize that our NParents are not the only Ns in our lives. Having been raised by Ns, we are conditioned to respond to them in a way that attracts them. We end up with narcissistic romantic partners, narcissistic spouses, and even narcissists we call friends. And they can hurt us just as badly as our NParents—sometimes worse, since we don’t expect the kind of treatment from them that we come to expect from our NParents. As our eyes are opened to narcissism, we begin to see it everywhere, which can make us doubt the validity of our perceptions: all of these people can’t narcissists, can they? It is most of my friends and a large part of my family! Sadly, yes they can: once trained and primed by our NParents to provide NSupply on demand, we attract them like bees to honey. Over time we begin to realize some of our friends and family members are also Ns and start dropping them from our social calendars. But sometimes we have difficulty, not willing to dump someone simply because we think they might be narcissists. And then they do something, like my friend Mandy* experienced, that removes all doubt.

Mandy was going through a divorce and decided to skip her 20th reunion in favour of some decompression time with her kids and her family. A long-time friend, Allison*, was angry with Mandy for skipping the reunion and “punished” her by refusing to communicate with her for a month. When Mandy sent her a message about her lack of communication, Allison ignored the message. When she was finally over her snit Allison tried to ease her way back into communication with Mandy by “liking” some of her FaceBook posts, but Mandy confronted her about not replying to her message. Allison claimed never to have received the message, which Mandy knew was not true. Allison became very angry and told Mandy she would talk with her about it later, after she (Mandy) had “calmed down.” Since Mandy had been perfectly calm up to this point, Allison’s projecting, gaslighting and lack of empathy suddenly struck her that it was like trying to communicate with her NM. The light went off in Mandy’s head and her friendship with Allison bit the dust.

You aren't hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That's intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you're so unreasonable.

Allison was essentially demanding that Mandy put her and her wants above what Mandy and her kids needed. When Mandy refused and Allison made an issue of it, surely some part of her knew that Mandy and her children needed some time away , some restorative time with family, but she continued to put herself first…a shameless demand in anyone’s book.

Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You'll talk about it again “later” - probably when she's worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you're more inclined to do what she wants.

While Allison actually told Mandy that she would discuss the matter with her later, completely ignoring and invalidating Mandy, some Ns take a different tactic: my ex would table a discussion as soon as it got close to resolution and the resolution might involve him accepting responsibility for something or changing a behaviour pattern or attitude. I would make a clear demand: no racist remarks in front of the children—you can be a racist if you want, but don’t teach it to my kids—and he would simply say “I don’t want to talk about this now.” When pressed for a time when we could discuss his racism and unashamed displays of it, it was always some vague future time. If I brought up again, before he made another blatant racist remark that would re-open the discussion, I was nagging him and if I didn’t shut up, he would say he would never discuss it with me. He knew that harbouring and expressing racist sentiments wrong and that he should be shamed by them, but by projecting incorrect behaviour (nagging, telling him what to do, expecting him to change) onto me, he could reassert his shamelessness and continue on with his behaviour, unabated.

Projection is actually a form of denial. The narcissist denies or minimizes her unseemly behaviour or beliefs or desires or feelings by projecting them onto you, then takes you to task for it, leaving her blameless as a newborn babe. It’s just one more of their ways of keeping their fantasy worlds intact and the rest of us off balance and compliant.


*Not their real names

Next: Part 20. She is never wrong about anything.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

She’s exploitative: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 18

The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/ 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

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 18. She's exploitative.

She's exploitative. She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing.

I am not sure how she did this—my stepmother said NM used sex (although she also said NM didn’t like sex) but I used to be amazed at the things she got. When we first moved to California, we were dead broke. I was only 4, but I remember the battered old car, the cheap one-room “residential motel” we first lived in, and the low-income government housing after that. And yet, within two years, we were moving into a house of our own… For a long time I just assumed they bought it with a VA approved loan until one day I put all of the fragments together—she was sleeping with the guy they bought the house from! He was carrying the mortgage himself and my NM would go over to his house every month or so to make the payment. She came home with stories of his new, younger wife’s extravagances…her “Chinese” furniture, her custom-made and custom-upholstered furniture, custom-made draperies for the picture windows—even her fancy Springolator pumps. The woman was a spendthrift and was going to run Frank broke, according to NM.

It didn’t click for me until years later, but all the signs were there. And then my father moved out and NM started dating again and who did she set her cap for? Frank. And eventually she caught. And it was she who ran him broke, not Marti the “spendthrift” previous wife (whom I had met on a couple of occasions and liked very much). So successfully manipulative was she that, after Marti moved out, NM’s closet was suddenly full of Springolator pumps and dresses too small for her (size 9) that she did her damnedest to squeeze into. Marti was gone, but everything that was Marti’s, from her clothes and shoes to her furniture to her house, her dog and her husband, suddenly belonged to NM.

It took her a number of years to pull the whole scheme off: we got that first house when I was 6 and by the time I was 14 her plan had come to fruition. When Marti divorced Frank, to keep her from getting half of his assets, NM convinced Frank to sell all of his assets to her for $1 on the promise that when the divorce was settled, she would reverse the transaction. It worked but for one flaw: Frank had trusted the wrong person. NM held out and teased and basically led him a merry chase until he realized that the only way to get his stuff back was to marry her. It took me years to realize that she could engage in that kind of long-term planning…it took her less than three years to plot and pull off the theft of my children: it took her a good eight to get Frank to the altar.

Charlie’s NM was no better, but she didn’t have the patience for the long games my NM loved to play. She was more of an “instant gratification” kind of person and wanted things done now…right now…while she was standing there. When she bought a new house, she expected Charlie to drop everything, run to her house and build her a deck and a carport, all at his own expense, of course. When he was “too busy,” or “didn’t have time,” she would ignore him for months at a time, failing to invite him to family dinners, ignore his birthday, etc. Being a widower and having no other family, Charlie was devastated by this rejection so of course he complied.

This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out.

I never had any money—I literally was not allowed to have any! For every A I earned on my report card, my grandmother would give me 10 cents. It doesn’t sound like much now, but then you could get a bottle of coke and a chocolate bar—or a comic book—for 10 cents. I was a good student and so I would send her my report cards and she would send back money, which NM would take away and say she was keeping it for me. She kept it all right—I never saw a penny of it again. The same with money send to me in cards for my birthday or Christmas. A peculiar little game was the “fairness” game where, if she spent more money on GCBro for gifts, she would make up the difference to me in cash, usually some odd amount like $1.36 or $2.21…this was her way of proving she treated us equally. And then she would take the money to keep it for me and I never saw it again!

When I lived with my grandparents during the summers, I would pick strawberries and beans to earn money, like all of the other kids in that small town. I would save up to buy something “good” that I wanted, like a teddy bear (the only teddy bear I had during my childhood I bought with money I earned picking crops) or a doll or something. NM, of course, had other ideas and any money I had not spent by the time she came to pick me up and take me back to California for the school year, she confiscated. She said I had to help pay for the gas for her to drive all that way to pick me up and bring me home!

Wise to her ways, the summer before my senior year, my grandmother took me and all of my picking money on a spending spree at the outlet stores in Portland. I got a Janssen sweater, a Pendleton skirt, a White Stag coat—all premium brands at the time. I bought most of my wardrobe for school on that shopping trip and when NM came to pick me up and the money was all spent, she was livid. She demanded the receipts from my grandmother who, with an incredibly straight face, told her they had been burned in the fireplace with the “rest of the trash” just the night before. I thought my mother was going to explode because she never, ever threw tantrums in front of her parents—she had to control the fury that was boiling inside her and she looked like she was going to pop with rage!

When we got in the car to go back to California, as we got out of town NM asked me “How much money do you have left?” When I told her I had $10, she stuck out her hand. “Hand it over,” she said without offering an explanation or reason. I never saw it again.

She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn't file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.

I have heard of NMs who have stolen their child’s identity because their own credit was wrecked, so they started on their child’s. One of my brothers had a wife who stole my dad’s identity to buy a new refrigerator then failed t make payments on it. It wasn’t until the account was in serious arrears (and my father’s credit damaged) that someone actually called my dad about it. Apparently the caller said to my father “When do you plan to make a payment on the refrigerator?” and my father said “What refrigerator?” and the whole scheme came to light. Charla was quite the little N, putting out the image of the perfect family all the while stealing from families and employers alike, sending out Christmas newsletters in which she claimed to have cancer (but was miraculously healed by the next letter) and completely engulfing her daughter by a previous marriage. It was like a family joke that nobody loaned anything to Charla that they wanted back because once she had it, it was hers forever! Not one person in the family was surprised to learn her first husband committed suicide and we were all hugely relieved when she and my brother divorced.

My NM never made agreements with me—that would have meant treating me, even for a moment, like a whole human being for which she had some kind of respect. She made promises—usually involving mayhem (“You say a word and I promise you, you will be talking out of the other side of your mouth for a week!”)—and she made threats, but she never made bargains. And, with the exception of promises of mayhem, you couldn’t trust her word on anything. If she said she would take you to the library on Saturday and she changed her mind, you took your physical safety in your hands to bring it up to her. She was Queen, she was always right, and you just went along with whatever she dished out, if you knew what was good for you.

Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child's bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child.

I am quite sure this occurs in some narcissistic households—and I have read about such things in news accounts of children being severely injured or killed: the mother has a violent abuser for a husband or boyfriend and to divert his rages from her, she says something about the child (not necessarily true) that will cause him to abuse the child rather than her. I don’t know how anyone can do this: I was married to an abusive man once and when one of our rows frightened the children and started them crying, he stormed towards their bedroom to “teach them a lesson.” He was the one who learned the lesson—never threaten my children, especially when I have a hot steam iron in my hand! (I still can’t believe I could throw it that far or that my aim was so good!).

Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work.

My malignant narcissist ex-husband Jack had a mother like this. When his youngest sister, Bonnie, was about 12 or 13, Jack’s father told Jack’s mother that when Bonnie graduated from high school, he was going to move out and get a divorce and move away from their small Ohio town. Rhonda, Jack’s mother, promptly seduced Jack Sr. and got pregnant again, assuming this would keep her husband around for another 18 years.

Well, it didn’t work. As promised, when Bonnie graduated from high school, Jack Sr. packed up, moved out, got a divorce and left the state. Rhonda completely lost interest in the last child and while she made sure he was fed, housed, and clothed, she completely ignored the most basic medical care and socialization. He came to live with us when he was 16 because she could not longer manage him and he was failing school despite a genius level IQ. I had to see to braces and prep for jaw surgery, get his grades up (he eventually made the Dean’s List), teach him basic table manners and simple courtesies.

This boy had been born to patch a sick marriage and which he failed to fulfil the destiny his mother conceived him for, she virtually abandoned him. He once said to me, angry that he was being punished for a transgression, “My mother loves me! She lets me do anything I want.” He didn’t want to hear that what she was doing was neglecting him, although eventually, as an adult, he finally “got” it.

The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.

This one happened to me. Frank was a lech and I spent a lot of energy staying out of his clutches. He was 20 years older than NM but it didn’t stop him from ogling a teenaged girl at every opportunity.

I had a great dilemma with Frank—NM never allowed me to lock doors, not even the bathroom door. If she wanted to sneak up on you and see what you were doing, she didn’t want a locked door to impede her. And yet, Frank couldn’t seem to hear the shower running when I was in it, walking into the bathroom to take a leak while I was showering behind a thin plastic curtain.

When I was 16 I foolishly put myself in a position where he was able to fondle me sexually and I couldn’t get away from him without alerting NM. That may sound odd, but both Frank and I knew that if NM knew what he was doing, he would not be the one blamed, I would. And with the black reputation she had already given me with my family, it was unlikely anybody would believe me innocent.

Years later, when I was in therapy, one of my actions was to write both of my parents and tell them about this incident. Their responses were so very different: my father was so enraged—it was like it had just happened the day before and he was furious. He said if he (Frank) wasn’t already dead, he’d hunt him down and kill him himself.

NM, on the other hand, refused to believe it. She sent me back a card with her reply written inside, a card that had on the front a cartoon drawing of a bedraggled and sad-looking little knight astride a downtrodden horse and the words “You’ll never hurt me again…” were printed on the front. In her reply she told me I was slandering the dead, but that if it did happen, she was certain that I “instigated” it. And then she seemed to get confused and twisted the whole thing around to make it look like I was accusing my own father—and her bizarre response to that was that it was impossible for my father to have molested me because he was married to her at the time. What? Being married to her was some kind of protective magic??

Now, how narcissistic is that??

Next: Part 19. She projects.


Friday, August 17, 2012

She “parentifies”: Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers Pt 17

 The black text is a shortened version of an original work by Chris, The Harpy’s Child. Original at https://sites.google.com/site/harpyschild/  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

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Part 17. She “parentifies.”

I had a really difficult time with this. Until I read the descriptions below, I could not conceive of my NM “parentifying” me simply because she seemed so capable and independent and strong, and my sense of the word conjured up images of a weak, dependent mother making her child take care of her. Boy! Was I wrong!

She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could.

In a time when most mothers stayed home with their kids, mine had a job. She hired live-in Mexican “housekeepers,” illegals who spoke no English, to take care of me and my brother. I picked up enough Spanish to act as an interpreter between NM and Rosie, or Maria or Consuelo (we had a string of them) when she would call to give instructions.

When my brother started school full time, the housekeepers abruptly disappeared. Now, age 7 or 8, I was responsible for watching my brother after school, doing chores, making him do his chores. When we got up for school, it was my job to make sure we were both fed and dressed and out the door and at school on time. I had to collect him from his classroom at lunch time, walk him home, make lunch for both of us, then walk him back to class. After school I had to wash up all of the breakfast and lunch dishes, peel potatoes for dinner and do a host of other chores, all the while minding a younger brother who was bigger than I was and who refused to do anything he didn’t feel like doing. And, of course, since it was my job to make him do his chores and stay home after school, if it wasn’t done, I was the one who got punished.

I was even expected to bake a cake after school three times a week. It was to be baked, cooled, and frosted before NM got home from work. They were cake mix cakes, so that made it a little easier, but I was not allowed to use the electric mixer so the batter had to be stirred up by hand. I never figured out why an electric mixer was “too dangerous” for me to use, but a gas oven that had to be lit with a match was perfectly safe!

She denied you medical care, adequate clothing, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself.

Every one of those things. I got glasses because my science teacher could see I was struggling to read the board and he sent me to the school nurse and she threatened my mother with turning her over to the county for child neglect if she didn’t get me glasses (boy, I caught a week of hell for that!!) when NM told her I was “faking” and it was an “attention getting device.” I got my first visit to the dentist at age 14 the same way—a painful cavity sent me to the nurse for help, she called NM with the same result: I was malingering and seeking sympathy. Since the nurse could actually see the cavities in my molars, she was adamant and I again caught hell. But NM got her teeth cleaned every six months, religiously, by the same dentist whom she “could not afford” to send me to until I was 14 and had four massive cavities.

She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Not once in my entire life. Your friends were never welcome in her house. By high school there was one friend…but then she found out the girl was Jewish and the shit hit the fan. She didn't like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. Yep…she wouldn’t even pick me up from a bus stop a mile away at 8 pm in the dark in the middle of winter. I had to walk. She wouldn't buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. The only reason I even got my senior pictures is that I had a job my senior year and bought them myself. If you look in family albums, you will see not one school picture of me—but she had no problem finding money for beer, cigarettes, cocktail dresses, and nights “barhopping.” You had a niggardly clothing allowance or she bought you the cheapest clothing she could without embarrassing herself. Yup—or she raided her own closet and gave me things 10 years out of date and totally unsuited. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you're making money, why don't you pay for that yourself?” Yup—the money that paid for my hairspray, deodorant, feminine hygiene supplies, school supplies, even having my hair done for a school dance, all came from my wages—not even from the child support my father paid like clockwork. You studied up on colleges on your own and choose a cheap one without visiting it. College didn’t happen for me until I was 38. You signed yourself up for the SATs, earned the money to pay for them and talked someone into driving you to the test site. But I took the SATs and CEEBs in high school anyway, and if it hadn’t been for a boyfriend with his own car, that wouldn’t have happened. You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.” I got married to a military man and she offered to take me to the commissary monthly only if I agreed to go to the base exchange and buy her cigarettes at the military discount!!

She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage.

I especially had trouble with this one because she never showed the least amount of emotional frailty or vulnerability. It was not until the last sentence above that it clicked for me: I was her emotional caregiver because from as early as I can remember, I had to control myself, my brother and our environment to keep NM from blowing up into a towering rage. I can recall an incident as far back as age four…Looking at the concept of being her emotional caregiver from the angle of trying to prevent her seething, raging tantrums make it clear. That was how I spent most of my early life—hypervigilant to things that would piss her off and send her into a rage, doing my best to run interference, even to the point of doing my brother’s chores rather than suffer her fury. Inevitably, when she got angry, somehow it became my fault and I got punished for it. It was in my own best interests to manage as much as I could to keep her from blowing up.

You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her.

This is very true, but I am not sure if I was responsible for making it right because, quite frankly, I don’t think she wanted it made right. She revelled in having something to complain about, especially if it was something in which she could play the innocent, righteously indignant victim. But I was never allowed to display any emotion beyond what she expected at any given time: I should be overjoyed with the meanest gift, I should be penitent when punished, I should be eager to obey her every command. Sadness, sorrow, fear, difficulty in school—those things were for me to handle without her knowledge. I was not to burden her further.

From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you.

I suppose this is why I never trusted or liked her. As a young child, I literally feared for my life when she was angry, no matter who she was angry at, because I knew for a certainty that her anger would eventually come back to me. When I was 14 she spent an hour or more telling me how everything wrong in her life was my fault because if I hadn’t been born, her life would have been different. And while that was true—it most certainly would have been different if she hadn’t married and had a child before she was 18—there’s no guarantee that “different” would have also been “better.”

She made a point of telling me lies about my father, especially when he was gone after the divorce, and it was years before I realized that she had made it a point to get rid of everything I ever got attached to: my toys, my pets, even my father. I was not allowed to love anything—and somehow, depriving me of the things I loved made her feel good. Humiliating me made her feel good. Withholding approval and affection made her feel good. The only thing I did well enough for her was be her scapegoat: I was there and I didn’t fight back for many, many years.

You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses.

When I was a child I remember getting punished for something my brother did and later, NM found out he did it and actually punished him for it. And while I don’t remember what the infraction was, I clearly remember waiting and waiting for her to appear and apologize. I had already planned that I would set a good example for her by being magnanimous and accepting her apology, something I though she needed to be able to do. I waited and waited and when nothing happened and went to her and actually asked if she was going to apologize to me (where I got the chutzpah for that I will never know!).

She laughed at me. She laughed out loud. “Apologize for what?” she demanded, and when I told her, she laughed again. “Consider that punishment for something you did that I didn’t catch you at,” she told me. “Now get out of here before I punish you for being so insolent!”

As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.

I know a number of DoNMs who did not have malignant NMs like mine, and they have reported this kind of thing, even to the point of confiding inappropriately intimate information about their romantic lives. Whenever your mother treats you like her best girlfriend, pouring out all her woes and troubles, be they romantic, marital, financial or whatever, that it inappropriate. It is not the role of the daughter to emotionally shore up her mother but the other way around.

Mine, a malignant NM, would never allow herself to be seen as weak and needy so she expressed this kind of thing in rages, screaming and cursing “How dare he do this to me?” or “That low-down sneaking dirty bastard…” and the like. One of my indelible memories of my NM was her mouth, smeared with a bright bloody-red lipstick painted outside the margins of her lips, filled with her crooked, yellow, nicotine-stained teeth. Always her mouth going, skewering people, raging, spitting out venom and curses and filth. If I close my eyes, I can still see it…

Next: Part 18. She's exploitative.