First off, before I say anything else – Half of the title of this post comes from a film I saw last night which hit one of those buttons within that is a good trigger for someone who grew up with narcissistic parents.
This – Happythankyoumoreplease – is a great Indie film, whatever your story… it has a story for you.
It’s a story about people being people, whether they are grown-ups or children, or something in between – an adult in a child’s body, or a child in an adult’s body, or… just a people, whatever the age in whatever body they are, being a bit childish and a bit adultish, trying to figure themselves, their life, others and their lives, out.
We’re all trying to figure this out, sometimes we do it together, sometimes we do it alone, sometimes… it’s a bit of both… sometimes we’re the adult, sometimes we’re the child, sometimes we’re a bit of both… whatever it is, it’s always a bit of a mess.
We’re a bit of a mess, admitting it and asking others to be kind (a scene from the film). But others are a mess too, and need us to be kind too… what a mess!
Try to tidy it up, and you’ll end up feeling like certain types of parents feel, whether you’re a parent or not, about their children, whether they are children or not – perhaps they’re your significant other, you, or whatever… which can be funny – 26 Reasons Kids Are Pretty Much Just Tiny Drunk Adults. But it can also be something else…
Especially when you’re the adult child of a narcissist parent or parents. In this particular case – your children (parents) are never going to grown up, and you’ll never grow up either (you were never a child)… because they won’t allow it.
Apparently if they don’t allow it, it never happens or happened.
The second half of the title of this post is something familiar to me, not just with my parents but also with people in general, with society as a collective noun for people in general (people not in general are… different), and which I think is probably familiar to all people, not just children of narcissists… children of narcissists just tend to be more acutely aware of the divide between what you’re supposed to say, expected to say and… what you’d actually like to say, what you actually think and feel… and want to blurt out with a shout.
The former tends to be the thing you’re going to regret not doing and saying if you do and say the latter… because, as a Pin which I saw passing by on my Pinterest timeline so succinctly put it…
People prefer it when you tell them what they want to hear rather than what you want to say, unless the two things are the same.
People prefer it when you people-please them… but they don’t prefer it when they have to repay the favour and people-please you, unless repaying the favour pleases them.
Which leads me to what I’m supposed to say in this post as a blogger who has blogged about being a child of narcissists (and whose posts about that end up in the first few pages of Google results when doing those kinds of searches = getting this kind of request from strangers who are people who want pleasing) and who was contacted by people studying such things as I am and such things as my parents are as part of a survey into such things.
So, this is what I have been asked (told) to do by the surveyors…
Here’s a link you to a post on another blog – The Narcissistic Continuum – which has posted the same form letter which I was sent and was asked (told) to do exactly the same thing:
Parental Communication Study Thanks ACoNs!
by those conducting the study in communication, Valerie Coles, Ph.D. and Dr. Jennifer Monahan of the University of Georgia’s Department of Communication Studies, which thanks ACoNs for participating in their ‘Parental Communication Measure Study‘ survey of the narcissistic parent’s style of communication so they can create a scale to help identify narcissist parents…. thanks to you sharing your experience (of something that has always been off the scales).
I realise that they are probably too busy to reply personally to each person/blogger whom they contacted and asked to propagate and promote their survey, but… considering the subject… and other aspects of the matter (professors of communication)… and the stated ‘fact’ that one of them is a ACoN…
A form letter as a form of communication… really!?! Sent to a child of narcissists… whom you asked to do you a favour and…
I wish I could not think this way, but I do… I was raised to think this way… and that, and that-a-way too.
Happythankyoumoreplease… irony, cynicism, realism, or some form of Zen about being, doing, experiencing, relating…?
The title of the film comes from an experience which one of the characters has after getting in a taxi in New York… the taxi driver decided to share a lecture of sorts about the importance of gratitude towards what life throws at us. Say thank you and ask for more please…?….!…? when all the passenger wanted to do was to get from A to B with… out a lecture… but, you know, life and its lemons and other projectiles.
It sorts itself out… sort of… later in the film.
Life sorts itself out… sort of… later in life.
I always thought of that as the moment you came into focus… like, “Oh, there you are.”
“People aren’t against you: they are for themselves”. – should be a shirt!
It’s a great quote, isn’t it! 🙂
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Yep, and I hate shirts with words, I’d wear that one.
There’s a scene in the film I mentioned in the post where a guy and his gal have a bit of an argument about wearing t-shirts with words which is beautifully observed. It’s strange to have people reading your chest or to find yourself trying to read someone else’s chest 🙂
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I agree, along with character clothes, and shirts which advertise.
My boyfriend has this shirt with The Joker on the front, it’s HUGE! He is 6’4, I am 5ft. So imagine how THAT LOOKS! Like I am walking around with side-by-side with The Joker. 😡 So unattractive, I refuse to go anywhere with him, in that shirt. Oh he accidentally shrunk it, DARN!
Oh, no! The problem with objecting to someone’s choice of T, even if it is logical and affects you when they’re wearing it, is that they then wear it deliberately to make a point, people take their t-shirts very seriously, like a second skin and part of their identity for the world to see. Grumble about it and they take it as a grumble about them.
I once went to one of those shops which make individualised t-shirt slogans for you, and created what I thought was a ‘masterpiece’ of a t-shirt that expressed me in every word. Ugh! It was a masterpiece of a bad idea! I wore it once and people kept asking me to explain it or they’d tell me what they thought it meant and… that was ironic in a way that I didn’t appreciate – life was laughing at me. These days I’d laugh with life at myself, but in those days… you live and learn.
In some ways a blog is kind of like a t-shirt with words on it 😉
I think your reaction to the same “form letter” being sent to ACoN bloggers is fully understandable. It brings up the objectification ACoNs experienced when our individuality was invalidated. I’ll admit to feeling a bit-of-a-sting after discovering the same “request” letter had been sent to everyone else. However, I’ve promoted other studies and this is the only time researchers have followed through with “measured” communication. They sent the inquiry, answered my questions, sent an update and now a thank you. Usually, I link the test/study after an emailed request and then….blitz…zero…nothing. I figured those researchers were proficient in analyzing data but could benefit from a heavy-duty course on etiquette. And maybe empathy. ;-P
My sense is that Valerie Coles and Dr. Monahan wanted to keep respondents updated because the internet moves so quickly. The easiest way to communicate with us frequently, was a form letter; and, not to be crass or anything, but it would be safer sending the same letter to each person so no single blogger would be favored over any other. With the exception maybe, of the oldest blogger being first on the list. *grin* (just kidding!!! not about my age but about being first-in-line! An argument over who goes first in line at the family buffet. The result of my persuasive skills? The first in line are the kids with the fastest feet).
I think it’s very honest that you dared bring up this topic. ACoNs frequently judge themselves as being “overly sensitive” rather than confronting the issue. (or even being aware enough to articulate the issue!) I don’t know how researchers could improve communication with websites hosting studies; but what I do know is that nothing changes if ACoNs don’t assert themselves by expressing their reactions, their thoughts and feelings. I’m glad you brought this up.
Thank you very much, CZ 🙂
I didn’t have a problem with the form letter per se. It’s great that they want to thank people for participating in their study. I actually didn’t expect to hear from them after the survey was over, other than to perhaps share the results of their work at a later date. Them sending a form letter to all of us was fairly logical as the first interaction with Valerie was through a formal form-like introduction to her, her work and the survey. Valerie herself is really personable and gives good email when she’s writing directly to you. The study itself sounds very interesting and I look forward to seeing what they do with the results.
What bothered me was that they sent me the same follow-up form letter twice in a short space of time, and the tone was slightly officious and insistent. It just struck me that considering the subject of the study, and the reason why they contacted me in the first place, and the fact that they are professors who teach and study communication, that their communication skills were a bit iffy in this instance, lacking a certain understanding.
I’m always a bit cranky, and at the moment I’m a bit stressed out too, and something about it prodded my crank, and when my crank gets prodded I get bolshy and blurt stuff out. I just felt that a boundary between being asked to do something and being told to do something had been crossed, and in this scenario that’s not on.
And you’re absolutely right about ACoNs needing to tell it as they see it and feel it, one of the benefits of that is you find out that the world is not full of narcissists and that most people can handle not being people-pleased. It also acts as a narc repellent.
I think you did a great post about it, which is why I linked to it. Your blog is an awesome resource for information about NPD in all its aspects, and has been for a long time – so if they’d shown favoritism towards you, I would have applauded their wisdom, you totally deserve it! Rock on!
Thank you very much for your kind words, Ursula! I have been supporting people for a very long time and your recognition has boosted my spirits this morning. I would like to invite you to our next family reunion so you can lobby for the oldest people to go first in the buffet line. ;-P
I understand better where you were coming from now, after reading your response to Lynette d’Arty-Cross. In thinking about communication between website hosts and researchers, it might be better to include a “form letter” that is clearly separate from the rest of the email. There was some confusion (at least for me) as to what was “form” and what was “personal.” Maybe letting hosts know what would be expected of them, from the original request to completion, would help. Any thoughts about that?
Thank you very much 🙂
Your family get togethers always sound awesome! I would however decline to lobby for who gets to go first in line at the buffet – never get between people and food, especially when it is a delicious buffet. Yummy food + hungry people = free for all 😉
I think you’re right that if someone is sending you a form letter they should make it clear, and it would be nice to have a personalised nod from them to you about it, especially if you’ve had a personal interaction in between form letters, otherwise it’s a tad confusing and can lead to a certain souring of what is a good cause and interaction. A good bedside manner before, during and particularly after is important, especially if they intend to ask you for help at a later date.
Letting any researchers who contact you know what you expect from them sounds like a good idea. We do set the standard of how people treat us in our first interaction with them, as they do with us, the rest is up to them.
I think Valerie Coles has her heart in the right place, she wanted to thank us and everyone who participated, but she went about it in a slightly overly intellectual and formal manner. She thought things through in a way which missed a part of the picture, which is that sometimes you have to do more than think thinks through, you have to feel things through too.
Frankly, I think the response they got was more than they expected and they were not prepared for it, so they went a bit panic-stations (which in people who are professors probably means retreating into the safety of dealing with things intellectually). I did warn her that they might get far more than they bargained for as it is a deeply sensitive and impacting issue which has affected many people.
We learn by doing, adapting, and trying again.
Did you read her study of emotion and conflict – https://getd.libs.uga.edu/pdfs/coles_valerie_b_201105_ma.pdf
I read your response to CZ and I think I understand. I have described myself as a “yes” person (I’m working on this) and I also freeze a bit when I hear an officious tone. My immediate first reaction is to not do what I’m being asked to do although I frequently ignore it and apply a rational approach. I agree that people who specialize in studying ACoNs should be rather more cautious (and knowledgeable) – the triggers are profound and run deep.
One of my favourite articles about NPD is this one – http://www.arachnoid.com/psychology/narcissism_revisited.html – the author is sharing an email conversation he had with someone about narcissists, as well as revisiting his own experience and his understanding. He makes some excellent points and outlines many issues which are very insightful.
This bit in particular hit a spot for me:
“You can easily detect narcissists, including the everyday non-malignant kind, by how they process personal interactions. To a normal person, anything you do for them is a gift, and they will normally thank you for it, and possibly think of a way to reciprocate in kind. To a narcissist, by contrast, anything you do is part of an instant obligation you have to him, it isn’t good enough, and you have a permanent responsibility to try harder to please him. Your efforts will always turn out to be inadequate, but the narcissist will generously let you try again. And again.”
and a bit later he says:
“With normal people, your sincere efforts are not an obligation but a gift, and on average your contributions make things better. Normal people do what they can to keep things balanced, by giving as much as they get. Over time normal people develop an instinctive sense of balance, a sense that their relationships are based on equal and mutual advantage.
Contrast this with a narcissist. To a narcissist, even if you and he have never met, you are already responsible for his expectations, and if you should bump into each other, the collision is your fault and you will pay, and then pay some more. You are inadequate, he is perfect, your sole responsibility is to support his perfection, but nothing you do can possibly erase his disappointment in your efforts.”
He also points out that growing up with a narcissist parent can skew your thinking, and you need to review things once you’re an adult. You’ve basically been trained to see yourself in relationships a certain way and that way is for the benefit of the other (the narc parent), and you keep doing this as an adult until you question the pattern.
I’ve noticed that I sometimes almost encourage people to be narcissists with me. There was one incident a long while back where I had the thought – omg I’ve turned this person into a narcissist. Of course that’s bollocks, however there was some truth in it, as in we have a say in how others end up treating us and behaving with us.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying ‘yes’ to people, as long as your ‘yes’ is genuine and you’re happy to say it. You’re getting something from saying ‘yes’ just as they are, and the interaction is balanced. However they may come to assume that you’ll always say ‘yes’ to anything they ask of you, because people tend to simplify other people while they themselves do not like being simplified that way. So they may come to you every time they want a ‘yes’ and you may feel obliged to say ‘yes’ to them because of some unspoken contract that has occurred in this relationship. If your ‘yes’ becomes something you feel you have to give them every time they ask something of you, then saying ‘yes’ becomes forced, wrong, and a bone of contention between you which will become a whole skeleton of resentment at some point. At some point you’ll scream ‘no’ at them, and they will be surprised in an upset kind of manner and then you’ll feel bad about saying ‘no’, and things will probably spiral from there… or they’ll say something like – You should have told me that you didn’t want to do it – because they didn’t know that your ‘yes’ had gone from being genuine to something else, and they’ll be fine with it because it is fine to say ‘no’. Most people are okay with that.
If you grow up with a narcissist as a parent, saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ becomes a minefield. Saying ‘yes’ is easier than saying ‘no’ to others, however what happens is that your ‘yes’ to others often becomes a ‘no’ to yourself. And if you say ‘no’ to yourself on a regular basis, your relationship with yourself becomes one of self denial and… that’s not healthy for you or anyone else, except for narcs who don’t care… however their not caring may end up biting them.
Saying ‘yes’ to requests is rather a nice feeling, lending a hand is supportive and it’s great to feel useful… however there is a fine line between feeling useful and feeling used. Others people aren’t watching out for that where we are concerned, that’s our responsibility. We need to keep an aware eye on our own lines, and not expect others to do that for us – they have a hard enough time keeping an eye on their own lines, because others are usually doing what we are doing where relationships and interactions are concerned. Everyone wants to be liked, be loved… risking being disliked and unloved… we’re all a bit afraid of that. It’s important to support ourselves and others when the answer is ‘no’ to a request, but it can be so complicated to do that sometimes, sometimes all the time.
With myself I have to keep an eye on being rational and logical about others and/or making excuses for them when they tip over line which begins to feel irrational and illogical.
In this case. Communication requires listening. Not just to the other person but also to yourself when you’re talking to the other. Listening is done with more than just the ears. Visual listening is a large part of communication.
And visually… this reply is way too long.
Trust yourself, celebrate you as you (even when the celebration is a ‘boo’), and when you ‘work’ on yourself, support your individuality. When you do that, you pass it on to others too! Don’t be too hard on your ‘yes’ just add ‘no’ to your lexicon 😉
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Excellent reply, thank you for that! As Lynette mentioned, I think a lot of ACoNs have an automatic reaction to either comply OR rebel against orders (or the perception of orders). It’s an either/or reaction. When we realize there’s no freedom in emotional reactions, then we take a more rational approach. Maybe we’ll decide to say “no” anyway (like our initial reaction); but it comes from a place of self-awareness and integrity. I use “we” a lot when writing and don’t mean to offend anyone by that or suggest that my ACoN process is the same as everyone else’s! It just feels better knowing I’m not alone. ;-P
Many narcissistic families are/were based on authoritarian parenting. No wonder we recoil when the voice-of-authority tells us to do something. World War II parents revere obedience as the mark of a god-fearing “good” human being. When parents told us to jump, my generation said, “No”. A younger generation says, “Tell me why! You’re not the boss of me.” haha! I don’t know where that comment came from. ha!
Anyway, I appreciate the link you added in your response to Lynette. I could write an entire post on my experiences with online narcissists. This has been one of the best learning experiences a woman like me could ever ask for. It’s much easier to cope with the fall-out of an online narcissistic temper tantrum than a smear campaign in my neighborhood. I have learned enough to be wary of people with narcissistic traits and I’ve also learned enough to stay open to being “wrong” about my perceptions, too.
Oh, one thing about differences in parenting. When my kids were little, I studied a parenting book called P.E.T. (parenting effectiveness training) and learned to give my children choices. They were not ordered to do things, they were offered three choices and encouraged to make a decision on their own. Perhaps that’s why I thought of the “Tell me why!” response. I assume many other parents of my generation were learning the same techniques to change traditional authoritarian parenting.
So back to your original posting—-small triggers, such as being “told” to do something, can lead us to greater self-awareness.
Thank you very much 🙂
When people ask about online narcissists I tend to refer them to your blog because you have covered the subject in great depth in many excellent posts and know it inside out from a very personal angle.
I agree that there is a black and white style of thinking which ACoNs have, because we were taught to think that way by our narc parents. Life was always either/or and the or was usually ‘or else’ in a ‘do things my way or else you’ll pay for it’. And we paid for it anyway.
Using ‘we’ is great, you are an ACoN so it makes sense, and yes, our individual experiences are individual, but the ‘we’ in this case isn’t a narc ‘we’, it’s a welcome to the club you are no longer alone, which is comforting as you pointed out. And I think the only people who’ll be offended by it are those with NPD – which is a quick way to spot them.
I think – Tell me why – is a good question to ask, for everyone, when asked to do something, and definitely when told to do something. ‘I was only following orders’ is not a reason we want to give later down the line for why we did something.
The P.E.T manual sounds like it might be quite a useful guide for ACoNs as a way to remember that there is always a third option to the black or white of narc parents and other narcissists. Might come in handy as a healing tool.
My mother was given a booklet by the hospital when she gave birth which instructed new parents to ignore their babies when they cried, or at least that’s what she learned from it.
The generational influences on Narcissism are fascinating and insightful.
Thank you for sharing 🙂
A really great article – thank you. 🙂 The distinction he makes is so true! Doing for others IS a gift, not an obligation, and that’s something I had to deal with when living with my ex-narcissist. He expected me to do as he wished or give him what he wanted, and threw a tantrum if he were thwarted. My mom was similar. As I grew up, I learned that it was just easier to say yes. Saying no wasn’t worth the torment and trouble. Until I got to my ex-narcissist. I’m not really sure what happened but with him, I somehow hit my (in)tolerance level (maybe I was tired of saying no to myself?). I definitely reverted later and have had to keep working on it, or perhaps “processing” is a better description. In any event, my “yeses” need to be real “yeses.” It is our responsibility to “keep an aware eye on our own lines” and make “no” be a real word, too.
Your responses aren’t too long at all. I love reading your insights. 🙂
Yes, I learned that too. The power of saying ‘yes’ to a narcissist to make things easier. Give them what they want and they’ll stop bothering you, at least until they want something else.
Problem is, their requests often escalate, they always want more and more because nothing is ever enough. They’re always paranoid that you’re holding something worth having back from them, and everything always looks like gold when you’re holding it and turns to brass when you give it to them, so they think you’ve cheated them, switched the gold for brass, et cetera. And then you’ve backed yourself into a corner.
I would say that what happened with your ex-narc is exactly what you said – you’d had enough by then and because he wasn’t your mother you didn’t have that child/parent dynamic to stop you from saying ‘no’ to narcs.
Saying ‘yes’ to yourself is an amazing feeling and act. But it can be hard to do if you’ve grown up using saying ‘no’ to yourself to say ‘yes’ to others as a protective mechanism. There’s a lot tied up in it which needs to be unraveled, but unraveling it can unravel other things and then you may feel like everything is falling apart.
We need to give ourselves time to do things at our own pace, and to adjust to doing things differently and giving ourselves more freedom to just say it as it is.
The simplest things are sometimes the most complex.
Hi, thanks for a great blog. Feels good to share the struggle and hope, finding comfort, ideas and unexpected soothing actions.
I did like this movie. Josh Radnor’s movie Liberal Arts made my day. No, it really made my week, or two.
Thank you very much 🙂
I haven’t seen Liberal Arts, thank you for the recommendation!
It does feel good to share, and in doing so we find kindred spirits, connections and many lovely things about ourselves and others, about life. I used to keep everything in and felt isolated, disconnected – mind you, I kept everything in because I felt isolated and disconnected. When I shared myself before it always seemed to push people further away or I’d get overwhelmed by what was shared in return and retreat back into myself. The balance between self and other can be more of a seesaw constantly see-sawing, but then you find that sweet spot and the movement becomes fun.
Who we are, and everything which goes with that, when shared while making room for who others are, and everything which goes with that, can be very soothing and inspiring. It’s copacetic.
Thank you all very much, I could put into words what I was going through or feeling, obviously more than the t-shirt comments! 😒! All of your comments and insight has open my eyes and into what I couldn’t pin point. Thank you all very much. I feel less like a cat on the drapery.
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