Life on a Narcissistic Roller Coaster
When I was about 13 years old, my mother and I took a trip to New York City.
The reason for the trip was so that my mother could check up on my father’s business partners in one of his latest ventures. He had a habit, according to my mother, of getting involved with dubious people, and then leaving my mother to tidy up the resulting mess which inevitably occurred.
My mother often exaggerated the negative aspects of my father to accentuate her positive side, or at least her concept of her positive side – the worse he was, the more saintly she seemed.
Her exaggerations weren’t always based on fiction.
My father would have an idea, sometimes a good one, but he didn’t want to deal with the practical details of it, so he’d find someone else to make it happen, turn it into reality, run the business side of it. His choice of partners was based on whim rather than research and references, and his whim had a tendency to choose the most unsuitable person for the job. His ability to do that was phenomenal.
Things would progress in a crooked line until… at some point he would wash his hands of it because it all went wrong and he would move on to something else.
Except in business you can’t just walk away when it doesn’t work out. Well, he could, but…
That’s when my mother would step in. She saw herself as a ‘fixer’. I used to call her Mrs. Fix-it. Except she wasn’t particularly good at fixing things. She was about as talented as my father was when it came to finding crooked candidates to deal with the practical side of business.
Why were they both so gifted at finding the worst people to help them with business matters?
Because they were both narcissists, and narcissists tend to be attracted to other narcissists and similar disorders when it comes to business matters. Those who sell snake oil, miracle cures, overnight success at a reasonable price, instant riches just by pressing a button, magical beans in a world where magic beans don’t grow… but they’ll grow for a narcissist – at least in their mind they will, because they’re special and they have a Master’s degree in the power of positive thinking. If they think it – it will happen.
Those princes who turn into frogs when you kiss them and those beautiful princesses who are witches in disguise, are the ones most likely to be chosen by a narcissist as a business partner.
When everything doesn’t work out as they positively thought it would, as their ideal had it working out, when their house gets blown down – it’s not their fault, the blame gets handed over to the big bad world of others.
The trip to NYC took place during the in-between stage – that time just before my father washed his hands of another cock-up leaving my mother to tidy it up. My father’s business partners had not quite changed form yet, they still had their attractive masks on, however the masks had slipped a bit. There was an issue which had reared its ugly in the land of beauty which my mother was there to sort out.
Everyone was still in ‘being nice’ mode, and to prove this everyone decided that we should all nice each other to death and socialise as though it was a best friends forever reunion.
My father’s business partners were a couple who had a daughter a few years older than me. My mother and this couple decided that their daughter and I should hang out with each other. Both of us hated this idea. Me, because I was painfully shy. She, because she was a teenager who didn’t want to do what her parents told her to do (and I was younger, therefore… yuk). However we both gave in and did what we were nagged into submission to do.
Surprisingly we got along, and grudgingly admitted that it wasn’t so bad to hang out. I wasn’t as young as she thought I was, she wasn’t as old as she thought she was, or as extroverted as this introvert found intimidating. She introduced me to her lovely best friend, and the three of us went on adventures around NYC without adults, and without the adults seeming to care about where we were, what we were doing, and what time we got back from whatever we were up to as long as we didn’t bother them.
One day the couple suggested that they take the three of us to The Six Flags Great Adventure theme park in New Jersey. I almost exploded from excitement. I loved theme parks, perhaps because I rarely got to go to them or maybe it was because… I was a normal child (cough, cough).
The couple made arrangements with my mother. The outing was planned amongst the adults, itinerary shared, details sorted, and so on. My mother seemed perfectly fine with me going, playing the tune of the wonderful mother, and so… off I went.
It was a superb day, intensely fun, and of course the three teens did not want to leave when the time to leave came. One more ride, just a few minutes longer, pleeeaaaasssseee! The adults agreed to give us a bit more fun time, and so…. when I was dropped off back at the hotel where my mother and I were staying, it was about an hour or so later than the time my mother was expecting me to return.
This was before everyone had mobile phones.
As I crossed the threshold of the door into the room, I was not prepared for the roller coaster ride waiting for me on the inside. None of the usual warning signs had been posted.
My mother exploded the moment she saw me, unleashing one of her tirades. Her words were like the water rushing down the steep slope of a water ride, hitting the sides of the tube, echoing, splashing, gushing, roaring. She had almost called the police, she thought I’d been kidnapped! Just wait until I had kids! She hoped they’d do to me what I had done to her! Did I not realise how worried she would be!?! How dare I do this to her! Was I trying to make us miss our flight back home tomorrow!
That last bit floored me more than any of the other things she screamed at me and accused me of, especially as it eventually became the most important point of her tantrum. There was no logic to it at all – how was my being an hour or so late this afternoon going to affect catching a plane the following morning? And why did she agree to let me go out today if it was going to ruin tomorrow in some way?
The answer to that and the real reason for her psycho mood was – she was stressed out, had been throughout our entire stay, and it had finally reached its breaking point. She’d had time alone to work herself into a very thick frothing at the mouth – and as usual I was her lightning rod.
My being late gave her the excuse she needed to justify her explosion, but she’d have found some other valid reason if I’d returned on time. The fact that I had a beaming smile on my face and looked genuinely happy when I came in the room… that would have been enough to set her off even if I had come back an hour earlier than expected. The only thing which might have mitigated things was if I had had a miserable time, but… she’d have gone off on one anyway, using my misery as the match to a fuse of her bomb.
When a narcissist has a tantrum, it’s because they want and need to have a tantrum – what set them off is rarely if ever what they claim set them off. It’s not about you, it is always about them. When they are ready to blow, they blow – and you could not have stopped it from happening, doing things differently simply changes that for which they blame you. However they need to use you to set the explosion off.
Why was my mother really angry at me?
Because I had betrayed her.
How had I betrayed her?
I’d had fun with people she hated.
Why did she hate these people?
Because she’d found out that they had been embezzling funds from the business, and one of the things the embezzled money had been used for was a boob job.
She hated them because she had forced herself to be nice to them, to kill them with kindness. That was one of her things – killing those she loathed with kindness. It never worked, yet she did it anyway thinking that it worked, and then hating them when they didn’t die from being niced by her.
She hated them because… she hated my father.
She hated me too because… I was just like my father.
She hated my father because… he was never grateful to her for all that she did and had done for him in the name of (obsessive) love.
The biggest thorn was that she had perjured herself in court for him (which completely ruined her perfect persona – a saint is not supposed to lie), and instead of him grovelling with gratitude, kissing her toes, worshiping at her altar forever and ever amen… he walked away from the court case, was found to be in contempt of court, had an arrest warrant issued, and dealt with that by deciding he never needed to return to that country because he hated that country anyway.
He hated that country because… it didn’t bow down to him as it was supposed to.
He hated my mother because… she didn’t bow down to him and his will as she was supposed, and she was a nag, and stupid.
He hated me because… I was just like my mother.
They hated because… Narcissists love to hate. Hate, in many ways, is love for them.
Once my mother had finished spewing her lava all over me, she dismissed me and turned her attention onto the couple. She called them and gave them earfuls of spleen, then called my father to let him know what his daughter had done… or was it what had been done to his daughter… or what had been done to her… or what he had done to himself by choosing such corrupt partners who were laughing all the way to the bank.
The couple called my father to let him know that nothing was their fault. My mother was a crazy bitch. I was a stupid brat.
Why was I a brat according to them?
Because I had forced them (at invisible gunpoint, maybe) to stay at the theme park longer than they had wanted to. I hadn’t been the only one to request to stay, but I was the only one whose request made them a brat. Apparently the adults could not say no to me because I was ‘special’, as in they were sucking up to me to suck up to my father, and keep him where they needed him to be – foolish cash cow central.
This roller coaster of a story ride went on for months, with more and more people queuing up to ride on it. My mother’s car was fairly empty compared to my father’s car which was full of all the sycophants (or psycho-fans) that he collected and managed to keep in his ‘flying monkey’ fold. My mother didn’t need a full car… and since she regularly threw riders out of it, people were less willing to get in it.
What about me in all of this?
Well, it wasn’t about me, I was just a prop. I knew that by then, so I just stayed quiet. Which was in some ways a bonus as I got to witness how a simple story was blown out of all proportion and lost all meaning because it meant something different to every person who weighed in on it and changed it to suit their needs, their version of reality.
I’d never witnessed it in quite that way before, been able to hold on to my version of events, because I used to be more prone to getting caught up in it (it’s very difficult not to get caught up in their crazy web), losing myself in it, and in believing that it somehow concerned me because I was central to it… but that was not the case, just because I was being used as a central character did not mean that I was a central character.
You’re just a writing prompt people use to create a story.
In all of the drama which unfolded, not once did I hear anyone say about me – that I was a child being a child, and that maybe the adults involved needed to be adults.
You’re never allowed to be a child in the land of narcissists and its inhabitants… but you can be a sacrificial lamb to save them all from ever having to grow up while pretending they’re all growed up.
The funny thing about this is… I still liked theme parks, and one of those played an important part in my life later on, which eventually helped me to escape the narcissistic roller coaster ride.