What is Your Experience of Being the Child of Narcissists?
The other day I was contacted through a comment on the About page of this blog by a psychology student who is doing an Extended project for University on Narcissists/Psychopaths and their children. They asked me if I, a child of Narcissists, would be willing to participate in their project by answering a questionnaire.
I declined to participate, however I did offer to do my best to answer any questions they might have and to write a post about it, sharing the questions with other children of Narcissists (ACoNs) so that you could answer them too, share your story and experience, if you were interested in doing so.
I did also ask a question of my own which was – Is your choice of topic for your Extended project based on personal experience? If no, what made you pick this topic?
The student replied,
and these are their questions for children of Narcissists/Psychopaths:
1. How has having narcissist/psychopath parent/s affected their career?
2. How has it affected their self-esteem/self-confidence?
3. How has it affected their personality? (any traits that are due to having psychopath/narcissist parent)
4. And how has it affected their ability to trust and have a healthy relationship with others?
I think another question worth adding, since this student is new to the topic of Narcissism, and does not have personal experience of being the child of a Narcissist/Psychopath, is:
How would you describe to someone who does not have personal experience of having Narcissist/Psychopath parents, what it is like to have Narcissist/Psychopath parents?
And is it possible to explain it in a manner they can relate to, understand, and not come away from the conversation thinking you’re completely off your rocker, and possibly a Narcissist or Psychopath yourself (and maybe your parents are perfectly normal – you’re the problem)?
I added the latter bit because in my personal experience trying to explain to people who are unfamiliar with Narcissists, what Narcissists are like usually ends up with you sounding insane, the other person thinks you’re talking nonsense because they don’t have a personal point of reference, experiential learning, of that kind of person and their effect on you, and they may think that Narcissists are only found in fiction and what you’re describing must be a fictional character… perhaps you got confused, you’ve been watching too many Soap Operas, and you’re under the illusion that you lived a storyline from one of them. Maybe you watched Mommie Dearest and thought that was about you, but that’s just a film, it’s not based on reality… oh, wait a minute, it’s a biopic.
Of course, these days, with so much awareness about Narcissism, Narcissists, NPD, and the PTSD, C-PTSD, Narcissist Victim Syndrome which comes with being in a relationship with a Narcissist and undergoing Narcissistic Abuse, people are more likely to believe you and what you’re saying, they’re more likely to have identified a Narcissist in their own lives (the popularity of the subject which has made it a hot trending topic online points to the experience being widespread), and even if they are without personal experience of a Narcissist, they can look things up online to give them confirmation that you’re talking about something real (because other people, professionals and experts, are talking about it too).
But they might still doubt your story because of how it triggers you when you tell it, when you think about the Narcissist… children of Narcissists tend to have a lot of suppressed rage which leaks out when they get triggered, when they think about their parents, when they discuss the issue, and that rage, even when they are being calm, can frighten those around them.
And although there has been much written, both by personals and professionals, about children of Narcissists, you might still get that line I always used to get whenever I tried to explain my parents to others – “But they’re your parents…” – which basically meant don’t say anything bad about them because talking like that about your parents is taboo, and it makes other people uncomfortable.
“Your parents love you…” – that was another line I used to hear all the time, often from those who couldn’t possibly know if my parents loved me or not, unless of course my parents had told them that they did. When a Narcissist tells you something it’s always more believable than when, for instance, their child tells you something such as that everything out of the mouth of their Narcissist parent is a lie designed to deceive the listener, it’s part of a charade, a show the Narcissist is putting on for their audience (the rest of the world).
For many years of my adult life I gave up trying to discuss the truth about my parents with other people. There were multiple reasons for my decision to go silent, and if you have reasons in multiple for doing something then maybe you should just do it.
As a child I used to blurt things out because that’s what children do and then get told off for doing it – children learn fairly quickly that adults are lying when they tell children to never lie and always speak the truth, and thus they learn to tell the adults the lies they want to hear and everyone pretends that’s the truth.
As a teenager I rebelled against the system because that’s what teenagers do and get dismissed for being rebellious teenagers – my teenage rebellion eventually went underground and became a rumbling passive-aggressive resistance when I discovered that there wasn’t a better world out there, society at large wasn’t any better than my Narcissist parents, it like they just couldn’t handle the truth, which explained why my Narcissist parents won all the battles against me with support from others.
I only really broke my silence when I started blogging about Narcissists. I was very cagey to begin with, and if you read my earliest posts about my parents and the topic of Narcissism, they’re a mixture of raw ranting, suppressed and repressed emotional release, stream of consciousness, tentative steps forward to reveal while also taking steps backwards to hide, and me obfuscating facts.
Obfuscating facts was a family activity at home and especially when in public. This kind of activity ends up with you never knowing what’s true and what’s false, what’s real and what’s imaginary, what is authentic and what’s pretending to be authentic, and it also shows you how easily the fabric of reality can be manipulated, which means that everything is possibly an illusion.
Are my parents really Narcissists? Am I a Narcissist? Is everyone a Narcissist? Or is it all just subjective perspective…
When I first started blogging about my story it was just me talking to myself, my blog was a journal. Journaling was a new experience for me as my attempts to keep a diary when I was a child ended up with me sharing very little, the book was mostly empty even when it had words in it. I was too paranoid to do it genuinely, to speak of what I was experiencing. When you’re a child of Narcissists even when you are alone, when no one is watching or listening… they’re still there, invading your private place and space, spying on you through your own eyes, finding faults and flaws, judging, criticising, getting upset at you, spotting your betrayals and punishing you for them…
You must never speak your own words, must never find your voice – your voice must always be their voice, speaking their words…
I chose to do it publicly not to get attention from others, but because it was a challenge to myself.
I didn’t expect anyone else to hear what I was saying. That may sound foolish, or perhaps like a lie, but there are many weird quirks which children of Narcissists have, one of them involves a certain naivety – naivety is a survival/coping mechanism for us. When dealing with Narcissists on a regular basis you have to dumb yourself down, switch off your smarts, forget what you know or you’ll go insane. We’re particularly naive about being noticed, seen or heard by others – we’re used to being ignored, being dismissed as background noise, being invisible unless other people need something from us or for us to be something for them – like a sickbag to throw up in.
Then a couple of my posts started to attract attention…
attention + a child of Narcissists can be a strange mix, especially if that attention is positive rather than negative.
I’ve learned a lot through blogging, sharing my story about being the child of Narcissists has given me the opportunity to meet other children of Narcissists, to hear your stories, and that meeting has been profoundly enlightening, insightful, healing, and meaningful for me… and hopefully for you too.
You’ve changed my perception of being a child of Narcissists in many ways…
Thank you all very much for sharing yourselves with me!
And thank you very much for letting me share myself with you…
my turn to answer these questions
1. How has having narcissist/psychopath parent/s affected their career?
The usual path a person takes towards a career starts in childhood with both the child observing and becoming aware of their parents’ other life (other than being a parent), the one which may take the parent away from the child for a period of hours during the day or night and restricts when your parents are available for you, the one which puts a roof over your head, food on your plate, clothes in your cupboard, money in your pocket, etc, which parents may mention, and through the parents actively encouraging the child to pursue their likes, hobbies and passions with an eye on it becoming a vocation, job, career, later on after much training, and honing of a natural talent through education.
While regular parents may have dreams and ambitions for their children, and they may be disappointed if the child chooses a different dream and has other ambitions for themselves, they will usually support their child as best as they can, guiding, nudging, nagging, worrying, protecting, encouraging, them along the way, investing themselves in their child’s future without necessarily expecting a return on their investment other than for their child to have a good life.
Regular parents see themselves and their children as being connected yet separate beings, and they expect their children to grow up and move on to live their own lives.
Narcissist parents do not see themselves and their children as separate entities – the Narcissist’s child is an extension of their parent, belongs to the parent like an arm or a leg, is a piece of property like a watch or a house. They do not plan to ever let their children grow up or move on to have lives of their own.
The Narcissist parent may have dreams and ambitions which they were unable to pursue themselves, but perhaps they can pursue them through their child, and the child is not given a choice about the matter – of course the child wants this because the Narcissist parent wants it.
That parent known as the Stage Mother/Father is typical of one of the types of Narcissist parent (there are some good Stage parents, it’s the bad ones you hear about which are the ones most likely to be Narcissists). The sort of parent who expects their child to follow in their footsteps, join the firm, take over the family business, work for them, may also be of the Narcissist Parent variety if the child is not given a choice and the expectation is an order, a rule, a duty, what the child has to do regardless of whether they want to do it, can do it, or not.
Not all Narcissist parents use their children to attain career goals, to succeed, win, to live the vicarious life. Some Narcissist parents set their children up to be ‘failures’ and ‘losers’, as this way the Narcissist parent has someone over whom they are always superior, and to whom they can turn when they’re feeling depressed about their own position and status, and feel better about themselves because at least they’re not a loser and failure like their child.
A certain type of Narcissist parent always needs to be needed, and may cripple their child just so that they can permanently come to the rescue like a hero – and tell everyone about what a wonderful parent they are because they love this sick wreck of a child of theirs.
If you as the child of a Narcissist have dreams and ambitions, likes, loves, hobbies, passions, etc, which are not sanctioned by the Narcissist parent, they will be crushed… unless they can be subverted to serve the Narcissist parent and their dreams and ambitions. The Narcissist parent will take over and run the show, you just need to play your role according to how they’ve written your part for you – don’t change the script or flub your lines or there will be hell to pay!
Both of my parents were wrapped up in my father and his career, his career dominated our family. It was more like a cult, he was the cult leader, his career was ‘The Way’, my mother was his greatest devotee (even when she hated him – for Narcissists hate is love more than love is love), and all those people who populated our environment were his followers.
I was expected to worship him, and probably follow in his footsteps – he did enjoy it when I joined in when he was working, but he wanted me to do the work exactly like he was doing it, he told me that he could teach me to forge his work (he was an artist), and then I could work instead of him and it would be our little secret and joke. I didn’t find it funny then or later when I was a bit older and he repeated it, more seriously because he was getting more and more frustrated with the business side of his career.
A frustrated Narcissist sets themselves on a path of self-destruction, but they’re usually the very last person to get destroyed… you, as their child, are expected to sacrifice yourself for their cause, sometimes literally.
I did not end up forging my father’s work (thanks to influences other than my parents I did not think this kind of career path was a good one) or following in his footsteps – they were too big to fill, and ultimately I’d have been considered a rival to be thwarted had I actually tried to do so.
However I did end up working in the business side of my father’s work… which is a period of my life I rarely talk about.
My parents were business partners who behaved constantly and consistently like mortals enemies sworn to fight till death do they part… but even in death they kept the fight going and going and going… when and where it stops, nobody knows!
Working for them made me… wish I was dead on a regular basis, it was a dark night of the soul which felt as though it lasted for centuries. I was completely burned out by the time I got out of there, once it imploded, once they finally managed to destroy it all (but they found uses for the wreckage, and found other ways to continue the battle, other edifices and selves to destroy).
I did other stuff after that, but it’s all a bit of a blur…
I don’t know what I would have done ‘career-wise’ if I’d made a different decision to the one that I did of working for them (and was it really my decision?), I do know that I tortured myself with fantasies of what I might have done, might have become, etc, had I done this instead of that, had I been someone else instead of me, had I not been so… brainwashed, stupid, a believer, or whatever…
but I can predict that had I tried to do something other than work for my parents, I’d have struggled with that too. Chances are that I would have ended up working for other Narcissists, because that kind of person and the environment they create is one which I used to gravitate towards (I was a magnet for Narcissists, and Narcissists were a magnet for me) as it felt comfortable (knives in your back, pins under your fingernails, eggshells all over the floor covering hot coals), it was the norm. Nicer, healthier environments and people freaked me out… and yet I longed for them! But I didn’t belong there, and I’d have been the fly in their ointment.
Things have changed now… but it took a long time of life to get to where I am now.
On a side note: Since I’ve been blogging about Narcissists I’ve been asked several times if I had written a book or was going to write a book (and a few people have said they’d buy it if I had/did). Other bloggers who have shared their personal experience of Narcissists have gone on to write books, and some have turned their blogging into a career, selling their services, their expertise, and methods to heal from Narcissistic Abuse. That’s their choice and kudos to them for doing it. I have chosen not to do any of that but to just keep blogging as I always have – I blog for free thanks to WordPress (the ads you see – or don’t see because you’re using AdBlock – on my blog are one of the ways WordPress allows me to blog for free). Should I charge people for viewing my site, for reading my posts? Should I have a ‘donate’ button? If you’re a victim of Narcissists, you’ve paid enough already… and if you can make it through one of my posts, and can make sense of what I’m saying, you should probably be charging me (that’s a very child of Narcissists thing to say, and way to view what I do here).
2. How has it affected their self-esteem/self-confidence?
Things like self-esteem and self-confidence… what are they? What do we think they’re supposed to be? How do we know if we have them or not? How do we know we’re not pretending we have them?
I was reading a news article about women in business and a thing which is being called – The Confidence Gap, which stated that while men and women may have the same set of skills, and break even when tested, men are more likely to overestimate their skill level and their test results, whereas women are more likely to underestimate their skill level and test results, when asked about it and to rate how they think they did. It’s worth noting that their self-rating was done for the benefit of another person, the person who had tested them – thus we only know how they rated themselves publicly, we do not know how they rated themselves privately, on the inside. A theory has it that men are taught to big themselves up, while women are encouraged to be humble, making both the ‘confidence’ of men and the ‘lack of confidence’ in women a bit of a sham as we’re basically just ‘following orders’ about how we should be expressing ourselves rather than expressing ourselves as we truly feel ourselves to be.
How is that news article relevant to this post, and this question?
The typical view of Narcissists is that they think highly of themselves, that they are ‘in love’ with themselves (like in the myth of Narcissus), that their self-esteem and self-confidence is off the charts, that they have an unfaltering arrogant belief in their superior skills, and this is indeed how most types of Narcissist (with the exception of the inverted/vulnerable/sensitive Narcissist who tends to do an opposite routine) portray themselves when in public, however is what they show on the outside what is going on inside of them?
The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder states that a person with NPD has a grandiose sense of self-importance, thinks they’re special, feels superior, has a massive sense of entitlement, etc… it tends to leave out how a Narcissist sustains those aspects of NPD, which require a lot of energy to keep them going, and what lurks behind that facade, that bottomless pit of need which is a hungry starving beast that demands to be fed (although mental health professionals are now adjusting the criteria, adding extras, to flesh out the skeleton of the NPD diagnostic criteria).
Has having Narcissist parents affected my self-esteem and self-confidence? Yes, but… I don’t have experience of having had any other kind of parents, thus I don’t know if I’d have had similar issues with self-esteem and self-confidence anyway.
The people I know who didn’t have parents like mine, who didn’t have Narcissists raising them, also seem to have self-esteem and self-confidence issues, it seems to be something which affects everyone and has spawned many successful businesses which sell self-esteem and self-confidence, and it is often used as a marketing strategy (buy this car, this dress, this gadget, and feel awesome about yourself!).
As a child of Narcissists your purpose, vocation, job, is to provide the Narcissist parent with self-esteem and self-confidence – not to get it from them for yourself, not to have them nurture it in you.
How can a child of Narcissists give to their parents self-esteem and self-confidence if they don’t have it themselves? Can we give what we don’t have?
This is done in large part by being useless and worthless (especially if you’re the Scapegoat), if you achieve anything this can threaten the Narcissist and their fragile ego, make them retaliate against your betrayal, you and your achievement must be destroyed… unless they can steal your achievement and claim it as their own (especially if you’re the Golden Child).
So in some ways it is imperative for the child of the Narcissists to not have self-esteem and self-confidence. The slightest hint that you have some of either of those things will make you a target, and the Narcissist will tear through you to find the offending tiny morsel of self-value which you’ve managed to hide from them, they want that valuable treasure for themselves.
If you don’t supply them with regular doses and booster shots, they will either freeze you out, turn into raging infernos or sink into a black hole of depression, all of which is your fault, and your responsibility to fix.
Being frozen out (the silent treatment) is an extreme version of the cold shoulder which normal people might give to someone who has upset them expecting the person who has upset them to get the hint and make amends. It is similar to being unfriended or blocked on social media. Ignored by a friend, ghosted by someone you were dating.
Except when a Narcissist does it, it is exaggerated (everything they do is an exaggeration, an extreme version, of what normal people do – if you ever want to imagine what it is like to be a Narcissist, just warp, stretch and blow yourself completely out of proportion, every thought, feeling, emotion you have turn the dial to 11, take it deathly seriously and expect everyone else to consider it an emergency to notice and cater to your giant doughboy self rampaging through the city).
While occasionally being frozen out can be a relief because you finally have some peace and quiet, a moment to yourself to think without being told what to think or what you’re thinking, to feel your own feelings without the Narcissist poking, probing and prodding… ultimately it’s icy torture because in that frigid silence you are left with thoughts of all the terrible things you’ve done, feelings which scream and swirl around you like Harpies, and the knowledge that the ‘love’ of your parent has been withdrawn, withheld, been lost, and your quest is to win it back by any means necessary. You must free Elsa from her frozen fortress, not for her sake but for yours, you’re trapped as long as she is in a horrible place.
The raging inferno, which is similar to being caught inside a tornado or a hurricane (beware the stillness of the eye) only this isn’t Mother Nature, it’s human nature at its most volatile. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an angry person’s screaming and shouting diatribe – a normal person tends to have a degree of self-control when they lose their temper, and may stop themselves if they get to an edge from which they can’t come back, a Narcissist is letting loose years of fury, and to them you’re likely to become everyone who has every pissed them off (and they have no sympathy or empathy for you). While this is more frightening to experience than being frozen out or the depression, is easier to deal with because it generates its own energy – it feeds off the fear it creates, and the Narcissist often feels much better after having released all the fury and frustration which had accumulated inside of them and was oppressing them – they can become euphoric post-tantrum.
If they experience happiness after a rage, you will be expected to be happy for them. Forgive and forget is the rule of the day, whatever they said or did to you during their rage must be wiped from your memory (you probably deserved it anyway, you provoked them, its karma), if you mope or show fear at this point this will ruin their pleasure, you’re being a killjoy, this is irritating and annoying of you, what’s wrong with you, what a misery you are, how do they put up with you!
If they don’t experience happiness after a rage, they will expect your fear to linger and for it to make you extra subservient, attempting to appease the god who is angry by making appropriate sacrifices (or the volcano will erupt again). Everything about you has the potential to set them off, the way you breathe bothers them, the sound grates on their nerves and your voice… it’s like a mosquito… shut up, how dare you not answer them when they asked you a question, don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking, how dare you talk back to them… the way you eat is disgusting, your face is repulsive, stop looking at them like that, sit up straight, don’t fidget, don’t just sit there like a statue go and do something useful, you’re so lazy, you did the dishes all wrong and now they’ll have to be done again, stop fussing I’ll tell you when I want something, why haven’t you asked me if I need something… go away! Where are you!? You’ll want to disappear, but if you do disappear they’ll hunt you down. I once took refuge in a closet to cry quietly to myself, I couldn’t risk my mother hearing or seeing me cry (she was very proud of herself for teaching me as a toddler never to cry – it was considered a sign of weakness), only seconds after I’d closed the door it opened again and her face loomed over me – what on earth was I doing!?
Sometimes you’ll get frozen out after they’ve been a raging inferno – anything you do or don’t do, say or don’t say will be bad, awful, make things worse, and this can go on for extended periods of time. It can suddenly clear up (often due to something or someone new and exciting distracting them – look at the butterfly!), and it’ll be as though it never happened because that’s how they want it.
The depression is a much harder prospect to handle, once they reach zero-energy level you will have to transfer most of your life-force into them to get the bar to move away from empty (it will rarely if ever reach full as they are constantly using it up). A depressed Narcissist can be identified by the thick dark grey cloud which hangs over them and keeps expanding to encompass more area around them, it feels heavy to be in it, the crushing weight of a large invisible fantasy world experiencing gravity, and sometimes it even has a rancid smell to it (like the morning after someone ate garlic and someone else didn’t, the person who ate it can’t smell it, but the person who didn’t eat it is knocked over by the stench). This black mood and grey cloud will suffocate everyone who enters it, nothing can live inside of it except for the Narcissist, but you, as their child, will be expected to survive in it somehow and save them from it – while they resist all of your attempts to do so, similar to a drowning victim who ends up dragging the lifeguard down into the depths with them, and the drowning victim may survive but the rescuer may not.
The upside of being the caretaker of the Narcissist parent, being their mirror, their spin-doctor, their excuse-generator, their private therapist, personal support coach, etc, is that you won’t have much time left to take care of yourself, their needs will override your needs, and you won’t notice that you have self-esteem or self-confidence issues because you’ll be too busy monitoring them hyper-vigilantly for their self-esteem and self-confidence issues.
Besides your self-worth is tied up the self-worth of the Narcissist – it’s all about them, not about you.
You only tend to notice you have issues with those things when you’re exposed to the world outside of the family unit…
The world outside of the Narcissist family can be cruel to the child of Narcissists without meaning to be cruel. Sometimes because it offers respite from a living hell, an Oasis in the desert (or is it a mirage?), but you don’t belong there and the inhabitants of the outside world may make you feel that very painfully without meaning to inflict pain on you.
They may do this weird, unknown, foreign thing of treating you as an autonomous being. They may be interested in you (and not just because they’re being polite, want to use you, or are actually interested in your parents), want to know what you think (and they may be confused when your thoughts expressed start with – my mother/father thinks…), may be considerate of your feelings (without it being a preamble to some favour they’re about to tell you that you have to do for them because they’ve been nice to you), may show empathy and sympathy (without it being faked to show the world how empathic and sympathetic a person they are). They may welcome you as one of them, but you’re not one of them, you don’t understand their language, their ways of relating, their manner of being, so to stay with them you have to pretend to be like them, and pretend that your family is like theirs (only ‘better’ because you carry the burden of your Narcissist parents public facade with you – you are their PR agent and the Narcissist family is always superior to other families, they are the Jones’, better than the Jones’).
To deal with the outside world you end up becoming a Narcissist yourself, creating a public persona to appear to be what and who you are not, hiding your shame, your lack of self-worth, your limited understanding of what it is to be human, your weird freaky self which if they knew about it would cause them to reject you, laugh at you, hate you, abandon you to a lonely existence of never being loveable… you’re a monster and you hide under the bed because you’re afraid of frightening others.
But you’re not really a Narcissist, you don’t belong in that skin and you’re too conscious of it to ever feel right being that way. What are you? Who are you? Is there a place for a person like you? You don’t belong with Narcissists in their world or with the non-Narcissists in their world… you’re stuck in an in-between like a bridge which doesn’t want to be a bridge.
I have many anecdotes and memories of my parents acquiring self-esteem and self-confidence for themselves using me, with me either working willingly to give it to them, such as when playing the clown, making a fool of myself, to cheer up my mother when she was on the verge of an anger-bender, or engaging in a game of cat-and-mouse with my father and allowing myself to get caught and eaten after a fight and struggle, or them just taking it whenever they needed it.
Narcissist parents also use you to boost their egos when you’re not around, and you won’t necessarily know about how they’ve used you unless someone tells you, you overhear a conversation about you, or your parents inform you about either to crush you or because you now are needed in person to back up their story. I was once asked to give a piano recital because my parents had boasted about my musical ability – I had only been taking sporadic piano lessons for about a year, and I rarely practised much to the annoyance of my mother (but I did not want piano lessons, it was my mother’s want – she was living in a nostalgic historical past). I refused to play for the people my parents had bragged to, I embarrassed my parents and was branded a brat.
My mother used to get particularly vicious about my thinking well of myself (unless of course she needed me to think well of myself so that other parents would be envious of her, admire her parenting skills, for having such a confident and esteem-filled child), how dare I! When I was about 13 yrs old, during a moment when I was not feeling awkward and ugly as usual but instead felt almost pretty (even though I knew I could never measure up to the pretty standards of society, a friend’s parent had told me that I would grow up to be beautiful, and I’ll never forget that kindness), she told me I had crooked legs, not lovely straight ones like hers – perhaps she was just trying to get me not to wear mini-skirts as this would make me prey for perverts and rapists (my mother was a mysandrist and was always warning me about the horrors of men). After that I took to wearing baggy trousers and ankle-length skirts, and was regularly chided by my mother for never wearing anything attractive, for looking shapeless, and embarrassing her with my dowdiness. Although next to me she always looked stylish – it was probably a Narcissist who made up that rule – ‘find yourself an ugly friend and you’ll always look beautiful’. Narcissists need to compare themselves with others to know who they are and what they look like.
My father didn’t monitor me and my status as much as my mother did, his attacks were more random, less predictable. He did once call me a whore when I was about 11 yrs old (might have been younger) because I was walking several paces ahead of him on a bridge in Paris at night and some man walking by looked at me – it never occurred to my father that the man might have been wondering what a child was doing walking alone at night, or it could have been because I looked miserable as my parents were having another loud public screaming match which started over whose fault it was that they had been unable to find a cab after dinner at a restaurant where they were constantly sniping at each other across the table.
Those were not exceptions, they were the usual… How does something like that affect your self-confidence and self-esteem?
The experience of how much hell you attract from others if you think well of yourself made me loath to ever show to others that I had a sense of self-worth. However even when I felt like a useless, worthless, meaningless, good-for-nothing (which has been a fairly common feeling throughout my life), it didn’t necessarily show on the outside. People often commented on how confident I seemed, some people found it admirable – what’s your secret? (having to keep lots of secrets is my secret), but some found it to be irritating – who did I think I was!? (the answer to that is I didn’t think I was anything at all, I was empty and you filled that emptiness, I’m a mirror and you saw yourself in reverse).
When I’m with other people, in social settings, I am most often not thinking about myself, and if someone asks me about myself there’s a long pause wherein I try to recall who myself is.
I’ve been called many things (some good, some bad) simply based on how people perceived me and thought I perceived myself because of their own projections – it seems that how people perceive you is at times more real to others than how you perceive yourself. And if you have Narcissists as parents, they’ll be running interference on how others outside of the family unit perceive their child.
My father liked others to see me as a brat (I was a brat mainly because I stood up for myself when being pressured by adults, or called him out on something he’d done or said), my being a brat made people feel sympathy for him for having such a terrible child, and Narcissists like it when people feel sympathy for them because it makes people malleable.
My mother apparently liked for others to see me as evil – I didn’t realise this until a former friend of hers decided I needed to be aware of what she had been saying about me. Of course the friend was angry at my mother, my mother had screwed her over and used her one time too many without applying the necessary charm-balm, and she could have been lying, causing trouble, but her statement made a lot of sense and explained something which had been puzzling me for a long time – why my mother’s friends and acquaintances always looked at me a certain way, and were so antagonistic without my even interacting with them more than to politely meet and greet. It struck me as interesting that people preferred to take her word and gossip as gospel rather than to bother to find out for themselves if I was who she had said that I was – chances are that I would have confirmed what she had said because that was my job, and by then I was certain that I must be a terrible person (even though I didn’t do the sort of things a terrible person does, is supposed to do).
Overall I was painfully shy from an early age, and exposure to my parents’ antics on a daily basis made me burrow deeply into myself and never want to come out. Around other people I learned how to vanish, become invisible when and if possible… if someone saw me I felt trapped, and sure to pay for the attention I was stealing from my parents.
But there were other times when I was bold. Bullies at school, and later in adult scenarios, tended to back off when they tried it on with me, not because of anything I said or did per se but because my experiences with my parents and their bullying left me with the ability to be nothing, and most people find looking into an abyss a rather unnerving prospect. They’d rather avoid the void (I’ve screamed a lot into that void, so maybe they could hear the echoes of my cries, and it’s not a sound you want to listen to), I don’t react the way that I’m supposed to, sometimes I don’t react at all, it all seems so pointless…. years of playing this kind of game have taught me it goes nowhere, it just rewinds and repeats.
3. How has it affected their personality? (any traits that are due to having psychopath/narcissist parent)
What is personality and what shapes it?
Nature or Nurture? Which one makes you you?
Which one forms your personality, your character, your identity?
With Narcissists as parents, a child is often told who they are, what their personality is, who they aren’t and what their personality is not – these instructions for who you are can be completely off the mark when it comes to who you actually are (the Narcissist parent isn’t interested in who you actually are), but you won’t know that until you’ve been battered, branded and brainwashed for years. In some cases who you are was decided before you were born, especially if the Narcissist parent is having you (or adopting you) for a specific reason, as part of a persona they’ve created (or are in the process of creating) for themselves, or some quest they’re chasing and need a child to complete for them.
My mother told me that the only reason I was allowed to be born (the Narcissist parent, particularly the Narcissist mother is always doing you a favour for giving birth to you – you owe them your life!), against my father’s wishes (he didn’t want children and he told my mother that, and thought she had agreed with him), and at great cost to her (oh the trials and tribulations she went through to have me – so I’d better be worth it) was because I was supposed to fix my parents’ marriage, and, get this, make them ‘less selfish’. I was a messiah… who failed to live up to expectations, to supply what was demanded, to heal the sick and feed the hungry. Worse than that my birth made the relationship between my parents much worse – it was my fault that they were at each others’ throats all the time, that my father was a philanderer, that my mother was now stuck and unable to divorce my father (we’re staying together for the children!)…
Perhaps I should kill myself and set them free…
Someone once said to me that they bet my mother wished she could have a retroactive abortion. That person was a bully, and he was trying to unsettle me, break my stance. I looked him straight in the eye without flinching, smiled at him and agreed with him, that unsettled him and he backed down and left shortly afterwards. My mother was standing right there at the time, she said nothing, because I was protecting her from this man, I was playing my role of the knight in shining armor defending the damsel in distress – this was one of the ‘personalities’ I had for her, the other was ‘dragon’ from whom she needed other knights in shining armor to rescue her, but then that dragon had to turn back into a knight when the other knights turned into dragons.
If this is confusing for you… can you imagine the kind of mental wiring required to deal with this Gordian Knot on a daily basis – welcome to being a child of Narcissists, do not pass Go, do not collect 200, get fined, go broke and go straight to jail. How do you get out of this complicated, complex, chaotic and confusing conundrum?
excerpt via – Andy White blog: Victim Blaming 101 by Andy White
Thoughts of suicide usually go hand in hand with being the child of Narcissists – but you feel so terribly guilty, ashamed, such a failure for thinking that way, for many reasons, you don’t really want to die (or maybe you do) but you can’t see any escape from this purgatory, hell, or whatever it is, there is no one to help you and you can’t help yourself. What you don’t realise (or maybe you do) is that a large part of the suicidal thoughts, and self-destructive tendencies which go with them, within you aren’t yours, like with so much else, this comes from your Narcissist parents.
This was only really explained to me when I read – Going Mad to Stay Sane: The Psychology of Self-Destructive Behaviour by Andy White.
I’d had inklings of it… when I had appendicitis… my mother seemed disappointed that I hadn’t died, I could see that she was saddened by the loss of the drama she could have created with her as the bereft mother, blaming my awful father for my death (and he would have done something similar, although at the time he’d just had his first stroke and was working on his story of being immortal – I’m not kidding, after several more mini-strokes due to him refusing to follow doctors’ advice, he became thoroughly convinced that he was immortal), finally she would win, she would get what she had always wanted – to truly be the saint and martyr.
You know what never occurred to me then – that she genuinely would miss me, be sad, feel anything other than sorry for herself (and feed off her self pity and the sympathy of others), if I had died, that my death would impact her beyond how she could use it to promote herself – do you know why it didn’t occur to me then, can you understand or is it too foreign due to you having parents who would be devastated if their child died/and if you had a child and your child died… your heart would break never to be whole again. Do you think that this omission in my thinking is perhaps caused by some callousness on my part, am I a sociopath/psychopath? Would you believe that the reason for it is because there was no reason to think any other way – to a Narcissist parent their child is a thing, a tool, a toy, and as a thing you can’t expect to be loved, cared for, if you break (it’s your fault, you did this to them) they just replace you or live off of the memory of you, but that memory of you isn’t you – it’s a better version of you, now that you’re dead they can finally turn you into who they need you to be for them and you won’t be there to ruin it for them.
My mother had this habit of triangulating me with myself – comparing me unfavourably with her ‘golden child’ version of me who was perfect (and usually nothing like me at all)… if only I could be more like her!
Just as Narcissists can convince you about who they are by repeating ‘I AM’ statements about themselves until they seep into your mind, hypnotise, mesmerise, and become ‘facts’ about them, they can do the same with you by repeatedly telling you who you are, even telling you stories disguised as memories of events you can’t recall (because they never happened or didn’t happen the way the Narcissist remembers them) about you being that person they’ve decided that you are, need you to be for them, until you being who they’re telling you that you are becomes who you are for you too.
Narcissists tend to think they know you better than you know yourself, because they have a specific role for you to play in their lifetime drama and you’re going to fit into it (you just need to lose that weight known as your real self).
I’ve often wondered what I would have been like if my parents had been different – would I have been different?
I often fantasised that it would be discovered that my parents were not my parents, and my real parents would turn up to ‘save’ me and take me away from these people. When not fantasising about that I would imagine being an orphan, and then I’d pick new parents for myself out of the people around me (or on TV/film) who seemed like they’d be good parents. I grew out of that phase… my parents never grew out of it, they were always on the look out for ‘new parents’ to take care of them and love them as they truly deserved to be loved.
Narcissists are in certain ways permanently stuck at 5 years old. Their bodies grow up and grow old, but what’s on the inside stays forever young, trapped in a timeless childhood, thinking magically, imaging wonderful things – like that there are pots of gold buried at the end of the rainbow.
For me the best description of what it is like to have Narcissists as parents is portrayed in the South Korean Horror film – Hansel and Gretel. There are these three children who live in a beautiful house in the woods, and every now and then an adult gets lost in the woods, ending up at this house. The children are sweet and charming, and make the adult want to take care of them. Soon the adult is trapped in the ‘Perfect Family’ story the children have created, playing their loving mother/father, eating sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, playing games, bedtime stories, it’s all so lovely… or is it? The adults eventually try to escape, but you can’t escape… the children have been doing this for decades, this is their game, their story, and now you’re theirs too.
Do those around you shape your personality? Or do you? Or is a combination of the two?
It’s worth noting that my parents were not the only influence in my formative years. There were other significant adults in the environment who came and went, but who made an impression on me – like my Godfather and his boyfriend. They were allowed into the inner circle of our family because they gave my parents something they couldn’t get from each other, me, or themselves (Narcissists rarely realise that they are the ultimate source for all that they need, they believe it comes from others which is why they need others to give them what normal people usually give themselves).
My Godfather was a child psychologist, and for all his training in psychology he was easily manipulated by my parents (because he was in awe of them and needed them to like him), they thought it was funny to make him diagnose me (but they would have never allowed me to be his patient as that would reflect badly on them, and they thought he was a rubbish child psychologist – Narcissists have disdain for everyone and what they do). He sometimes tried to instruct me on how to be a proper child (usually after one of my parents had complained to him of being burdened with an odd child… wind him up and watch him go), but… I could not afford to be a proper child, I was the child of Narcissists, and you are not allowed to be ordinary (this is a crime against your ‘special’ Narcissist parents whose genes can only produce the extraordinary).
Sometimes his boyfriend looked after me, and was looking after me during that trip to Greece when my father suddenly decided that I’d been kidnapped (he had a thing about me being kidnapped… it may have been wishful thinking, as if I did get kidnapped it would mean he was someone whose child was worth kidnapping). We were stuck in a confined environment – a smallish boat – for an extended period of time – about a week – with two Narcissists. The man-eating sharks were not in the water. But it wasn’t until we stopped at a tiny island which could only be reached by boat, that things really kicked off. My Godfather’s boyfriend was Greek, and I was with the most competent adult there, we’d gone for a walk to explore the island, meet the locals, and we’d told my father we were doing that… but he, like a typical Narcissist, was not listening because it wasn’t relevant to him. Logic is not a forte of Narcissists, thus illogical drama of monumental proportions ensued over a non-event… and the fallout from that explosion rumbled on for weeks after (Narcissists can keep a drama going and going and going ad nauseum ad infinitum).
How do those sort of experiences affect your personality?
I also spent quite a bit of time on my own (I am an only child, so no siblings, and often no contact with other children due to living in the middle of nowhere for some of the time, and Narcissists like to isolate their family members to maintain control), and was slightly feral. That time alone was a life saver for maintaining a sense of self separate from my parents.
Both my parents who never agreed with each other (they preferred to disagree as this would lead to hours and years of fighting) did agree that I was – stubborn, willful, precocious (well I did spend most of my time around adults, being dragged to adult functions, and expected to behave ‘not like a child’), difficult, contrary, and eerily silent (hard to talk when your Narcissist parents never shut up).
My mother claimed that my favourite word was “No”, and that trying to get me to say “Yes” especially after I’d said “No” was a Herculean labor – a Narcissist would see themselves as a hero who never gives up when trying to magically turn your “No” into a “Yes”.
My father loved to play mind games with me, and regularly gave me ‘lessons’ in being a manipulator – I think he liked the challenge of dealing with someone who thought he was an ass, as he was used to being surrounded by sycophants due to his social status.
Do I have Narcissistic traits and behaviours? Yes, like all children I absorbed the traits and behaviours of my parents, mimicked them, was influenced by their ways… and thought those ways were the way to be because that’s what I was told.
There were times when my parents were rather fun to engage with – Narcissists can be fun, they can be charming, they can make you feel special, make the world spin around you, take you on a ride on the magic roundabout, they can momentarily be the idealistic dream and not a nightmare – and during those times I learned the positive side of a negative experience.
Quite a few Narcissistic traits and behaviours are sanctioned by society, and actually encouraged by those life coaches who teach you how to win friends and influence people, how to succeed in social media, how to get the most likes and followers, and generally be considered a decent person and member of society. Fake it to make it. Create your reality, be the person you want to be/become, etc…
Mostly I would say, from a conscious side of personality formation, that my parents inspired me to be ‘not like them at all’, and I studied hard towards that goal, exploring psychology, philosophy, astrology, spirituality, mysticism, history, science, and anything else which would let me study it. But did I succeed in being not like them at all? Or was I a Narcissist looking for a persona?
I have been very narcissistic, and I have been very much like my parents especially when I was trying to not be like them because to not be something requires control, self-control and the control of others if and when the self depends on others (and when you’re not fluidly just being yourself, you usually need others to help you be your not-self), it creates stress, anxiety and breakdowns when your ‘real’ self breaks free from your control and wreaks havoc on your tense and tidily ordered facade.
There are paradoxes to the concept of personality – who you think you are isn’t always who others think you are. You think your personality is one thing, but is that how others perceive your personality?
I once had a silly argument with a friend because when I asked him how I came across, how I appeared from the outside in (which was something I was always trying to perceive), he told me that he thought I was warm… and for some reason this bothered me, I was convinced that I was cold (perhaps because my parents were always telling me that I was). That sort of contretemps happened regularly for me – I could never see myself as people saw me, and for some reason they nearly always saw my personality as being the polar opposite of how I viewed it. Maybe that’s normal because we’re on opposite sides of the looking glass.
When I perceive myself as boring – people think I’m mysterious, I think I’m grumpy – people think I’m always smiling, I think I’m stupid – people tell me they’re intimidated by my intelligence, I think I’m shy – people think I’m aloof, a snob, I think I’m being polite – people think I’m rude, I’m joking – they’re taking me seriously, I’m being serious – they think I’m joking (admittedly I sometimes smile when very angry)…
but is any of that personality?
What is my character? Is it in the way I think? Is it in what I feel, the emotions I experience… and how I deal with them? Is it something deeper, in some primal core which never changes? Is it the way the brain is wired? Is it DNA, genetic? Is it in the choices we make? Is it in the concepts we believe?
For instance, I was taught, directly and indirectly, by my Narcissist parents to be manipulative – to survive having Narcissist parents the child has to be manipulative, to be devious (you learn quite quickly to hide what really matters to you so it can’t be used against you, or abused), to alter reality, to learn to know what people want you to say and do so that you can give them what they want, to pretend to be someone you are not so that you can be who others need you to be for them, etc.
If you’re dealing with cerebral Narcissists, you tend to have to become Machiavellian, because they like to play human chess, and mess with your life sometimes just for their entertainment, sometimes for more serious and seriously twisted reasons (it’s all seriously twisted, but a child of Narcissists develops a different categorisation criteria from ‘normal’ people, a bit like children who grow up in war-torn countries do).
While it is sometimes a good tactic to let a Narcissist win to get them off your back, let them think they’ve crushed the breath out of you, stolen your happy for themselves, etc (and to ‘let them win’ may require a certain degree of Machiavellianism, if you want to come out of the interaction with a piece of you still intact), it can sometimes not be the ‘right’ tactic to use, especially if letting them win will destroy everything you have or, more importantly, harm someone else whom you care about through you not putting up a fight against the Narcissist (I upped my game against my parents once I fell in love and realised that allowing myself to be hurt ended up hurting the person I loved, and who loved me – it really shocked me out of my apathy about letting my parents regularly crush me).
If I took the Dark Triad test would I come out high in Machiavellianism?
Not if the test phrased things in the present tense. At some point in my life I made a vow with myself never to use manipulation unless absolutely necessary (as in when dealing with Narcissists), even then I was to keep it to the minimum indispensable. My parents weren’t wrong about me being stubborn and difficult, I have kept to this vow even when it would have made my life so much easier had I just been manipulative (but easy can sometimes become hard later on, especially if you’re weaving a tangled web). I have strayed into that territory known as ‘radical honesty’ to keep my vow to myself, and have since edited the vow to include – some things aren’t the truth, they’re an opinion and that opinion does not need to be shared.
The ‘powers’ of the Dark Triad can be used for good, not just evil… and Machiavelli kind of meant his advice to be used that way, he was living in dangerous times, working with devious people, trying to encourage diplomacy using the language which those around him appreciated and understood – he’s been rather misunderstood.
There are many ego traps along the road of consciously forming and shaping your personality – one of the trickiest is the ‘I don’t have an ego’ ego trap, otherwise known as ‘let’s get rid of ego – said the ego’. Ego is an ally when it is working with the rest of you, let it take control and convince you it is the boss or treat is as the enemy and you have – an ego problem.
Who do I think I am? What do I think my personality is? Tbh, that’s always in flux, but there’s a fixed part which is basically the same as I was as a child when I was left alone, and went a bit feral.
Some people have described me as ‘thought-provoking’ (I get this a lot on my blog), a few have called me a ‘mad scientist’ because they have noticed that I like to experiment on myself, especially with concepts, someone once looked at me with sharp eyes and said – you’ve got a centre made of steel – apparently they thought I was as soft on the inside as my outside seemed to be.
Other people tend to usually think better of me than I think of myself. But don’t we all think that way, because we’re on the inside and it’s awful in here! Which means those seeing us as better than we think we are… are doing the same, and perhaps they think we’re better than we think we are because they’re looking at us through glasses warped by what they think of themselves – which is that they’re worse than we are, and we look at them that way too and think what they’re thinking.
Thinking that I’m not as good as others could be due to the influence of my Narcissist parents who needed me to always be worse than them (except when they didn’t, but that wasn’t always a positive experience), who regularly reminded me that I was inferior to their superiority, and who liked, when they were particularly peeved at each other, to unfavourably compare me to the parent in disfavour – you’re just like your father/mother, and this is a very bad thing!
Are you ever really just you, is your personality for you or is your personality for other people?
Ultimately I’ve reached the conclusion that… I can’t draw any conclusions., as there is always insufficient data regardless of how much information I download into myself.
My MBTI is INTP – I didn’t always get that as my result, but then again I didn’t always answer personality tests honestly (I used to put in who I thought I should be, or who I’d like to be… or who I thought I was but wasn’t really). It suits me… for the most part. Just as my Sun sign – Capricorn – suits me, but I’ve grown into that.
I like to sometimes wipe myself clear of personality (that is a rather Narcissist thing to do… and I probably did learn to do that from being exposed to NPD, but my parents were far more consistent with their chosen personas than I’ve ever been with mine), and see what sticks, what comes back, what is… real, and what falls away.
Who would I be if I had amnesia? – I used to wonder about that regularly as the burden placed upon you as the child of Narcissists comes with so much narcissistic wound baggage, passed onto you to fix, cure, heal for them as they can’t do it…
4. And how has it affected their ability to trust and have a healthy relationship with others?
Trust no one… especially not yourself! – that’s what my parents taught me.
My father actually said it almost exactly like that but he replaced ‘yourself’ with ‘me’ (meaning him), because he knew enough about himself to warn you that he was going to screw you over and it was up to you to not let him do it. He liked to warn people about himself, it was part of the human chess game. He knew that you probably wouldn’t believe him, you’d think he was being charming-funny, that everything you wanted and needed from him would stop you from seeing him as he truly was… until he screwed you over and you only had yourself to blame for it. That’s not entirely true, now is it – he who screws over others is the one at fault, but if they warned you and you didn’t heed their warning, you do share some mindful responsibility in learning the lesson they’ve just taught you – don’t trust them, and listen next time someone tells you they’re not to be trusted.
Narcissists do tell us they’re Narcissists. Although they don’t usually say “I’m a Narcissist”, they’ll say it in other ways – ways you’ll recognise in retrospect when doing a post-mortem on your relationship, it’s just sometimes really hard to hear it, we dismiss it, we make excuses for them… we don’t want them to be that, they won’t be like that with us – it’s obviously their crazy ex who was the problem, all their crazy exes were to blame (rather than the common denominator of all those crazy exes).
My father was an Overt Narcissist, most probably a Cerebral Narcissist although he did also have many traits of the Somatic Narcissist (he had many affairs and he didn’t hide them because he got excused due to being ‘an artist’). He loved playing mind games, every interaction with him no matter who you were became a battle of wits and wills, a human chess match with him making up the rules as things progressed because the one who makes the rules is the one who wins even if they lose.
My mother was a Covert Narcissist… which basically means she believed it every time she said that she didn’t have a deceptive bone in her body, couldn’t lie to save herself, was as innocent as a newborn baby (except for her baby, her newborn was not innocent at all according to her), and was a good person, righteous, a martyr and a saint. It was everyone else who was evil, bad, deceptive, lying liars who lie… and because of them she had a full time job cleaning up their messes!
My mother trusted everyone… especially when that everyone was a con artist. The number of times I turned purple in the face while trying to get her to see that her latest best friend in the entire world whom she’d just met in the street and who told her how beautiful, smart, and wonderful she was, was about to fleece her… only to have her turn on me, scream that I was a killjoy who never trusted anyone… in a movie things would fade to black and then you see – sometime later on, and it would cut to a scene where I would have to listen as she recounts over and over and over the story about how this evil person deceived her and stole from her… after everything she did for them, how could they be so ungrateful!
She never learned!!!! That is at the top of my list of – Most Frustrating Things About Narcissists. They never learn from their experiences, from their mistakes – because they can never admit they made a mistake, because they rewrite the story of what happened, and because they just reset themselves, rewind back to the start, press play, and repeat.
When a Narcissist is rewriting their past, they need any witnesses to the actual events to forget what they saw and to remember things as the Narcissist has decided that they were.
If a witness refuses to cooperate in the Narcissist’s rewriting of history, then they must be ‘disappeared’ (the discard) or discredited, made to seem untrustworthy, unreliable, a lying liar who lies (smear campaign).
If the witness agrees to cooperate, then the witness must wipe their own mind of the actual memory and replace it with the new ‘improved’ version (you will be helped by the Narcissist via the use of gaslighting).
Seems simple enough… and it is surprisingly simple to do, especially if you’re the child of the Narcissist and your mind is already malleable, you’ve already done this countless times, you’re trained to doubt your own eyes, ears, and mouth, it didn’t happen the way you think it did, silly child, it happened the way the big and powerful adult who controls your little life is telling you it happened… and with enough repetition they will convince you of their story, you will convince yourself, and soon you’ll remember things the way they want you to and convince others of it (repetition is great for learning!)… it will become as real a memory as the real memory was, maybe even more real because it’s more fixed, more dramatic (like a film/TV show with the boring real life stuff edited out), less flexible, less open to being questioned, than a real memory…
Confused? You won’t be as confused on the surface as you will be underneath… beneath the surface calm, keeping of the peace, placating of the Narcissist, doing what you must do to survive… there is a seed which has been planted which will grow into a mighty weed, and it’s known as – you can’t trust yourself because you betrayed yourself.
Probably the biggest shock I had was when I realised how often, how easily, how willingly, and how thoroughly I’d betrayed myself over and over again for the sake of my Narcissist parents (mainly for my mother because she needed my self-betrayal more than my father did to maintain her status as a saint and innocent victim).
It took me forever to regain my self-trust… it’s still a work in progress…
As for healthy relationships… what are they? Does anyone actually have one of those (if you spend enough time online… you really do end up wondering about that), is it a myth we all chase after and think everyone else has except us?
If the first significant relationship you have with the first significant male and first significant female in your life set the stage and format, pattern to be repeated, for all your other relationships afterwards – what does that mean for children of Narcissist parents? Are we doomed to end up with a Narcissist because we’ve been perfectly calibrated for that type of person and that kind of relationship? Or to become so erratic in our relationships due to all the fears, anxieties, false beliefs, expectations, and carrying of the Narcissistic wound which was passed onto us by our parents, that we end up being the Narcissist in the relationship even if we manage to connect with a non-narcissist and try really hard not to be that?
In my life I’ve had few truly close relationships – I couldn’t allow people to get close to me, I had to protect them from myself, and my parents ran interference.
While my parents were still a part of my life, they would interfere in any relationships I had outside of the family.
As a child they used to feel the need to ‘seduce’ my friends away from me (they were not peadophiles, but it did have that kind of creepy vibe, and used similar ‘grooming’ tactics, however they weren’t interested in my friends in any way at all, I just wasn’t supposed to have that kind of contact with others and they must always be the centre of all attention).
As an adult they felt threatened by others ‘seducing’ me away from them. I was apparently without a brain, as they often mentioned others brainwashing me – my mother in particular was always using this as a reason for why I was ‘suddenly’ acting up, someone else must have gotten to me, be influencing me (she once got my school to separate me and my best friend because my best friend was a ‘bad influence’ on me), and now she’d have to do a brain wipe on me, reprogram me and delete their program. Hello… I do have thoughts of my own.. nope, you don’t, you dope!
After my first big crush in high school, I made such a mess of things (at least from my perspective – although I did reconnect with my crush decades later when I had a Facebook account, and he said – Oh, you’re that crazy redhead – so maybe from his perspective too) that I told myself I couldn’t enter into a relationship with someone else while I was so screwed up, it wasn’t fair to them. I had to protect people from me – the levels to which I believed this went deep, and this program took a long time to uninstall. I told myself things like – if someone wanted to marry me, they wouldn’t just be marrying me, they’d be marrying my parents, and the dowry would include all the baggage and damage which Narcissists bring with them, have caused and have yet to cause – that was a fairly sound piece of reasoning.
I shied away from relationships, pushed people who found me attractive in any way at all away from me, avoided friendship, and ran from romantic love like it was a plague – I saw myself as a plague on romantic love. There were a couple of people who tried to breach my fortress of solitude, they were most likely Narcissists as they’re the sort of people who see personal boundaries as a challenge, a wall to be demolished, a safe to be broken into so they can get at whatever treasure you’re keeping inside. But there was no treasure, and my fortress had other fortresses within.
Narcissists can be very determined, relentless (they can appear like heroes from romantic films/novels who pursue their prey… I mean loved one… until it all ends happily ever after – but does it really?), but they also give up easily (one of many contradictions that come with Narcissists).
I succeeded in keeping anyone who might like or love me at bay rather well for a completely useless, worthless, failure at everything, but then again I was unloveable, someone only a mother like mine who was dedicated to the cause of loving the unloveable could love. My father told me I would be a spinster, I was frigid like my mother and obviously there was no one like him to marry me as he had married her…
My parents had many versions of how they met and why they married, it changed with their moods and with their latest incarnation of themselves. What was a constant was the fact that they were obsessed with each other – some people thought this was true love, I thought it was sheer hell.
Their relationship was a hovering presence over me and all of my relationships (a bit like alien spaceships are portrayed in alien invasion films), the ones I tentatively had and the ones I imagined perhaps one day having, it was also a competition (everything with Narcissists is a competition) where they had to win, no love could be greater than theirs… in some ways I’d had enough of ‘love’ without ever experiencing it myself.
Then, just as I was settling into acceptance of my forever aloneness and kind of seeing it as something good, the unthinkable happened – I fell in love. I didn’t believe it. I tried to resist it. It was a very cliched experience… I was swept away on a flood of feeling, released from shackles.
The way my parents behaved when I introduced my partner to them was Narcissist parents 101.
My mother in particular pulled out all the stops to chase her rival away. She even pulled the – I’m so afraid of what will happen to you if you get your heart broken – routine, it was something she said every now and then to prove how much she loved me (Narcissists love to hear themselves say things, especially things about love, how deeply they love, how special their kind of love is, etc – they talk the talk and do it well, convincingly, say all those things you hear in romantic films, and romance novels), but she was usually safe in the knowledge that I never let anyone get that close to me, and neither did she. It’s funny really, my mother telling me how afraid she was of my heart being broken when she smashed it on a regular basis. Perhaps she was fearful of real love making me realise that all that stuff she told me was love wasn’t love at all. The things she did to make my partner go away… was that her being protective, being a loving mother? Her version of it would probably portray her that way.
My father just did a routine which was worthy of Brando in Apocalypse Now. He wasn’t interested in chasing my partner away, but he did like having a new audience member to dazzle with his latest brand of the mad artist performance.
My partner has taught me a lot about relationships, we’ve been through a lot together and as individuals, and how to do them healthily (it’s good to let the winds blow between you and not make a bondage out of the bond)… he also taught me about real love, which is very different from Narcissistic love. No more IOU’s, no more sacrifices of the self for some other who doesn’t care what happens to you but pretends that they do, no more worrying about being not loved, rejected, abandoned, because you’ve strayed from who you were supposed to be for them…
I think I may have got the hang of it now, a bit… I’m still difficult to get to know, still very private (even with all the revealing I do on my blog)… it all starts within, with yourself, and ripples outwards from there. I feel more at peace with myself than I ever have before in my life, and those around me seem to feel more at peace with themselves too…
Some of that peace came from all the chaos which got stirred up a few years ago when my father died and his death brought my mother back into my life – I finally got to deal with things on my own terms. Going No Contact from them for over a decade was helpful, but there was always the creeping terror that they would crash my life with their drama… which they did, but I dealt with it with a lot of help from friends and allies, my partner (of over 20 yrs) was a rock… and you guys for listening while I posted and for sharing yourselves with me.
Over to you now…
your turn to answer the questions, if you would like to.
If you’d like to share links, to your blog, to articles which speak for you, mean something for you, or for any other reason related to the subject, please feel free to do so. If you want to recommend a film, TV show, video which for you captures your experience, it’s very welcome. Remember that this post is in theory helping a student to explore a subject… but maybe it’s helping us to explore it.
As always, thank you very much for sharing 🙂
Take care of yourselves!