How Does a Child of Narcissists Break the Cycle of Attracting and Being Attracted to Narcissists?

“I hate myself…” – this is something I said to myself a few minutes ago while reviewing an interaction I had with someone else.

This is something I say to myself a lot, and have said to myself throughout my life. Why? Why do I say this to myself? Where did it come from? Do I really hate myself? Do I have a justifiable reason to hate myself?

It’s so ‘normal’ for me to say it to myself that sometimes I don’t notice I’ve said it. It used to be an important element of my internal dialogue, almost like quotation marks signalling the beginning and then end of a conversation wherein I would list all the things I’d done and said wrong, what I’d failed to say and do, proving once again to myself that I was a reject, a defective being, and so on. If you’ve had this kind of self-conversation, which is sometimes more popularly known as ‘the inner critic’, you’ll easily fill in the blanks, the etc, the and so on.

These days it’s more of a reflex (the reflex, flex, flex, flex… every little thing the reflex does leaves you answered with a question mark), like the ghost of a hand you no longer have reaching out in a fist to punch you for an atom of your being that appeared to be committing a crime against the whole (of humanity).

I gently shushed it (because I’ve finally understood that being hard on myself doesn’t work, while being gentle does), and nudged myself on from the entire conversation because the reflex now marks the spot where a conversation I don’t need to be having with myself is starting.

What happened in the interaction with the someone else to trigger the reflex?

Nothing.

We talked, we did things, but it was ordinary. Humans socialised. It was a pleasant experience of human socialising which required nothing from me other than to show up – my not showing up might have caused a bit of a problem, but I did show up so no need to think about alternate realities and the consequences of actions which did not happen.

There were no problems to be solved, no issues to go over with a fine tooth comb to find the nit which is making the whole head scratch and infecting others’ heads too, nothing to feel guilty about, ashamed, blame myself for and then pressure myself to make amends, fix, redress. No need for a post-mortem analysis. The only reason for reviewing the interaction would be to remind myself that I can actually have a good time when with other people.

Perhaps that’s what triggered it – things went well, I felt good in the moment and afterwards, I didn’t even feel the stress which introverts are supposed to experience when socialising, when having to be around other humans. Yes, I was a bit spaced out, but I’m always a bit spaced out – and this was the good kind of spacing out which means I am relaxed enough to do that. I didn’t have to be vigilant. There weren’t any problems to worry about…

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Feeling good about yourself especially when with other people, having a nice time with people, feeling good about those people, and those people appearing to feel good about themselves, and about you – this is the ideal human social interaction, isn’t it? this is what healthy relationships are like, right? So what’s the problem, what’s my problem? How on earth did I find a reason to hate myself within all of that goodness?

I am a child of Narcissists.

If you’re the child of Narcissists you have a permanent problem in your life, and worrying is what you do for many reasons. Once you get into the habit of worrying, it’s hard to stop, the sky might fall if you stop being constantly anxious, hypervigilant, your worrying is what is keeping the worst case scenarios at bay.

What’s the permanent problem in your life when you’re the child of Narcissists? It’s your Narcissist parents, however you don’t realise that it is them because from the moment you arrive in their life they tell you that the permanent problem is you.

They tell you that you’re the reason why they’re unhappy, miserable, depressed, crying, screaming, shouting, angry, stressed. This tantrum they’re having which is scaring the crap out of you because it came out of nowhere and is ripping the doors and windows off their hinges, objects are flying around your tiny head as the giant towers over you flailing their arms, froth spewing from their mouth – this is your fault, you did or said something wrong, you didn’t do or say something right, they wouldn’t be doing this if you hadn’t provoked them, and it’s hurting them more than it hurts you. You did this to them. You are a monster, dangerous, a source of harm to others, you should kill yourself but since you’re too cowardly and weak to do that, you must cage yourself up, chain yourself down. You’re a burden to them, you’re bad karma they don’t deserve, but they will generously put up with you because they’re good people like that. You owe them and you will never be able to repay the debt – they own you. They’d sell you if they could but no one else is going to want you, you’re unlovable. You’re toxic, poisoning their environment…

maybe you can make an effort to be less toxic. You’ll probably fail, but you could at least try.

You’re the chaos theory butterfly and every time you flap your wings, even just a little bit – don’t move or else people will die, nations will crumble, think of the little children, the baby bunnies.

Maybe that’s why I say ‘I hate myself’ to myself. Maybe that’s where it came from. But do I really hate myself, and it the self-hate justified?

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excerpt via – Crazy Herbalist: CPTSD, Allostatic Load and Giving No Fucks – this may be too small to read here that’s why there’s a link, it’s worth clicking on it, this is a great post (thank you, Snakey, for recommending such a wonderful blog!)

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If you haven’t been in a relationship with a Narcissist (chances are you won’t be reading this post) and would like a taster of what it’s like, perhaps because you know someone who has and would like to understand what they’ve been through, maybe you’re in a relationship with a child of Narcissists and you’re seeking answers to questions you have about their erratic behaviour, especially when things are going well between you…

did you tell them you loved them, do something nice for them, and instead of responding with joy they look terrified, got angry, were rude, acted as though you’d just slapped them in the face, ran away, burst into tears, sank into a deep depression, went into what appears to be a self-destructive spiral and now they won’t talk to you, every time you ask them what’s wrong they growl and hiss at you that NOTHING IS WRONG!

When I think of what I put my partner through… we were talking about it the other day and he mentioned that during those times he was afraid that I would leave him. WHAT!?! – that was my reaction, because during those times I thought he would be better off without me. I really didn’t know why he was with me in the first place, how could he love me, why would he…

I know I stayed with my Narcissist parents, but from about the age of 5 I would regularly pack a bag (a little green plastic suitcase, which I’d fill with comic books and pizza – the essentials), walk to the big wrought iron gates of their property and stand there imagining the freedom which lay beyond and which I couldn’t have. If I’d tried to escape the world outside would have returned me to them, to hell (I did not belong in the good place). By the time I could escape, and it was less likely that I would be forced to return, at least by those in the outside world… the person who made me stay was me (I had my reasons, as they say – it’s complicated).

Thankfully things are no longer like that between me and my partner, we can now talk casually about those times and laugh about them (and the laughter isn’t nervous hysteria). It’s taken me a long time to be less of a nutcase, and it’s taken him a long time to understand why I was that way. He often thought it was his fault… WHAT!?!

He knew from the get-go that my parents were a-holes because of the way they behaved with him, and how he witnessed them treating me, but grasping how years of living with Narcissists, how growing up with Narcissists, can impact a psyche is something else. If it takes children of Narcissists ages to figure it out… and some children of Narcissists don’t realise their parents are Narcissists until much later in life – while I didn’t have the word ‘Narcissist’ or its definition as it is used these days, to neatly sum things up when I was younger, I knew there was something off about them and that they were screwing me up, but I didn’t realise the depth or extent of it, sometimes told myself it was normal or better than normal, and often settled into my being what was off and what was screwing everything and everyone up… it’s not going to be a cakewalk for someone who doesn’t have experience of Narcissists to figure it out.

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So anyway, lets’ get to this taster of a relationship with a Narcissist…

Open your eyes really wide until it hurts your facial muscles – your eyes have to be surprised, terrified, and anxious at the same time (and yes, I realise it’s going to make it hard to read if you keep them like that), clench your teeth until the upper jaw seems to want to swap places with the lower jaw and smile with your lips, tense your body until if a feather landed on you it would break a bone, make sure your hands are fists and your nails are digging into the palms of your hands (once again, I realise this is going to make reading a challenge), hunch your shoulders as though you’re carrying a heavy weight don’t move or it might fall off, hold your breath as though you’re wearing something too tight around the chest (yes, I do see the problem with this, you are allowed to breathe just do it as though you’re hiding under the bed or in a dark closet trying not to be heard by a burglar, killer, or boogeyman who is hunting you), and imagine that you’ve drunk far too much potentially lethal strong coffee… you’re still probably too relaxed, but it’s close enough to the normal physical comfort level of a child of Narcissists, or someone who has spent far too long in the company of a Narcissist.

Why do you have to be in physical pain and discomfort to understand something intellectually? Because the body is an intrinsic part of mental processes – if you truly want to experience what someone else is experiencing you really do have to wear and walk in their shoes. When you copy someone else’s physical posture you can get a better feel for their state of being, their thoughts, their emotions.

Now focus on all the negative and self-negating messages you get from Society, from the News, from the Media, from Magazine Covers, TV and Film, from Adverts, from Online Trolls, Social Justice Warriors, and other people who are under the impression that criticising you, telling you what’s wrong with you, pointing out what you need to fix about yourself, is their noble and righteous purpose.

You are not allowed to talk back, comment, disagree, not allowed to defend yourself, not allowed to explain yourself, not allowed to stand up for yourself, you don’t have any rights, all your rights are wrongs, not allowed to point out the flaws in their argument – you can try but this will only cause the negative and self-negating messages to increase in intensity and make you a singular target for all of it.

Now imagine that all those things are one person with whom you live or are exposed to on a daily basis with no respite to catch a break and feel good about yourself – if you do have a moment of feeling good about yourself, don’t worry, it will be crushed, stripped away, and stomped on using a number of techniques (one of which is sure to get you if you escaped the others).

You’ll probably be familiar with the techniques, especially if you spend a lot of time online – ghosting, blocking, unfriending, flaming, bullying, smearing, spamming, stalking, getting others to harass you, and reporting you to some ‘higher authority’ which will get you banned (because you’re the problem not them).

That’s life and a relationship with a Narcissist.

If you’ve ever deleted your online account to get away from someone, from everyone, from all the ARGH that goes on in this tangled world wide web and how it makes you feel, what it does to the synapses in your brain, how it makes your mind feel as though it’s been on a bender – do you have a social media hangover? Perhaps you deleted it because it was turning you into a nutcase, making you behave in ways which were not really you… but you can’t get away that easily, whatever happened online didn’t get deleted when the account did (and did the account really get deleted, is the stuff is still floating around out there, trapped in the web… only now you no longer have the ability to… did you ever have the ability to control it?), and haunts you in your offline life.

That’s the aftermath of a relationship with a Narcissist.

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A relationship with a Narcissist includes self-hate on a regular basis – if you don’t know how to hate yourself, you will learn how to do it so thoroughly that you’ll become a master of self-hate (why would you want to be a master of that?), and will be able to hate yourself for the most ridiculous things and may not even notice how ridiculous it is but if you do you can hate yourself for that too. If you’re not hating yourself – there must be something wrong with you.

With a Narcissist in your life the most insignificant thing can have significant repercussions, that may rumble and ripple on for the rest of eternity (it will feel as though it is an eternity in hell). If you say the wrong thing or forget to mention something, it can leave you hating yourself until you wish you were dead (and death may end up looking like a sleep cure). They will go over and over that conversation, that interaction, that failure of yours to live up to their high standards, that moment when you blinked were supposed to be looking at them unblinkingly, that slight which they found in your tone of voice, that insult they fished out of a casual chat you had with the postman about the weather… you were whispering about them saying bad things and you know how much that hurts them especially with the postman who is jealous envious hates them and they don’t know why but they never liked the postman something is wrong with the postman must be a psycho, that sign that you hate them because you forget to put sugar in their tea, that tragedy when you were in the toilet and they needed your help with an emergency (they’d misplaced their glasses, dropped a contact), they needed to talk to you about a horribly painful experience they had and you didn’t answer you phone, they texted you and you ignored them for 6 seconds too long, you didn’t protect them from that wasp which almost stung them (even though it was on the other side of the window), there are dirty dishes in the sink you don’t love them anymore, there’s a fingerprint on the glass table why must you do this to them…

With a Narcissist you’ll experience alternate realities colliding, whatever happened is never how it happened, their version of events, of you, of others, is not your version, and they’ll make you doubt what you did, said, saw, heard. While you may end up wishing that you could have given them the reality they wanted instead of disappointing them with one they didn’t want, and lived up to their expectations of who they needed you to be for them instead of hurting them by being someone they find repulsive… you will find that those times when you do get it right are wrong too, and you may pay for the actions your alternate self committed in some other dimension (which is all inside the Narcissist’s mind).

And you end up going over and over that conversation, that interaction, doing post-mortems on memories, analysing every move, word, thought, feeling, because somehow, someway there must be a way to stop this.

What’s the point and purpose of this self-hate? Of analysing interactions with others, particularly to find what you did wrong, where you failed? Of checking out alternate realities? Of feeling so awful all the time?

It’s to make yourself better, to become a better person, of course, so that you can win the love of the Narcissist, be worthy of them, be special enough for them to bestow upon you the prize of their immense and superior affections. You are a lowly commoner who has had the good fortune to be given the opportunity to win the hand of the Princess or Prince, the King or Queen, and be given the keys to the kingdom of heavenly wonders, but first you must go on a quest to prove yourself, you will be required to fight dragons and other monsters they invent to throw at you, lose yourself in mazes whose design they keep changing so that you’ll never find your way out, steal treasures for them and kill whoever owns it, sacrifice yourself to break the curse which has been cast upon them and is stopping them from being immortal, and be the hero they deserve – anything less just won’t do.

Once you do that you will be loved by them and live the happily ever after dream…

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excerpt via – Psychology Today: Love Lesson #1: Let There Be Spaces in Your Togetherness by Jennifer Kunst

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With Narcissists it’s all about forcing the real to become the ideal. Remove all imperfections and you get perfection, but to do that all imperfections must be pointed out, identified, correctly labeled, gone over and over, re-pointed out, re-identified, re-correctly labeled, gone over and over, re-re-pointed out… and then killing everything because nothing lives up to their perfectionist ideal (this includes the Narcissist themselves who is desperately trying to be who they are not – much of what they do to others is a reflection of what they do to themselves, and what was done to them which made them a Narcissist in the first place. The wound gets passed on as it searches for its healing).

One of the more intriguing aspects of blogging about my experiences with Narcissists, has been listening to the stories which people who did not grow up with Narcissists have shared about their relationship with a Narcissist.

Why is it intriguing?

Because when you’re a child of Narcissists you spend a lot of time investing heavily in fantasies of the world outside of the Narcissist Family (and plotting ways to escape the hell you’re in and get into heaven where everyone else is). You wish that you were normal, that you had a normal family and could be a child like normal children, and grow up to fit seemlessly into society, have the life which others are living, ordered, logical, stable. You long for the simplicity of a healthy relationship which you’re convinced normal people have. You want to be in a Narcissist-free environment, and experience what that is like – which you think is genuinely loving, warm, full of support, protection, encouragement, and many other things which you can only imagine.

And when you hear of people who are normal who willingly enter a relationship with a Narcissist – why would they do that to themselves!?

I guess the same question could be asked of children of Narcissists when we end up in relationships with other Narcissists, perhaps with even more emphasis as we know from experience that this is a bad idea, and we should in theory be able to recognise when someone is a Narcissist, then avoid them and their Wonderland.

Whereas normal people don’t have the personal experience, don’t know that there are wolves out there who like to dress up as Grandma, evil witches and warlocks who hide behind a facade of Prince or Princess Charming, and simply make the mistake of thinking that the Narcissist is who the Narcissist is pretending to be because their experience has taught them that you take people at face value and this has usually worked for them.

If your experience of relationships was mostly normal until your relationship with a Narcissist (your previous relationships probably had drama and issues, was messy, but nothing like what happened with the Narcissist), and this was/is your first experience of a Narcissist, you’ll most likely be reeling for years to come, the devastation they wreaked on your self-image, self-esteem, self-confidence, identity, and status may be something which is never fully repaired, the damage will leave a permanent scar… but the scar is a sign of healing having happened to a wound. After the Narcissist you will be stronger, wiser, and have a deeper connection with yourself, the knowledge you now have, everything you have learned as painful as it is, has value. You can rebuild and build things better for you, turn your experience into personal power.

But how do you do that?

Quite a few of the people who haven’t grown up with Narcissists but who had the misfortune of mistaking a Narcissist for a dream come true, an ideal soul mate, have mentioned having a former life and former self which they’d like to get back to. They have a past self which was beautiful, intelligent, successful, ambitious, confident, independent, happy, etc, who lived a good life filled with friends and family who love them… then the Narcissist shattered it all, but the pieces are still there, albeit scattered and smashed into smithereens. But it’s solid ground upon which to build improved abode for the self. It will take time, patience, and the perseverance to sift through what to keep and what must be let go… but they’re going to be fine.

What about children of Narcissists who don’t have a self and life before the Narcissist? Sure they had one before the new Narcissist in their life which they got involved with because… there was something so comfortable and familiar about them, an easy slotting into a role, a merger where once again the child is an extension of the Narcissist parent…

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excerpt via – Psychology Today: Essential Secrets of Psychology: Repetitive Relationship Patterns by Stephen A. Diamond

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With a Narcissist parent, are we, their children, doomed to end up in relationship after relationship with other Narcissists, are we stuck repeating the patterns of attracting and being attracted to Narcissists because it’s all we’ve ever known, it shaped our idea of what a relationship should be, it’s familiar, comfortable (not as in a comfy chair… unless the comfy chair is an iron maiden), routine, and our Narcissist parents trained us, groomed us, primed and programmed us to be the compliment to a Narcissist personality.

Are we just too messed up to be with normal people? And if we do get ‘lucky’ and find ourselves with a normal person, will we turn them into a Narcissist?

I asked the last question because I did go through a short phase where I thought I might be turning normal people into Narcissists – that’s a rather Narcissistic magical thinking thought, and thankfully I figured that out quickly. It was interesting to have that thought, it gave me a new view of an old story, the one where it’s your fault that other people are behaving badly. You are turning them into monsters because you’re a monster and that’s what monsters do to good people. Your mother only screamed at you and spanked you because you were bad. Your father only slapped you because you goaded him. You’re bad and make good people do bad things, and then they feel bad about it when you should be the one to be feeling bad – it always hurts them more than it hurts you, you feel nothing.

This wasn’t that long ago, it was when I first entered the fray of social media (awhile before I started blogging) and I made some ‘friends’ online. I initiated contact, and made the effort to be friends (for a shy person this is a bit like those dreams where you’re naked in a public place and everyone else is wearing clothes). I pursued a friendship with them because I know I can appear stand-offish (which I have been repeatedly told is a bad thing to be) and thus it’s up to me to make the first moves (and in some cases do all the work. It’s taken me most of my life to realise that real friendship is not a job). They seemed normal, but then they turned into my mother… and at the time I could only see what I’d done which might have caused that to happen. Mostly what I’d done was be too self-effacing and too concerned about pleasing them, making them feel good about themselves, and other habits a child of Narcissists learns to do to feed the Narcissist with the Narcissistic supply they need.

If you feed a normal person with Narcissistic supply do they turn into a Narcissist? No.

Can I turn people into my mother? No. Although I can perceive a normal person as being like my mother, anything can trigger that (or at least it used to – I don’t trigger so easily these days) and once I start seeing them that way it tends to keep going, like a snowball rolling down a snowy hill until it turns into an avalanche known as Mommie Dearest (do they name avalanches like they do storms?). Most of this is all in my head, and if I get in there and sort things out I can reverse some of the mess it creates (I’ve gotten better at catching myself before this happens, pausing, taking a time out to have a little chat with the part of me which is seeing the ghost of mother in other). Occasionally this habit is useful and I notice something about someone which I need to notice… like that they may indeed be similar to my mother.

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My experience of relationships with Narcissists other than my parents tends to be with females who are like my mother. I was doing exactly what the excerpt from Psychology Today discusses – it was a repetition compulsion.

Usually they’re Covert Narcissists, victims in permanent distress who need a knight in shining armor to save them… but who get really aggressive if you offer them solutions to any of their millions of dramatic problems, and suddenly you’re the dragon.

I’ve repeated this pattern more times than I care to remember – but remember I must so that I will stop doing this!

I have sort of stopped, and the attraction I feel towards this type of female has diminished, but… they can be so gosh darn gorgeous, so out there, so wildly wounded! And bang! We’re right into my relationship with my mother with me slotting into the role of the knight in shining armor rescuing a poor damsel in distress who needs to be loved back to health so she can be who she was born to be (if only that jealous witch hadn’t cursed her!) – beautiful, magnificent, powerful, free… only her freedom requires that I and everyone else wear chains, and bleed for her – ’tis but a scratch!

For some reason I didn’t need to do that with my relationship with my father. Overall my relationships with men tend to be fairly healthy, inasmuch as I don’t tend to attract nor am I attracted to Narcissist males. I respect myself when I am with males. With females my self-respect tends to do a vanishing act. Not so much anymore, but I still hold myself back around females, tone myself down, feel shy (not the regular shyness of a shy person but shying away from being myself out loud and proud) and that can open the door for a Narcissist female to step in and take over.

I’m not certain why female Covert Narcissists are attracted to me, but I’ve got plenty of theories because every time it happens I explore the scenario again, see it from a new perspective, notice something I’d missed before, get a chance to spot changes in the pattern and find out why (did I do something right for me this time?), and each time I understand a bit more about the dynamic, about myself within it, and get a tiny bit more closure on my relationship with my mother.

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The question of closure crops up regularly in conversations with victims of Narcissists.

Can you get closure from a Narcissist?

Can someone who is certain, convinced, staunchly entrenched in their view and version of reality, that everything is your fault, that the problem is you and all problems, issues, dramas in your relationship stem from you and your dysfunction, that you are the villain and they are the hero, that you’re the Narcissist (these days Narcissists have a great title to bestow, like a king or queen knighting a courtier, upon their victims – Narcissist) and they are the victim of a Narcissist, that they are the ones who suffer and you are the cause of their suffering, ever have a moment of clarity wherein they are faced with who they are to you, how you see and experience them, what they have done to you, all the pain and hurt they’ve inflicted upon you, that they are a Narcissist?

And if they do have that moment of momentary clarity will they apologise, feel bad about it, empathise, sympathise, regret, fall down upon their knees and beg for forgiveness (even if they aren’t going to get anything they need or want out of it)?

Will this fly which is buzzing around my head ever understand that it’s bothering me? And if it does will that make it stop doing it? Does it care if it bothers me? Is bothering me part of its enjoyment of life?

Through this blog I have spoken with people who have claimed that they are Narcissists, and have said that they are genuinely interested in making amends, in sorting themselves out, in not being who they have been and doing what they have done. If they really are Narcissists this would mean that there are Narcissists who can have prolonged clarity, and who may be able to give the people in their lives closure.

In some ways my father gave me closure when he died, and I don’t mean that by being dead that’s the end of that. For a child of Narcissists a dead parent does not necessarily = closure. He actually acknowledged that he had a daughter in a way that he had never done before – it felt foreign and strangely good. I almost cried, but I couldn’t relax and have those kind of feelings as his death and the closure he gave me came with a whole lot of mess which included my mother turning up in my life again after over a decade of No Contact – this did not feel foreign and was the usual shit.

As for being sad that my father had died – I grieved and mourned the loss of my father decades earlier, and gave myself closure.

I accepted that our relationship had been and was what it had been and was, that he was the way he was and in many ways couldn’t be any other way and me hoping that he’d become someone who he wasn’t was… well, in some ways it was me being narcissistic – I wanted him to be the father I wanted to have rather than be the father that he was, which wasn’t a typical father playing the fatherly role. My father was more of a sibling for me – but I don’t have real siblings so I don’t know if that’s how you experience a sibling.

I accepted that he didn’t love me or couldn’t love me, I don’t know if he knew how to love… or maybe his interpretation and definition of love just wasn’t the same as mine – he often said “those who love me, follow me” and then he’d disappear. Even if I’d wanted or tried to follow him, I couldn’t because my mother also had the whole ‘those who love me, follow me’ rule going on and she was invariably going in the opposite direction from my father even when she claimed that she was ‘the great woman behind the great man’. It was better when they were not in the same room or country.

My father kind of abandoned me to my mother and then accused me of taking her side against him. I sort of understand what was going on with that nonsense… and there was nothing I could do about because that was their story. Sure they made me believe that their story was my story and somehow I was supposed to fix what they had broken and kept breaking and was probably never unbroken in the first place. I now accept that their shit is not my shit no matter how much I swam in it and drowned in it, and it seeped into me through cuts and orifices.

The last time I spoke to him was shortly after the last time I spoke with my mother. I called him to tell him that he was right about my mother, and that I was sorry for being a bitch to him. That was closure with him for me – it may not sound like closure, especially since apologising to Narcissists is a regular feature of a relationship with a Narcissist and you have to apologise all the time and for everything regardless of whether an apology from you is warranted. But this apology was genuine and something I needed to say – I did it for me not for him.

It drew a line which created a boundary – I had passed the point of no return and I did not want to return. Returning is a habit most children of Narcissists have – just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

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Being out from under the thumb of your Narcissist parents, out of their story, out of their neverending drama, is great. You’ve escaped from hell, from Alcatraz, from a dictatorship, from a wartorn country. Freedom finally, you can get some sleep, relax, enjoy being yourself… or can you?

You’re free now, but what are you going to do with your freedom? You can be yourself now, but who are you? You can do and can be whoever you want, but what do you want?

Sometimes getting out of a relationship with a Narcissist isn’t all you thought it would be because you’ve only fantasised about what it would be like… reality can be scary when you have no reference points on how to live in it. Freedom can be fearsome because it stirs up everything which was hidden inside, contained, repressed, suppressed, and lets it loose.

After a lifetime of having to deal with others, with your Narcissist parents, and their minions (sorry, minions, I couldn’t think of a flattering word to describe how we experience you). After years of having to survive everyone else and what they’re throwing at you… that’s over. You now have to deal with yourself and survive what you will now throw at yourself. There are many pitfalls and if you’re anything like me you’ll fall into every single one of them. Except for one – I did not get involved romantically with a Narcissist, but I didn’t need to because I became a Narcissist to myself, took over where my parents left off, filled the No Contact void, and did it better than they did because they could never reach my core but I could.

Somehow I’m okay (and it’s not because I’m somehow special or anything like that – that’s the realm of Narcissists where it’s all about comparing me with you, you with me, until you’re down there and the Narcissist is way up there), so if you’re wondering if there is a silver lining, if there is any point to putting yourself through this, in keeping on keeping on – Don’t you dare give up on yourself! You can do this! And it’s definitely worth it! You’re most likely never going to not be a mess (here’s a secret – all humans are a mess, the normals are a mess – whodathunkit!), but you will learn to love that mess like a real parent loves a real child who keeps falling over while learning to walk, poops the stinkiest toxic poops in the entire universe, barfs all over the place, all over you, and burps earthquakes.

Will you find unconditional love, and will it be as great, good and magical as you hoped it would be, will it cure all your ailments and bring world peace… slow things up, take them down a notch, remember and remind yourself that you’re human, others are human too, we live on a planet inhabited by humans… as trite as it may seem to say it – shit happens, it is what it is. Unconditional love may be a myth invented by Narcissists who do NOT want to be human, can’t deal with the reality of it, but they do talk a rather addictive talk about lurve, love, and what it should be, how it should feel, etc. Unconditional love according to humans, and especially Narcissists is nigh on impossible for mortals, and may not even be natural – nature works a lot with symbiosis, I do this for you and you do this for me, and together we do this for others and others do something for us. Our human obsession with unconditional love may be killing the planet… maybe not.

Enjoy the small things, they have a tendency to accumulate… big things are made up of millions of small things.

Someone offered you their seat on a bus, someone gave you a smile, someone got out of your way while you were walking, someone in traffic let you in, someone didn’t hassle you when they could have so easily done it, someone ignored you when you were rude to them, someone let you know when you gave them too much change after a transaction, someone didn’t break into your house while you were away, someone picked up your garbage, someone dropped a penny and you picked it up hoping that all day you’d have good luck – did you notice the good luck you had if it was in the shape of tiny things, or something bad which you never knew didn’t happen, and when you made a wish in a well with that penny – did you wish that the person who dropped found a penny too…

all that is a sign of a form of unconditional love… it’s so hard to see sometimes, almost invisible, and we do get so distracted from it by all the little bad things which also accumulate, the bugs which bug us, the peeves which are our pets, the everyday frustrations we chew on and spit out sometimes onto others.

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A child of Narcissists needs to see what their Narcissist parents never could see and may have blinded their child to. You’re okay as you are, sure you could be better, but chasing better can mean you don’t appreciate okay, and okay is rather good.

But you’re not okay, are you? You need something and until you get it…

If you, as a child of Narcissists or as any other victim of a Narcissist, want closure you’re going to have to rely on yourself to give it to yourself. If you can’t accept that and insist on trying to get closure from your Narcissist, from your Narcissist parents, because it’s not closure until they participate in it, until they feel your pain, are sorry they hurt you, admit that they did very bad things, etc, you may find yourself forever in limbo. As long as you need closure from them you will continue to need the Narcissist, you will continue to remain attached to them, they will continue to dominate your life and your psyche, they will continue to have control over you and your life – which is exactly what they want, need, feed on. This closure will be one more thing they withhold from you because it keeps you stuck in hell with them, and they can use it to manipulate you.

How do you give yourself closure?

One of the ways a child of Narcissists gets closure is by going through the stages of grief about never having had and never going to have the sort of parents and relationship with your parents which you wish they were and you had had. How you do the five stages and what each means, what denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance means to you, what order you do them in, how long it takes, and everything else depends upon you – you’re in control of the process even if the process will take you out of your comfort zone, and may make you feel out of control.

Below is a version of the 5 stages of grief designed for children of Narcissists:

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excerpt via – Psychology Today: It’s All About Me! Recovery for Adult Children of Narcissist by Karyl McBride

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For me personally, the anger… was far more complex than outlined in the excerpt above (the excerpt above is a guideline to help us – we don’t need to fight it unless we do). Anger was a bonding experience between me and my parents, in some ways it was the only bond we had. It was the main bond which my parents had in their relationship separate from me – before me their child was anger, they loved it, nurtured it, and grew it into a giant octopus.

My own anger was my protector, the shadow which enveloped me, watched over me and could smite anyone who tried to harm me – it rarely did that, but it could, people could feel its presence so it didn’t need to show itself openly. It kept me safe. It was my sugar, my caffeine, if I needed energy, courage, strength, to get through another day, another round of being screamed at, shouted at, lectured, criticised, bullied, etc, it was there for me, kept me going. I had a juggernaut inside – what would I do without it if I let it go?

My anger is a friend and ally which I will always love, be grateful for, owe my life to – it stopped me from exterminating myself as though I was a pest, plague on the world. I have let it go… which frankly surprised me, that I could do that and it would let me do it, even gave me its blessing. Don’t misunderstand me (or do, it’s up to you), I still have my anger… so don’t piss me off or do piss me off, it’s up to you. But it’s not stuck, I’m not stuck, it’s free, I’m free… within reason.

You can also get closure with your original Narcissist by confronting things you need to confront in your relationships with other Narcissists. So if you do find yourself in a relationship with another Narcissist, instead of beating yourself up for yet again… omg will you never learn… why do you keep doing this to yourself… and other whips you lash yourself with… use this relationship as an opportunity to deal with what you didn’t and couldn’t deal with with your Narcissist parents.

It’s actually easier to deal with parental Narcissists through their stand-ins because their stand-ins are often our peers, and they’re not our parents so we don’t have the whole societal ‘respect your parents’ gumpf to deal with on top of everything else.

I was inspired to start blogging about my experiences with Narcissists after yet another ride on the female Covert Narcissist relationship carousel. I was so frustrated with myself, so furious with the Narcissist… by the end of our ‘friendship’ I kept confusing her with my mother to the point where I began to wonder if I had the onset of dementia. And then the floodgates burst open. I did a lot of ranting and was probably more cruel than I needed to be about that ‘friend’, but by then she was my mother. I’m grateful to that friend for being such an awesome catalyst. Little did I know that what she inspired me to do would be vital a little while later when my actual mother resurfaced.

So give yourself a break if you yet again end up in a relationship with a Narcissist – the repetition compulsion has its uses, and we can use it to heal ourselves. But you do have to notice you’re doing it, and actively participate in healing yourself – look where you don’t want to look, feel what you don’t want to feel, listen to all those things you’ve been saying but refuse to hear. Try to gently nudge yourself on from getting stuck in the usual ruts you get stuck in when you find out that once again you’ve fallen for a Narcissist, been attracted to them, attracted them to you, and venture into new territory within the scenario and dynamic.

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excerpt via – OUPblog: Does anyone know what mental health is? by Anna Alexandrova

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As a child of Narcissists who is aware that you’re a child of Narcissists, and has come to the conclusion that you’re probably a mess in relationships because of being the child of Narcissists… you have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, in other words that you don’t end up labeling everything you do and are as dysfunctional because of the damage done to you by your Narcissist parents.

You’re not as damaged as you think you are, feel you are, have been told that you are – if your parents are the ones who told you that you were damaged goods, remember Narcissists only ever talk about themselves, and that they know nothing about you, never bothered to get to know you, they just assumed you’re who they tell you that you are (which is whoever they need you to be for them).

A large part of your recovery work involves realising that everything you’ve been told, taught and trained for by your Narcissist parents is not something you actually need. You’re kind of going to have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch (this is sometimes referred to as re-parenting), figure out for yourself who you are, what you want, what to do, what to think, how to be… it’s rather fun once you get into it, but it can seem like a daunting task.

If you’re in therapy or read a lot of psychology (like articles on children of Narcissists, and Narcissist parents, and Narcissists) be careful that you don’t fill yourself up with too much negativity – those on the professional side of psychology are studying a subject, they have to take it seriously, and they can be a bit heavy in how they view the subjects they work with. They’re trying to help, and they can be very helpful, but certain aspects of it can feel as though you’re right back where you started.

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When you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the voices, all the do’s and don’ts, all the critics inner and outer, all the chaos in the airwaves, the sensory overload, too much stimuli… take a time out, pause, and step out of it – you won’t miss anything, you’re not the only one prone to moving in cycles.

I like to remind myself that no one really knows anything, we’re all just making things up as we go along… sure some people think they know know know it all all all, and maybe they do, they certainly make a good show of it and have loads of facts and data to back it up (but that kind of foolproof proof has in the past been debunked and oh how we laugh at those who believed what we now have decided and proven is bunk… and around we go).

Give yourself a break when you need one – sometimes that’s the trick to breaking a cycle.

It’s important to remind yourself that although you may not function as people who did not grow up with Narcissists function, this does not = everything about you is dysfunctional. There are positives to you being you, the way you are, with all of your history, and as you work on yourself those positives will increase because you have the power to turn bad experience into life wisdom… which will help you, and as you help yourself you may bump into the rather gratifying experience of genuinely being of help to others (which will show you how real helping works – as opposed to how unreal helping which goes along with Narcissists doesn’t work).

All those times you tried to ‘fix’ your Narcissist… because they told you they needed it, you told yourself they needed it due to being badgered by them into telling yourself that… real ‘fixing’ is so different from that – other people, the normals, the non-narcissists, fix themselves, and sometimes somethign you did to fix yourself helps them with that, but you don’t have to do anything other than be you, doing you stuff, and that inspires them to do themselves doing their stuff.

So what positives does growing up with Narcissists and being the child of Narcissists have?

For instance, children of Narcissists often have a finely tuned radar for what’s going on under the surface of people, beneath the public appearance they’re showing – we needed to develop this for survival purposes and to serve the Narcissist parent (which are often one and the same thing).

You most likely can pick up on the subtle hints another person is dropping via body language, mood, vocal tone, and many other human data spillovers, and this talent of yours will sometimes amaze them and make them think you’re psychic, or creep them out because you know things about them which they hadn’t consciously acknowledged to themselves. People are surprisingly unaware of how much information they give off about themselves, how much they communicate outside and within their regular communication modes of choice.

What you pick up using your radar can work wonders in social situations. It can smooth over some awkward interaction moments. You can probably calm a storm before it happens or quell one which has kicked off. Offer others relief before the SOS goes out, and so on.

Just keep in mind that this can be an invasion of privacy – sometimes it’s best to keep to yourself what you’ve noticed. Make sure you’ve checked their boundaries and respect those – if you respect their boundaries they will most likely return the favour as your respect for them sets the standard for the way you and others will relate. If they don’t return the respect – pay attention. It may not mean they’re a Narcissist, but not all non-narcissists are good people and/or healthy people.

Boundaries you will encounter with non-narcissists may confuse you. For the most part non-narcissists do not want you to appease their bad moods, they can appease their own bad moods and sometimes they just want to be in a bad mood – they are not going to have a narcissistic meltdown, and they don’t need you to fix things for them.

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Keep an eye out for the tendency to be overly concerned for the welfare of others, and protecting them from you and your damage – if those others are adults they can take care of themselves. Non-narcissists are adults when they are adults (not spoiled and twisted children disguised as adults like Narcissists). Sure they have their not-adult moments, but they’re still able to shift back into adult mode should the need arise. It’s wonderfully liberating when you realise that others can indeed take care of themselves, that they do it well, they enjoy doing it, and that they don’t need you to protect them from themselves or from you.

The majority of people in this world aren’t Narcissists, and don’t need other people to cater to them 24/7, don’t play the relationship games which Narcissists play, don’t need you to merge with them and never be your own individual, don’t need you to erase yourself, or be their scapegoat, or the golden child trophy doll where they plunge the knives of their dreams, don’t need you to be anyone or anything other than yourself.

If you are being yourself as you are, they can be themselves as they are – and that’s a healthy relationship. It’ll have dinks, dents, fights, tears, and mess… humans are messy.

Enjoy the mess!

Gotta go, I accidentally (why did I need to say that, would I do ever do that on purpose? Would anyone do something like that on purpose?) let a hornet into the house, and if I don’t panic it’ll find its way out of the house on its own, but I’d better keep an eye on things and guide it if it needs guidance. Hornets are rather sweet, and very intelligent… can’t believe I, the one who has a hornet-phobia, said that.

Over to you…

say something, anything…

let’s talk about Harvey Weinstein… on second thoughts, let’s not do that as too many people are weighing in on it already, and… and that reminds me of the shitstorm which happens when Narcissists take control of a subject…

tell me about a passion of yours!

 

 

 

18 comments

  1. You definitely cover this topic thoroughly, and then some. But we who were raised by narcissists and even grew up to marry one can completely relate. It is so common among introverts and empaths that volumes have been written on the subject. You paint some incredible word pictures of the pain that’s so much a part of emotional neglect, though I also see phsyical abuse in your particular background. I listened to several speakers talk about physical abuse as a child at a conference last week, and was emotionally drained, just listening to stories of how parents can mistreat their children in unimaginable ways. At the time, I thought to myself, at least I had a reasonably normal childhood, even if things went sideways years later. But the truth is, the abuse I suffered was the more subtle kind, the emotional kind. The kind that said to me so often “you were a difficult child ever since you were 2”. It’s no coincidence that my “perfect” sister was born when I was 2 1/2.

    Like you, I grew up hiding, biting my tongue, and sometimes lashing out, for which I’d be punished far more severely than necessary. Thank you so much for sharing what is such a deeply personal, intensely painful history. I’m so glad you’ve learned how to get past it and let go of those insidious lies you heard as a child.

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    • Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      It sounds like you’re from the same generation as I am where physical abuse was beginning to be acknowledged and treated as a serious subject, but things like emotional and psychological abuse were still unrecognised for the most part. Thankfully things have changed – society/humans are growing in awareness bit by bit. We’re better able to deal with things which cause cognitive dissonance and make us want to block them out to maintain our own sanity and sense of order.

      I spent a lot of time telling myself I was ‘lucky’ because I was not physically abused – the spanking and slapping I mentioned in my post were rare. Although the psychological and emotional abuse was not, and those often have a physical effect – I remember one time feeling as though I’d been punched in the gut when my mother said something vicious, I can’t recall what she said but it must have been something worse than usual, my legs buckled, I had to sit down and put my head between my legs, I was nauseous and I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds which felt like minutes, she ignored all of that and continued with whatever she was saying. My parents for the most part hated physical contact with me (or each other, or anyone) of any sort – and since I didn’t react to the spanking and slapping with anything other than stony silence, it kind of ended that. I think my mother may have even casually commented that spanking me was not satisfying – I could be making that up, but that is the sort of thing she would say after a tantrum of hers to make things ‘better’, have a laugh about what had happened to dismiss it all as just an ‘episode’.

      With society really only just barely acknowledging physical abuse, it basically ended up with me not realising I was being abused at all. Which suited my parents and what they were always telling me – how lucky I was to have such wonderful parents who weren’t like any other parents.

      As they say – emotional and psychological abuse leave no visible scars (or do they?) and can be hard to prove to others and to ourselves – part of the abuse is in denying it ever happened.

      I’m in a good place for me now, and sharing it is like sharing anything else which is a part of me. It’s good to talk about it openly, the silence is not good for us or anyone else. We are part of the change, the evolution we want to see happen in the world around us or which we are a part.

      “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

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  2. You elucidate so well what for me for many years was just seen as 1 hell of a messed up mess.I can fully relate to how you felt through your childhood, having a covert narcissistic mother.
    Even just very recently I finally accepted that some of the behaviours which I beat myself up for occasionally, are a direct result of being raised by a narcissist. I am not excusing bad behaviours, but just acknowledging where they originated and not judging myself harshly. Basically as you point out, age softens our attitudes towards ourselves and we don’t need to be judging. As you say we already had far too much of that harshness.
    I was also lucky to have a long term relationship with a kind, loving partner who was prepared to persevere with my neuroses and insecurities.
    These days, I don’t bother with trying to compete in a difficult world which I am not geared for, and I just do what I want to do and not harm anyone else.

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    • Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      Have you ever had one of those realisations where a ‘bad behaviour’ of yours turned out to just be normal behaviour which normal humans do and shrug off, but because you grew up with a Narcissist you’ve come to believe that normal things are bad and you must be hard on yourself when you do them (even if you are gentle with others when they do them).

      One of the things I find difficult is dealing with what is considered to be ‘healthy narcissism’, because sometimes it’s all Narcissist to me. But it’s kind of a weird challenge and I love those. Some of the things non-narcissists do are so frigging complicated – and they think I’m the one being complicated for not joining in. I had one of those ‘I’m not geared for this’ moments recently where I was trying to talk to a human on the phone but it was all computerised for my convenience… and when I did finally get to talk to a human they acted like a computer. I said – All I want to do is this – but they were like – yes, but to do that you have to go through this crop circle design, find the centre and commune with aliens πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Funny! Perhaps I might do better going straight to the crop circle and communicating with the aliens lol!
        Have I ever had a realisation where a “bad behaviour of mine turned out to be normal?”
        Well yes because as a double Sagittarian I tend to be pretty much an anti B.S, kind of person and I am also lazy and often the quickest route to anywhere is a straight line.
        Time wasted in social dancing around each other and mindless trivia bores me silly.
        And yes having a prominent Saturn has ensured that I have been very judgemental of myself.
        Like your last post discussed, I have decided just to drop a lot of it. I am not perfect and never will be and it is futile to worry about this.
        There again. I think there was ultimately only 1 road for me to follow and that was to become a fringe dweller living in a wilderness and protector of wildlife here and an observer of society.
        I have found the rudeness in much of my family and our so called civilisation’s general disrespect for all of us repugnant.
        I have never understood this.
        I found what you said in your last post re: childhood victims of narcissists having to hone their psychic warning systems to be very true.
        My next sister and I would sniff out the psychic atmosphere of the house on awakening each day I think and were telepathic with each other as a defense mechanism.
        But then I read in my astro chart that I was already born with that psychic potential.
        Did I choose my bizarre childhood just to exercise all the weird stuff that I inherited at birth anyway?
        Trying to squeeze myself into a “normal” mold was never going to be successful for me.
        And I am back to being Alice chasing the white rabbit!

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        • I love reading your comments πŸ™‚

          I have also found that the ‘lazy’ way is often more productive, which is partly why, like you, I’m a bit of a hermit. I finally stopped telling myself that I had to make a concerted effort to ‘belong’. I am now where I belong, and that’s just left (or is it right) of the middle of nowhere.

          I also have asked myself why I chose my family etc. I once did a past life regression, not sure if those were past lives I saw, but they weren’t as interesting as this moment when I was in the ‘afterlife’, just kind of hovering somewhere nowhere reviewing. It was a me who wasn’t me but who wasn’t a not me either, and may not have been a who. That left an impression on me, an inkling that I had more power and was more responsible for things than I knew. That screwed me up a bit more because I used it all wrong, still… later on it helped to sort some stuff out.

          We’re everything in Wonderland πŸ˜‰

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  3. I love you… but I think you already know that. When you write.. I feel you. It may be as though I am writing myself. I have spent a lot of time reading… trying to understand myself. It’s interesting because I’ve gotten more from your blog posts than I’ve ever gotten from speaking to a therapist. It’s a bit of an aside… but I don’t think you can really understand narcissistic abuse and its effects if you’ve never had an intimate relationship with a narcissist. Most people understand that you can’t learn to swim from reading a book, but somehow in the mental health profession they don’t seem to understand that. I am not trying to knock mental health professionals, I think many of them mean well… I am just saying that in most aspects of life, that I’ve experienced, the “actual” and the “described” are not the same thing.

    I have a question for you, maybe two, I’ve had them for sometime. I guess I’ve been waiting for understanding on my own… but it hasn’t come. I think the thing that’s interesting about being a child of a narcissist is that “guilt” is a constant companion. I’ve suffered tremendously at the hands of my mother and her minions (my siblings). When I say suffer, I really mean that… But there’s a part of me that still feels guilty for breaking away from the family drama. I know what I’ve been through… but if I am not vigilant, I can begin feeling as though I am “wrong” and I am making too big a deal of all this. I’ve reached a point in my own development that I often just watch myself and my feelings… so I don’t jump into action… but I notice it. How did you deal with this? How did you stop the loop of feeling like you were the problem, even after you consciously knew that you weren’t. It’s like acknowledging a lie, that’s been told to you so many times, that even though you know it’s a lie… after hearing it so many times you start to question whether its true.

    I’ve also read in lots of psychology books and heard “spiritual teachers” preach about forgetting the past and pressing “on”. Focusing on what you want… put your energy into that. I think there’s some validity in this… but I also think for many that have dealt w/ narcissistic abuse or any type of abuse for that matter… A large part of the reason that it continues is because the “abusee” chooses to forgive or gets away from the abuser, forgets and returns to the situation and the cycle continues again. I truly believe that in order for life to move forward… one must focus on where they are going, but I think there’s value in remaining cognizant and aware of what has happened to oneself. I think you understand what I am trying to say… What do you think about this? It’s kind of a paradox, but I feel like you understand what I am talking about.

    In regards to the way you started your post… I don’t think you really “hate yourself”, but I understand the sentiment you were trying to express. I think for many of us learning to love ourselves is the most difficult battle, but it’s definitely the most important one we’ll ever have to fight. I appreciate all that you’re doing here on your blog. Your posts are filled with wisdom. I think you’re a beautiful person.

    Take Care

    Like

    • Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      That part about – “Most people understand that you can’t learn to swim from reading a book, but somehow in the mental health profession they don’t seem to understand that.” – genius! If I ever form a debate team, please can you be the captain. While I’ve tried in the past to articulate a similar view, I’ve never come up with a statement as beautifully concise as that.

      I always feel a bit ‘guilty’ for ‘shaming’ or, like you mentioned, ‘knocking’ or, [insert psychological term for it here] or something along those lines those who are trying to understand and help… sometimes their ‘help’ and them ‘trying to understand’ is the exact opposite of what I need and is sometimes just more of the same BS but bottled differently.

      You’re right, I don’t really hate myself, although I did come very close for a long time and not just because of Narcissists, but there was something there which stopped me from fully committing to it. Little things can sometimes be big things and strong things, and I’ve clung onto those when I was about to be swept away.

      OMG! The Guilt! I often feel ‘guilty’ for ‘whining’ about my parents, my history, etc, in my posts because there are those in the world who don’t have what I have, have been through far worse, are going through things I can only read about (and am grateful I don’t have to experience personally) in the News…

      My mother in particular used to use ‘the News’ (sometimes the News from decades before I was born) to make me feel shit and keep me in line if I ever complained or didn’t accept what she was giving me, or needed a harsh lesson of what those who came before me had suffered for me to be where I am, etc. My father liked to remind me about his humble beginnings, his life in a slum, and so on. The message was – I was lucky, I was spoiled, I was a brat if I said anything. And in some ways they were right, which makes the guilt you feel all the more acceptable.

      I feel ‘guilty’ when I don’t reply to comments on this blog immediately. I feel ‘guilty’ for not approving certain comments and because of that I have approved comments that were probably written by trolls, WUMs and flamers, and have justified that by telling myself that ‘let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going…’ (Rilke). I feel ‘guilty’ when approving a comment which shares too much personal story and I’m not sure if someone meant to share that much… and if they did if they realised this is a public blog and their comment would be made public. I feel ‘guilty’ if I post, I feel ‘guilty’ if I don’t post… for many ‘guilty’ reasons…

      I feel ‘guilty’ that the time I spend on my blog takes time away from those in my offline life… and they can tell me that they’re fine with it, but how many times have I told people I’m fine with something when I wasn’t… and I can feel ‘guilty’ about that too.

      I could go on and on and on without even getting to the Narcissist family stuff…

      How do we deal with the ‘guilt’… and is it really ‘guilt’ (which is why I’ve been putting it in between ‘ and ‘ ).

      I think I’ll write a post about this because it’s an excellent question, subject, issue, etc, but until then, so I don’t feel ‘guilty’ about not answering you πŸ˜‰ particularly because your comment was/is so lovely…

      How do you deal with it?

      Step one – do exactly what you’re doing. Notice it. Noticing things is what is now popularly called – Mindfulness. Before it was called Mindfulness, it was called by many other names according to the latest mind-fad of the moment.

      Noticing it is half of the work because stuff like that can be hard to notice. It gets triggered and we follow procedure – in my case you say ‘I hate myself’ and then list things you should feel guilty about.

      Step two – pause, exactly as you do. Pausing means you’re ‘upsetting’ the normal procedure after triggering, which means you’re not being a good little robot, so it can stir up all sorts of ’emergency back-up’ mechanisms installed in you.

      In buddhism I think this is called ‘observing the monkey mind’ or watching a torrent rush by the riverbank you’re sitting on, a gush of water filled with debris which would usually sweep you along in its flow but you’ve finally figured out how to not be in it… but still there’s a part of you that’s in it and wants tobe in it while also not wanting to be in it.

      Step three – do a George Costanza (which won’t mean a thing if you have never watched Seinfeld or that episode where George decides to do the opposite to what he usually does and finds it to be a positive experience). What would you normally or usually do or are supposed to do according to everyone else and maybe even you? Don’t do that. Do anything but that. How about doing nothing whatsoever because you did nothing in the first place or did a something which isn’t… it just doesn’t need a something else tacked onto it.

      Step four – learn to live with feeling ‘guilty’ because the Narcissists in your life aren’t the only ones who use this tactic of ’emotional blackmail’. I’m not saying just accept the feeling and get used to it… what I’m saying is that this isn’t just a Narcissist family issue which is perhaps why it’s one of the more pervasive experiences of being in a Narc family – this happens to normals who grow up without Narcs too (albeit not as obviously as it does to those who grow up with Narcs). So the more you notice, pause, don’t react to it as usual (as programmed), the more you shift bit by bit out of it and what you’ve learned by experiencing it, facing it, and dealing with it without necessarily routing it out of you will help you deal with the stimuli which causes it which isn’t just to be found in Narcissist relationships.

      Adverts love to use this kind of psyche stuff to ‘guilt’ us to buy things, government, politics, charities, activists, etc, use it… if I flush the toilet am I killing mother earth?

      Step five – flip it around. Okay, you’re ‘guilty’, but is everyone else ‘innocent’? Is everyone else an ‘innocent victim’ of you? Could you save them if you sacrificed yourself? In any case involving Narcissists – no, never, your sacrifice would have been for nothing because they’re caught in a loop – save us, bad you, help us, that’s not how to help us, etc.

      Feeling ‘guilty’ is in some ways a bit of an addiction to ‘feeling bad’… it’s somehow safer to feel bad… feeling good is so risky.

      Those are some thoughts from me, over to you – don’t feel ‘guilty’ for disagreeing or arguing with me and my thoughts (I love doing that with myself and welcome it from others) because that is sometimes the best bit, the bit where we discover what lies beyond the confines of things like ‘feeling guilty’… or something like that.

      And when I read those suggestions from gurus of one sort or another about forgetting the past, I usually look into their past if I can, if they or someone else have made it available (if they themselves haven’t I always wonder… hmmmmm… what are they hiding/running away from?), to see why they’re saying that… wait long enough in some cases and their past gets real pissed off that they tried to discard it without dealing with it in a more logical fashion. Sure, we shouldn’t get stuck in our past the way Narcissists do, and we do have to press forwards because that’s where the present is and we can only really live in the present, but… the present is influenced by the past and so is the future.

      Now I’m going to press the reply button and then feel ‘guilty’ later for what I said or didn’t say, but right now it feels rather good to chat πŸ™‚

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  4. This is a really great post. πŸ™‚ (I always like your posts but this one – and the last one – is particularly good.) In common with other comments here, you have encapsulated what it’s like to grow up with a narcissist. Even though I had relief from my dad, I really felt screwed up (but also didn’t really know that I was screwed up – I did many of the right things at the time, but almost on automatic pilot. I was only able to articulate it sometimes.) and then went on to have relationships with other narcissists (as I recognise now), including a short marriage. I don’t think I really became an “adult” until a few years ago – just stuck in a sort of messy twilight. Narcissists were comfortable for me – regular was weird. You have helped to understand my history in so many uncountable ways. Thank you. πŸ™‚

    Something I’m passionate about – landscape photography. I would love to be in a position to just wander around taking pictures. It relaxes me, puts life in perspective, reminds me to enjoy things. πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      I kind of agree that this is rather good as I felt good about it when I pressed publish. I took my time with it and rewrote it when it felt not quite right. I shifted where I was writing it from, and this one comes straight from the heart.

      Narcissists are comfortable for those who are familiar with their format, even if the comfort is found in the discomfort. It’s like jazz (to me anyway), I didn’t grow up with the sound, no one taught me how to listen to it and how to appreciate it, the differences and subtleties of it, etc, to me it’s just something which stresses me out and I avoid it. But opera, I grew up with it, it’s familiar, I know how to listen to it and appreciate the caterwaul even when it’s painful to the ears. We get used to things even when they may hurt us (we get used to the feel of that kind of pain), we develop a certain appreciation for it even if its abusive, harmful, and find the things we’re not used to a bit scary (it helps if we’ve been taught to be scared of anything and everything else – Narcissists don’t want us to like what they don’t like, what scares them).

      But then one day we stray because staying becomes something we can no longer do and we venture into scary places and sometimes find them to be better than where we thought was the best place to be or all we were worthy of having…

      Perhaps that’s why landscape photography is a passion… your eyes can see something beautiful in the panoramas before you, you want to explore the unknown wilderness and find your own vision (rather than stay where you were told to stay because it was ‘safe’).

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      • Yes – very much so. I found my reactions to the early disagreements I had with my M screwed up by my automatic assumption that I was going to get “weird” as a response. I had to learn that it was okay to be “regular.”

        Yes – landscape photography is theraputic. πŸ™‚

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  5. There is so much to say in response to this, yet I think the best is Kudos, for summing this one up to as near perfection as one can get, especially regarding this topic.

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  6. This is a long rant so apologies in advance. I am a child of narcissists. And I thought I had it all figured and broke the “attraction” cycle. But here I am yet again, I find myself feeling, discarded, rejected, manipulated, obsessing and reeling, because I believe I was involved romantically with another narcissist. I’ve written on here before regarding this issue.

    It was an 8 year long affair that was “on” “off” – and mostly the “off” was due to me, if not all of it. Until the final discard. I always wondered why he tolerated all of my shit – and he would say “Because I love you.” – I noticed he never got angry. Not ever. And it made me feel uncomfortable. A lot about him made me feel uncomfortable. He seemed insecure and would make statements about how he was better at work than everyone else, he was better at coaching his son’s baseball team than other coaches, but he didn’t coach because they refused to listen to him, he blamed his ex for everything that went wrong in the marriage – she left him for another man. So on the surface it was easy to believe it was all her and not him. Yet now I wonder if she was looking for a way out and took it? All I know is there are always two sides to a story. He called me an “upgrade” – which I recall feeling both complimented and insulted. In fact the entire relationship I felt both attracted and repulsed. This dynamic was strange for me and I struggled to understand it.

    I never really saw a long term relationship as a possibility. There were times I wanted to, tried to. I would question myself and think “You are setting your standards too high. You’re judging him. Nobody is perfect especially YOU.” But the most important reason that I resisted his attempts to have relationship with me was my own child. His children seemed to have some serious emotional and behavioral issues. He and ex wife seemed to be rather neglectful – and it reminded me quite a bit of my own parents. Their marriage, divorce, and love lives with others were the number one priority. I didn’t want to bring that kind mess into my own child’s life. In fact I went NC with my parents after she was born. My mother was PISSED when I became pregnant because she knew she would have competition for my time and attention. I would no longer be there for her on demand.

    I met this man very soon after my H and I separated – and that’s a long story. But after dating for 3 months, after he told me he loved me, which was rather quick I realized, and yet I told him I loved him too – I ended it. I had other priorities at the time and wasn’t ready and I like I said I was both attracted and repulsed.

    But he chased and chased for years. I liked the attention, I liked being wanted, I liked he seemed obsessed with me and I did take advantage of it. I didn’t care when he would stop. I just thought “I’ll ride the ride until it ends” I felt fondness but not too attached.

    Then one day something shifted – I was in a panic, Things in my life were not going that great, I wasn’t feeling great about myself, and feeling like “Well I’m no prize myself and this guy really loves me and there’s a lot of good there.” – so I found myself mentally gearing up to take the good with the bad.

    I was still not divorced – and keeping my relationship with him a secret – which he knew and tolerated. I was fence sitting and couldn’t understand why he would be so patient with it all.

    Then he abruptly became distant. I didn’t say anything. He claimed his work was insanely busy and he was moving etc. He was sorry for going “dark” – but I felt something was off. Then I caught him a lie – lashed out at him. And he went completely silent. He gave me the silent treatment for a few days – then responded again. Then I said something along the lines of “I guess we should probably end this.” he went silent again. Would not give me any response. That drives me crazy. I told him his silence was hurting me and he still didn’t respond. My mind fills in for him and none of it is good.

    Then I waited 3 mos or so and reached out. He told me his daughter was borderline and suicidal and he’s having a lot of problem with his son. They are both adults now. Young but adults. We started up again, but then he was still distant. I said something about it and he said, “I guess my problems are too much for me to keep you happy. I’m sorry.”

    That sent me into a tizzy – I think he may have been projecting? I messaged back that I guess it’s over, I got no response. I began texting, emailing, etc. Got nothing. Pure silence. Then I noticed he had blocked me on FB. Then a week or so later he unblocked me. I had posted pics of me with my H and my daughter.

    I reached out to him one more time after a few months “Hope you’re doing alright, thinking of you.” – He responded and said he stalked my profile and saw the pictures – and was going to reach out but decided not – he didn’t want to disturb me and my marriage. He never had any issue with disturbing it before. So I took it as sarcasm. My H and I have been separated for almost 10 years. He is still a big part of my life – it’s a strange dynamic but he and our child are all the family I have. My H and I are close and care for each other and our child is our top priority- our marriage just isn’t a great one for many reasons.

    This was a year ago, I let it go and stopped reaching out to him, but then when I did my own checking on FB realize he is in a new relationship with a woman – and I knew that he was friends with her while we were involved.

    That pissed me off because I feel stupid and like I was duped. It had nothing to do with his problems or business – but that he found a new person and was possibly hedging his bets and stringing me along. I tell myself I would have been fine if he had said, “I met someone else. She’s available and you’re not – I really like her etc” instead of doing it the way he did it. He just went silent on me an moved on.

    I feel like I always end up here. The one who was rejected him and prioritized other things over him – yet I end up left feeling worthless. Like I had to create this entire situation. It’s like I can’t love anyone unless they make me feel like my parents did – and once they do – if I can get them to love me – not discard me – then I will be fixed. I believe I love him and yet think this isn’t love – not in the healthy sense.

    It’s been really tough to let go, feel the jealousy, feel he found a woman who is kind, independent, and mentally healthy and fully avialable – not a damaged mess like I am. I feel like he used me and took advantage of me, yet I did that to him too.

    I feel like I’ll never have a healthy or happy relationship with a man. I can’t appreciate being loved in a good way – my H loves me but I don’t trust it and feel he doesn’t really love me.

    I get mad at my parents for all of this. REALLY mad – that I have to figure this all out and just can’t be “normal”

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    • Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      Firstly, thank you for the apologies in advance but they are definitely not necessary – you don’t have to apologise to me (you’ve seen my posts) or anyone else for sharing yourself and what you have experienced. Working through our experiences requires getting it all out in the open – it helps to process things. And for us to hear and listen to the story we’re telling, how we’re telling it and what we are saying (and silently screaming).

      Healthy and happy relationships are a bit of a myth – the stories others tell about how great their relationships are… Narcissists tell those kinds of stories. So do non-narcissists. Are non-narcissist telling the truth just because they’re not Narcissists? Yes, sometimes, more often than not. Are they omitting the whole truth, editing the awkward bits out of the love story? Probably, because they’re human and love a good love story. And if they tell their story when things are happy and healthy, then that colours the narrative – they know things got better, and they can slowly let the bad stuff dissipate.

      From my own personal research into what makes a healthy and happy relationship, one of the things I kept and keep coming across is that going through hardship together is a part of it, being unhealthy and unhappy together and individually is also a part of it, as long as somewhere down the line you work things through and reconnect at a deeper level.

      Falling out of love, thinking that the other person no longer loves you, not trusting them when they say they still love you or love you, not being sure if you love them or still love them… aren’t just experiences of a child of Narcissists. ‘Normal’ people experience that too. Love confuses, confounds, and screws everyone up.

      Would we be better off without it? No, we’d miss it and miss out on what it gives us both when it’s good and when it’s bad. Besides it’s inside of us and blooms even when we go dark and don’t let the sun shine. And we’d replace it with something else equally problematic.

      ‘Feeling the love’ is difficult when you’ve never felt real love before – you don’t have a reference point for how it feels. You only have a reference point for how Narcissistic love feels, which is bad most of the time except for those highs that are intoxicating. You may have an imaginary reference point for real love, which may be close to how it feels, but the imaginary embellishes and amplifies – real love can be subtle, ordinary, even rather boring. And because you may only have an imaginary reference point, you can’t trust it – which is problematic for children of Narcissists. We’re too aware of the pitfalls. Even when we’re certain that someone loves us, really loves us, we’ve been hurt, wrong, before, and we know our only reference point is imaginary and our Narcissist parents have taught us in too many ways that the imaginary is a source of pain.

      From what you’ve shared it sounds like you have a healthy and happy relationship with your H. It’s not totally healthy or totally happy, not perfectly healthy or perfectly happy. And the issues it stirs up make you too conscious of what’s missing for you in it – and you worry about that. If I said that you were being too hard on yourself… you know that, I know it when I do it.

      I had to deal with a similar conundrum in my relationship with my partner. I completely trusted that he loved me at the beginning… or did I? But the longer we were together the more the insecurities reared up. There was absolutely nothing he could do to prove to me that he loved me. And he tried, bless him. Eventually I just decided that he didn’t love me, that was a relief. Why? Because then I didn’t owe him anything and other reasons. Then I flipped it around on myself and faced myself with an uncomfortable question – Perhaps it’s not that he doesn’t love me, that I can’t trust his love for me, perhaps it’s that I don’t love him, I can’t trust my love for him. After a period of horror-filled feelingless depression – when I do drama it’s a Bergman film – wherein I concluded that I was not only just like my parents who couldn’t love, but I was worse than them because I had admitted it to myself and accepted it (maybe they did that too but they never said – instead they never shut up about how loving they were, it was everyone else who was the love problem)… I snapped out of it forcefully. And decided to try a new approach… I won’t go into detail, but the results of it were that I finally accepted that my partner loved me, I could trust his love and him, and I found that I love him too. It’s just that real love is different from imaginary real love and that really confused me.

      If someone is there for you when they don’t have to be, and they don’t use it as a bargaining chip or a gambling chip to be cashed in later – they most likely love you with real love. IT’s just not fancy or flashy, and is often rather quiet, introverted and a bit dull. It’s a hot water bottle to warm your bed or relieve menstrual cramps, which someone prepared for you without you having to ask, and you take it for granted until it isn’t there.

      Real healthy and happy aren’t as advertised. You do have it. And where you don’t have it – that’s not something to use to beat yourself up (although ‘normal’ healthy happy people do that too).

      The relationship you had with the other man – a valuable resource for the self-healing process. It takes two to make a relationship what it is or isn’t.

      And you protected your child as a priority – big healthy!

      You’re owning your part in things – healthy!

      Being mad, REALLY mad… MAD! at your parents – they worked hard for it, earned it and deserve it – healthy!

      No one is ‘normal’… surf and browse the internet, surf and browse every day offline life. Listen to the ‘normals’ – the other day I overheard a conversation in the supermarket between a group of people discussing how to appear ‘normal’ – as in if you walk tall, without a slouch or your head down, eyes on the ground, people will… something… something… this is how you… get respected? Succeed? Seem like you’re healthy and happy? I didn’t hear it all because there were other conversations about – yes, I’ve remembered the milk, why do you always assume that… you won’t believe what so and so did, said…and then I…that’ll teach them! I feel so…

      There is much madness in the world which children of Narcissists think is ‘normal, happy, healthy’ – in some ways we’re ahead of the game because we’re aware of how messed up we are and we need to figure things out starting from within.

      Take care of yourself, and cut yourself some much needed slack while you’re figuring all of this out.

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