Do you notice themes happening in your life?
By theme I mean something which keeps coming up in conversation, in your browsing online, in what you watch or listen to, as though it’s trying to get your attention… or maybe you’re already focused upon it and information rushes in like results when you pop a subject into a search engine.
I’m asking because I noticed one yesterday.
Someone mentioned – Nature versus Nurture – in a comment on my last post.
I find that debate fascinating.
The first time I remember coming across it was in a psychology book about a study – Sanity, Madness and the Family by R.D. Laing and A. Esterson – which was considered to be groundbreaking and controversial at the time of its publication in 1964.
One of the controversial aspects of the study was that it went against the conventional thinking of the psychiatric community, the prevailing and accepted theory as fact that nature was solely to blame for a person having mental problems.
It profiled and studied several families of schizophrenic patients and noticed that some of the patients’ symptoms and problems improved when they were removed from the influence of their families. In some instances the person seemed fine as long as they didn’t interact with their family members. The moment they were exposed to their family, the symptoms and problems returned.
It dared to suggest that family, that nurture, might be to blame for a person having mental problems.
It even went as far as to say that in certain families a member is chosen to be the ‘crazy’ one so that all the other members can be ‘sane’ by comparison, and when that is the case the family is invested in keeping the ‘crazy’ one crazy and can’t allow them to get better.
“What is particularly important to note, in this and other passages [of the recorded interview between the researchers and their patient’s mother], is that the mother expressly states that she pleaded with the boy to finish with Ruth [her daughter, the patient], and yet she expressly tells Ruth, and sometimes us, that she did not. Ruth does not know definitely the part her mother played in ending her love affair. Nor does her mother fully realise what she did. When Ruth accuses her mother of stage-managing its conclusion, she is simply told that she is ill.”excerpt from The Golds – Sanity, Madness, and the Family by R.D. Laing and A. Esterson
That excerpt is random – I opened the book at a page and there it was. It’s better that way sometimes.
When I met my partner, my mother set out to get rid of him using a variety of tactics including having a tantrum because he had not requested a private tete-a-tete with her to ask the ‘expert’ on me (her apparently) about me.
He was very obliging and agreed to go out to dinner with her alone, without me.
The entire dinner conversation was her telling him what a terrible monster I was, and he should run away, never look back. My partner refused to tell me most of what she said about me, he was too incensed to do it at the time, he didn’t want to repeat it, he didn’t want to hurt me, and he wanted to forget the horrible experience.
I didn’t need him to tell me what she’d said – I’d heard it all before. I knew the sort of things she said about people, and about me.
The one thing he did mention was that she had warned him of my ‘black moods’. I did have very dark moods… just after my mother had a tantrum in which she’d shared with me the awful truth about myself. But of course it never occurred to her that my moods were caused by being subjected to her emotional explosions and vicious diatribes. She always felt better after one of those, soon forgot about them, used to get annoyed that I seemed gloomy afterwards when she was suddenly really upbeat.
And of course she was doing all of that, trying to split us up, for our own good so we wouldn’t be hurt by love – she was a saint!
Introducing my partner to my father (yes, I was sort of testing him, but also he needed to know where I came from) was like that scene at the end of Apocalypse Now when we finally get to meet Marlon Brando/Colonel Kurtz.
My father spent most of the meeting refusing to talk, watching CNN and turning the volume up to 11 when we were talking with his mistress, who was a wonderful hostess under intense strain, when he finally decided to say something it was to announce that he was immortal… yup… and he explained why.
It’s a funny story, especially if viewed in retrospective isolation. But it’s also not funny.
My partner passed that test too. He was politely disinterested. He didn’t take the bait.
However someone else did take the bait. We told this story of my partner meeting my father to one of my partner’s friends (a guy who claimed he’d been recruited by the CIA… I don’t know if that was true or not, but it was his way of stating how clever his was, what a high IQ he had) and his reaction was – I want to meet your father to engage him in a battle of wits! – because he was certain he could win.
I just smiled and nodded and did not share what I thought since that scenario was never going to happen. What I thought was – my father will make mincemeat of you, turn your brain into mush, because that’s his expertise, that’s what he does to people, has been at it for decades, and all your weak spots are flashing loudly and obviously, he has no problem using those, your ego, and getting you to dismantle yourself and feed yourself bit by bit into the grinder.
“One of the major reasons I became interested in family systems theory, tribalism, family myths, social psychology, and other manifestations of collectivism was because I noticed a big problem with the major forms of psychotherapy practiced on individuals: All of these forms of individual therapies pay way too much attention to the way patients are reacting, and not nearly enough attention to what it is they are reacting to. If someone had personally witnessed their entire family being beheaded by terrorists, we would not conclude that he or she has “poor distress tolerance coping skills.
For instance, a subject with BPD may seem to a casual observer to be over-reacting if he or she were to explode at what seems to the experimenter like a minor criticism from a mother. What this observer may not know, however, is that said subject believes that they never seem to be able to do anything right in the mother’s eyes, and the latest criticism was just the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Words and behaviors during family interactions take on additional shades of meanings within the context of all prior interactions, and these meanings can significantly add to the stress level of the involved parties. In fact, without knowing the entire history of the patient’s family interactions, the experimenter’s judgments about the severity of the stress would by necessity be extremely flawed.”excerpt from False Assumptions in Personality Disorder Research, Part I by David M. Allen
I bought the Sanity, Madness and the Family book in a second hand shop many years ago (a few years after those parental and partner incidents), and still own it because reading it helped me to stop playing the role my family had given me, and it encouraged me to see clearly the part my family had played in making me view myself as a worthless, useless, hopeless failure who was born defective.
My parents regularly wondered how two perfect people like them could give birth to such a terribly imperfect child like me – I know they wondered that because they shared that with me every time they told me the awful truth about myself for my own good.
At the time of reading that book I had yet to give a name to what my parents were – narcissists. This was years before Narcissistic Personality Disorder became a hot trending topic online. Awareness of Narcissistic Abuse and the effect of having Narcissists as parents, of being an ACoN (Adult Child of Narcissists), was not widespread and easily available.
I did read a couple of books about Narcissism but they focused on the narcissists rather than those affected by the narcissist, and while that was interesting it didn’t really help me figure myself out. It didn’t explain the family dynamic of which I had been a part and was still a part of even though I’d gone No Contact from my family (before No Contact was called that and became a must for your own health, safety and sanity).
I kept quiet about having cut myself off from my family of origin because I learned the hard way that when I did mention it other people reacted as though that was a crime for a child to commit. I was lectured, and made to feel ashamed for doing it… often by people who did not know nor care to know why. I think they were afraid what I had done was infectious. Once again the view of myself as a worthless, useless, hopeless failure who was born defective was affirmed.
Yesterday while browsing one of my favourite Korean drama news sites I spotted a post discussing their Theme of the Month: Villains – Dramabeans: [Villains] Pure evil and the actors who play them by Ally – and in it the writer said that their psychiatrist husband had remarked that – some people are just evil.
That reminded me of the theory that – people are born evil.
In other words – it’s nature, and not nurture, thus nurture had nothing to do with why they are the way they are.
You hear that theory often spouted and touted as fact by narcissists, especially narcissist parents whose child (most likely the one who was designated by them to be the scapegoat) has decided to cut them out of their life, go No Contact, rebel and escape.
Both of my parents have told others that I’m evil and told me that I’m evil – and it’s nothing to do with them and their treatment of me, their story always has them as good parents who just don’t know how they ended up with an evil child.
Their reasons for telling others that their child is evil is to control the narrative, to get sympathy from others, and to instigate others to ‘protect’ the narcissist and ‘attack’ their child by going to the child and telling it that it’s evil and should stop being evil.
Their reasons for telling their child it’s evil is to get the child to attack itself to protect the narcissist parent.
“We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love.”
― R.D. Laing
The goal is to shame the child into being and doing what the narcissist parent wants since the most common reason for being labeled ‘evil’ by a narcissist is because you refused to be used and abused by them.
You said ‘No’ to one of their requests… and ‘No’ is an answer they cannot accept, you must be convinced to say ‘Yes’ (like Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast battering Ray Winstone with “Yes, Yes, Yes!” every time he says “No!”). You will be relentlessly assaulted and never allowed a moment of peace until you give them the answer they want.
Yesterday I also browsed The Atlantic Magazine, and read an article about a Docufilm by Dave Adams and watched the trailer – The Atlantic Selects: An Unflinching Look at Parenting Undiagnosed Special-Needs Kids by Emily Buder
Dave Adams said about his filming experience: “Filming with Heath and Mariel was a master class in how to be a good parent—patience, empathy, kindness, and unconditional love.”
Viewing the trailer, observing the family and the supportive community around them was breathtaking, fascinating, inspiring.
It’s a very different version of reality of family and community from the one you experience when your parents are narcissists and their social circle is mainly made up of other narcissistic people.
Narcissist parents talk a lot about love, about patience, about empathy, about kindness, about being good parents… it’s all talk, talk which creates an image, a facade, a persona living a status – they are who they say they are, but they’re not at all who they say they are.
Narcissists often isolate their family from the outside world – to control the narrative, to maintain their reality. If you grow up in that environment, it may take ages before you become aware that this isn’t what all families are like, this isn’t the reality of everyone.
Sometimes it’s not until you witness a very different kind of family and community that you realise there is a very different version of family, of love, of life out there.
Children of narcissists may suspect that… but it’s dangerous to think those kind of thoughts as a child of narcissists. If the narcissist parents find out about those suspicions… you, the child, become a threat, a danger, to the narcissist and their reality.
And when you’re underage… even if the suspicions are proved to be true, what can you do about it?
“So why don’t people just say to heck with their families and go and do what they please, as long as no one really gets hurt other than through emotional bruises?”an interesting question plus some possible answers from David M. Allen in Groupthink, Family Dynamics, and the Meaning of Life
The world out there only sees your family as your family wants the world out there to see it – the perfect family facade – aren’t you lucky to have such wonderful parents who love you so much… you’re not grateful, thankful, appreciative enough, you brat!
By the time you’re of age to get the heck out of there… the damage has been done, again and again, and is hard to undo. It can be undone, you can totally do it, but it takes a lot of work and determination, and other things. You need to have a bit of Bruce Willis in Die Hard attitude about it. And you need to be the parent you never had to yourself, giving yourself – patience, empathy, kindness, and unconditional love.
Yesterday I also browsed Psychology Today and ended up on David M. Allen’s PT blog – A Matter of Personality: From Borderline to Narcissism, then later on I explored his blogspot blog – Family Dysfunction and Mental Health Blog – wherein he also has guest posts written by people who share their stories of their families and how their families affected their mental health.
I enjoyed meeting his mind online, through his writing, and reading his series on False Assumptions in Personality Disorder Research (an insightful look at how scientific conclusions are reached), his take on the Nature vs. Nurture debate, and his article about the latest psychological trending hot topic – Resilience.
In his article – The Idea of “Resilience” Can Marginalize Family Stress Level – he says the following:
“I have also discussed one of the major reasons this sleight-of-hand is employed: to avoid holding parents responsible for their problematic parenting and chaotic family interactions.
It’s just not popular to discuss the role of dysfunctional parenting in creating psychological problems in their offspring. Everyone seems to worry that they might be traumatized. They are not, I guess, very resilient? Better to blame the victim.
Of course, it is also true that bashing parents and making them feel guiltier, more defensive or angrier than they already do is counterproductive, as doing so often causes them to double down on whatever dysfunctional interactions they had been routinely engaging in previously. Nonetheless, pretending that their behavior has nothing at all to do with their child’s problems is just a huge, ugly lie.”excerpt from The Idea of “Resilience” Can Marginalize Family Stress Level by David M. Allen
And he links to a great post – Aces Too High: Putting Resilience and Resilience Surveys Under a Microscope by Christine Cissy White
One of the parts I loved about the Aces Too High post was in the intro:
“Sounds fantastic. But what exactly does resilience mean?
Resilience generally describes the bounce-back ability of individuals who return to the similar shape, form and condition after misfortune, harm or injury.
But how does resilience work?
Is resilience something one can ingest, like Popeye’s spinach, to become stronger whenever out sized by stress? Can it be put on like Wonder Woman’s bracelets to protect against threat? Can it be given, taken or shared?
Is resilience an internal trait, an external circumstance or some mysterious blend of both?”excerpt from Aces Too High: Putting Resilience and Resilience Surveys Under a Microscope by Christine Cissy White
Every time there’s a new ‘In’ thing in psychology and mental health it seems to go through a miracle magical cure phase – One simple thing to do to make all the bad stuff go away, get rid of what you don’t want, and become perfect!
In other words it becomes a narcissistic magical thinking portal – step through here to be transformed into your ideal self.
But what happens if it doesn’t work for you? That’s okay as long as it doesn’t work for others either, but what if everyone else seems to be claiming that it worked for them, their life instantly changed and now they’re “rich, famous and airbrushed”.
I borrowed “rich, famous and airbrushed” from an astrology post about transiting Venus in Leo by Ruby Slipper Astrology.
It creates such a vivid image, captures one of the goals of narcissists when they’re creating their facade, public image status, and reminded me of an article I read about the misuse of the #nofilter on Instagram – Psychology Today: The #nofilter Lie by Renee Engeln.
In the #nofilter article the author links to an article on an Art News site about a stunning photography project by Rankin – For a Project Called ‘Selfie Harm,’ the Photographer Rankin Asked Teens to Photoshop Their Own Portraits. What They Did Was Scary by Sarah Cascone for ArtNet
It bugged me that the Artnet article needed to tell us what to think about what the teens did to their own portraits in its title, but… clickbaiting is hard to resist online when you want to be noticed, get traffic, provoke a reaction, increase your stats.
I don’t think what the teens did was scary. They’re teenagers = not set in their ways yet. Able to rebel in the blink of an eye, and change direction. Exploring who they are and what it all means.
They were asked to do it as part of a project, and it was an opportunity to experiment.
I’ve played with pics of myself in Photoshop and done stuff like they did. And just like most of them I preferred the before pic more than the after I’ve messed with it result, but I didn’t know that until I’d allowed myself to do it.
When you get given the opportunity to do something like that, it’s worth trying it out to find out what happens when you do it, to discover for yourself what you think, feel, experience, and get personalised results.
Scary is when someone makes a statement like – What They Did Was Scary – and that assumption, that personal opinion which is likely to have been inspired by a possibly traumatic personal experience, gets propagated as fact, becomes groupthink which then gets used to shame others who don’t think alike, don’t align with the group, don’t agree with it, who think differently, who might want to investigate further for themselves, try that experiment out but can’t because of how others will react to them.
Scary is when:
“So where do today’s people in developed countries learn what it is they are supposed to do and what rules they are supposed to follow? They first learn this in their families of origin growing up. They try to follow the family rules (even when the family members are saying one thing and doing something else entirely), and the rules remain powerful. They continue to spout what systems therapists call family myths – sort of akin to the theology of a church group – and argue vociferously for them even when they are transparently preposterous. The latter phenomenon is called willful blindness.
Taken together, this is a good description of what is now called groupthink. People will sacrifice their own ideas, urges, likes, and dislikes in order to fit in with their groups. They will die for their families or for their country in wars like the proverbial lambs to the slaughter.”excerpt from David M. Allen in Groupthink, Family Dynamics, and the Meaning of Life
Scary is when…
You let someone who presents themselves as an expert on life, living, being human tell you what to think, what to feel, what to be, how to be, sells you a version of reality which doesn’t suit you and isn’t yours… but they’re the expert and thus you must take their faulty logic postulated on imperfect data as gospel.
Alice Morgan: Are you trying to beguile me?
DCI Luther: [chuckles] No, I wouldn’t be so foolish. But I will tell you this, Alice. You can revel in your brilliance for as long as you like, but people slip up. Happens time and time again.
Alice Morgan: Well that’s just faulty logic postulated on imperfect data collection. What if you only catch people who make mistakes? That would skew the figures, wouldn’t it?
DCI Luther: Yes, it would. But criminals aren’t as smart as they think they are.
Alice Morgan: Oh, that must get monotonous for someone as brilliant as you.quote from Luther, the UK TV series via Wikiquote
Scary is when…
someone who appears to be “rich, famous, and airbrushed” asks you for a simple favour,
they’ll love you if you do it,
and you end up getting sucked into a reality bending and stretching labyrinth, chased by a minotaur (which may be your own conscience trying to rescue you but the other person is a narcissist and they’ve made you view your own mind, your own thinking, yourself as evil), aiding and abetting a crime…
I’m ending this post here.
I’ve generally approach the nature vs nurture thing with the assumption (yeah, I know…) that things are usually a result of nurture. Maybe that’s just the older, wiser, post-therapy me and the childhood me felt defective. I wasn’t told I was bad or evil, just disappointing. Then I was ignored.
My narcy ex made sure to explain in great detail every flaw I had. Being nine years older than me he was wiser…blah blah blah…
Anyway, nurture… so when I read something having a genetic link or predisposition that makes me wonder if, for example I would have developed Fibromyalgia if I hadn’t been injured & screwed around by the insurance company. Would the predisposition have just mutely hidden away forever? I know all the nurture stuff twisted me beyond pretzel.
Resilience is a great affirmation AFTER the problems and reasons for those problems have been addressed. It’s NOT the frat house, getting smacked with a board “thank you sir, may I have another?”.
Funny, I just read a thing about victim blaming. I love when things happen like that. Synchronicity… but now I’m wondering if it’s the universe in sync with our higher selves or if it’s all algorithms? That’s scary too.
I’m going to believe it’s synchronicity. I don’t want to get all dark. Nope, not feeling Emo today…
It’s surreal to see good parenting and healthy relationships. I remember dating someone after my ex and we had a disagreement and I was shocked when he didn’t yell, scream, throw things, call me names… it freaked me out the he just talked.
And, yeah, trying to explain what REALLY happened inside the outwardly perfect family to anyone is revictimization. “But he was always so kind and generous. He always said how much he loved you”…so I’m obviously lying or insane.
Okay, I’ll stop now.😂 I’m so enjoying these chats and exchanges!
Thank you, Angie 🙂
I’m enjoying our chats and exchanges too. They’re very stimulating in a great way!
Being told you’re a disappointment and being ignored is intensely devastating, especially to a child – when we’re children our system is at its most active, we’re high speed learning, absorbing, calculating, making connections, every experience shapes the structure of our mind, body, emotions, etc. We’re setting up our personal algorithms.
I tend to embrace the microcosm and macrocosm theory. So I view a computer algorithm or a system of thinking as a reflection of an aspect inherent in the universal. It’s a slice of the whole.
Nurture is a big influence on our nature, and continues to be so as you beautifully expressed when sharing your interaction with the person you dated after your ex.
Even though we’re not as high speed as we were when children, we’re still learning, absorbing, calculating, making connections, throughout our life span and experiences can alter the structure of our system. Sometimes one interaction with someone who is different can have an amazing effect.
The experiences which are the most intriguing are the ones which cause a seismic shift in mindset, cracking what has become crusted over and offering us the opportunity to break out of old patterns, old algorithms.
One of the things which those discussing resilience kept saying was that it is about returning to the same shape as you were before a blow. Standing up after falling down. Like your Frat story. Like you I think that’s a NOT. For me resilience isn’t about bouncing back into the same shape you were before so that the same thing can happen again and again, it’s about questioning the shape you were before and asking if perhaps there’s a new shape to take because that’s what the blow was about. What if the shape you were before is the reason the blow happened. What if the shape you were before isn’t your natural shape but an unnatural one you took on to put up with living in a Frat house. Keeping that shape may be what’s keeping you living in that Frat house. So changing that shape gets you out of there. That’s a messy explanation but I love how you can understand my messy 😉
One of the elements which often stands out in personal stories of illness is how that illness, while it comes with much pain and frustration, may free someone from a structure in which they were trapped until the illness came along. Maybe nurture caused the illness to develop, but it could also be nature coming to the rescue to prompt the person to give themselves a different kind of nurturing.
I read an article about this woman’s experience of being diagnosed with Cancer and going through treatment. Before the diagnosis she was one of those nicest people in the world, never got angry, was always patient and calm, etc. When she was diagnosed she became a raging nightmare and said she spewed anger and bitterness onto to everyone around her, especially her husband. When she recovered, got the all clear, she calmed down but she said she refused to go back to being the nicest person in the world because she’d discovered that it was liberating to express anger when she was angry, and being nicest person in the world had required suppressing too much of herself. Those who truly loved her stuck it out through the raging, and understood, so she realised it was okay and safe for her to be more open, angry when angry.
It reminded me of my own physical ailments and injuries, and the lessons they bring with them. The physical system is a way our psychic system informs us of where we need to nurture and pay attention to nature.
Narcissists when they have a tantrum often feel release and relief afterwards – the pressure inside was vented. Of course they do it in a toxic manner. And the pattern repeats. However it’s interesting to note the process and consider it… and perhaps learn a non-toxic version of it.
I don’t think there’s one answer to nature vs nurture, it’s more a question which asks each of us to explore it. Our experiences, our traumas, our illnesses and injuries are also questions asking us to explore, find our own answers and new questions.
LikeLiked by 2 people
I like this. It’s all kinda ouroboros, isn’t it?
“Maybe nurture caused the illness to develop, but it could also be nature coming to the rescue to prompt the person to give themselves a different kind of nurturing.”
Yes, I do understand your messy, and you mine. It makes things easier. Not so much explanation is needed. It’s a warm fuzzy when people “get” you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Another fascinating read. My own thoughts on ‘nature versus nurture’ is that it’s BOTH. A predisposition to a trait because a gene in our physical make up is changing or has changed, and the connection to the family that passed that gene along is the nature side of it, the behavior patterns and life skills one learns (whether good or bad) are nurture. My family has mental illness going back four generations (at least). Was my grandfather or his father recognized as being mentally ill? Probably not. Nobody talked about that stuff then, and certainly not if it were about some prominent MEN in a community. Now if nature caused those men to have genes that were a bit defective and which led, ultimately, to changes in their brain chemistry which caused the mental illness is debatable. I’m no physician. I don’t know. But I do strongly suspect that the NURTURE that the mental illness caused those men (and women) to be ‘bad’ at is something that my family has passed down through the generations. We still can’t talk to each other in what society views as a ‘normal’ way. We never learned how. I’m hopeful that the next generation (my siblings’ children) did get better nurturing and did learn better communication and coping skills and that they, in turn, will teach their children to be better communicators and so forth. Time will tell. Will the gene that’s ‘off’ (in me anyway) and causes mental illness still be a factor? Time will tell I guess. If the scenario about having someone assume the role of ‘the crazy person’ in a family is so, then in my family and for my generation, I’m “IT”. I have cousins who are the same for their families, which supports my theory about it being nature based and nurture caused. We learn by experience and by listening to what others know about such things. Thank you for providing on-going education. 🙂
Thank you, Melanie 🙂
That’s an excellent point about looking at family history, generational patterns. Plus social and global context. I’ve explored some of my family’s history, and can see some of what led to them becoming narcissists. They weren’t born that way, they became that way. My parents have different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, however both of them were, like a huge amount of the global population, traumatised by WWII, and affected by what came before and what happened afterwards. The world after WWII couldn’t go back to the way things were before, and didn’t have time to focus on healing the trauma. A certain type of ruthlessness set in to get those who survived through rebuilding after destruction. Nurture in those times was tough love which had very little ‘love’ in it. Love made you weak and you couldn’t be weak.
Wounds get passed along from generation to generation waiting for the cure to be found. Just as we may all add a bit to the wound in our own way, I think we all have a part to play in finding bits and pieces of the cure in our own way too. Being human is a strange experience and adventure.
I also think that it’s a combination of nature and nature, to varying degrees and in varying combinations. I recently watched a four-part documentary on Ted Bundy and that question was the underlying theme of the series. At one point, one of the prosecutors described him as “evil,” which I found to be a kind of understatement. One person’s evil is another person’s slip-up, although since the topic was Ted Bundy, I understood why the prosecutor referred to him that way. He was so horrified that that was the only word coming to him, I think.
But still, it got me thinking about “evil” and if it’s just a moral pronouncement or a real thing. And then it came up in your post – so yes, a theme. I don’t think people are evil, and that word gets bandied about much more than it should as a sort of judgement on your rectitude, or what people think your rectitude should be (but not necessarily theirs), which in itself is another judgemental, moralistic (and possibly hypocritical) proclamation.
But, back to Bundy. I was also thinking about nature/nurture while I was watching. How did he wind up like that (or any if these serial killers)? Was there something problematic in his structure that was nurtured by his upbringing and interactions?
Thanks for the movie tip. Looks like a good one. 🙂
The first line is supposed to say “… combination of nature and nurture …” 🙂
Thank you, Lynette 🙂
There was this docufilm about a serial killer which I watched some years ago. He wasn’t one of the regular sk’s who get profiled all the time. They interviewed his mother who went with the whole – he was born evil – theory, but she also described what the family was like when he was a kid and just how abusive both parents were to their children. What shocked me was how those doing the docufilm went out of their way to confirm her bias, interviewing experts who stuck with the narrative that the guy must have been an anomaly, born evil, etc. I think they used his brother as proof of the born evil theory since he didn’t become a serial killer too.
I have this vague impression that I mentioned it in a post at the time because it annoyed me that they were so one-side-of-the-story-only, and seemed like they were catering to the mother, telling her it wasn’t her fault at all. Basically reassuring all parents that the way their kids turn out has nothing to do with their parenting. I suspect that she only agreed to be part of the docufilm and allow them access to certain materials if they stuck with her narrative. So their hands may have been tied.
Admittedly it’s not all the parents’ fault how their child turns out, which is just as well since many child victims of parental abuse manage to break the cycle. I wonder how many of the psychologists who research the effects of family on mental health came from an abusive family environment. R.D. Laing definitely did, he shared his personal history in one of his books. So did Gavin de Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear, who has made a career as a Security advisor – keeping other people safe.
When I was a teen I was fascinated by murderers and serial killers. I had this thick book which detailed hundreds of cases, and studies conducted, including neurological ones. They found that some violent criminals had damage to a certain part of the brain which controls impulse. If this area is damaged people act on their impulses. In most people this area kicks in when we experience a violent impulse and it stops us from acting it out. It acts like a break on the impulse, which gives us time to calm tf down. So we may feel like and imagine doing something to someone but we don’t do it, not on impulse anyway. Damage to this area of the brain was only found in some violent offenders not in others.
There was a time in my life when I could have become a serial killer of people who reminded me of my mother. The problem with that, apart from the obvious, is that you never resolve what’s truly bothering you, you just keep doing the same thing over and over and it just gets worse and worse, and the person who you keep trying to kill again and again wins even if you eventually kill them too. You lost yourself.
What is interesting is our social fascination with serial killers and other ‘super villains’. Trying to find a formula which explains them – do we really want to understand them or is it something else?
LikeLiked by 1 person
I watched the Bundy doc because I wanted to understand what went wrong with him (there were no real answers, only more questions, which is perhaps a large part of the fascination). If narcissism is on a continuum to psychopathy, does that mean that narcissists, if given the right set of circumstances, can end up where Bundy did?
Yes, if we can’t employ our impulse control, we will lose ourselves, for sure. And certainly, Bundy seemed to be unable to control his empathy-deficient impulses.
LikeLiked by 1 person
This is really an interesting topic. Put another way . . . was someone born that way, or were they conditioned to be that way? Great discussion.
Like Lyn said, it might be a little bit of both. Perhaps there is a DNA marker in us, that when the specific button/marker is pushed by the “conditioner” (“nurturer”), it causes that marker to react in a certain way which becomes who we are?
This is something to consider, since we see that two people could be nurtured by the same parents but see it differently and react to it differently (ex: my bro and me).
Still, I don’t believe anything is set in stone. Like you shared here, once we remove ourselves from the midst of the chaos, we have a chance to see more clearly and change. Not everyone is willing to do this, or believes things can change (ex: my bro).
I liken it to those ships inside a bottle. I felt like I was in that bottle on the ship with all the crazies, but when I moved away, not only did I get off the ship, but I was able to get outside of the bottle and watch the chaos from the outside. I had an entirely new perspective of what had happened to me growing up. I didn’t know who I was yet, but I got help to find myself (meaning, I still thought I was the “bad guy” in all scenarios and unlovable). I know for certain that despite DNA markers, people can change. It’s difficult, and that may be why some people do not attempt it. I find it a worthwhile and exhilarating challenge to work on myself.
Thank you for sharing, Lori 🙂
It is an interesting subject to explore.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Your post is cool, just like every single other one you write. I agree with so many things! Please post any book your might write on your blog. I would by every single one. I believe I have a narc sister and mother and my father is not exactly the sanest person. My mother calls him a narcissist, which is confusing because I like him although he has been a raging manic depressive superman all his life (if that makes sense to you). I have been wondering about my narc sister for a while. I am 40, I have no children and she is currently acting as a matrimonial agency, except she makes the men understand that I’m a psychiatric case they need to be careful with and she is conscientiously going through every possibility I have to get a boyfriend (or even male friends and has for a long time but not like this, now that it’s time to get married or get a baby) to make them understand that they would rather have her than me, pretending that she wants them to be with me, or not, and that they should do this out of pity. The result is that it is ruining my chances to get a man. She has deleted me from fb and added and been added by all my former class mates and pretty much every single man I have ever known. This is a catastrophe and has also affected my work life.
I am considering getting a lawyer and a legal contract to make sure that she never contacts people I know again, stays away from my future family and my colleagues. No contact allowed basically.
I was was wondering if that is dangerous. Is it a really bad idea? What is your thought?
Lots of love and congratulations for having gotten away to a new family and for doing the work to change yourself. You are such a beautiful being!
ps: I wrote you before about a narc boyfriend who killed a bat we picked. You probably don’t remember but I have posted before and you have given me the most amazing advice. Thank you!!!!!
Hi Meg 🙂
I do remember you.
Since you’ve asked for my thoughts on your situation…
I would recommend not making things more complicated for yourself – hiring a lawyer would definitely make everything more complicated in many ways. It’s also costly and there’s no guarantee that things will work out the way that you want them to.
Dealing with narcissists using lawyers and the legal system often ends up making the mess messier.
The first rule of dealing with narcissists is – don’t get sucked into their drama.
So don’t get sucked into your sister’s story about her finding a mate and baby-father for you because your time is running out to do that. That bullshit story is her story about you not yours.
Is what she’s doing really ‘ruining your chances to get a man’? I don’t think so – most men think women are crazy, so her telling men that you’re crazy isn’t really telling them anything they don’t already think about women in general. They probably think she’s crazy, in fact they probably consider her to be the alpha crazy because she’s doing something really weird by trying to find a man for you.
Instead of wasting time, energy and resources fighting against her and her nonsense (which is exactly what narcissistic types want from you – for you to spend all your attention focused on them and their invented drama), focus on yourself and what you need, want, would like for yourself. Do you actually want to get married and have children? Not every woman feels the need to follow that route. It’s not a must do and have.
Stay as far away and out of the mess your sister is creating, and let that mess blow up in her face instead of yours. She may be using you as a reason to create the mess, but the mess is still all hers and not yours. Don’t get involved, just go your own way and do your own thing, meet people and get to know them, let them get to know you as you are.
Those are my thoughts.
You have to decide for yourself what you need to do as you’re living the situation. Whatever you decide make sure it is what is best for you personally.
The remark you made about your mother’s view of your father reminded me of an advice column article which I read the other day – https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/08/my-father-kidnapped-me-my-mother-still-hates-him/595351/
The story of our parents’ relationship isn’t always one we, their children, can figure out even though it affects us.
Take good care of yourself!
Hey! thank you so much Ursula! You have no idea what your advice means to me. It’s so true that they make you the mean person and you actually end up agreeing to that somehow. I still live with that. I became the meany, the evil one while trying so hard to please and trying to think that I was cool being around narcissists, putting my foot down and stuff. That made me the meany. My sister makes me feel so stupid because she is so aware of how I and her look from the outside and since we’re the same age and used to do everything together people always compare us. I am oblivious of it but she’s got it figured out to the smallest detail. She is insanely beautiful as well, she works out, dresses super-well (got a couple of operations) and she looks like a super-model. I used to be pretty to but I stoop all the time (physically as well as psychologically) and dress like a social case by now because I have been so bullied by women and harassed by men while looking good without having a family. I love perfume, I love clothes but attention scares and bothers me. I don’t know how to be a woman either, I’m a tomboy. I went no contact with my family from 16 and on and did not really hang out with them until now because I have dissociative amnesia and was dealing with three narcissists when it got attacked. I had to contact a healer online and pay her to give me love. That’s how lonely I have been. And I have gotten used to it. I know I should get away from my family again but it has been so difficult not having one. People view me differently. A woman without a family is just a sexual object, you need to make yourself respected by everyone and it’s so hard. And I have become extremely clumsy and bad at making myself respected. I think I am the most humiliated human being I know. On top of that I love being by myself if I’m not desperately clinging to someone with narcissism or borderline syndrome. I have taken tests and apparently I don’t have a personality disorder at all. I have learnt so much from you. I just want to move into your home and have tea with you and talk about psychology for like 2 years. (That’s not a threat, =) ) Thank you for this beautiful blog. I admire your grace, it’s something they want to destroy so badly. I don’t know why I am saying this, you don’t know me, but I love you. I understand you. You are a genius at making people understand. If you ever come to the French riviera, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I won’t contact an attorney and will try to ignore her drama. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Meg 🙂
Comments are closed.