Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Targets of opportunity

Time: Thanksgiving 2002
Place: My home
Victim: My daughter

Description of event:

The visit had been going on for several days which is the limit for my Nmother to be able to behave herself. Back in September she had invited herself and my father for Thanksgiving in my home which I agreed to. I thought I had reason to believe that my Nmother was "changed". Our relationship had been going well since I had visited her the previous summer. This was before I knew anything about NPD; obviously, I was still naive. I did have unvoiced reservations about the visit because having my mother in my home for a holiday has never gone well.

I look back and see that my big "mistake" of that visit was of treating my mother like a normal human being. I was gracious and generous toward her, but I didn't fawn over or excessively coddle her. (Narcissists are gods in their own minds; you insult them when you treat them like they are normal humans.) There were other factors that played into this, but I'm trying to stay brief. I did notice times when my mother seemed to be unhappy despite the fact that I was trying to reasonably accommodate her at every juncture. I am convinced now that her biggest problem was my attitude. Something big had changed in me and she wasn't failing to notice. I had been trained since birth to react in certain ways to her. I was her puppet on a string. I was extremely intuitive and could sense a shift in her mood from a mile away. That hadn't changed. What had changed was the fact that I wasn't being manipulated by her expectations and signals. I didn't act like I was intuiting her every signal. This was making her feel very insecure and angry. But she, like all narcissists, is naturally wary, afraid even, of someone who is not weak. She was afraid to confront me or make me miserable for displeasing her because she had no real case, and she could see that I was not anymore her scared, controlled daughter. I had an aura of strength and she was despising me for it. Events with my mother in 1998 had led me to this change. Maybe I'll share that story someday.

So what was she to do? She had to lash out and transfer her ugly feelings onto someone else to cleanse herself. I was not acting like prey so she couldn't use me for this purpose. She turned her evil eye onto my daughter.

My daughter had been trained when she was young to be afraid of her grandmother. My mother liked it that way. My daughter was now 20 years old and had had limited contact with her grandmother for more than 10 years at this juncture. She was no longer fearful of her grandmother although she still maintained a low profile around her as she is a naturally reticent person. My mother had always treated her like she was an irritant and my daughter had learned that laying low was the best way to avoid being a target. Well, it didn't work this time. In fact, this very behavior was now to be condemned.

Early in the morning I came upstairs to find my mother sitting in the near dark in the living room with her Bible and crying. (She had piously studied her Bible and prayed in the living room each morning of her visit to that point. Why she couldn't do that in the bedroom was only because she had to make a show of her great piety.) I asked her what was wrong although I didn't rush towards her to console. I was wary and concerned that I was about to get laid into; although for what I had no clue. She bravely wiped away her tears and answered, "Oh, nothing, I often cry when I talk to my Jesus." *weak smile* I kind of got the willies. My Jesus? Yuck. That was my immediate reaction. Now, in retrospect I interpret that statement this Jesus is exactly what it is. She has created her own Jesus. He is hers alone because he is a construct of her vain imagination. She has created a god in her own image. I am convinced her "Jesus" is the devil himself.

I didn't push the issue. I let her explanation stand and didn't try to cajole her into telling me more. I just felt relieved that she wasn't about to rip me a new one, grabbed some coffee, talked briefly with her on safe topics and went back to my bedroom to start getting ready for church. What happened next I didn't find out until we got home after church.

While my husband and I were downstairs getting ready, the narcissist sensed her opportunity and went in for the "kill". Like any predatory animal, she wasn't willing to strike when she didn't feel safe to do so. A predator doesn't want too much trouble. They pursue only the weak and defenseless. This is how my mother perceived my daughter to be.

Apparently my mother lied to me when she told me nothing was wrong earlier that morning. She was crying to her "Jesus" because she was truly unhappy. Now, two hours later, it was time to do something about it. She told my father that she was going to talk to my daughter about something with the obvious implication that this was to be chastisement. My father told her not to do it. My mother claimed that "God" was telling her to "GO!". She must heed the voices in her head because she long ago had convinced herself that God himself speaks to her. My father's voice can't trump the voices in her head.

Shortly before we would be leaving for church, while my husband and I are getting dressed downstairs, Nmom calls my daughter into her bedroom and tells her to sit down. She then commences with her condemnations. She started out telling my daughter that God Himself told her to "GO!", so she was being impelled by the big guy himself to talk to her. Then she proceeds with saying, "I am very uncomfortable around you. So uncomfortable that if I could I would leave here right this moment. You make me feel very unwelcome." What the ??. It is impossible to convey in writing the tone and demeanor of how these words were said. I can see it like I was there because I've been in my daughter's situation untold numbers of times. Let's just say that my mother is a very intimidating person. She is expert at conjuring fear in the females in her family. Anyway, my daughter is blind-sided. She had actually been looking forward to the visit and had done her quietly sweet things to show her affection. Before the visit, she told me she wanted my mom and dad to have her bedroom during their stay. She set about baking bread and cookies for their visit. She cheerfully did all the kitchen clean-up during the visit. Now she is being completely condemned for .... what exactly? The accusations stayed vague. Finally, my mother told my daughter that she was showing disrespect by not looking her grandmother in the eye when she spoke to her. She could cite no specific instances when this supposedly happened. Since I was there for the whole visit I can attest to the total bullshit this accusation is. Reality is this: for the first time her granddaughter didn't act uncomfortable around her. She was natural and relaxed. This was her great sin. My mother interprets fear as proof of her power. What I can clearly divine from my mother's accusation is that she was angry at all of us for not showing her deference. She reveals this to be so by something she said next in that bedroom confrontation, "I am the inner sanctum of this family and I deserve respect." My mother had no idea how she would totally destroy her relationship with me with those words.

My mother did not stop her accusatory onslaught until she had reduced my daughter to tears. This is how it always worked with my Nmom. She wouldn't stop until she had gotten either me or my sister to finally "break". When we were dissolved into tears, she felt better. She could back off. She would show an obvious sense of relief. It was sadistic. She continued this cruel sadism on me into my late 20's.

My daughter didn't have opportunity to tell me of the attack until we had returned home after church. She recounted specifically the statement about being the "Inner Sanctum" because it puzzled her somewhat. How did that apply in this situation, she wondered. I was aghast and infuriated at the attack, and these words in specific, although I didn't display it to my mother. I put on a smile and put a meal on the table. I didn't realize that my father knew about the confrontation. I wanted to save the visit by avoiding a confrontation with my mother. I didn't want to ruin the whole visit for my father. I didn't realize back then that he deserved to have his visit ruined.

What my mother conveyed in her claim to be the inner sanctum of "this family" was profoundly revealing to me even though I didn't yet understand NPD. She revealed by her choice of verbiage that she thought she could set herself up as the center of my family. Not just any center either....she uses the language of deity to show how she expects to be worshiped. She also makes it clear that she doesn't have to earn respect, she deserves it as native right. It is her due. This is the spirit of the despot. The tyrannical dictator demands respect. We've all heard stories of despotic rulers who have executed someone for having the "wrong" look on their face, or who didn't prove their loyalty and worship with the right action at the right time. My mother is no different except she can't carry out the death penalty. I resolved from that moment that my daughter would never have to set eyes on her grandmother again.

This is just one story to illustrate the predatory nature of the narcissist. They seek the weakest target and have an innate sense of when the moment presents itself. It is this precise measurement of a target of opportunity which proves to me that the narcissist can and does control their behavior. This is yet another proof to me of the fact that narcissists are evil. They are careful to cover their deeds under a cloak of darkness. We should rightfully consider NPD and psychopathy as Evil Personality Disorder. These people know what they are doing as revealed by their consistently choosing targets of opportunity. They lay in wait. They only pounce when it is safe for them to do so. They are predatory. This fact must always be borne in mind for our own safety. I will repeat this over and over because it must sink in if you are going to be able to choose a safe course of action with the narcissist in your life. No matter the circumstance, no matter the apparent behavior of the narcissist, be always assured that they are laying in wait. Don't make the mistake of thinking you will be smart enough to beat them at their game. They have very different motivations than normal people do. They are so practiced at their game that it is instinctive to them. This enables them to nearly always get something over on you. You may be smart, but they are cunning. Never underestimate the cunning of evil people. You can't beat them at their own game.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Narcissist or psychopath....both are human predators

Psychopathy is an extremely researched area of psychology, although this diagnosis is not in the DSM IV. Dr. Robert Hare is the recognized expert in this field and has defined the concept. What has this to do with narcissism? Glad you asked. The clinical tool used to diagnose psychopathy, as developed by Hare, is called the PCL-R. Half of the checklist (Factor 1) correlates with narcissistic personality disorder and defines the core personality traits of psychopathy . The Wikipedia entry on the PCL-R is concise and provides a decent introduction to this diagnostic device.

What is becoming more well-recognized in professional circles is that all psychopaths are narcissists. We are supposed to believe, though, that not all narcissists are psychopaths. I'm becoming less and less sure of this being true. If psychopathy is only identified as such if a person demonstrates certain behaviors, yes, we can accurately state that not all narcissists are psychopaths. But one of Dr. Hare's assertions based on his profoundly extensive research is that the vast majority of psychopaths live "peacefully" among us. Most do not commit violent crimes. See "Snakes in Suits" and "Without Conscience". Dr. Hare has been leading the charge to change the DSM IV criteria to move away from a behavior-only checklist (as it is in the DSM III-R) towards the more comprehensive checklist that includes narcissism as the core definition of the personality of the psychopath. One of the reasons for this is his recognition of the fact that some psychopaths slip through the cracks because the context of their lives has allowed them to circumvent certain behaviors such as violent crimes or other anti-social behaviors. So if a psychopath can only be diagnosed as psychopathic by exhibiting certain behaviors then he is allowed to continue his predations with little to no interference from the law or the psych community. Worse yet, the undiagnosed psychopaths end up in remedial programs that worsen their behaviors. Psychopaths require a much different approach than we take with non-psychopaths otherwise we unleash a more sophisticated manipulator onto the general public. Dr. Hare presents a strong case for using a more comprehensive tool to diagnose psychopathy. He insists the tool must include an analysis of personality type/affect/interpersonal impressions if doctors are going to accurately detect a higher percentage of these people. The constant with psychopaths is not how they behave but who they are i.e. personality traits. This is why Dr. Hare has included the checklist for narcissistic personality traits into the PCL-R. This checklist, which includes personality type, is especially important in prison populations where recidivism rates for certain offenders must be considered. The PCL-R has been proven to be the best predictor of recidivism that exists. Dr. Hare's intentional movement away from behavior-only based checklists to a more comprehensive checklist which includes personality traits has resulted in a highly effective tool for detection of psychopathy.

The question we need to be asking ourselves is: at what point does the narcissist become a full-blown psychopath? Is there a clear demarcation line, or is it all kind of fuzzy? Was Jim Jones only a narcissist who suddenly became a psychopath the day he got all his followers to drink the Kool-Aid? That kind of reasoning defies logic. If he was a psychopath on that fateful day, then should we not reasonably conclude he was a psychopath long before this violent act? If psychopathy is only present once violence has been employed then the logic works. But when the leading research on the subject keeps clarifying that psychopathy can be present without violence then we really need to re-think the way we categorize.

Speaking of categorization...I think we would all do well to remember the rather arbitrary lines that have been drawn up for us by the psych community. They are allowed the freedom to re-draw the lines as they deem necessary which only tends to prove the non-scientific nature of the categorization. What I have been glad to see is how much true science has been employed in the research on psychopathy. The result of which is showing that narcissists come in many flavors...some of which we call psychopaths.

At this point in time it is looking like the only clear difference between the malignant narcissist and the narcissistic psychopath is the level of risk-taking they are comfortable with. Considering that predatory behavior is not just the realm of the psychopath but also one of the defining characteristics of narcissists, we should really consider the narcissist to be just as dangerous to human society as the psychopath even if we are not willing to call them psychopaths. Narcissists leave a trail of human devastation and ruined lives in their paths. They waltz through life rarely detected because they don't actually leave a bunch of bodies buried under their houses like John Wayne Gacy. No, they just cruelly destroy souls which is arguably just as horrid as what the violent psychopath does.

Narcissist or psychopath? Seems the differences are fewer than the similarities. Be aware that either way you are dealing with a psychological predator. Safety is only achieved through distance. You've been warned.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Recommended website and book

The website I would like to recommend is titled: Cosmicwalk - Help for victims of abusive parents and partners/Child abuse/Wife Abuse.

If you are a Christian, or even if you are no longer practicing as a Christian but have a Christian background, this site can be particularly helpful to you. Christians, and those with Christian backgrounds, have extra challenges in overcoming the effects of abuse because of the way many people have distorted God's character, His law, His love. Christians have obstacles in their way when it comes to breaking free from abusers and being able to heal their minds. The author of this website has clearly wrestled with the issues unique to Christians and come out of the side where the light and healing are.

Even if you are not dealing with the special challenges of Christians there is much helpful information and perspective here for you too.

On a related subject, the book I would like to recommend is for those of you who are dealing with spiritual abuse either in your church or home. The book is titled, "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse; Recognizing and escaping spiritual manipulation and false spiritual authority within the church" by Jeff VanVonderen and David Johnson. I read this book about two years before I came to understand Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Even without understanding NPD this book enabled me to deal with spiritual abusers and their powerful emotional clubs. Believe me, there is a linkage between spiritual abusers and NPD. I was not only dealing with spiritual abuse in the church, I had come to recognize the spiritual abuse my Nmother was a virtuoso in. The most helpful aspect of this book is in teaching you how to recognize where true spiritual authority comes from. Believe me, it isn't coming from the abuser! A very practical, clear, helpful book. This book will not add to the abuse or to your already heavy emotional burdens. I highly recommend it to anyone who is dealing with, or who has ever dealt with, spiritual abuse. Once you have the tools to recognize and deal with it, you'll never be victimized this way again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

An Expose

This guy has been in the news off and on over the years: Fred Phelps. Lately he has escalated the bizarreness by picketing funerals of fallen soldiers and veterans hospitals. He is more known for his loud and crass denunciations of gays. He is the founder and leader of the Westboro Church in Topeka, Kansas of which all the members are his family.

An investigative journalist took the time to compile a damning expose of Phelps and his cultic church including interviewing the two sons who were finally able to completely break all contact with their perverse family.

Reading a blow by blow description of a narcissist in action is rather like watching a train wreck...sickening, but impossible to avert your eyes. If you're up for it, you can check out the Fred Phelps Expose.