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.


JW said...

I can definately relate to this experience. I had the misfortune of having to work with a highly narcissistic coworker. And as mentioned in your post, these people are very adept at picking up on other people's attitudes and slight changes in a person's attitude. And even a slight change in attitude definately does threaten the narcissist. It threatens them because they don't like it when people change. They take comfort in the delusion that someone is always going to remain the same in order to please them. I think that this is a very dangerous kind of delusional expectation on the part of the narcissist and it can lead to a dangerous reaction in the narcisssist if they feel like their source of supply is not going to be docile and always happy. In my case, I believe that the coworker that I had the misfortune of working with became very angry when I wouldn't play the always happy, always smiling, always sympathetic role anymore. And I have always been a very intuitive person so I picked up on the fact that this coworker had noticed this change in me as well. the problem with these people, as you stated, is that they don't deserve to be treated like normal human beings. They don't deserve to be thought of as needing sympathy or understanding. In my experience, this narcissistic coworker would always try to manipulate me into giving him sympathy but he really wasn't interested in that. I'm petty sure that he was more interested in the fact that he knew that he could still get sympathy out of me by making statements that made him seem like a "whoah is me" downtrodden victim.
And another thing I agree with is that narcissists do demand respect, even if they have done nothing to deserve respect. They know how awful they are but they don't like anyone else to figure this out.

Anonymous said...

Anna V., your My MNs apparently are slacking and need to get lessons from your momster.(YES, I spelled it MOMSTER)

Thank you for your site!!

God bless

vera said...

I am going carefully through the blog -- thank you so much! I am the daughter of an Nfather.

My puzzle of the moment is this: how is this story different from a bully? Are all bullies Ns? I am inclined to think that all Ns are bullies.

Hugs to all here.

vera said...

Thank you so much for your blog. I am working my way through it. I am the daughter of an Nfather.

My puzzle right now is this: are all bullies Ns? I am pretty sure all Ns are bullies.

I am particularly struck by the immediate relief of the bully when s/he finally succeeds at bringing the other person down. So familiar. That's when they feed on our energy, eh? How does that work, I wonder?

Anna Valerious said...

Hi Vera,

I talk about bullies here:

I can't unequivocally say that all bullies are narcissists, but I can say that all narcissists are bullies. There isn't any doubt in my mind that a bully is always operating out of narcissistic drives. Many young bullies grow out of it when they grow up enough to realize their insecurities and desire for power over others isn't how a civil society works. So I'm saying that when we see young bullies there is a likelihood they will grow out of the behavior. Narcissists, though, are cases of arrested development. They never grow out of bullying. It is likely they were young bullies and have grown up into big, old bullies.

As to narcissists feeding on our energy. I would say it works like this: they are fed and satisfied for a time by a sense of power. What you call "our energies" is actually their sense of power over us. That is what they're feeding on. They trip on power.

Unknown said...

Oh my, your poor daughter. I got the creeps reading this. I really love the stories of your family, it really helps me understand. For instance, if this was happening in my real life I wouldn't have the discernment and would be confused. I can't remember an exact circumstance for me, but this seems so very familiar. By reading I get the discernment, I'm being taught how it works. And that it is wrong, even though it seems normal.

Its so weird how our Nparents have normalized this into our lives. Like a weird thing that belongs, so we have no right to remove it. That's so creepy when I think of it.

Amy said...

This reminds me of when my own N mother told me that her marriage (to my father, her first husband) had failed because “a woman is a princess and the man has to treat her like a princess”. While I did not understand the sense of her words at the time because I was just about twelve, I distinctly remember that my first impulse was the thought “she’s crazy”.
Strangely, it never occurred to her, neither then nor later, that following this line of thought a man also is a prince and must also be treated accordingly, not be blackmailed and coerced at the wife’s will as was the case in my parent’s marriage. And I never understood what made her think that she was a princess. What woman can pretend that she has the right to be not her husband’s companion but to be placed on a pedestal by him?

I also remember that she “invited herself” to my home twice in my life: every time with the firm purpose to enact her own personal drama. I believe it is highly probable that your own mother had invited herself over to Thanksgiving right from the start with no other purpose in mind. You are perfectly right, these people are cunning little devils.

I also totally agree with the comment written by Joan S: how weird it is that this attitude was normalized into our lives, when it is so absolutely sick and destructive…