Friday, June 29, 2007

Stockholm Syndrome and You

Using the four criteria to determine if a person is experiencing Stockholm syndrome, Sara Lambert shows how chronically abused children are demonstrably victims of this syndrome. In "Captivity & The Stockholm Syndrome" the author describes the environment the child lives in who is experiencing ongoing abuse.

I have been convinced for a while now that many adult children of narcissists show signs that they are operating from a Stockholm syndrome perspective. The article is careful to state that:
It is important to emphasize here that nothing about the Stockholm Syndrome suggests the captive does anything wrong or abnormal. The situation is driven entirely by the abusive captor and responsibility for it, and for the captive's responses, lies directly with him.
I completely agree with this statement. This syndrome is a survival technique; it is a quite effective one at that. But in order to live a healthy adult life one has to recognize if their behaviors are still operating from the mindset of a captive so they can break what are now destructive habits and thought processes. What helped you survive as a child in an abusive environment will be largely detrimental if those same adaptive techniques are applied in different context.

One of the criteria of Stockholm syndrome is that the abuser seems to show some kindness occasionally:
This is probably one of the most confusing and damaging aspects to living with an abuser that survivors report. What can a child make of a father who cruelly sexually abuses her at night but, the next morning, makes her favorite breakfast? She is left with a mix-up between cruelty and kindness, love and hate, which her undeveloped brain can not unravel, and so which may be with her far into her adult life.
I want to focus on this particular statement because this is what I most often observe in adult children of narcissists--they are confused and not sure if their parent is an evil abusive narcissist because they can remember times when their abuser was kind. There are happy memories here and there which the individual thinks are indications that their abuser is just a bit misguided at times, or has "anger management" issues, that if brought under control then the wonderful and loving person hiding in their abusive parent would be able to come out.

...which may be with her far into her adult life

Indeed. Does this describe you? How confused are you by happy memories with your abusive parent?

I have stressed in various posts on this blog that an occasional good deed doesn't weigh against a systematic and chronic series of abuses. It is very common for chronically abused individuals to try to put the fault on themselves when their parent continues to display abusive behaviors. Even though the adult has likely escaped from day to day control by their abusive parent, they often act as though they don't have control over their own lives. They often will abdicate their own desires and needs if those desires and needs contradict what they know their abusive parent would want. You have to make a decisive effort in order to break the psychological control your abusive and narcissistic parent instilled in you when you were their captive.

One component of the Stockholm syndrome is the belief that your abuser will kill you if you don't comply. This may throw some of you off if you don't recognize that it is possible to believe your abuser has power to kill you even if they didn't overtly tell you or show you that intent. My own mother did issue a direct death threat to me when I was around six years of age, but I remember having the feeling from a much younger age that my mother was life to me. A child is not insensible to their dependence on their parent(s). They are very aware that they depend on their parents for life itself. A child can be very young (as young as three) and have clear thoughts that if something happened to their parent they themselves would die. So, even without overt death threats, a child is very aware that their life is one that completely depends on the adult(s) in her life to feed her, clothe her and protect her. When a parent shows disapproval by emotional or physical withdrawal a child can feel like life itself is endangered. A child will often comply with any request of a parent who uses this cruel method to get compliance from the child. Parental withdrawal feels like a death threat from the child's perspective.

I hope you will read the linked article and carefully assess whether or not you experienced Stockholm syndrome as a child. If so, then ask yourself how much your behaviors today are still dictated by this dynamic with your abuser.
While it is hugely distressing for a survivor to realize that, as a child, she was so trapped, helpless, and manipulated, on the other hand this realization provides her with the freedom to put that past behind her and understand she now has control over herself and her life, and she does not have to remain hostage to her abuser any more.
That last statement is the intent and purpose of my blog. Whether or not you feel like it is true, you do have the freedom to make new choices. Choices which will free you to assert control over your own life. Freedom to break off from your abuser without any longer having to put their feelings and "needs" ahead of your own.

Life is way too precious and far too short to continue to live in the slavery your parent subjected you to as a child. Now is the time to sever the identification with your abuser which keeps you looking at your world through the abuser's eyes. As long as you continue to operate from the Stockholm syndrome you are prevented from living your life as an autonomous and mature adult. You will find yourself trapped in an infantile state which believes that your good feelings about yourself can only come from the approving glance of your narcissistic parent. Today is a good day to set your feet on the path of autonomy and wave good-bye to emotional dependence
on your abuser. They are not looking out for your best interests. They expect you to look out for theirs. This dynamic will never stop unless you stop participating in it.

There is nothing that justifies what they've done, so stop justifying it and start living.

TIME Article Gets It

I applaud the author of this article, "It's All About Him". He sees the connection between so many of the high profile murderers of our day--their narcissism. The article came out in the wake of the Cho murder spree.

Here are a couple quotes from the article. I recommend reading the full article as it isn't long but is succinctly insightful.

I've lost interest in the cracks, chips, holes and broken places in the lives of men like Cho Seung-Hui, the mass murderer of Virginia Tech. The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are only symptoms of the real explanation. Those who do these things share one common trait. They are raging narcissists.

The flamboyant nature of these crimes is like a neon sign pointing to the truth. Charles Whitman playing God in his Texas clock tower, James Huberty spraying lead in a California restaurant, Harris and Klebold in their theatrical trench coats--they're all stars in the cinema of their self-absorbed minds.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Private Sadistic Moment with My Mother

Torienne's comments on the private sadism of narcissists brought a particular event to my recall. It didn't happen to me personally. As my mother gets older her ability to hide her malignancy diminishes. This event happened a few years ago.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, my mother began grooming my female cousin "Lee" to take my place as a daughter, of sorts. This began in the late 90's. In 2002 I finally was able to figure out that my cousin was under my mother's tyranny, and I did all in my power to help her extricate herself. Successfully, by the way.

My cousin has two sons. One of the reasons my mother was able to get a handle on my cousin's life was because Lee was having problems as a single mother raising her two boys. My mother, who constantly advertises herself as having all the answers in raising kids, presented herself to my cousin as her last and best hope. My mother ran a bit of a "boot camp" at her home whenever she decided my cousin's boys needed to be tormented into better behavior. After Lee had finally gotten her boys and herself out of my mother's hell, her younger son shared an revealing moment with my mother.

He was in trouble with my mother. For what? Who knows at this point. He can't remember. (Which was often true for me as a kid. I would forget what the hell I had done wrong because of the disproportionate punishment which obliterated one's memory of the original offense. When a kid has done a real wrong and receives proper discipline, then they will not forget what they did wrong. They'll actually learn something from the lesson.) His age, around eleven or twelve. She brought him up to her bedroom for the obligatory lecture and then an ass-whooping . What happened next is what I found extremely interesting because it was a short moment where the mask slipped down to reveal the monster. After she finished pounding on him, she smiled a smug little smile and said in a low voice with special emphasis, "That felt good. It's been a long time since I've gotten to do that." If you say those two sentences with a post-orgasmic kind of breathy voice, you'll get the tone of how she said it.

The sadistic bitch. I had long suspected she loved it when she could pound on the asses of young kids, including mine. Finally, I had proof through the witness of my young cousin.

When told this story, I knew exactly why she let the mask slip in that moment too. She had zero accountability. There was no one who was going to come to her and demand an explanation for her admission to sadism. No one. She'd made sure to crap all over my cousin's youngest son's image. My mother absolutely despised him and therefore made sure that any other adult who might hold her behavior toward this boy to some account knew what she "knew" about his bad character.

After I became aware of my mother's dealings with Lee and her boys it became very obvious why my mother hated Lee's youngest son. My mother was unable to find a way to terrorize him into fear and submission. When this happens it actually scares my mother. She is freaked out when she can't find a way to control someone. She is left to conclude they are "evil" and will systematically label them as such to anyone in their sphere in an attempt to isolate them. She hopes the isolation will bring them around to letting her control them. If that doesn't work, they find themselves ostracized by others and she is protected from anything they may reveal about her. It is a win-win for her.

So this young boy was by this time labeled by my mother as "bad seed". Lee didn't believe this about her son, but she was still under the spell of my mother and was depending on my mother's "expertise" to help her deal with her boys. So her son didn't share this particular moment with his mother at the time it happened because he understandably assumed it wouldn't have done any good; after all, it was his mother who relinquished him to my mother's discipline. The only other adult that could possibly hold my mother to account would have been my father. My father would hold no opinion other than the one his wife told him to have about Lee and her boys. Therefore, my mother knew there was no chance he would intervene. This explains my mother's freeness to openly revel in physical violence against a child to his face.

I can't express the level of satisfaction I get when I think how I was able to have a direct hand in depriving my mother of her whipping boy. That sense of satisfaction is accompanied by a revulsion at her vileness. All the years she tormented small children willingly placed into her care by other mothers. All the years I endured the private torture of her sadistic ways.

I just pray she isn't so evil that hell itself will spit her out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Emotional Torture

A comment was left on my blog a few days ago that deserves to be highlighted. Torienne left a comment on the blog post "When Your Narcissist Mother isn't THAT Bad". She very articulately describes the component of emotional abuse that makes it so painful and destructive. She also captures what it is that makes physical and emotional pain move from the realm of discomfort into torture. To save you a click, I'll copy and paste her comment below. Thanks, Torienne, for your well-stated insights.

Torienne said...

I once read a comment by a neonatologist, who said of his profession "What we do to these children is indistinguishable from torture." He has a point. Think about what a juvenile cancer patient goes through -the needles, the poisons, the surgeries. And yet, when they recover, these kids are delighted to return to the hospital where torture was visited on them. They run to hug the nurses and doctors who inserted needles and pumped burning fluids into their veins.

The difference between medical care and torture is intent. The doctors and nurses have only the intent to cure, and as humanely as possible. They explain what will happen. They validate the child's fear. They do their best to ease that pain and fear. They are concerned and compassionate.

On the other hand, a narcissistic mother may never have laid a hand on you, though she probably managed to arrange for at least some pain. All her brutality was in her intent. She intended to humiliate, confuse and shame. She wanted you to hurt. She enjoyed it. She even wanted you to know that she enjoyed it. She was sadistic.

Andrew Vachss has said (, look for "You carry the cure...") that the worst kind of abuse is emotional abuse. He believes that the emotional component of physical and verbal abuse is what makes it bad. He has a long history as an advocate of abused children, and if anyone understands abuse, it is he. Even so he has a hard time verbalizing what he means by emotional abuse. Like most writers, he defaults to using examples of verbal abuse and pointing out their emotional component.

The children of narcissists endure the very worst kind of abuse because narcissists are pure emotional abusers. Their children do not know how to express what they experience, because it is so difficult to describe the agony of abusive intent. Our Nparents hurt our feelings and then reveled in our pain in such a way that it was clear that they did it on purpose and for fun. Although they certainly lashed out in anger, that wasn't what made them abusive, although as AnnaV points out, when they are called on their abusiveness, they point to things like angry outbursts, because, after all, they're just human, and you do that too, sometimes right? In reality what made them abusive was not their outbursts. It was the times they engaged in carefully planned, deliberate, premeditated cruelty and the pleasure they took from inflicting it. They know what they're doing. That's the biggest secret of all, and the one they defend with their last breath, as AnnaV's mother was doing. They claim they had no intention of hurting you, but in reality, the entire goal was to hurt you. Your pain was the payoff. They knew it. You knew it. That's what made it hurt so much. But you couldn't prove it, and your ineffectual rage and humiliation made the narcissist just giggle with joy and pride that she was so clever!

When I was 15, my father developed cancer and was given 2 years to live. That summer I became so depressed that I didn't get out of bed, couldn't eat, and did nothing. Naturally my mother didn't notice, because she was worrying about herself (she said). One night, in the grip of rolling waves of depression, I told her that I was sick and needed to go the doctor. The doctor examined me briefly, looked at me sitting slumped on his examining table and said "What's going on in your life?" I said "My father has cancer and he's going to die." He said "I see." He then turned to my Nmom and said "I think you should get her someone to talk to." She said,incredulously "You a psychologist? Oh no! Not her!"

Now, she was a nurse, and I had never before heard her directly defy a doctor's orders. In addition, she was seeing a psychologist herself, so it wasn't fear of therapists in general. She was ok with therapy, just not for me.

It took me a long time to figure out the damning truth behind this scene and why something so superficially trivial burned itself into my memory. She didn't want me to see a therapist, because she was afraid the therapist would find out what she was doing to me . Then that horrible, delicious little secret would be out: that sometimes she liked to get me alone and torment me for fun. Some of her abuse was unthinking, but most of it wasn't at all involuntary or reflexive. It was staged, planned and deeply enjoyed, and could not be explained in any other way than deliberate sadism. It was also completely hidden. She was extremely careful about her timing and her rationales. She orchestrated it for maximum pleasure without risking exposure. All of this was completely conscious, and extremely evil. And she knew all of it.

So Jordie: Look through your memory. Somewhere, sometime when your Nmom wasn't in complete control of the situation, she slipped up and gave you tangible proof of her sadism. Maybe when you realize that, it will help you understand that you have absolutely no choice but No Contact, because otherwise she will never stop tormenting you. She doesn't want to. It's been too much fun.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Are We Required to Keep a Sibling in Our Lives?

I left off the story of my sister after telling how her lying and thievery played a large role in ruining my cousin's life. For all previous installments of my attempt to describe my relationship with my sister click here.

I had limited interaction with my sister after I left my parent's home the second time. Sister went off to college; I was busy working and raising my young daughter. A year after re-marrying I was packing boxes and moved to another state about 400 miles away from my family. During the year I was gone my marriage fell apart. I moved back to the city my parents lived in after calling a close girlfriend and being offered a job where she was office manager.

Living my own life, raising my daughter, and being yet again a divorcee' I was spending very little time with my parents and even less time with my sister. Then the event that completely changed my sister's way of relating to me occurred. She became pregnant. She claims she was raped. From her description of events, a logical person can conclude she teased someone until he took what she was tantalizingly holding out to him.

Here is how she describes the event. You can decide for yourself whether or not she was raped. This male was someone she had met through her work. He lived in near-by state. She invited him to come stay at our parent's place for a visit. I was ordered (by both sister and mother) to pick him up at the airport one afternoon. I was singularly unimpressed. By the time I dropped him off at my parent's home (only about a five mile trip), I was certain this guy was not the Mr. Wonderful my sister had described him as being.

It was during this visit that the rape occurred. Sister's boyfriend was staying in her old bedroom. The door to her old bedroom was about three feet down the hall from my parent's bedroom. She admits that after she had dressed for bed (in a skimpy summer nightie), she went up to the bedroom where her boyfriend was. She laid on the bed with him. She was just being playful, says she. Not surprisingly the guy got excited. My sister had remained a technical virgin with her first boyfriend because boyfriend #1 was willing to take "no" for an answer. Apparently, my sister thought all men could be that self-controlled in the presence of a cock tease. Surprise, surprise. When this boyfriend started to aggressively go for the prize, and she said "no", he didn't take "no" for an answer. He took the scantily clad female in his bed as a sign that she really wanted it. Her actions spoke louder than her "no". Her claims to being raped get even more lame when you realize my father was only a matter of feet away from the scene of the "crime". One scream from her and it would have all been over. My father would not have hesitated to come to her rescue and my sister knew that. In fact, I know that my father always had a hard time believing the rape charge for this very reason. He directly asked my sister why she didn't call out for help. She weakly replied that she was afraid of causing a scene. That never sat well with our father. I have to admit that it seriously undercut her credibility with me as well, though I never challenged her claim to having been raped because it would have done no good. This was how she was going to maintain "face" in the situation of being unmarried and pregnant. (And, no, she never contacted law enforcement either.) Something she had haughtily told me back when I became pregnant out of wedlock that she would never do. Since she gets to call this a rape, she has still never done what I did. I was willing, she was a victim. Wish I had been so creative as to come up with a rape charge. But I wanted to get out of the house of insanity and torment, so I had no motivation to be that creative.

My sister was around 24 years old when she got knocked up. She made the decision for adoption. She and my mother informed me that it was decided that before sister would start to "show" she would go into seclusion. The private religious adoption agency found a family in a far away city in another state who would take her in for the final months of her pregnancy.

This was a lonely time for my sister. Suddenly she was cut off from everyone she knew except for my parents and me. No one else was to know of her pregnancy. The reason given for this was not because she was ashamed. No, it was only to keep the boyfriend from ever knowing of the child's existence so he couldn't have a chance at custody. Whatever. I know, at least for my mother, there was relief that no one would ever know that daughter #2 had also ended up pregnant out of wedlock.

Prior to getting pregnant, sister dearest considered herself quite the star at her work place. She wasn't shy about constantly telling us how her boss was chasing her skirt, how she was openly admired by everyone, no one had ever done the wonderful things she was doing, etc. Work had been a rich source of supply for sister. But she was now pregnant and going into seclusion; she had no one to stroke her gigantic ego and her figure was swelling up. Suddenly, her interests turned in my direction.

I went with my mother and sister when it was time to trundle sister off to her place of hiding. I don't remember calling her to keep in touch. I did make another trip up to her hiding place when she was getting close to term. I do remember her sending me a few cards while she was in confinement. Most of the communication was through the proxy of my mother. I started to hear things that left me feeling a bit confused. Things like, "Your sister loves you so much. You really should try harder to have a relationship with her." "Your sister respects and admires you so much. It is too bad you don't love her like she loves you." These declarations of love and respect were news to me. Sister's behaviors in the past didn't line up with what I was now hearing. I was suddenly re-cast in the role of the reluctant sister. The sister who wouldn't reciprocate the undying affection of her sibling. With a sudden twist of events, I was again being told that I was deficient in my dealings with the sister who had used and abused me for years. Mom and sister were acting like my sister had always loved me and had always felt nothing but respect and admiration for me. It is one of those alternate realities that leave your head spinning. I was supposed to act like this alternate reality was just as real as they were pretending it was. I was having a hard time making the leap. I was kind to my sister, but I just couldn't get into my new role by acting like we were the closest of friends and always had been.

For the next fifteen plus years I would continue to hear my mother repeat variations of the above declarations. It became a new set of "tape recordings". I did have a relationship with my sister. We would occasionally talk on the phone or visit each other infrequently. We had a warmly polite relationship. When my sister would occasionally demand a visit, I would make the effort to comply. But because I never put my sister into a position of "best friend" I was made to feel that I wasn't giving enough of myself into the relationship. My mother made it her job to make sure I knew I wasn't measuring up to my sisterly duties. My sister was not so obvious with her disappointment with me. She would always tell me how much she missed me and wished I would visit her more, but didn't directly impugn my love for her. She used her mother for that.

This is the Reader's Digest version of the majority of my adult relationship with my sister. The years were punctuated with little betrayals of my trust. Once in awhile I would confide something with my sister and it would nearly always get back to our mother. These things were not anything big because I was wise enough not to entrust her with the big stuff. These little betrayals simply told me that everything I said was being repeated to mommy dearest by my sister. The things I had told my sister would fall so casually from my mother's lips that I knew my sister was blathering everything I would tell her without a smidgen of shame, hesitation or reserve. After I would recover from what felt like a betrayal of my confidence, I would try it again to feel better about my sister, probably because I was hammered all the time about how I was supposed to have a good relationship with my sister because she's la familia.

I began a different tack by specifically stating to sister when something I was telling her needed to remain between her and me. She would still blab it to Mom. When I would confront her, she would always act so apologetic and surprised. "Oh, I guess I forgot you told me not to share it with mom." This made me feel like she wasn't all that invested in our having a friendship if my specific wishes would slip out of her head so easily. (That was the kindest construction I could put on her so-called memory lapses.) Every time I would try to trust my sister with just a small measure of fidelity, she would fail. This prevented us from having the "joined at the hip" relationship my sister was idealizing for us.

I don't think I can be blamed for not feeling close to someone who couldn't keep even one confidence. Especially considering our history together with very large trust violations that had never been acknowledged by her. The biggest problem in my life was my mother. To have a sister who would do nothing to protect information about me from getting back to my mother was not conducive to closeness. I didn't feel like being held to account by my mother for the things about my life I would share with my sister! Consequently, I would tell very little about me to my sister. The last five years of our relationship, I started to notice an interesting thing. Sister wasn't all that interested in what was going on in my life. (Frankly, I was relieved.) She didn't notice the lack of information flow from me to her. I only spoke in generalities when she would ask. This seemed to work for her. When sister would call me, it was all about her. She would talk my ear off for two hours and then, just before the call would end she would pretend to want to hear about me. Because I would share so little with her and never complained about things she liked to characterize my life as "boring", "placid", "easy". Of course, her life was filled with drama and interesting things.

The other aspect of my relationship with my sister during this time was that she would occasionally get pushy. What sister wants, sister gets. Because I was constantly cast in the role of unloving and emotionally distant sister, I would feel pressure from her and my mother to give whatever sister wanted when she demanded it. Living far apart geographically helped keep these demands to a minimum, but on occasion she would insist on what she wanted. My mother did the same thing. These two felt that because they didn't ask for much, whatever they did ask for they were completely entitled to. And if you give them what they feel entitled to then it is the very least you can do. Therefore, no gratitude. I admit that pushy people are only a problem to someone who is too weak to say "no". I was weak. So the fault lies with me that I felt pushed around. Thankfully, I'm not weak that way anymore.

There have been genuine reasons for me to have sympathy for my sister. Her delivery of the baby left her severely injured because of an incompetent boob of a doctor. Plastic surgery was required later to put her back together "down there". She had a cascade of real health problems for the next many years because of that delivery. She, of course, also had to go through the real pain of giving up a child. For all these things I continue to feel sincere compassion for my sister. As she went through her various health crises I wanted to be there for her in some capacity. I wanted to be her friend. After a number of years of her physical suffering there were signs that she might be maturing somewhat. I was able to find some genuine pleasure in her company. These realities make this story a sad one for me. My sister is not "all bad". She has some very strong narcissistic traits, but I am not convinced she is a malignant narcissist. But the combination of her strongly narcissistic traits with the fact that she keeps me connected to my mother makes a relationship with her untenable for now.

At the point in time where sister's health was the poorest, she was the most enjoyable to be around. It would seem she had little energy for manipulations. She seemed humbled by life's circumstances. Then her health turned around. I was thrilled for her. So much so that I, my husband and daughter went and visited her shortly after her improvement because she wanted us to see how well she was doing. It was amazing to see the genuine and radical improvement. It was miraculous. She had been in poor health for over ten years, so this was a joyful turn of events.

The saddest part of the story for me is what happened next. It was a very short time after the majority of her health problems resolved that my sister was introduced to a Christianized form of psychology through her church. She would monopolize our conversations by telling me about the "incredible" things she was learning. Her focus turned completely inward. Now she was spending inordinate amounts of time and energy thinking about her childhood. She would talk incessantly about things she remembered from her childhood. The abuse stories were legion. And some of them were imagined. I was there, too, and I was older...I knew what happened in many cases better than she did. Her imagination started creating "memories" out of whole cloth. She started to recount her dreams. Dreams of spiders and snakes were "proof" to her that she had been sexually abused as a child. She wasn't sure by whom. I started to worry that she would lay charges at my dad's feet. For all his faults, he never ever was inappropriate with us. I worried she was getting dangerous as it related to our father.

Sister insisted my then 19 year old daughter come for a visit. So I put daughter on a plane and let her stay two weeks with her aunt. My poor daughter was assailed with sister's psychologized view of everything. Daughter felt a bit intimidated by how her aunt was now analyzing my daughter's childhood and seeing pathologies everywhere. Sister made my daughter promise to transcribe a seminar by this husband/wife team of psychologists after she got home. (The story was that sister was now good friends with the psychologists and had offered to help them make their seminars better. Sister often talks about her associations with "important" people and her important contributions to their greatness.) I am sure sister wanted to force my daughter to be exposed to this psycho-babble by creating this "job" for her. My daughter did start to do the transcription a few weeks after getting home. She started to voice her questions and concerns to my husband and I about things she was hearing these people say. I started to get involved by checking it out for myself. I realized that my sister had greatly idealized the message of these psycho-babblers and put her own spin on what they were saying so I wouldn't find them objectionable. When I went straight to the "horse's mouth", I found out what they were really teaching. There were big problems with their ideas. Especially with how they were trying to foist off very old Freudian ideas as something new and pretending these ideas were biblical. Freud was an admitted atheist and was openly hostile to Christianity. Any similarity of his ideas to Christianity is incidental and largely imagined.

I include this bit of history because it marked the decline in my relationship with my sister. She was no longer showing those signs of maturation of previous years. She was so completely self-focused as to be a total bore. She was dwelling constantly on her "issues" even while claiming these psycho-babblers' message would free everyone forever from their "issues" once you dug down to the bottom of the well of early childhood memories and confronted everyone with how they injured you. (There was even a recommended confrontational letter near the end of the book that was a guaranteed way to make sure you pissed off whomever you were confronting. It included a large dose of self-righteous language as an added bonus.)

I wasn't seeing any end in sight for all the self-focus and all the mulling of how mistreated she was as a child. As I've alluded to before, I wondered when all these trips down memory lane would take her to the part of her life where she was the one inflicting damage on others. She never took that route. One year, two years, three years, four years. She was relentlessly self-focused and never seeming to be able to rise above the "damage" of her youth as she delightedly rehearsed old memories. She now had the perfect excuse for anything she has ever done against someone else even while claiming that this new religious psychology didn't provide people with a way out of accountability. She talked about her "damage" as she explained away her bad behaviors of past and present. The more she talked about her "issues" the less she was interested in anyone but herself.The sharp turn into her narcissistic tendencies was a hard thing to have to witness. I have direct evidence in her that pop psychology makes people with narcissistic tendencies worse, not better. This is even more true for malignant narcissists as therapists have been coming to realize.

I have a real problem with most of pop psychology. The problems increase many fold when it dresses up in Christian vernacular and foists itself off as the next best thing to the Second Coming. I watched the steady decline of my sister's character as she grabbed onto it and made herself into a perpetual victim. As an added bonus, she now felt qualified to psychoanalyze everyone else around her. Never favorably. Her sense of superiority started to take on the dimensions of her much younger self. I did weeks of research on the book written by her favorite psychobabblers. I wrote up what I found. I refuted the most objectionable of their theories with facts. I emailed her my research. No response. Finally we were reunited at my parent's home due to a funeral of a family friend in July of 2002. Sister brought up her favorite theme...psychologized Christianity...and I finally dared to try to present my views to her in person. I wasn't aggressive or "in her face". I just started to voice what I believed in contradiction to things she was saying. She got hostile. Finally, she just walked away while I was still talking and acted like I wasn't there. She left the next morning without saying good-bye.

This didn't settle well with me. Once again, when I dared to contradict one of her pet ideas she got hostile. I determined to have even less to do with her than ever. Her rude behavior was dismissive and condescending. It snapped me back many years to when she often treated me that way. I didn't deserve her condescension. I had well-thought out points that she simply was refusing to give the time of day and then treating me like a lower life form for expressing them.

The fact that my sister was reverting to being much more self-involved meant her attitude and behaviors were starting to bring up old feelings in me. I am a very forgiving person. I have been too forgiving for much of my life. What I mean by that is I would forgive when no forgiveness was asked for. To forgive someone who isn't sorry means you're going to go round and round with repeats of the same objectionable behavior coming at you. Which is pointless. These reviving feelings were reminders of my past with my sister. Being reminded of past behavior by what was going on in the present was forcing me to assess our relationship. Did I need to keep a person in my life who considered herself guilt-less when misusing me and who held herself to no account when she mistreated me?

Then my mother struck. A few months later she pulled her Thanksgiving stunt in my home on my daughter. I called my sister a few days after the event to see what version of the story she had gotten from mom. This connected us again. Some months after the Thanksgiving debacle, my sister was the one who suggested that our mother fit the profile of a narcissist. I took that ball and ran with it. I read everything I could on malignant narcissism and then would have long conversations with my sister as we discussed what I was learning.

Perhaps my willingness to accept psychology's label for my mother seems contradictory to what I've said above about my opinion of psychology. Here's the deal. Psychology doesn't make excuses for malignant narcissism. It also recognizes that a person is a malignant narcissist by choice. I can accept this premise of psychology's opinion and approach to malignant narcissism therefore I am willing to use their terms. Because the psych community recognizes that changing a person with NPD is well nigh to impossible, they tend to stay much more objective about NPD. They focus more on observable facts rather than delving into the non-scientific realm of conjecture and guesses. In other words, the psych community sticks closer to what we call science when they are dealing with personality disordered people.

For two years my sister and I were connected by discussions of our mother and NPD. She seemed interested in the subject of malignant narcissism, but not enough to read on her own. She claimed it was "too much" for her emotionally to spend time reading up on it. Doesn't that seem curious to you? I couldn't read enough about NPD when I finally figured out that there was a name for what I'd lived through. It was almost a sense of euphoria the relief was so intense. What is with my sister's reaction? Her little phone call to me asking me if I thought she might be a narcissist goes a long way to explaining it. She was seeing too much of herself in the information on NPD which is why she completely stopped investigating shortly after mentioning to me that maybe our mother had NPD.

During these two years of our discussions on NPD my sister was appearing to take in information. I think now, in retrospect, that she was mostly just enjoying the fact that I had joined her in her condemnation of our mother. Sister still like to occasionally ramble on about her childhood speaking in a way that it seemed like she was talking to someone who hadn't lived through it too. She still loved focusing on "her pain" much more than studying the objective realities of NPD. I tried not to dwell on my annoyance at this recurring theme of hers and her tendency to act like I hadn't lived through the same things. She liked to tell me how I was just different than most people in the fact that I was able to rise above my childhood and build a good life minus a bunch of hang-ups. It was an interesting way she explained away my having taken accountability for my own choices. I was just different, an anomaly. Now, let's get back to talking about my pain and my so very valid reasons for frakking up my to speak.

At this time the only communication between me and my mother was in writing. It appeared my sister was honoring my demand that she not share anything about me or my family in her conversations with mom. It looked like there was hope for us to have an ongoing good relationship since it seemed she could deal with a measure of my trust. I didn't trust her completely yet, but I was trying. I had no way to verify whether or not she was not sharing things with mom since I wasn't in contact with my mother or anyone else in mom's life. I chose to believe the best of my sister.

This history is the prelude to the event that caused me to cut off my sister. It wasn't an earth-shattering event. The significance of the event can only be discerned by having some knowledge of what had gone before. It was the proverbial straw breaking the camel's back.

I'm happy to tell you that if you have a destructive or narcissistic sibling you are under no law in heaven or earth to keep that sister or brother in your life. A relationship with an adult sibling should be entirely voluntary. No one is obligated to keep a sibling in their life if they don't want to. (In a dysfunctional family the pressure to keep another family member in your life will be especially intense.) If you have come to the point where you are willing to go against your family and don't worry about their opinion of you, freeing yourself of a nasty sibling is easy. Once you and your siblings are adults, you should expect a sibling relationship to have the same elements of a friendship. Mutual kindness, respect, and hopefully shared values. If you look at your sibling and say, "If I wasn't related to this person I wouldn't have a thing to do with them." that is a sign that you don't have anything resembling a friendship with them. When a sibling uses your shared genetics as a license to mistreat you it is reason enough to have nothing to do with them. An accident of birth made you blood relations. Choice should be what keeps you together. In an ideal world all siblings would love each other and be the best of friends. This isn't an ideal world. Having the same parents and being raised in the same home does little to ensure that siblings will develop true friendship. Siblings aren't little cookie-cutter copies. They are unique individuals. It often happens that siblings take very different courses in life resulting in widely divergent characters. Not everyone can get along. Once you are an adult and have formed your own family it is very important to not keep people in your life whose influence on you is destructive or negative. What affects you affects those closest to you. Emotionally destructive siblings have no god-given right to be in your life. You have the right to chose your friends. That would include your siblings. If they refuse to abide by general rules of friendship then they are simply using your family relationship to their own ends. You don't have to put up with that.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Narcissist's "Self-Esteem"

True self-esteem is based on something more substantive than feelings. The self-esteem movement in this country has blundered terribly by focusing on building up feelings without any basis in substance. Kids in school are taught to feel good about themselves based on just feeling good about themselves. The idea is that if you feel good about yourself then you'll proceed into life without the impediment of insecurities. Many studies have been done that have exposed of myths of false self-esteem. Insecurities end up not being the worse thing to have.

So what is true self-esteem based on?

Accomplishment. If you are able to make yourself proud with accomplishment, you will respect yourself. Self-esteem isn't what is important. Self-respect is the issue. Teaching kids how to gain self-respect should be the goal of our educational system and parenting techniques, not this silliness of telling kids to feel good about themselves based on absolutely nothing. We end up raising big, bratty weaklings who crumble at the first collision with the real world.

One of the most important areas of life to gain accomplishments in are in the moral realm. When you are able to follow a moral course in the midst of obstacles, opposition and difficulty you can gain some serious self-respect. In fact, I'll contend that the moral realm is where the most important battles must be fought and won if you want to feel good about yourself in a way that will last. Make yourself proud by doing the hard stuff. Facing ones fears is another very important way to build true self-respect. This is also an accomplishment made in the moral sphere.

Which brings me to malignant narcissists. What have they accomplished to make themselves feel true self-respect? Not a damned thing. Yeah, I agree...narcissists have "low self-esteem". But you can't build up anyone's self-esteem by being a rah-rah section telling them to feel good about themselves "just because you're you", let alone a narcissist.

What has the narcissist accomplished in the moral sphere that would make them have true respect for themselves? That, again, would be nothing. So I believe the fact that narcissists have "low self-esteem" is a condition they have completely earned. They don't deserve to feel good about themselves. This also explains why the narcissist needs constant affirmation of their wonderfulness from their sycophants. This is why they seem to be a black-hole for praise. It doesn't matter how many times you told them yesterday that they are beautiful, wonderful, amazing, wise and is a new day and they need just as much praise today to keep them going. This is because deep down they know they haven't truly accomplished anything to feel good about themselves over.

I'm not sure when I finally had this revelation about my mother. It was some years ago. One day she confessed the truth that when she felt ugly on the outside it was a direct reflection of how she was feeling about herself morally. What she actually said was, "I feel ugly on the inside" as she stood there before looking her usual gorgeous self. A shocking confession really. As I have stated before, the objective truth about my mom's appearance is that she is an absolutely beautiful woman. Nevertheless, she would regularly go through periods of life when she felt ugly no matter how she objectively looked. This went far beyond just fishing for compliments. It was obvious she was in a depressive state during these periods. When she felt this way, compliments did very little to lift her spirits.

Her behavior has consistently borne out the truth of her confession that day many years ago. I don't remember her repeating that confession. It was just a moment of truth; a rare peek into the internal world of a narcissist. What has my mother done to feel accomplished and good about herself in the moral realm? Very little. I didn't know way back then about the malignancy of my mother's character. I was naive in the extreme. I didn't know until quite recently how my mother is a constant liar and a vile hypocrite. Knowing now what she is I do not wonder as to why she loathes herself at times. I have joined in her loathing. She is right to not feel good about herself. She has done nothing to earn her own good-will let alone mine.

The narcissist's low self-esteem is not a reason to pity them. You need to recognize they've earned their bad feelings about themselves. They can feel good about themselves the day they accomplish some heavy-lifting in the moral coming clean on their many bad acts, making restitution and showing some humility.

[Icon by lvlwing]

Friday, June 15, 2007

How Evil Hides From Itself

Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does. ~ Whittaker Chambers

In a previous post I asserted that evil people don't wake up each day deciding which evil deeds to accomplish. They admit to no evil because define themselves and their deeds as good and right. I'm going to explain a little more how they create this alternate reality. It is important you understand how they twist their thinking because you have probably been sucked into believing their insane logic.

I am convinced the narcissist senses deep down they are evil. Their whole existence is defined by their efforts to deny this nagging sense. Hence, the universal quality of narcissists to avoid introspection and their profligate use of projection.

It is possible, though very rare, for an evil person to admit they are evil. Evil people who admit they are evil tend toward the psychopath end of the narcissism spectrum. Even while admitting to being evil, they will justify their evil in some way in an attempt to lessen their culpability. Evil people have a hard time admitting the full truth of what they are, even if they admit it to some degree or other. Here is a hard and fast principle of human psychology: we can't survive without a sense of righteousness. Even evil people have this need which is why we see people rationalizing the worst of their behaviors in an effort to minimize, shift or eliminate guilt. Guilt is a powerful emotion and has the power to extinguish us if not dealt with. Which brings us back to the human need to be righteous. How we go about getting a sense of righteousness is what separates the decent from the evil. The definition of "righteous" is a relative thing depending on whether you're decent or evil. (Think of a prison population. No matter how bad you are, there is always someone else you can look down on.)

There is a school of thought which purports that someone can not be defined as evil if their intentions are good. As long as the person believes they are pursuing a higher good, then they can't be classified as evil even if the outcomes of their behaviors are considered to be morally wrong or evil. I completely dismiss this rationalization, for that is all it is. One big reason I reject this philosophy is because it is used every day by malignant narcissists to excuse themselves when caught screwing up. I'm convinced the bad guys have made up this silly little philosophy in order to absolve their evil deeds.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to accept as an explanation for bad acts that the narcissist "didn't intend" to cause pain. (I suspect the same is true for you.) They insist how they only meant to cause a good outcome; it just couldn't be foreseen how it would end badly. Because they didn't intend a bad outcome they expect to be not only excused but completely exonerated without making restitution. The narcissists in my life have expected endless do-overs as well as being allowed to maintain that they are "good" people by using this philosophical point as moral cover. A truly decent person would accept the responsibility for the bad outcome even if their intentions had been good. They would not use their good intentions as a way to avoid making up for their wrong.

Here are three statements my mother made in an "apology" letter:
What a cloud of unreality I have lived in regarding our relationship. I had no realization I was so difficult & self-serving & that our connection as mother & daughter was on shakey ground. I am horrified by the terrible pain I’ve caused & the wrongs committed by a seeming callous behavior. Honestly, I had no idea. I’m so sorry. The violations were not done with deliberate intent.
Emphasis mine, obviously. I highlighted the word "seeming" because it is an interesting modifier. She is not admitting to callous behavior. She is only admitting that it seemed so. Her insistence on not having bad intentions completely negates her so-called horror of the pain she's caused and the "wrongs committed". What is really being said here is that the fault is in my perceptions. By the way, I never accused her of "callous" behavior. I accused her of much worse. She is reserving the right to define her behaviors. She chose the word "callous". She isn't even owning it even though she came up with it. She modifies the word "callous" with seeming. Now, instead of the behaviors I charged her with, she is deciding what her behaviors should be called and qualifying it with a word that suggests she only appeared to be callous. **sigh** Narcissists are such slick operators.

May I say never did I do these sins against you with a deliberate thought on how to make you most unhappy.
Pure motives galore. By the way, I never accused her of this either. Another straw man she just wrestled to the ground.

Please feel free to state your disapproval if you see me act that way. It is not intentional.
Anyone can lay claim to a "good intention" after the fact. How hard is it to lie about motivations? Because of the universal human need to be "righteous", how do we give credit to an after-the-fact claim to having pure motives when the outcome is immoral, indecent or inhuman? It is profoundly naive to do so. Narcissists are not above lying in order to make themselves look better; it is their stock-in-trade. Lying is as essential and frequent as breathing. Even a non-narcissist will lie to look better as it is a common defensive human behavior. Since when do we believe that a person caught in a bad or immoral act is going to reliably tell the truth about their motives? This philosophy qualifies as one of those ideas that is so stupid only intellectuals claim to believe it.

I am sure some people feel very sophisticated and high-minded in believing that pure motives disprove evil outcomes as well as their refusal to label another human being as "evil". Many people look down on those who believe in such "simple" concepts as "good" vs. "evil". To believe in the existence of evil is not the simplistic view that pseudo-intellectuals would like to tell you it is. It is much simpler to dismiss the concept of evil than it is to recognize it. Evil is not simple. It is crafty, subtle, seductive. It hides itself with the accoutrements of "goodness". It covers up in layers upon layers of lies. Truth is much simpler. Not simplistic, simpler. Direct. But with evil you have to be a detective, of sorts, to sniff it out because it can dress itself up in many different outfits. On Sundays, it often wears a suit.

"Everyday evil" hides itself in plain sight. To quote Elizabeth Barrett Browning (a poet):

"The devil's most devilish when respectable."

This is why our devils...the narcissists...use position and title to attempt to hide the evil of their characters and their actions. Titles like: mother, father, priest, church member, volunteer, doctor, teacher, etc. provide protective coloration because society doesn't like to ascribe evil to people who fill these roles. None of us like to ascribe evil to people in these roles. But we must be willing to consider the possibility that a devil is hiding in plain sight when the evidence starts stacking up. We can't assume pure motives are always in place when the outcomes are consistently bad for you and others.

I would like to expand just a little on the complicated mental gyrations of the narcissist required to maintain this sense of themselves as being "good". It isn't necessarily an easy thing to keep perceiving ones self as good when your deeds are consistently bad. It takes constant effort to maintain the inverse reality of the narcissist.

A by-product of the narcissist's deathly fear of introspection (fear of finding out the truth about themselves), is how they value symbolism over substance. They are shallow and cursory in their thinking, as well as in what impresses them about themselves and others. They capitalize on how things look, not on the substance of what things in reality are. Since they are easily impressed by appearances, they assume you are too (projection). They assume that the appearance of perfection is what constitutes perfection. Just look the part and you're it. The narcissist who positions themselves in a role which society ascribes pure motives to is intent on fooling themselves first. They play-act the part and convince themselves they are the thing they are play-acting at. This goes a long way toward giving themselves the sense that they are "good". They assume you see things as they do, therefore you too must ascribe to them all the goodness their title or position implies. If you dare to call "foul" on something they do, they point to their "title" as proof of the impossibility of their being wrong.

All of this is the long way of saying that the narcissist is first and foremost trying to convince themselves they are not evil. Next, they assume that what convinces them should convince you as well. They hide their evil in plain sight by capitalizing on appearances. That is all they have. Appearances. Substance, reality, truth are not friendly to the narcissist because they expose the narcissist. The narcissist is always hiding from the truth of who they are. Their persistence in believing they are always "right" and "good" is coming from that human need to rid ourselves of guilt. Narcissists attempt to cheat by pretending there is no reason to feel guilty. Good people make wrongs right in order to relieve guilt. And good people are willing to live with a sense of guilt if they've earned it. They will admit their pain is deserved and learn to live with it if perfect restitution isn't possible to achieve. This helps good people to keep from re-committing bad acts. They remember how a prior bad act hurt others and themselves.

Who we are is demonstrated by what we do. The physically abusive husband may try to minimize having beaten his wife by saying, "I wasn't myself when I did it". Yes, it is like you to beat your wife because it is what you chose to do. We become who we are through the sum of our choices. We choose to do what we do, therefore we are what we do. This is important to keep in mind when dealing with a narcissist. Their constant claims of moral purity based on their insistence on having the purest of motives is nothing more complicated than a dodge from accountability. We are what we do. If the outcomes of someone's actions are consistently evil then it is correct to assume that their character is evil.

If a person's words and actions are conflicting with each other you must believe the actions over the words. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to get socked in the gut time and again. What people do carries more weight than what they say. There is a trite saying that goes, "it's easier said than done". It is an annoyingly trite statement due to its utter obviousness. Everything is easier to say than to do. Which is why actions are much more significant than words. Actions take monumentally more effort to carry out than to just sit around talking about it. Every action requires effort; even bad acts require effort. When we consistently say one thing and do another we show where our heart is by what we are willing to put our effort into. Whether our deeds are consistently benevolent and kind or consistently immoral and damaging...we reveal what our true motives are by what we do. So I make the argument that actions reveal true motives...motives do not define the actions. Once again, the narcissists have things upside down. They think "good" motives purify the bad deed. Well, screw that.

You are what you do. Period.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

When Your Narcissist Mother isn't THAT bad...

Someone posted a question/comment today under the "Your Narcissistic Mother" post of 6.4.07. Since my response ended up being rather lengthy, I've decided to post it as a regular blog post where it can be found more easily by the person who posted the comment as well as the rest of the readers of the blog.
Jordie said:
My problem is the voice inside which says, she's not THAT bad, after reading some of the terrible stories of other N mothers that are out there. How do I wrestle that one to the ground?

I have actually cut her off, after 43 years of blaming myself and excusing her arbitrary, volatile, poisonous lies.

This is harder than I thought.
My mother is also far from a "worst case" example if I was to measure her by what most people think of her. She is not the "worst case" even when just measured by me. She is a "garden variety" malignant narcissist. Nevertheless, she captures the very essence of the malignant narcissist which is why I am able to describe the "beast" of narcissism in a way that many can relate to. I have distilled down the "spirit" of narcissism and described the underlying principles narcissism operates from. I focus here on principles of narcissism so that regardless of the level of abuse a person has experienced with their narcissist, they will be able to recognize from my descriptions what they've been dealing with.

One of the reasons I stated in this particular post that there are spiritual issues you are up against when dealing with a narcissist is because many of the effects of their behaviors are subtle and intangible to an outsider, yet very real when they are happening to you. This is also why I refer you, in this post, to this web page:

Characteristics of Narcissistic Mothers

"It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is."
The very premise of this person's description of the N mother is how subtle the abuse is. Then the author goes on to state this:

"Everything she does is deniable. There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to help you."
Does any of this description sound like overt abuse? Much of what this person goes on to describe are the very subtle ways a narcissistic mother undermines you and punches you with an iron fist inside a velvet glove. Her role as "mother" is her cover. Her protestations of undying love and devotion to her children are her ruse.

I suggest you look at your mother in terms of what her consistent behaviors over the years have indicated. An occasional misdeed doesn't a narcissist make. It is the consistency of their malicious intent as betrayed by their words and deeds over the years. The aforementioned web page states this:

"Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her."
"Other people" includes yourself.

Narcissists make their "living" by covering up their malignancy. "Plausible deniability" is essential so they can weasel out of all accountability for their deeds. This makes it hard to find "proof" to issue a final "verdict" on them. This is what keeps you trapped in the relationship. The most important measurement of the malignancy of a narcissist is in the effect on you. You can accurately measure the toxicity of the narcissist by the effects on your own soul. Whether they snuffed out their cigarettes on your bare skin or stuffed you in a closet for three years, these are not the only manifestations of a malignant narcissist, nor are they the only justification for going "no contact". Perhaps the only evidence you have of their Nism is how they consistently and sneakily undermined your person-hood and stole who you are from you. The evidence of who they really are is in the effects on you. You need to give yourself permission to issue your "verdict" against your N mother based on the evidence left on your heart, mind and soul.

Malignant narcissism isn't measured by reaching a certain level of hard abuse. It is measured by certain principles. For example, the first and primary characteristic of narcissism is their insatiable need to "have it all". All of what? Attention and regard. All the attention and kindly regard in any circumstance is theirs by right, in their thinking. Since attention is essential for all humans to survive (both physically and psychologically), their demand to "have it all" is malicious. They would deprive you of any of this precious commodity because they MUST have it all. This principle explains everything a narcissist does. It is the underlying motivation, the very core, for whatever expression their narcissism takes.

Because of their need to "have it all", which means "you can't have ANY", they are predatory. They are constantly stalking their "prey". This is how they make their living. The fact that they rarely get "caught" in their mistreatment of you is because they are expert at predation. Like any predator in nature, they seek moments of opportunity. They don't pounce when by doing so there will be witnesses of their predation (witnesses whom the N thinks may hold them accountable and may try to stop them). This is why they seek out what they perceive as "weak" targets. Perceived weakness can include someone who is simply kind to the narcissist (!). A child is perceived as weak. An adult trained by a narcissist parent from childhood who has yet to stand up to the N parent's predations is considered a weak target. Vulnerability is sniffed out by a narcissist with nearly unfailing accuracy.

Their need to "have it all" and their predatory natures are two basic and primary principles of narcissism. How these manifest are different in every situation. The narcissist adapts to their environment which is why the behaviors can widely vary. The underlying principles remain the same.

To sum up:

Measure the narcissist by 1) the effects manifested in you 2) and by the principles of narcissism. The sneaky narcissist is no less guilty than the overt abuser. In my estimation, they are more evil for their sneakiness and their ability to more effectively hide their malicious predations. The more they are able to hide their malicious intent behind a facade of "goodness", the more dangerous they are. It is much easier to hold to account a person who beats you up physically. You at least have marks and bruises to bear witness of the crime. But someone who beats you up mentally and emotionally leaves no outward mark. This is why I say the sneaky narcissist is more dangerous. In my book, they are also more evil. Which is more dangerous? The snake in the open, or the snake in the grass?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

One More Dig at Celebrity Narcissists...I'll Try to Stop Here

Sorry, I can't stop on Paris Hilton quite yet. She SO amuses me. She amuses someone else. Check out the "Celebrity Implosion Index" graph humorously drawn to illustrate the trajectory of narcissist celebs and fame...then their swan-dive off their pedestals:

Implosion index

Note Paris Hilton's inclusion on the graph.

I found the graph here. Kinda humorous. Rooted in truth.

A Narcissist Celebrity? Oh, Yeah.

With Paris Hilton all over the news lately, it may be a good time to dust off an old article that came out days after Paris' DUI ...the DUI which started the ball rolling on current events in her public life.

A study on narcissism, especially as it relates to celebrities, had come out just before Paris' run-in with the law. She was held up as the poster child for narcissistic celebs by the writer of the article; a perfect illustration of the new study by Drew Pinsky and S. Mark Young.

This silly little trollop's histrionics in jail, and later when she was again hauled to the courtroom and back to jail after her brief home detention hiatus, are another sign of the narcissism of our Ms. Hilton. I was amused by vague descriptions of her inexplicable mental deterioration in jail; reasons cited by the L.A. Sheriff for sending her home. It isn't hard to imagine that Paris is having a hard time dealing with her first run-in with accountability. Watching her ridiculous mother in tears over her daughter's incarceration is a clear sign that Paris has never been expected to own up to her bad behaviors.

My daughter and I watched the first season of "A Simple Life" in 2003 with Paris and Nicole Richie. We were transfixed by the sheer absurdity and pure narcissism of those two girls. Our conclusion was that there was more hope for Paris than Nicole. Nicole came across as a sociopath. A totally remorseless and conscienceless bitch. Paris demonstrated once or twice that she had a tiny smidgen of conscience. Neither my daughter nor I were up for any more seasons of this train-wreck of a reality show, but I sure did get a feel for the character of Paris and her side-kick. So I agree with Blog Critics Magazine that Paris Hilton illustrates narcissistic celebrity to a tee.

I don't spend much time on this blog pinning a label of "narcissism" on public figures. But with a case so obvious as this it seems like a safe venture. Especially since I wasn't the one who first labeled her.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Aging Narcissist

You can't hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life. ~Author Unknown

Growing old requires grace and courage. Aging is a series of insults that you have to take in stride else you become a distasteful burden to yourself and those around you.

Grace and courage are not attributes the narcissist possesses at any age so the lack of these virtues become all the more apparent as they grow old.

You don't have to live terribly long to observe that age highlights and underlines what you've been all your life. I have met delightful elderly people who are so lovely on the inside it makes their wrinkled faces a pleasure to look upon. I have met the others...those whose wrinkled characters are unfavorably enhanced by their craggy countenances. They become odious inside and out to the observer.

The final act on the stage of life seems to be a pulling back on the curtain of the soul. For some, age seems to have taken them by surprise. The series of choices that brought them to old age were not choices that ever anticipated this part of their life. They are bereft of any qualities that would make them capable of being content at the time of lessening that we call aging. The decrepitude of their character is fully exposed by the decrepitude of their bodies.

Narcissists do not age well. Whether they depended on their beauty or their intellect, they now find themselves unable to summon the charm or sophistication which enabled them to lure in their sources of supply. They are pathetic and lonely. Neither their bodies nor their minds are impressive in any sense. Withered and shrunken, their minds and bodies are now betraying them. They are daily confronted with the huge gap between what they fantasize themselves to be and what the mirror on the wall and the mirror on your face reflects back to them. The "grandiosity gap", the distance between the narcissist's grandiose vision of himself and reality, is now a yawning and unbridgeable chasm. Constantly angry and dysphoric the narcissist is a curmudgeon that most have abandoned.

It isn't your imagination that your narcissist parent is worsened with age. This is the normal and usual progression. What you are witnessing is a three year old trapped in an old man's or old woman's body. The temper tantrum that could pass for cute in a toddler is shockingly and monstrously detestable when performed by the aged. Old age has stripped away the cover that enabled her audience to un-know that an adult was acting like a pre-schooler. No beauty to distract us. No soaring heights of intellect to dazzle and confuse us into compliance. The emperor has no clothes. The sight of the "naked" narcissist almost makes you want to gouge your eyes out. Hideous.

The narcissist has been in a life-long battle to defy death. They pretended for years that death could be avoided by refusing to acknowledge its inevitability. I have been struck by the abject fear the narcissist shows when they are forced to contemplate their own mortality. Why is the narcissist so afraid of death? I think the answer is that they fear obliteration and Judgment Day. I think the extremely deprived conscience of the narcissist is never quite able to dismiss the idea that there may be a Day of Reckoning to meet in the hereafter. They would avoid that Day, not by actually making restitution for wrongs done, but by refusing to die. Some of the most tenacious clingers-on to life are narcissists.

Some elderly narcissists are so evil and nasty that families find that outside agencies will refuse to deal with them thus leaving the family with no options but to care for the wrinkled beast themselves. If you are dealing with an aged narcissist, you have my deepest sympathies. The enraged and elderly narcissist will find no respite until they are in their coffin. Neither will you.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Your Narcissistic Mother

You've come to realize a harsh reality, or you're simply entertaining a harsh possibility: your mother is or might be a malignant narcissist. You've started to Google the Internet looking for someone to explain the pathological relationship you have with the woman who calls herself "mother". For years you've been struggling to understand this woman. You've wrestled with your conflicting feelings for decades. You've been used and abused by her but never allowed to think of her behavior toward you as being abusive. Now a label is tantalizing you with a hope that you will someday understand this complicated mess. All of which is why you are here now.

There is no simple explanation for your mother. There is no formula that will "fix" her either. If you are looking for either of those you are set up for disappointment. I will tell you what you can do. You can come to understand that you are not the one who is crazy or defective. You will discover in your search on the Internet that there are many people who understand what you've experienced and can validate your experience and feelings. That alone is priceless and will go a long way toward giving you some relief. Next, if you allow yourself, you will come to understand the "malignant" part of "malignant narcissism" and realize your mother has earned the label due to the ill-will betrayed by her behaviors.

This may be the hardest part of your quest. You have spent a lifetime consistently denying to yourself that your mother wishes you ill. You have held tightly to a few precious memories that you think prove that she really does love you. When you've dared to let your mind wander to that awful place...the place where you know deep down you've never really had a veer away sharply and go back to your little collection of memories you think counter this truth. You turn the memories over and over in your mind, working them like a worry stone, reassuring yourself that your interpretation of those events constitute the truth that your mommy loves you.

So my biggest hurdle in reaching you with the full force of reality where the narcissist mother is concerned is your insistence that she doesn't really mean what she says or does. That she really does love you deep down. I'm not going to tear that cherished belief from you all at once. At this point, I just want you to know that I approach this subject of malignant narcissism from the perspective of a daughter raised by one. So if your search for explanations for your own parasitic, life-sapping, emotional vampire of a mother brought you here then you are in a good place. I understand the spectrum of experience and emotion that being the child of a narcissistic mother represents. I hope you will scope out the entirety of the archives here, as well as the links, to augment your pursuit of knowledge of the "beast". I am not an expert. I am not a trained psychologist. I am intimately acquainted with the subject matter, though, and therefore have the benefit of experience and reflection to share with you.

I recommend you start here to understand some of the meaning wrapped up in the word "malignant". Then I hope you'll go here and thoughtfully read through the author's brilliant capture of the subtleties of the abusive ways of a narcissistic mother.

It's about secret things. The Destructive Narcissistic Parent creates a child that only exists to be an extension of her self. It's about body language. It's about disapproving glances. It's about vocal tone. It's very intimate. And it's very powerful. It's part of who the child is.

- Chris

As you read, allow yourself to admit the ever-present malevolence that is demonstrated in nearly every interaction with your narcissist mother. This is not a person who wishes you well.

Not until you are able to fully admit to yourself the ever-present ill-will your mother has toward you will you be able to plot a future course which will free you from her tyranny and allow you the room to live life on healthy terms. Because of your connection with this woman you are a conduit through which she reaches into the lives of those around you. You see the caustic effect of her touch on them, but haven't yet realized your responsibility to protect them from the parasite you call "mother". You have some work to do. You need be brave enough to look squarely in the eyes of truth and admit what you've not been willing to admit before. You need to then act according to this reality. You need to protect yourself and others from her. This may only be accomplished by strictly limiting contact, or it may require you completely cutting off all contact. If you are able to prove to yourself the ever-present malignancy of your mother to your satisfaction, then you will also have to admit to yourself that she is a dangerous person. Dangerous to the minds, bodies and souls of all those in her sphere of contact.

My primary prescription to those who are able to come to these conclusions about a narcissistic mother (or father) is to completely cut-off from them. The reason I end up with this recommendation is because of this hard and fast reality: if someone is a practiced and demonstrably malignant narcissist, they are unreformable. What you see is what you can expect to get forever. That means the only thing you have the power to change is yourself and your circumstances. You can't change your mother, but you can walk away. You can't change her consistently malevolent ways, but you can choose to protect yourself and others from them.

You have a responsibility to face reality and do the right thing most particularly if you have children of your own. Her malevolence does not stop with you. Your children will be touched by it. Even the now "grandmotherly" behavior of your mother is not a sign she is safe. She is a predator. Your children are either going to receive direct ill-treatment, or they may simply be used as a pawn to get to you. Beware. Narcissistic grandparents love to steal your children from you. Sometimes physically steal them, but most often steal their hearts. She will slander you to your own children behind your back. She will create anarchy against your parental authority. She is a danger to the government of your home. You're going to have to be willing to reassess her access to your own children. It feels like a sin to deprive her of her grandchildren. Both she and society consider it such. Think for yourself. Don't let others presume to tell you someone is "safe" when you have clear evidence to the contrary.

You are going to need a sense of moral and psychological strength in order to oppose the destructive spiritual and emotional force of the malignant narcissist. Whether or not you are a religious person, you need to realize that the malignant narcissist carries with them a malignant spirit. The second meaning of the word spiritual is what I'm describing:

concerned with or affecting the spirit or soul.

is the realm that the narcissist almost entirely operates in. This also explains one reason it is so hard to nail down the evil these people engage in. They move primarily in the spiritual realm. Which means much of what they do seems nearly intangible. Nailing them down resembles trying to nail Jello to the wall. What they do profoundly affects your spirit. When you've tried to explain the effects on your own spirit and the evidence of the spirit of the narcissist, you've often been met with outright skepticism and criticism of you and your motives. This is because people often can not relate to a spirit they've never encountered personally. It is easy enough for them to disbelieve something as ephemeral and intangible as spirit. Who can blame them for being unwilling to believe in the hatefully evil spirit of your mother? They have no way to relate to this spirit if they haven't actually met it intimately as you have. Can you think of a more perfect disguise for evil than motherhood? Mother is supposed to be the embodiment of self-sacrifice and good-will toward the weakest among us...the children. So how better to cover the malignancy of your spirit than to cloak yourself in the armament of iron-clad reputation known as "mother"? As tempting as it may be to fault people for not believing your reports against your mother, you need to understand how it looks from their perspective. They had good mothers. They look around and see society's reverence for good mothers and assume that all mothers are like theirs. On the other hand, you have eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While you are able to comprehend the truth that most mothers are good, you have experienced the other kind of mother, and so you also know there is such a thing as evil mothers. It is a heavy burden to bear. Be assured, some of us out here understand this lonely and very real place.

What I'm trying to get across here is that you are going to have to wrestle with spiritual issues if you are to come to understand the narcissist. You've entered the realm of good vs. evil. You are going to have to shore up your own spiritual self in order to have the strength to oppose the full force of malignant spirit you will find yourself up against especially as you start to oppose its will.

This blog is one place where you can help fortify your soul for the battle.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Christian and the Fifth Commandment-Part Two

In part one I began addressing some principles involved in the fifth commandment. Christians have unique issues when dealing with a malignantly narcissistic parent which is why it's important to look carefully at principles so we can know what is truly expected of us. Narcissists who pretend to be Christian have the weight of one of God's commandments to justify themselves and force their adult children into a lifetime of servitude. I am endeavoring to show that this commandment is not a license for a parent to ruin your life.

Exodus 20:12 NIV "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you."

One of the ways that children, both as minors and after becoming adults, show honor to their parents is this: by living honorably. Deservedly or not, if a child misbehaves it reflects poorly on the parent. When an adult child breaks laws of decency and good behavior it still reflects dishonor upon the parents. The parents of serial killers and other murderers, child molesters, etc. are looked askance upon by society when the crimes of their progeny came to light. I am sure many have changed their names in order to evade the shame. So, first principles of the fifth commandment to an adult child is this: live honorably in order to not bring shame upon your parents.

This principle of not shaming one's parents holds true in other contexts as well. You do not honor a parent when you publicly shame them. This is why I do not post under my real name at my blog. All identifying marks that would tell people who exactly my parents are, are not given. No one can link my blog to my parents. Only the principle players would recognize themselves in my descriptions if they were to stumble upon them. I would never write a book, even after my parents death, that would publicly shame them.

Religious Jews are big on keeping the fifth commandment, yet they do acknowledge there are times when a parent behaves in a way that dishonors themselves, therefore they teach that an adult child would be dishonoring their parent if they did not try to remonstrate with them to right the wrong. Again, one would do this privately so as to not publicly shame a parent. Religious Jews understand there is a principle in the fifth commandment that requires an adult child to not just stand by if their parent is in the wrong. Adult children are to make a sincere effort to persuade their parents to do what is right. We honor our parents in trying to bring them back to right principles. Which leads us right back to the reality that God never requires His people to honor what is wrong. If a parental figure is living contrary to God's principles, we are required to submit to God's authority and not our parents. "Children, obey your parents IN THE LORD" Eph. 6:1. That is an essential phrase, "in the Lord". Our parent's authority is superseded by God's authority. We can not honor God by honoring our parents if our parent's are doing evil.

Which leads us to the sometimes sad reality that sometimes parents who do evil can not be dissuaded from their course. If any person persists in evil, God's instruction is to leave them alone.

Titus 3:10-11 says: "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."

The King James Version calls the "divisive" person "heretic". A heretic is someone who teaches and lives contrary to the Word of God. In other words, they divide you from God. In the context of the verses that surround the word "divisive" is the picture of an individual who is argumentative and quarrelsome. Some versions use the word "troublemaker" instead of "divisive". A malignantly narcissistic parent's behaviors go far beyond these descriptors of the type of person we're instructed to separate ourselves from. Keep in mind that this instruction is to Christians toward other Christians. So if your parent lays claim to being a Christian, far from finding shelter from accountability, these verses apply even more directly to them.

The principle of these verses that we need to take into our consideration is to learn to recognize when another person's behavior is consistently influencing you or others close to you (i.e. your children) to live contrary to Biblical principles. If you are married, then your first obligation applies to your spouse, not your parent. If you have children, you are accountable to God to raise them according to truth and righteousness. If your parent represents a threat to these primary obligations of yours, then you would be in the wrong to keep such a parent in close proximity to you and yours. God has not been unclear as to the proper order of things. Your spouse is first, your children next. Your parent is described as the person you leave (Gen. 2:24) in order to embark on these new, and now primary, obligations. A narcissistic parent who is demanding first place in your life is betraying their disregard for God's order of things.

In the passage we're looking at, Paul uses the term, "self-condemned". Take note. If a person will not turn from their evil course, they are SELF-CONDEMNED. YOU are not condemning them. They do it to themselves. When you follow the instruction to "have nothing to do with them" they are not being condemned by you in God's eyes either. They have condemned themselves. The "Christian" narcissists in my family have decried my attempts to deal with the truth with them as evidence that I am condemning them. Then they would condemn me for condemning them. This line of logic doesn't hold to up the scrutiny of God's Word. They are self-condemned. My mother has acted like my choosing to no longer have her in my life is somehow condemning her before God. Nothing could be further from the truth. She has direct access to God's throne of grace. Nothing I do can prevent her from making things right with Him. I do not have the power to make God condemn her. Don't be diverted from by the silly logic of narcissists. They twist and turn to make you into the bad guy any time you refuse to give them what they demand. The Bible is misused by them to accomplish this with you.

Notice also that the Biblical number in dealing with overt and/or persistent sin is "two or three". It is part of Christ's instruction in Matthew 18 in dealing with someone who has sinned against us. We are not required to remonstrate with someone forever. They don't get endless chances for do-overs. There is an end to how much we are to deal with unrepentant evil. Why is this? I believe it is because evil is infectious. By close association with it, we become more tolerant of it. God isn't willing to risk the integrity of His followers by forcing them to rub shoulders every day with evil people in the church or the Christian home. Like Paul says, God isn't asking us to judge the world, that is His purview. But we are specifically to distance ourselves from those who call themselves Christians but who behave in evil ways:

1 Cor. 5:9-12...I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

There are a slew of verses in the Bible with similar instruction on how to deal with evil people. Paul is quoting the Old Testament when he writes, "expel the wicked man from among you." That specific phrase is used six times in Deuteronomy, which Paul was quoting. The list he gives above of types of wicked people is not an exhaustive list of evil. But it is important to note what he is really emphasizing here...that Christians are called to judge (i.e. use discernment) those who call themselves Christian. Not people in the world, but Christians. There are many Biblical exhortations for Christians to judge behaviors. It is presented as a duty to do so. We aren't to sit around and decide who is going to heaven or hell. That kind of judging is for God alone, but we are to decide whether or not someone's behavior is evil and deal accordingly. The Scriptures are clear that the prescription for a Christian concerning people who persist in evil is to "expel the wicked man from among you."

Notice in Paul's statement in 1 Cor. that the "greedy" person is condemned just as much as the sexually immoral. The "slanderer" is just as condemned as the idolater. This is important to consider because we often have our own ideas of what is "bad" or "evil". We may not tend to think the "slanderer" and the "greedy" are necessarily wicked, but we have the Bible telling us this is so. As Christians we need to allow the Bible to define evil, not our mother or father and not society.

Some parents force their adult children to honor their parents in the only way left to them, by living an honorable life. As long as you do that, you are honoring your parent.

What about Christ's statement to Peter that we are to forgive "seventy times seven"? You can find the exchange in Matthew 18:21-35. Christ follows this command of the number of times we are to forgive with a parable. What is forcefully portrayed in the parable is the picture of a repentant individual. We have no right to withhold forgiveness to someone who is showing remorse for their actions and is willing to restore what they've taken. In a few verses previous to this instruction (Matt. 18:15-17) is the formula for dealing with someone who has sinned against you. Going to them first privately, then taking two or three witnesses if the private meeting did not result in repentance for a sin against you. Finally, confronting the person in the presence of the congregation. After that, they are to be treated as a "heathen man and publican" by you. The juxtaposition of this instruction with the instruction given to Peter a few verses later has to be reconciled. Christ wasn't contradicting himself. We see a contrast here between a person who is repentant and a person who refuses to repent. Big difference in how we are to deal with them. Please note that Matt. 18:15-17 is about dealing with something objective. A "trespass against you" is something that can be objectively determined to be wrong. I have had people try to use this passage to say that their "hurt feelings" are my sin against them. Sorry. Doesn't fly. Sin is measured by an objective standard, the law of God. Hurting someone's feelings because you told the truth doesn't qualify as "sin against them". Narcissists twist this all around to suit their own agenda. Don't let them get away with that.

The last principle I'll touch on concerning the fifth commandment is how we deal with our evil parent(s) if they become indigent. We are required to make sure they have food in their stomachs, clothes on their backs and a roof over their head. Not our roof, but a roof. Basic humans needs are to be met. The fact that we are alive today is because they provided these basic things to us when we were helpless and dependent. I don't think a Christian can walk away from an indigent parent without dishonor. (If you have a parent who abandoned you and didn't raise you, and didn't provide any of these things for you as a child then I'm not sure this applies. Follow your conscience. My conscience would say this person is not a parent in any sense of the word.) There are ways to care for a horrid parent from a distance. It doesn't have to be "hands on". Arrangements for their care can be made. Other people can administer that care for a price. I'm not saying we have to take them into our homes in these instances if it would be destructive to our own family. Even social services are available and can be utilized by us to make sure the parent's basic needs are being met.

These are some principles that you can use to guide your thinking on the concept of "cutting off" a parent as it pertains directly to Christians. Remember, by doing so you are not condemning your evil parent. He or she has condemned themselves by their persistence in clinging to, and the excusing of, their evil behaviors. You are accepting the principle of free will. By the Bible's emphasis of two or three approaches to someone who is behaving badly and then leaving them to themselves we are seeing God's respect for free will. He does not instruct His people to violate the principle of free will because free will is a God-given principle. God Himself will not violate free will. We are to recognize what people are freely choosing to do and leave them to their decision if they persist in evil. You, by choosing to accept your evil parent's decision to persist in their abuse and cruelties, are simply acquiescing to their decision. Since you can not honor God and honor an evil parent at the same time, you are left with one remove yourself. As long as they are unrepentant, you have no other choice but to "expel the wicked one from among you."

The fifth commandment is not a cloak for an evil parent to wear to protect themselves from all accountability. We are all accountable to each other for how we behave toward each other. It may be that our persistently evil parent(s) may force us to separate ourselves from them in order that we can fulfill our obligations to our own families, but by living honorable lives we bring honor to the name of our parents in the eyes of others. By refusing to publicly shame our parents, we honor them. So, even if separated from evil parents we are able to still honor them in a way that doesn't dishonor God.