Friday, November 30, 2007

A Common Tactic of Manipulators

Manipulators. We've all been taken in by them. All malignant narcissists are manipulators, though not all manipulators are narcissists. Either way, it is impossible to avoid them. It is possible to minimize our susceptibility to them.

The concept that has helped me the most in enabling me to recognize when someone is trying to force me into what they want from me is the reality that manipulators are aggressive, and most times they are able to hide their aggression. George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D. of "In Sheep's Clothing" calls them "covert-aggressives". As I read his book I realized that my whole experience with my sister especially, but also my mother, was that of being up against a covertly-aggressive person. My sister is better at it than my mother is. Interestingly enough.

Simon makes a great case for opening our eyes to what is really happening in these interactions; that the character disordered individual, or simply aggressive person, is fighting to get their own way when they use certain tactics. And he points out that they are tactics. Not defensive reactions.

"...viewing someone who's in the act of aggressing as being defensive in any sense is a major set-up for victimization." pg. 95

He also describes the tactics of the covert-aggressive as being another form of lying.

One of the first things their tactics accomplish for them is to conceal the fact that they are fighting with you. They are refusing to allow you to have the opinion you have, the standards you have, the decision you've made. They are attempting to force your surrender to their way, their opinion, their standards (or lack thereof). But the first thing they must do is come at you in such a way that the first thing you'll think is that they are reacting defensively. They hide their aggressiveness under a cloak of pretense that they are simply acting out of defensiveness which, of course, means that you attacked them. So the next thing their tactics accomplish is putting you on the defensive. Now you are knocked off-balance and the covert-aggressive will likely start throwing so many different manipulative tactics at you at once that you end up falling for the ruse and capitulate.

Simon states that it is impossible to list all the tactics manipulators use, but he does make a short list of the most popular ones. He starts with "minimization". It is a 'oh my god' moment to see it spelled out. How many, many times have my mother or sister used this tactic on me and others?? It could not be counted.

Simon again contrasts the behavior of the neurotic with that of the character disordered as he explains this tactic:

"...the aggressor is attempting to assert that his behavior isn't really as harmful or irresponsible as someone else may be claiming. It's the aggressor's attempt to make a molehill out of a mountain...Neurotics frequently make mountains out of molehills, or 'catastrophize.' The disturbed character frequently trivializes the nature of his wrongdoing. Manipulators do this to make a person who might confront them feel they've been overly harsh in their criticism or unjust in their appraisal of a situation."

Then the money quote, in my opinion:

"Minimization is not primarily the way they make themselves feel better about what they did, it's primarily the way they try to manipulate my impression of them. They don't want me to see them as a person who behaves like a thug. Because they are most often comfortable with their aggressive personality style, they also want me to believe that there's nothing wrong with the kind of person they are." pg. 97

Can you see the lie that is the fabric of this type of manipulation? If you miss the lie, you can be convinced by the manipulator that you are the one aggressing against them. You are the one who is misapprehending the truth of what happened, the truth of what they are. You big meanie. Look at poor little defensive me trying to stand up against your mean and nasty aggression against me! I was only...fill in the they cut that mountain down to the size of a zit. You back down because suddenly they are the victim and you are hurting them. You fall for the wounded wing act. The one who was truly fighting for their own way is pretending that you are the one who picked the fight, who is being unfair, who needs to admit you are wrong!

I so loathe this sneaky way of lying to get ones way.

I had read this book some months before my last interaction with my sister. I had forgotten about the book, but some of the concepts I had learned were operational for me. My sister's aggression was immediately obvious to me. I did not allow her to minimize the mountain. I didn't believe the covert lie that by my having a certain opinion that I had put her on the defensive. I again highly recommend this little book. It can save your sanity when you're suddenly in a "fight" with a sneaky little lying f-ing manipulator.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Humility or Humiliation?

The story of the life and times of the Earl of Essex continued to roll around in my mind after my last post.

The Earl had made an absolute ass of himself, to say the least. It was finally time to pay up for some of his self-aggrandizing decisions which had compromised the best interests of England. He had followed those decisions with overt and unequivocal treason. He was in a pickle which objectively could not be blamed on anyone but himself. It was time for some good old-fashioned humility. Prior to his treasonous plottings, humility was all the Queen would require of him. The court looked on with some astonishment at Essex's haughtiness in the face of his exposure. Now, convicted of treason, humility was what the Counsel was expecting from him.

"[Essex] asked for mercy for Southampton [a co-conspirator], but said he would not 'fawningly beg' for it for himself, and, looking at the peers, added, 'Although you have condemned me in a court of judgement, yet in the court of your conscience, ye would absolve me, who have intended no harm against the prince.' " The Life of Elizabeth I, pg. 464, emphasis added.

Notice his appeal to his pure intentions. Even though there were other co-conspirators who confessed the plotters were willing to even shed the blood of the Queen to place Essex on the throne, Essex would appeal to the purity of his motives. It was a lie. He was playing the martyr.

"The condemned were generally expected to express humble submission, and Essex's speech was reckoned by many of those present to be unfittingly arrogant for one on the brink of Divine Judgement, and whose guilt was so manifest...

...Many people at court believed that, if Essex begged the Queen for mercy, she would spare his life, but Essex remained true to his word and proudly refrained from making any 'cringing submission'. Despite the efforts of the Dean of Norwich, who had been sent to him by the Council, he would not acknowledge his guilt." Ibid. pg. 465

Ah, yes, a life of arrogance and pride and haughty refusal to ever submit to authority had rendered Essex incapable of humility when it could have possibly saved his life. Which leads me to one of life's axioms...

We either voluntarily humble ourselves or life will humiliate you. Sooner or later. We get to choose. Humility or humiliation.

When we make mistakes, when we hurt someone, when we sin, we face a choice. The decent person will take ownership of what he has done. He will not try to lessen his guilt by spreading the blame or offering up excuses. He volunteers to humble himself. Decent people will not savage the humbled. It appeals to their sense of mercy and compassion. We tend to think more highly of a person who will display some true and appropriate humility.

Narcissists don't get this. They despise the humble, therefore they will not assume humility when the circumstances demand they should. They then rail against the humiliation they must suffer at the hands of ingrates and idiots. In refusing humility they have earned humiliation.

The humble can't be humiliated. They are not invested in protecting an image. They are not craving the adulation of the masses. They are not looking for recognition. They don't strive to lay claim to being the smartest, the most beautiful, the most talented, the supreme pinnacle of mankind. How can you humiliate a truly humble man? Even if you strip him of his reputation, his livelihood, his clothing...he has his integrity. He knows who he really is; he can not be shamed. He can still walk with his shoulders squared and look you steadily in the eye. Humility doesn't mean beaten down. It means taking a proper assessment of oneself and recognizing your limitations. It is being real with yourself and the world. A humble man has dignity. The narcissist thinks humility is humiliation. The two concepts are not the same. We would do well to know the difference.

The narcissist is an accomplished shame deflector. Because of this he is mostly insensible to the humiliation he does eventually earn. We marvel at his imbecility. We wonder what it is like to be so exposed and yet have no ability to behave as if his sins have been laid bare. We call it madness. It is not. It is supreme arrogant pride. The only avenue to avoid the humiliation that finally catches up with him was closed off long, long ago. His absolute refusal to humble himself leaves him open to the ridicule and disgust of the decent. In the end. Someday.

Humility or humiliation. It is a choice we each get to make.

A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
Proverbs 29:23 KJV

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Narcissists Don't End Well

Unlike what I hear about a good wine, narcissists do not age well. This is being emphasized again for me as I finish reading Alison Weir's book, "The Life of Elizabeth I".

In the latter years of her reign Elizabeth's tumultuous relationship with the Earl of Essex is laid out detail by detail in Weir's book. Essex was a young cousin of the monarch through Anne Boleyn and the step-son of the Earl of Leicester. For those who know anything about Elizabeth I you know that the Earl of Leicester was very dear to Elizabeth from before she ascended the throne until his death many years later by age and disease. There were ups and downs all throughout her relationship with the Earl of Leicester but his love and loyalty for her was supreme and unfailing despite the many falling outs he experienced with her favor.

Not so the Earl of Essex. Ambitious but lazy, aspiring to military reknown but a failure on the field, good at the courtly language of "love-making" but a decided misogynist, he rose quickly in the queen's favor in his youth due to his familial connection to Elizabeth as well as the recommendation of the Earl of Leicester. It quickly becomes evident that the young Earl of Essex perceives the queen as only the means to his ends while her affection for him was genuine.

Reading this history of Essex you see a profile of a classic malignant narcissist. Weir's very detailed and painstaking research fully exposes the base character of an evil man who, thankfully, ended badly. No, Weir doesn't describe Essex as evil. His deeds alone prove that point.

I railed in my mind against the queen's indulgence of this man as I read the book. Her patience and forgiveness seemed inexhaustible. Essex's character become more and more entrenched and dedicated to his own agenda with every granting of royal favor given him. His life was a study of a force of nature wreaking havoc and destruction in his path. He used slander and insinuations to destroy all those he perceived as his enemies. He stole the valor of others to use as his own. He was petulant and ceaselessly demanding of the queen; frequently forgetting his "place" he would treat her like an equal or even his lesser.

Finally, as the result of his own incessant demands and against the better judgment of the queen, Essex is allowed to go to Ireland to attempt to defeat Tyrone. The largest army of Elizabeth's reign was given him. The end result was a completely botched military expedition. Essex repeatedly defied all commands he was given, refused to confront Tyrone, frittered away a fortune in funds, watched his army desert and die by disease in huge numbers, and finally he deserted his own command.

You then get to see the final descent into madness through this narcissistic injury inflicted by his own abysmal failures and absolute refusal to ever take wise advice from anyone. He becomes magnified in all his character flaws. He becomes paranoid. He starts to lose his grip on reality. Objective witnesses describe him at this time as being "mad". In the swirling, churning maelstrom of his delusions of grandeur he makes one last plot which includes over-throwing the queen. By blood shed if necessary.

The "Essex Rebellion" was not his first hand-shake with treason. As he was finally being forced to actually use his army in Ireland he entered into treasonous treaty with Tyrone. Word had filtered back to the queen of Essex's attempt to save his own image as a military leader by selling out his duty to his country. He was finally exposed to the mind of the queen as the base character he was. Finally, she let herself believe the truth about him. Finally, she decided to deal firmly and without the usual mercy he was accustomed to receiving from her.

Her firm actions against Essex were meant to humble him. She did not have it out to shed his blood. She was not even pursuing getting him for treason. She just wanted to finally force him to own his crap and, for once, display some appropriate contrition and true humility. It was in the wake of a series of her decisions which ran against Essex's financial means of support and her absolute refusal to answer his non-apology letters or to see him in person which finally exposed the fullness of his malignancy.

The Essex Rebellion was born.

What I was gratified to see was how fully exposed he finally was to the mind of the queen. At this time she was near the end of her very lengthy reign. Elizabeth was an extremely merciful ruler. She hated blood shed. She had often throughout her reign refused to sign death warrants when she should have to protect her reign and her country. Mary Queen of Scots being a prime example of that. There were others throughout the years who had fully earned the condemnation of the law and the block. Her hand would tremble and refuse to sign the warrant. They would live. If she was finally forced to sign someone's death warrant it would greatly affect her. First, she would stall for months, even years. She would usually stay in her apartments the day of the execution and sometimes longer because it affected her deeply. She was very sparing with the death penalty all throughout her reign.

It was very different with Essex. This was the first time she was handed the death warrant after the trial and, without her usual equivocation, she with firm hand signed the document. For all her faults, Elizabeth was a woman of principle. Obviously, she had unequivocal evidence to her mind that his man was unredeemable and a constant threat to the health of her realm and her own life. In the many years previous her affection for Essex was real and deep. Her indulgence of him was because of her affection. He chose to see her affection as her weakness. Her discipline of him when he grossly stepped out of line was just her way of helping him maneuver back into her favor. What I am trying to emphasize is that it was a testimony to the rottenness of his character that even the merciful and indulgent queen was eventually forced to cut this malignant narcissist forever out of her life...out of her realm.

The final letters and speeches of the Earl were interesting to read. He would appear to be fully contrite and humbled only in the next sentence, or the next speech, to excuse himself by trying to implicate as many others as he could. Spreading blame he would try to minimize his own blame even while pretending to take all the blame. Such classic N behavior.

It took three blows for the ax to completely sever his head from his body, though Ms. Weir says it was likely the first blow which killed him because he body didn't move after that first blow. Can't tell you how much relief I felt to see a dangerous and malignant narcissist get what he deserved in the end. They don't usually meet such satisfying ends except in the movies.

Essex is yet another illustration that the narcissist doesn't improve with age. The success of their early schemes, the repeated indulgences of those around them, and the persistence of the narcissist's grandiosity delusions results in the hardening off of the character. There is no hope of reform for the aged narcissist.

We form our own characters by the choices we make. The older we are, the more choices we've made. The preponderance of those choices will tip the scale one direction or the other. Either we become more mature, wise and good...or we become a study in the entropy of evil. When the malignant narcissist shows their tender underbelly in an often convincing act of subservience and humility it is only to buy them another day to stab you in the back. The narcissist does not change. When the narcissist suddenly seems to change, to mellow, to back off, you believe the ruse at your own risk. They don't change. They lay in wait.

We can't send our narcissists to the scaffold, but we can cut them off. They are a constant threat to the peace and safety of your realm. If you won't let yourself know that you are in perpetual danger. All that you value and love in this world is in danger. Let yourself know this truth sooner rather than later.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving -- The Holiday Narcissists Will Never "Get"

One of the bedrock fundamental realities of a narcissist is their absolute refusal to be grateful. For anything.

Think about it. When have you seen true gratitude demonstrated by the narcissist?

Their lack of gratitude is the natural result of their extreme covetousness. They must have it all. All the love, regard, and attention. Especially your share. Every faculty of their mind is focused on this quest to have it all. All the other sins of the narcissist spring from this persistent and pervasive covetousness. Because they must have it all they become predatory. They stalk all sources of human warmth and kindness so as to make sure you don't get a sliver of it...unless they decide to stingily pass a crumb of it to you. That way you have to be grateful to them for anything you have. If there is to be any gratitude in the room it is coming from you and going toward the narcissist. Never the other way around. It is this predation of what rightfully belongs to others that defines their malignancy. Their covetousness leads straight to theft and murder.

The last commandment in the BIG 10 (found in Exodus 20) is usually perceived in the negative...don't covet this, don't covet that, etc. But when turned 180 degrees, the last commandment shows another facet. It is a positive command to be grateful for what you have. Thankfulness is the antidote to the sins that follow in the wake of ingratitude. It protects you and those around you from the negative results that always follow when we are ungrateful. A covetous spirit can lead you to violate the spirit and letter of all the other commandments. If cherished, it will lead to the destruction of the soul. Our narcissists are the living example of this reality. Read Romans chapter 1 with this truth in mind. Paul introduces his letter to the Roman Christians with a picture of the debasing sins of humanity which begins with a spirit of ingratitude. (vs.21). Read verses 28-31 and see if that isn't a description of the behaviors demonstrated by the malignant narcissist.

One of the narcissist's illusion models springs directly from their ingratitude. This illusion is their sense of total self-sufficiency. They need no one. They pretend all day long that they are sufficient to themselves. This thinking is the path to complete degradation of body, mind and soul (see Romans 1). Because they don't need you, they don't appreciate you. They aren't grateful for anything you do for them either. Anything you do for them was theirs by right. You were only fulfilling your duty. (Or they ascribe selfish motives to your generosity. "You're really doing this for yourself.") Lack of gratitude for the kindnesses bestowed upon us is an ugly, selfish and grotesque thing. It warps our hearts and souls to persistently practice this kind of ingratitude. Anytime you need an example of this truth just look at the narcissist again. There it is. Hideous spirit, is it not?

Because the malignant narcissist is not thankful for anything this means they are incapable of truly entering into the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is bereft of meaning or depth for them. It only represents a day off, food, and opportunity to gather the family together so as to feed off their humanity. At its core the holiday is antithetical to the spirit, nature and practice of the malignant narcissist.

I encourage each of you to enter into a spirit of gratitude this Thanksgiving. Even if the narcissist is still in your life and attempting to create havoc...take the week off of thinking about them and their evil little ways and focus on every single thing you have to be thankful for. Even if all you can think of to be thankful for is the air you breathe and sun that warms your face. Even the poorest on this planet have reasons for gratitude.

Once you start counting your blessings the list tends to get longer and longer. This leaves you with a full heart and a sense of quiet joy. A heart full of joy and a sense of fulfillment is something the narcissist never feels. So spend some time this week enjoying what they can't. In doing so, you'll set yourself so far apart from the narcissist that they may as well be from another planet. It is a spiritual that can be experienced regardless of what circumstances you find yourself in or regardless of religious affiliation (or lack thereof).

Prove to yourself this week how different your spirit is from that of the narcissist. Be grateful. Deeply and profoundly grateful. Thanksgiving is our holiday. The narcissist is left out in the cold. The cold of their darkened and selfish hearts.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chief Slave and Bottle-Washer

My cousin, "Lee", relates her memories and impressions from the first visit to my parent's home as a child in this post. Before we get to that, I have remarked in other posts about my cousin about her exceptional memory. Her great recall has earned the opprobrium of my mother. Back when Lee was under my mother's thumb (1997-2002) my mother began to be annoyed at Lee's excellent recall of conversations, events, time and place. One day my mother told Lee, "you really need to work on this [her memory]. It isn't good to remember every thing that happens. I have learned to not remember certain things because some things are not good or right to remember. You need to learn to do that too." At the time, my cousin's memory was getting in the way of my mother's truth revision and therefore earned her a lecture. The silliness of this demand makes me want to burst out laughing every time I think of it. But, there it is. The confession from a narcissist of how she can do mind-wipes on herself at will. Um, yeah, I had noticed that.

My cousin went down memory lane while visiting with me on Saturday night. Here is our conversation:

"I remember I was six years old the first time we went to visit your family in Oregon. I was fascinated watching your family. What really fascinated me was how much work you had to do, Anna. That was a completely foreign concept to me. My mom, as you know, was a fiendishly obsessive house cleaner. She didn't want me or my brother in her way or doing anything because we would not do it "right" in her estimation. I had a few chores I had to do at age six. Clean my room. Take a shovel and clean dog poop out of the yard. Feed the bunny. That dog poop thing, now that I think about, that was kinda yucky. But feed the bunny? How fun is that to give the bunny lettuce and watch him eat it? That was a treat, not a chore."

"Then I go to your house. You had to work. Real work. It was a whole new thing for me to see; I was amazed and fascinated, which is why it made such a deep impression on me."

"It seemed like every few minutes your mother would be calling you. 'AAAAAAANNNAAAAAAA' she would yodel. And then standing there with this satisfied and smug expression she waited for you to come running, literally running, from whatever other chore you were working on to see what demand was being issued at that moment.

"Your mother then fixed us dinner. She had you and your sister doing this and that helping her with all the simmering pots on the stove and things bubbling in the oven. Again, I could see how proud your mother was to "show off" her finely honed and trained slave -- you-- in addition to her culinary skills. It was obvious to me that your sister was really good at looking like she was busy, but she really hardly did anything. She would keep drifting away from the work in the kitchen and would be chatting us up. I noticed your mother didn't give your sister much to do in comparison to you. I also noticed how your sister would strategically disappear especially when clean up time began. After dinner every one went off to the living room. There you were -- alone in the kitchen cleaning up the big mess. Your sister, no where to be seen; you uncomplainingly made the mess go away."

"Oh, yeah, then your mother, after dinner, tapped the floor with her foot and said, 'Girls, the floor is sticky. After dinner I want you to mop it.' She said that while staring straight at you, Anna. It was obvious who was expected to get it done. Sure enough, you were the one who did it."

Lee paused, then asked, "How old were you at the time?"

"I'm eight years older than you." sez I.

"Okay, um, that would make, well, not good at math here..."

"I was fourteen."

Lee goes on, "Okay, you were fourteen. My mom and I couldn't help but marvel at how you seemed like the house slave."

I was getting into the spirit of the memory so I helpfully volunteered, "Yeah, and you only saw all the indoor chores. There were all the outdoor chores I had to do every day."

"Oh, yeah!" Lee responds. "That's right. I left your house after that visit thinking you were Cinderella. Poor thing. Both me and my mom felt really sorry for you. We talked about it often."

Since I'm on the subject, I'll elaborate. Here is what I can remember of my outdoor chores. Throwing hay for cows, horses and goats and watering them (this was in winter). Tending the chickens, milking the goats, working in the garden, etc. In the summer, the daily chores included moving irrigation pipes and hacking weeds out of the pasture. The first summer I had to move pipes (age 15) I was able to use the child labor of one or two of the older kids my mom babysat. Sometimes my sister would be forced to help. As with most cheap labor, you get what you pay for. I got to where I would usually just do it by myself as I became stronger and more skilled. Then there were the weekly chores of mowing the huge lawns (no, it wasn't a riding mower), washing my dad's delivery truck, mucking out the chicken coop. Only the lawn mowing ended with winter. Washing that truck in the cold, after dark and, often, in driving rain or icy cold weather. Good times.

All during the summer and fall there was the harvesting of the garden and the huge amounts of canning and freezing to preserve the fruits of the earth. My parents were always heavily involved in these projects because they were HUGE productions. Damn, that was fun. Kinda like jabbing yourself in the eye with a sharp stick. Working with my parents was always a special kind of hell. They were short-tempered and mean. I would get verbally beaten up with regularity during these work sessions as they took out any of their frustrations on the nearest target.

My sister? Other than helping a little with the harvesting and canning...she was no where around. All those chores outdoors were mine and mine alone. For years, the only farmyard related work she had to do was wash the eggs. Something she did indoors after I had gathered them. And she always had to be nagged and threatened before she would get around to it. After many years my parents finally gave up on getting her to do this particular chore. Probably because I started doing it just to keep the eggs from rotting in the laundry room utility sink.

Which is exactly why I was entrusted with the care of the animals. When dealing with animals you need someone dependable. Someone who won't "forget" to feed and water them every day. Someone who would remember the recipe for the calf formula and remember to feed them twice a day. Or bottle feed the occasional abandoned baby goat. (Which I loved doing. I loved feeding any of the barn babies.)

When the really nasty and difficult projects came along, I was on the front line. My mother would "throw" me at my father when he'd come around looking for help to de-horn the baby goats, or castrate the goats, or help deliver baby goats. Castrating the calves would require both my sister and me, so I won't count that. Other non-animal projects like helping dad with any scary big thing he needed to do that he really should have had a son to help him. I was the boy they never had. Unfortunately, I was a petite young girl without the brute strength or aptitude needed for some of these projects. What made many of these projects scary was my father's mercurial temper in addition to the sense of life or death. Like getting crushed by a camper Dad was trying to back the truck under, or getting knocked in the head by a spooked horse. My mother and sister didn't like getting cursed and yelled at during these events. Neither did I. But, unfortunately for me, he had come to recognize I was the most competent of the bunch, so I would get drafted...and yelled at when things went wrong. I quaked under the sense of responsibility if I screwed up and something very major was damaged or worse.

Laundry became my job at around age 15. I endured much hassling and annoyance from my mother until I learned to do things exactly as she did them. Different towels must be folded in certain ways. I had to learn to take things out of the dryer just perfectly so as not to wrinkle anything. It never failed that every time she saw me carrying an armload of laundry she'd snarl at me through her teeth, "you're wrinkling them...don't do that."

Fridays were a perfect storm of housework and my mother would unfailingly be in total bitch mode. Vacuuming, mopping, dusting, sweeping, scrubbing. I would collapse in an exhausted heap at the end of a week.

Keep in mind that all the winter projects were concurrent with the school year. I had school and homework to do too. There were also piano lessons and practice. Washing dishes after dinner. I'm sure the list could go on if I spent more time trying to remember.

Memories. Precious memories.

In my dad's last letter to me in Sept. 2005 he said this:

"If you can dredge up things that happened so far into the past and ignore the good things and good times in between I see little hope for any of us." [emphasis mine]

Yeah, good times. Rockin' good times were had by all. Maybe if the bad times didn't outweigh the good times 100 to one I could stand corrected by his point.

I remember that sometime when I was a kid my sister and I made a comment that infuriated my dad and got us an angry lecture. My sister and I were working out in the garden. At some point we chirped that we had figured something out. Dad was the king. Mom was the queen. We were the servants. I crack up now when I recall this innocent comment. My dad immediately turned on us and yelled that if anyone was the servant it was him and our mother! We were then treated to a diatribe on all that they did for us every single day. What little we did was the very least we could. That was the attitude of my parents all my growing up. Whatever was expected of me was the least I could do. Appreciation? In my dreams. Commendation for being consistent and doing well? Shit, no. You be the judge. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they might have possibly over-worked me and taken full advantage of my free labor?

I'm not looking for sympathy about all the hard work I did. I benefited from it in more than one way. First of all, I learned how to work hard. Secondly, after I left my parents' home -- whatever work I had to do was Easy Street by comparison. Thirdly, I had a knock-out body from all the exercise and was as strong as a horse. Okay, that last one isn't a big deal, but both my sister and mother were a bit jealous of that one. Served them right. I should do all the work and they should have the great figures?? I don't think so. Since I left home at the tender age of 17, all this work had me fully equipped to make it out there on my own. I knew how to cook and to run a home. I wasn't afraid to work. When I got my first paid job at age 18 I busted my ass and made a place for myself.

I guess what I'm saying is that all this work made me competent and independent. Also, my mother unwittingly gave me space by forcing me to work outside for sometimes hours and hours a day. It was time away from her control. It gave me time to think and to decompress emotionally. I loved the animals. Some of the chores related to caring for them were icky and difficult. But I loved the births and would often conduct vigils to make sure we were able to help if a goat started having difficulties with the birth. I would be the first to notice when the barn kitties had kittens and would hunt until I found them to make sure the momma had them in a safe place. Then I would hand raise the kittens so they wouldn't be wild and we could give them away. After I left home, all the new barn cats went feral.

No, I tell you all this because it is all part of the picture of my upbringing by a narcissist mom, a surly and unhappy dad, and a sister who was spoiled beyond measure and only added to life's difficulties for me. This post is added context for the previous post. Those two women, my mom and sister, made my life hell. They used and abused me and then, 30 years after the fact, want to pretend I had a "rage" problem as a teen. No, I had a MOM problem and a SISTER problem. One used me to make herself look like a perfect mother and housekeeper and the other used me to get out of doing anything and everything.

I contend that my problem hasn't been that I was too angry...I wasn't angry enough. I suffered from a plenitude of patience which allowed these women to keep me in their lives much longer than they deserved to have me there. They would, if they could, continue to keep me down by these negative assessments of my character in order to pretend they are somehow better than me. In order to keep me subservient and "less than" those two high-n-mighty and full-of-themselves bitches.

So, how patient have you been with the years and years of use and abuse? Is it time to cut your losses? Is it time to let the narcissists actually have to get through life without depending on your competence, your sweat, your tears? If they are so much better than you, then you can leave them to themselves. Obviously, they don't need you. At least, that is what they are always trying to convince you of. Take their word for it and leave them. They'll muddle through.

The U.S. ended slavery back in 1863.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Crones Have a Tea Party

Two women are sitting at the table in the breakfast nook sipping their cups of Earl Grey, pinkies in the air, chatting. They've been there since they awakened a couple hours earlier, so they are still in their robes and slippers.

It is a mother and her grown daughter. The two of them imagine that drinking Earl Grey tea is evidence of how civilized and urbane they are. If they only knew of its existence they would apply for membership in the Tiara Tea Society. Basking in their contrived sophistication they pretend their way through the morning.

They've been enjoying talking at length about themselves to each other; a close observer would pick up a bit of a competition between the women. Little games of one-up-man-ship are being played, but nothing too intense. Today, they are relaxed and in a good humor.

Most of their topics, when not totally self-focused, center on gossip about other family members. If you wore special reality-revealing glasses while taking in this scene, instead of two women sitting at a breakfast table, you would see two vultures sitting on a big warm rock enjoying that stuffed feeling after having picked several carcasses clean to the bone.

They preparing to move in on dessert. Dessert d'jour is succulent and sweet. The best for last.

Anna is being served up. The gleam of anticipation in the vultures' eyes is discernible from across the room. As full and fat as they are, their appetites are in no way diminished for the last course. There is always room for a big plate of Anna.

Young vulture has been excitedly sharing her newest fad interest. She's found a brand of Christianized psychology that has given her a new lease on life, she claims. She is secretly cherishing the idea of being able to sell Old Vulture on taking a course in this particular brand of psychobabble for her own ulterior reasons. "Healing the Broken-Hearted" (name changed to protect the guilty) has provided a slick package which allows Young Vulture to blame all her character flaws on Old Vulture. The older woman is being set up by the younger.

The hook needs to be set first. How to do this? The Younger sets up her sister on the autopsy table. She is going to slice and dice her to the wonderment of The Older to show her just how incisive this "Healing the Broken-hearted" program really is.

The classic "Y" incision is made slicing up sister stem to stern. "Did you know that the trauma of a difficult birth can cause that person to have rage issues later in life?" states The Younger authoritatively.

The Older looks interested in the theory so The Younger continues.

"Didn't Anna have a difficult birth?" A light dawns in the The Older's eyes, the answer obviously being "yes". Anna was in a breach position when the birth pangs began. Her mother was in labor for hours and hours. The final delivery was with forceps. The difficulty of the birth left its marks on the baby as well as the mother. The baby's head came to a discernible point, Conehead style, along with the scratches and bruises from the forceps.

The Younger continues by pointing out Anna's "anger issues", particularly as a teen, still sometimes glimpsed into adulthood. The Older swallows the hook whole. Of course. This makes perfect sense. Anna had a difficult birth and now we understand her anger issues. They cluck their tongues and nod their heads knowingly. They have cut to the core of Anna's soul. They have discerned the "pain" that moves her.

They are so full of shit.

This interpretation which is presented by my sister as fact, because she is relying on what she is calling an "authoritative" source, offers up something very important to both of these women: absolution. This lame-assed theory completely absolves them for any responsibility for their behaviors which frustrated the holy, living crap out of me.

My sister, while trying to sell me on her psychobabble blather, told me about this theory one day during a phone conversation. She then told me that she and mom had talked about it together on my sister's last visit to Mom's house, and they both now understood why I was such an angry "child". She sounded so sympathetic; like she was offering up to me complete absolution for my sin of being angry. She was shameless in admitting that she and Mom had sat there discussing what they considered to be my emotional "issues" and had both agreed on the root cause. I was supposed to be impressed...and thankful.

I laid some truth on top of this history revisionism for my sister, and she never brought this up to me again.

"D, that theory is unprovable and runs against the facts." I told my sister. "First of all, both you and mom seem to be forgetting that I was an almost unnaturally calm baby, I rarely cried, could be ignored for hours (and was) as I lay in my crib (by my mother's own admission to me). As a young child, my sweet and submissive nature continued. No tantrums. No displays of fits or rages. Compliant to a fault. If your memory was actually working properly, you would know that I didn't display my anger until I reached my middle teen years. Do you think there might have been a reason for my anger? Do you think that perhaps I might have been reacting to the complete frustration of my life with Mom? Do you think it possible that my anger was understandable and the cause and effect discernible if one considered my life at that time; the time when the anger began to be shown by me? This theory, sister, is complete bull-shit."

She actually yielded my point. The facts were not refutable once I proved that I remembered the facts. She knew them too, but had chosen to forget them because the glitter of her new theory was so much more appealing than the truth.

She didn't want me to go further. Because she knew, deep in her selfish soul, that my mother was not the only source of my youthful anger. She knows that she used me and took advantage of me up until I ran away from home at age 17. She was lazy and selfish and looked out completely for herself. I was her shield from momster. Because the rule was laid down that when Momma made a command-- it was law -- and it better damn well get done now. If it did not get done, I, as the eldest, was held responsible. My sister took full and complete advantage of this arrangement. She exploited it shamelessly. I know she has not forgotten this.

Let's look for a moment at what displays of anger these two bitches were talking about. You may think that I was picking fights in school, or screaming at my family and knocking them around, or joining up with a local gang and beating up homeless guys, if you were to judge by their bringing up my "rage issues" pretending like it negatively impacted their lives. Here's the truth.

First off, I was not allowed to express my frustration or anger verbally. Neither of my parents allowed negative emotions to be spoken because they were not to be inconvenienced by my emotions. There was no mouthing back. I would have been knocked into the next week if I had dared shoot off at the mouth snottily, let alone with overt anger. If I slammed a door, my mother would come running from where ever she was and belt me. I remember the few times when a door would accidentally slam and I would quickly run to re-open it and say, "Oops! Sorry!! That was an accident!" smiling as sweetly as I could as I watched to see the cloud pass off of my mother's face. So door-slamming was usually not an option. What outlet did I have then?

I would occasionally vent on inanimate objects outside the house. I have a clear memory of being so angry once that I went out to the garage and pounded on a wall with my fists for about 10 seconds just to vent onto something. Wow. What a sinner I was.

The anger these two women were gabbing about that day was primarily demonstrated by me with a quiet seething. A lid was kept clamped down on it by me...but the look in my eye would occasionally intimidate them. I remember seeing their intimidation a time or two. They were intimidated because their own consciences condemned them as they saw my quiet condemnation of them. Knowing they had completely and totally crossed a line over into unfairness that could not be justified even by them, they were intimidated by my anger. They knew my anger was justified.

My self-control even while enraged actually scared them a bit. Perhaps they were afraid I would finally unleash and split their skulls open like they deserved. I never, not once, behaved violently toward a person. During these rare occasions when they knew I was angry, perhaps I would slam a door or lash out at an inanimate object. No one would say a peep. My rage was known by them at that moment to be linked to their unreasonable and grossly unfair treatment of me. I think I only slammed a door in anger like that a couple of times. Neither time did my mother come at me with her rage. She was laying low like the simpering coward she really is because she knew she was in the wrong. She would not have let me get away with a slammed door except that her conscience was burning, and she seemed unsure of what I would do with my anger...probably because she was judging me by her own poor self-control when angry.

Get what I'm saying here? If there was not an obvious reason, i.e. cause and effect, for my anger, even these extremely rare displays would not have been allowed. My anger would have been met with an escalation of rage coming from my mother to me. So my sister's pretending that my "anger issues" as a teen were heretofore of mysterious etiology was just another bit of history revisionism by these two narcissists. They were absolving themselves of all responsibility for their actions toward me...while pretending to me that she was offering me some jewel of insight about my unexplored psyche.

I think in my next post I'll allow my cousin to describe her very first impressions of my family as she gazed in wonderment at this strange and new (to her) family. She was six years old...I was thirteen. It is a very focused snapshot of my life with my family from an outside witness. If one takes that snapshot and replicates it a few thousand times it will give at least some sense of the system of unfairness and servitude that was my life at home. The tea-sipping crones were the two most responsible for foisting this unfairness and slavery onto my life. Now they would chalk up my anger to forces beyond any of our control in order to clear their consciences. They were pathologizing the victim in order to purify themselves.

Now, as then, my anger does not dictate my behavior. I have self-control. I am allowed to have a feeling as long as I don't use a feeling to justify doing something immoral.

Where those two are concerned, I still have "anger issues", but there is no shame in that for me any more. In the spirit of the subject of my anger...

May they eat shit and die.

[Icon by gryphonsmith]

[Cartoon used with permission.]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Treating Childishness as a Crime

All memories are subject to degradation over time. This is an established scientific fact. What science has also discovered is that the memories we have of negative experiences last much longer and degrade much less so than memories not associated with a strong emotional reaction.

My first memory dates back to age two. I know that this event happened before the birth of my sister who was born shortly after I turned three which is why I know I was two years old. I have extremely clear memories of where we lived at the time. I was able to prove that to my uncle recently. He seemed surprised and impressed at all the details I could remember about the area I lived in from age zero to about age three and a half. I can clearly describe the layout of the apartment complex as well as the surrounding properties. Point is, I have clear memories starting from a very young age.

The reason my first memory became my first memory is because it was accompanied by fear and sense of abandonment. It has to do with how a narcissistic mother sees personal affront, defiance, and bad motives when her children disobey her. Childishness is punished as a crime. A child of a narcissist is not allowed to be a child. The strong message is conveyed a thousand ways: if you don't do things perfectly you are a bad person with bad motives and a desire to hurt your mother. Most of us strove to prove to our mothers differently. We over-performed in a desperate attempt to avoid the "bad person" label so easily earned at the slightest offense, the smallest let-down, without even the tiniest bad intention on our part. Over-achieving did not result in banking good will for the future. Oh no, it only allowed you to tread water. Fail in one particular by her subjective and shifting standards and you found your head below water in a moment.

Before I describe my memory I want to ruminate a bit on my mother's extremely consistent view of all children and what it stems from. What I didn't understand at age two, but have much experience and observation on now in my mid-40s, is that my mother's baseline with all children is that they are, each and every one, little criminals. The narcissist mother can never take into account the immature little brains which take many years and much experience to develop. The higher centers of the brain where reasoning and judgment take place are not fully developed until age 25. (This explains a lot of things including car insurance rates!) Yup, science has confirmed this for us. The narcissist mother has no appreciation for the responsibility before her to deal with young and developing minds with wisdom and sensitivity. No, from their earliest moments the children of narcissists are taught that all wisdom and sensitivity are to flow from them to mother dearest. I believe my mother projects onto all children the kind of child she was. Those who study psychopathy have come to recognize that as early as age three the signs of a budding sociopath can be clearly discerned. There are a small percentage of children who seem to be born criminals. My mother assumes the percentage is large...and I now believe it is because she is projecting her own character as a child onto every other child.

My mother told this little story enough times that it stuck. I think it provides a glimpse into how young she was when she was already thinking like a narcissist. The first time I remember hearing it, she was driving with my younger sister and me in the car. She reaches into her purse for a stick of gum. "Oh, look here. I only have one stick of gum. All mine!" And she popped it into her mouth. Then, looking all significant, she proceeds to tell her story. She explains that she could have split that piece of gum into three pieces, but she learned a lesson when she was she recounts a time when she and her five other siblings were traveling with her mother. Her mother reached into her purse and found one stick of gum. Everyone starts clamoring for it. Her mother proceeds to divide that one stick of gum into six pieces and hands out a tiny piece for each of the children...with nothing for herself. My mother could not tell this story without curling her lip in disgust. My mother tells us how she despised her mother's weakness. An actual quote, "I hated my mother for being so weak." Her mother divvied up a piece of gum into so many pieces that it rendered it essentially useless to anyone, she told us. And she deprived herself. For what? So a bunch of whiny kids could be placated? It seemed that the part that most disgusted my mother was the sacrifice her mother was willing to make. Her mother denied her own desire for a piece a gum in an attempt to please her children...and my mother hated her for it. It was perceived by her as weakness. Most would see it as generous. My mother chose to see it as weakness. My mother was still in single digits in age when this happened. This kind of thinking never left her. If resources are limited...mother gets first and best. Period. The criminal mind perceives kindness and generosity as weakness. My mother betrays an aspect of her young criminal mindset. She sets it up before her own children as a virtue. She will never be that weak with us. If she has one piece of gum ... it is all hers. We never dared to complain.

This may not seem like a big deal revelation to you. But it surely was to her. And she made sure it was to my sister and me. Now that I am much older and wiser I see a lot more in this story than she intended to reveal. My mother forever despised her mother's sacrifices...yet that didn't stop my mother from taking advantage of her mother's generosity. She hated her mother's generosity, but depended on it.

Remember those Fisher-Price xylophones? They probably still make them. Here's a pic of the way they looked when I was a kid.

My mother called me to her holding my xylophone in her hands with a look of scary rage bubbling under the surface. I knew I must have really messed up...but what did I do? "Why did you do this??" She is pointing to the side of the xylophone's side label. I was confused at first. She taps her finger on the side impatiently and I can see where I had applied some watercolor paints on the side. "I told you that you are not to paint or draw on anything other than paper. Why did you do this!" I was speechless. It was obvious to me now that I had committed a great sin. I had no excuse for myself. "I didn't know". "I'm sorry". Nothing I could say would save me now. It was assumed that my bit of artwork on the side of my xylophone was an overt sign of defiance by my mother. It was an egregious disregard of her authority and rules that I had dared to veer my watercolors off of approved surfaces. Perhaps I had felt like it was okay to do it since I had restricted my painting to the paper label on the side of the xylophone. I may have understood that by permitting crayons and painting to paper that I was not doing something wrong by using the label for coloring. I don't remember. But I do remember that I had not done it feeling like I was breaking the rules. It was not an act of defiance. It was a childish moment from a childish understanding being given the significance of a criminal act.

My punishment was then dished out. My mother seethed, "I can't stand the sight of you. Go outside and don't come back until I call you." I was thrown out of the apartment door and she threw the lock. What to do now. I cried and sobbed at the door. She told me to go away. I wandered around the apartment premises for what had to have been a long time. I was too young to have a clear concept of time...but it seemed like an eternity. Finally, I thought I had a reason to request entrance again...I had to pee. I knocked on the door. "What do you want" she inquired coldly behind the still closed door. "I have to go potty" I plaintively stated. "I don't care. Go away." I can not describe the vast poverty I felt at that moment. I felt so abandoned and lost. Unloved. All I knew was that I had done something very horrible. So horrible that my mother was throwing me away. I was not sure if I would ever be allowed back into her home. That thought was abjectly terrifying to me. The sense of abandonment and loss was overwhelming. Despair.

I remember wandering around with a painfully full bladder unsure of what to do and how long I could hold it. I held out as long as I could. Finally, because I was not going to wet my pants, I went to the neighboring empty lot in the tall weeds in an attempt to gain a measure of privacy and did the deed.

I know I was let back into the apartment before my dad came home from work. She let me into the apartment but it was obvious I was still in the doghouse. I had to earn my way back into her good graces. I think this story is an example of a disproportionate response.

Did I ever scribble on my toys or any other unapproved surface ever again? Hell, no. I learned that lesson quite early on. I learned to draw within the lines my mother set up very, very well.

Monday, November 05, 2007

"A Wicked Man"

I was re-reading the description in Proverbs of God's view of the wicked man. Check this out:

A worthless person, a wicked man,
Walks with a perverse mouth;
He winks with his eyes,
He shuffles his feet,
He points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart,
He devises evil continually,
He sows discord.
Proverbs 6:12-14 NKJV

Look at how much of this description includes physical movement. This kinda jumps out at me considering what I recently covered in the post, "Good Liars? Or Just Practiced Diversion Artists?" The first action described in this passage is the "perverse mouth"...i.e...lying. Then the winks (facial expressions), the distracting footwork and hand movements. The narcissist/psychopath has been fully exposed by the Bible. Most of us have missed that fact.

Perhaps because good people are often loathe to assume the worst of someone, the motivations for these behaviors is exposed for us: the wicked man is continually devising evil, he is perverse in the seat of his emotions (the heart, the seat of desire), and his intention is to sow discord. God, who alone claims the ability to read the hearts and minds of men, is taking all the mystery out of the motivations of the evil person. We are being told just how much we should trust the evil man. The answer: not at all. Any person who is continually devising evil plots is never to be trusted.

So whom does God consider wicked? He doesn't leave any doubt on this point.

These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
Prov. 6:16-19

First, you have to take in just how great the hatred God holds for these things is. The first sentence above uses the word "hates" and then, in the next sentence, uses a similar word which hones in more tightly on the level of emotion that "hates" is intended to portray. The word abomination according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means, "extreme disgust and hatred: loathing". But, considering this is the Bible, we need to look at a Bible dictionary to get the full flavor. The noun form of the word in the original Hebrew "defines something or someone as essentially unique in the sense of being 'dangerous', 'sinister,' and 'repulsive' to another individual." Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary pg. 1

So we need to look at the descriptors which follow the statement about God's hatred in light of someone God Himself considers to be "dangerous", "sinister", and "repulsive".

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that shed innocent blood.
  • A heart that devises wicked plans.
  • Feet that are swift in running to evil.
  • A false witness who speaks lies.
  • One who sows discord among brethren.

If God considers these things to be repulsive, sinister and dangerous, shouldn't you? How can we invoke God's name to people who are caught in a relationship with a "wicked man" and tell them that God expects them to remain married to, or in some other relationship with, such a person? That is blasphemous. God is not divided against Himself. He doesn't describe the wicked man, and then elsewhere demand that people stay locked in a relationship with such a person.

When you study the word "wrath" in the Bible as it pertains to God's wrath you see that His wrath is most often demonstrated by withdrawing His presence and protection. Did you catch that? God withdraws His presence from wicked should you if you are going to wear His name. How can we possibly pretend that God is impressed with us when we choose to stay in close association with evil people? How can we convince ourselves that God, in whom resides all virtue, would call us righteous for condoning, coddling, making excuses for, and staying in close relation to evil when He won't do those things Himself? We really need to think instead of offering platitudes or condemnations to people suffering in abusive relationships. We need to think before accepting such proffered nonsense. To use the name of God to enforce relationships with evil people is nothing short of blasphemy...i.e. using the name of the Lord in vain. Anything that trashes God's reputation falls under the purview of the third commandment (Exodus 20:7). People who have the good sense God gave them will see those Christians who enforce relationships with evil people as being cruel and heartless. They naturally assume that must mean God is cruel and heartless. God's reputation gets a bad rap because you took His name to support your screwy opinions.

If you've been treated to lectures by other Christians because they don't approve of you leaving a wicked man (or woman) please disregard them as the ignoramus they are. They don't speak for God. God speaks for Himself in Proverbs six.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fred Phelps Jr. Butt-End of Joke

I've commented a little on the Rev. Fred Phelps because he is such an overt and obvious narcissist that I don't need to know him personally to slap the narcissist label on him. I did read the rather long expose on him that I posted the link to here. There is plenty of evidence there to support the label.

Fred and his "church" have been slapped with a 10.9 million dollar damages judgment for his protest staged at a Marine's funeral. Article here.

Someone had a bit of fun at Freddie Jr.'s expense. Capitalizing on Fred's homophobia ... Fred gets the moves made on him. I found it mildly entertaining. Maybe you will too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Signs You've Been Hypnotized

The book, "Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain you Dry" has some very helpful information on how to recognize when a narcissist (or other disordered character) is hypnotizing you. You look for the signs in your own reactions:

"Make sure you recognize the warning signs of hypnosis: instant rapport, deviating from standard procedure, thinking in superlatives, discounting objective information, and confusion." Emotional Vampires, pg. 48

These are all signs you look for in yourself.

Here is a summary, mostly in my own words, of each of these warning signs. See the book for more details:

Instant rapport -- That wonderful feeling that you are instantly "clicking" with someone you've just met is a clear warning sign. You have likely stumbled into someone who has either done their research before "accidentally" meeting you or before a job interview, or they are quick to assess what it is you think about yourself and are careful to reflect back to you what you want to hear.

Deviating from standard procedure -- Suddenly you find yourself making exceptions and doing things very differently than you normally do for someone you don't know well.

Thinking in superlatives -- You've just met the most wonderful, most incredible, most charming and thoughtful person ever. Big red sign that someone is messing around inside your head. The author says, "distorted perceptions usually involve superlatives". He also points out that the superlatives can be negative too.

Discounting objective information -- You've been swept off your feet in no time flat. You're loving how you feel around this person -- so much so that you are now avoiding objective sources of information about this person. Or, if you do hear things you don't want to hear, you tell yourself it is somehow different for you. He's different with you. He was different back then. When you find yourself avoiding getting objective information about this person you have a clear sign in yourself that you're very happy in this little fantasy that's been created for you and don't want the bubble popped. You're in trouble if you keep this up. Remember, this doesn't just apply to romantic partners. It can happen with a fellow church or club member, a co-worker, boss, employee, etc.

Confusion -- "Hazy understanding of the reasons for your own reactions, coupled with unusual certainty, is a pretty clear sign that somebody has been messing with your mind." pg. 29

If you find any of these signs in yourself, most particularly when dealing with someone you don't know very well, it is imperative that you stop whatever you're doing and analyze the situation. Don't be afraid to ask yourself why you are reacting the way you are. Be honest with yourself. Don't discount your answers.

Some additional observations about someone who makes you feel confused. Don't assume you're an idiot. See it as a warning sign and stop to figure out what is really happening. I have learned that when someone is making me feel confused and pressured at the same time then I know that I must put them off. "I'll call you with my answer tomorrow." If they say that it'll be too late tomorrow then I now know my answer must be a firm "no thanks". When someone is trying to baffle you with bull-shit and then, in your confused state, try to force you to come up with an immediate response you are dealing with a high-pressure salesman or an emotional vampire.