Thursday, March 31, 2011


This post on "What makes narcissists tick" strongly resonates with me. Kathy basically demands her due for not becoming a narcissist herself despite having been subjected to narcissistic parenting, and ascribes it to a series of choices she made starting as early as age 3. She denies the assertion that narcissism is genetic or otherwise a matter of blind fate.

I entitled my previous post "His Whore" partly because prostitution seemed like a good metaphor for a narcissistic parent using his child's body for his own ulterior motives, but also partly because of what prostitution as a metaphor has always meant for me.

For me, being a "whore" means surrendering my personal integrity in return for remuneration, which, in the case of my narcissistic father, was mostly emotional. Do as he wants, apologize when you don't feel guilty, stifle the feeling of injustice and anger in yourself, and you will be given "love" again.

A prostitute goes through the motions of what is normally reserved for a loving relationship for motives others than giving love to a beloved person, and this is what children of narcissists are expected to do as well. Stifle your authentic emotions, go through the motions of displaying superficial empty signifiers of love and respect, no more, no less.

If we refused, if we dared to say "no" to them, to correct their lies told to impress others, to disobey their meaningless injunctions, to expose them for who they are, we could expect them to withdraw their love or unleash their rage in horrible forms. Or both.

For a child, losing their parent's love is like death. And unleashed narcissistic rage can in reality reach proportions akin to those of torture. The choice in that case is, for a child, really: integrity or death. Or: integrity or torture. It's a horrible choice, but it's still a choice, and a choice that human beings in the history of the world have been called to make.

If we claim - and I do - that narcissistic abuse is an intrinsic evil, then we must make room for the assumption that there is an instinctive, intuitive, inherent part of every human, however small, that somehow knows that what his narcissistic parent is doing and how the narcissistic parent is thinking is wrong, and can make a choice to not be like that.

I could have become a narcissist. Some of that warped thinking was like second nature to me. But at some level I knew it was wrong.

I could have spurned my husband. After all, in my father's worldview, my husband is "beneath me." He's a "redneck" with no pedigree. He doesn't even have a university education! Luckily for me, I'd rebelled against my father's worldview much, much before I met my husband. I refused to believe I was "better" or "special" because of my family, or place of residence, or education, or whatnot. I knew it was wrong to think that way, no matter how good it might make me feel if I believed that nonsense.

Owning responsibility - not guilt, or blame, or fault - for those actions of mine which were done out of fear of my narcissistic father, against my integrity, is strangely liberating for me. It proves we had, and continue to have, CHOICES. As Write About Birth wisely said, "Not turning into a Narc ourselves is a choice we made every day, and continue to, as I am slowly coming to realize." Some people learned love and connection and empathy the easy way, they sucked it through their mothers' milk, they breathed it in the air of their homes. We have to constantly make the choice not to be like our models - until empathy and connection and love become like second nature to us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

His Whore

I have to admit it. I didn't want to. At upsi's blog, Jasmine pointed it out in her comment, but it seemed excessive at the time. Now I have to acknowledge it.

When he promised me money if I didn't cry at the dentist's when I was little, he was in fact prostituting me.

He was so proud of the fact that his little girl was so brave when getting injections, vaccines, and dental work. It got him positive attention from doctors and nurses. So he started insisting on it.

I remember the time I was getting a vaccine at age 5 and there was a sweet-looking nurse there. I realize now she was also pretty attractive, a young blonde. Well, as if I wasn't nervous enough, he told me not to cry, whatever I did! Then I heard him brag to her about how brave I was and how I never cried when I got shots. Naturally, the pressure was too much and I cried.

I remember the nurse was sweet and I remember wishing I was alone with her and I remember thinking I wouldn't have cried then.

He was broody and quiet towards me for a while after that. After all, I made him look ridiculous in front of the pretty nurse.

At the dentist's that time, I also failed him. The sheer pressure of it was the culprit again. He promised me 0.50$ if I didn't cry. I cried. I was devastated about disappointing him. I thought he was the most forgiving, the most magnanimous, the most wonderful father in the world when he coldly, frowningly, grudgingly took out 0.20$ and gave it to me later. I told him I didn't deserve it. He agreed, but gave it to me anyway, out of the pure generosity of his spirit.

Having kids of my own now, I can't imagine seeing anyone's reaction to what they do or say as more important than their actual feelings and thoughts at the time. I feel like I'm betraying them even if a nice, sweet doctor takes a look at their throat or ear, and it's not very pleasant, and I'm holding them to make the examination possible. Now I see his behavior for what it is: prostituting his daughter. Using her body for his ulterior motives. His narcissistic supply.  

King Lear is a narcissistic father

Think about it.

He rounds up his daughters for a fake, saccharine display of love.

The two older daughters, the Golden Children, also narcissists, oblige, and provide meaningless protestations of excessive affection.

The third daughter, the Scapegoat, refuses to play the game. She says she loves her father as is her duty as a daughter and a subject.

So he discards her. The Golden Girls get the inheritance. However, being narcissists themselves, they have no more need of him, so they now discard him. The Scapegoat is the only one who cares and comes to his rescue, although she has a wonderful husband who didn't care about the dowry and loved her all the more for being cast off like that.

And he so easily discards the "evil" daughters now, the ones he loved! He doesn't care when they die, he doesn't suffer because they are immoral, he only notices they are "ungrateful" towards him!

The outcome? They all die. That's Dysfunctional Family for you. Pure tragedy.

self harm

This is a post by upsi that just gave me a lightbulb moment. It's called "Pickers" and it appears many of us adult children of narcissists are just that.

I started biting my nails when I was four. I'd been destroying them for years, chewing on them until my fingers were all bleeding and I couldn't do anything with my hands.

When I met my husband, I started managing to leave the nails alone, but started biting my cuticles. Whenever any skin would "stick out" I had to pick at it and then bite it off. Actually, I still do it, but go through phases when I'm able to "abstain". Then I "only" bite the inside of my lips.

My theories?

For one, many say that self-harm habits like these form because one turns aggression towards oneself, instead of the person causing all the anger. Narcissists don't allow any blame, anger, aggression, heck, any negative comment directed at them. I was never allowed to display any dissatisfaction with my narcissistic father at all, not even in the privacy of my own room or my own diary.

Then there's the perfectionism. We were forced to be absolutely frigging perfect. Make no waves. Always reflect well on the parent. If we notice anything imperfect on ourselves, anything sticking out, anything marring our surface, we'll pick at it until it bleeds. We were trained to do so. We're just acting in accordance with our conditioning.

Then there's the constant anxiety. Are we wasting time? Are we doing anything worthwhile in our lives that will bring concrete achievements? The fear, the terror, the abyss is always right beneath the surface. The fear of being deemed worthless and our lives wasted. We can never relax.

Then there's the guilt. Even if we're doing well and everything's fine, we don't deserve to be happy, because we're evil, heartless, cold, apparently. So the least we can do is punish ourselves with pain and blood and disfigurement.

Then there's the self-loathing. I deserve to be destroyed, crushed, annihilated. If not, well, at least I can damage myself a little, right?

Any more pickers/biters out there? How do you explain it? What do you do to stop this behavior and how does one truly eradicate it in the sense of eliminating its root causes, instead of just dealing with the symptoms?

Doctors and Teachers and Waiters, Oh My

My father saves the best performances for the true authorities in his life: doctors, teachers and waiters.

Doctors are by far his favorites. I was a "sickly" child, with "bad lungs," so at the first sign of a cold he'd take me to the doctor. In the waiting room he was broody and silent. I used to think that it was because he was so "worried." But now I reckon he was rehearsing his performance in his head.

Because, see, when he entered that office, his face would light up. He became electrified, energized, eloquent. He'd take out temperature charts. He'd throw around medical words and phrases. He'd flatter the doctors in Byzantine terms that made my skin crawl. The doctors were all women, and some of the flattery verged on inappropriate.

He treated me as a doll. I wasn't allowed a voice, he gave me one. The doctor would ask me:

- So, how are you feeling?

- (I open my mouth)

- Well, she has a mild fever and her eyes are watery.

- (I close my mouth)

Once, he bought me a book on puberty, which was in itself sweet, if slightly awkward. But he couldn't just give it to me. Nooo, he formally presented me with it IN FRONT OF THE DOCTOR and then went on and on and on to her about how he wants to hide nothing from me, how he wants me to have the necessary information, how he's an involved father, fishing for compliments from her.

I think I've barely had a cold since then. If I did, I hid it really well.

Then the teachers. He was on the school board. He went on a school trip with my class and never even told me in advance. We visited my teacher at his home once, when I was in the 4th grade, but my father wasn't interested in pursuing the relationship because the teacher "wasn't really all that smart."

Later on, I did my best to keep him away. I told him his behavior was embarrassing. I was vague when talking about school. I'd even forget to tell him about parent-teacher meetings (I honestly forgot, but what would Freud make of it? So many accidental omissions? Riiight).

But he never fully accepted defeat. I recently found a copy of a letter he sent, behind my back, to a teacher of mine when I was 16. The nauseating combination of extreme flattery and extreme bragging still haunts me.

After I got married and he'd discarded me (visiting when I was 8 moths pregnant and then for my daughter's first birthday, and even then after having his arm twisted), he said he wanted to come to my M.Phil. thesis defense. I didn't know about NPD back then, so I was taken by surprise. He was there, again electrified, energized, eloquent. He talked to all the professors. He bragged about me. Talked about me in the third person although I was right there. I didn't even mind much. I guess I couldn't help feeling happy to be again somehow worthy of his love and attention.

But the waiters! That's got to be the worst! With doctors and teachers, it's embarrassing and nauseating enough, for sure, but with them, he doesn't have the air of condescension that he keeps for his dealings with waiters. Whenever we enter a restaurant, he picks a "special" waiter as his audience, usually a more mature, experienced man. Then he'll start his speeches and tirades. He'll tell the waiter where he's been and where he's planning to go that day. It usually involves bragging, as he's just been to the theater, you know, to see his niece, who's a ballerina. So he's cultured and he has a talented niece. Then he'll flatter the waiter, but in a way that makes it clear just how superior he is and just how much the waiter should be grateful for my father's attention. There will be teasing and little jokes at the waiter's expense. There will be calling the waiter "MY Firstname."

The waiter, I've noticed, usually just looks bored and annoyed. I guess they've seen it all. They have to handle all sorts and they do.

But then my father DOESN'T EVEN LEAVE A TIP.

Monday, March 28, 2011

All the World's a Stage

At least for my narcissistic father's dramatic performances.

He'll use any cue to commence a tragic soliloquy.

Once when he dropped by, a colleague of my late maternal grandfather had come to visit us. We were talking about my favorite Grandpa, anecdotes related to him, his feats, his adventures, his eccentricities.

I hadn't realized he had NPD at the time, but I saw my father grow noticeably uncomfortable. Now I understand - it was very difficult to turn himself into the focal point and topic and expert of that conversation. But he did it. He got it.

- "Oh. My poor father-in-law. He died. Everyone I had died within five years. My mother, my father, my sister, my wife, even my father-in-law and mother-in-law." Deep sigh.

Awkward silence. No one knows what to say now. I'm the only one in the room who knows he never even liked his ILs, especially my Grandpa. But any cue will do.

And who can confront a man who lost everyone within five years? Certainly not me. Sure, I lost all my grandparents, my aunt and my mother in the same time span, but I'm cold and unfeeling and unloving. I truly wasn't devastated by those losses, at least certainly not as much as he seemed to be.

It doesn't even have to be anyone related to him. Anything can be overdramatized.

Today, for instance, he told me how he and his girlfriend had lunch yesterday with her uncle in another town. Well, that's what a normal person would have said. What he actually said, theatrically, was:

- "My girlfriend wanted to see her uncle. He's 84. It might be the last time she sees him. He's her last remaining relative. We had lunch together."

I reply nothing.

- "She also saw her cousin." He adds.

- "Wait, I thought the uncle was her last remaining relative." 

- "Well, the last of that generation. Apart from her aunts."

- "So she has aunts as well? How is he then the last remaining relative in the generation?"

- "Well, the last remaining male relative in that generation."

- "The last remaining male relative in that generation with his shoe size and hair color and head circumference?" I can't resist adding (see how I'm cynical and cold and unfeeling? It's a reaction to this kind of crap.)

This is where he gets uncomfortable and hangs up.

I don't know why he does it. I'm sure his girlfriend didn't come up with that narrative for their little outing and lunch yesterday. He's the author. Is it a "subtle" way of telling me that he's my last remaining male relative in that generation and that I should behave appropriately and appreciate him while he's alive, because he might die any moment now, as he's been announcing for years?

Is it any wonder that I've become really insensitive about death in general?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Product over Process and Person

I remember the first time my narcissistic father gave me the silent treatment.

I was four. He was angry because I tore a drawing.

It was my drawing. A watercolor of a little boy with his hands on his hips, forming the Greek letter "Phi". That was on purpose and he thought it was really smart. So he put it on the fridge and praised it.

At first I was happy. Then he went on and on, for days, praising it and bragging about it to anyone who'd listen, until I became jealous of that little boy. I felt like he didn't notice me any more, now that he had docile, tangible evidence that his daughter was both artistic and intelligent. He no longer needed me.

So I tore it. I wanted him to see me again. By getting so angry, he only confirmed it. He preferred the boy.

Narcissists value the product both over the process of producing it and the person who produces it. The achievement, the prize, the award, the degree, the job title - those are the things that are valued in their children. Those are the only things that even get noticed. Who we are, what we are like, what sort of persons we are, what we like, what we dislike - they don't have a clue.

So some of us forget who we are too. We learn that it doesn't matter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mirroring Him

I'm left-handed, always have been. So was my mother. It's a genetically inherited trait. My father's right-handed.

My narcissistic father's explanation? A story he loved repeating. Apparently, ONCE, when I was little, I sat opposite him when he was writing something, and I took a pen and paper too. I wrote with my left hand because I was imitating him as I saw him from where I was sitting.

So, I didn't inherit my left-handedness from my mother. I learned it by mirroring him.

I used to just be annoyed when he told that story. Now its symbolic aptness gives me the creeps.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Hard to "Be Yourself"...

...when you have no idea who "yourself" is.

Here is a very insightful post on how the presence of a narcissist in your life negatively affects your sense of self and how it is sometimes only possible to assess the damage after the narcissist is no longer around to minimize it. (Here's hoping PWC doesn't mind being paraphrased. Do read the entire post.)

Getting your sense of self back after a relationship with a narcissist is hard enough. But what about those of us who had no "self" to talk about before the narcissists in our lives? What about us whose characters and ideas about ourselves were shaped by narcissists? What about us with narcissistic parents? What do we go back to?

If you asked me just a month ago, I could tell you things about myself. I "knew" who "I" was. I was an over-achiever who was never quite satisfied with myself. I was masculine and not very motherly. I was rational, cold, and unemotional. I enjoyed discussions with intelligent people and eschewed talk about emotions and relationships. I wasn't necessarily happy about who I was, but I tried to accept it and spent a lot of time and energy defending and justifying "myself" to myself and others.

Then I ran across a few articles such as this one, where who I thought I was was simply explained away as an armor that some children of narcissists develop to shield themselves from the narcissistic abuse.

I don't really lack empathy. I thought I couldn't understand others and others' feelings. Actually, I couldn't understand my father's reactions, moods, and the dissonance between his words and his actions. I couldn't relate to his antics.

I'm not unfeeling. When I let myself realize that the self I thought I knew was shaped by narcissistic parenting, I unlocked the emotions that I'd kept under key. I used to stop every emotion in its inception, telling myself "Cut the crap. You know you're not really feeling sorry for that person. You just like trying to make yourself believe you're so sensitive, and emotional, and loving, just like your father and his mother did, but it's fake. You're not fake. Neither are you a really warm, loving person like your mother." I don't block emotions any more. I trust them. They're slowly and cautiously coming back.

I'm not truly unmotherly. I was very insecure about becoming a mother because I had a deep-seated belief that mothers don't matter, because mine was forced to take a back seat by my narcissistic father.

I'm not only interested in discussions. My narcissistic father, who had no religious, political, or philosophical convictions, allowed any abstract discussion to take place in our home. But little more than that. So discussions always felt "safe" to me. Also, before I admitted to myself that there was something profoundly wrong about the way I was raised, I didn't feel completely comfortable talking about personal stuff with people. Every personal conversation somehow felt superficial and fake, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I don't really need to achieve the things I thought I did. Sure, I have ambitions career-wise, but they're normal and healthy. I used to envy people who worked at a place that sounded more prestigious to my father and a few others of his generation, although it's a horrible place to work and the people there are miserable. If I was honest about it with myself, I would have actually liked to have refused to work there, so I wouldn't seem Not Good Enough for that place, but I couldn't accept it and still claim to love myself - it's a bad place to work at if you value your sanity. So, no, I'm actually not truly envious either.

So now I know a little bit about who I'm NOT. I still have no idea who I AM.

The armor that was molding me into shape is gone, and now I'm exposed, vulnerable, and - mostly formless.

I know one thing - I do enjoy being kind to the people around me. I'll take it from there, I guess.

How did you discover your authentic selves after realizing you were raised by a narcissist or two? Any advice? Please share!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anything Will Do

In the game of one-upmanship, narcissists will use anything. Nothing is beneath them.

I remember when I first started going to church, after years of atheism / agnosticism / Gnosticism / whatever. 

My narcissistic father found it appropriate to say: "You think you're so great, going to church now. Well, your mother is a bigger believer than you'll ever be. She's been going to church and praying for years!"

I'd respected my mother's sweet, unassuming piety for years, even before Christianity appealed to me. She was happy I was going to church now. My mother and I exchanged bewildered glances.

Who on Earth turns THAT into a competition? And pits mother against daughter in it? And uses this to put his daughter down?

A narcissist, that's who.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Signs of Danger

I'd been wondering why my narcissistic father was behaving himself lately. Was I a narcissist myself for believing it had something to do with applying the advice I found on the net on how to deal with narcissists (Don't contradict them, Don't confront them unless your integrity is at stake, Disengage emotionally, Show interest in them, Don't talk about yourself, unless asked, and you won't be, don't worry)?

Well. He really started showing clear signs that he didn't like me any more and that he resented my existence and "having to take care of me" shortly after my mother died. (He didn't really have to "take care of me" - I was 20 and just living at home because I was a student and going away to college has never been an option since my home is 15 minutes away from the biggest university in my country - but he was clearly angry about me just being there.) I later found out that this was the time he started dating his now girlfriend, only he was hiding it at the time. I suppose it was bad form to be dating just a couple of months after the demise of your wife of 32 years, whose gigantic picture you still had in your apartment, and about whom you still theatrically sighed and wailed to anyone who'd listen.

Then. He subordinated his life to her needs, wants and whims - although she never really asked him to - and demanded gratitude and admiration from her. Anything less, and he'd break up with her and she'd have to grovel. She's away on business 6 months out of every year and he goes with her and then stays alone all day long while she works, which he hates, of course. But, mind you, she's a tour guide in a summer resort, and there are things a normal person would love doing there. Like swimming, sunbathing, reading, walking, maybe meeting some new people.

It's not too far away, at that, and people have remarked to me that it was strange he didn't come after the birth of my second daughter, just to see her, but instead waited for three months until the time was up and his girlfriend was ready to come back. I'm mentioning this because this seemed to be the general expectation, but, as I'd already known about my father's NPD, I never expected him to come, and it was certainly a relief that he didn't. And it made me sure nothing was big enough to get him to come during this time.

So, we have that as a reprieve, as a certainty of 6 months of Very Low Contact for half of every year, no matter what. We look forward to their departure date.

So. Now he's been nice to us again. He's been mentioning my mother again, out of the blue, to my daughter. Nostalgically. And then he mentioned, the last time I saw him, that he was thinking about NOT going away with his girlfriend this year, as he finds it boring there on his own and has nothing to do.

WHAT does this mean? Could there be trouble between them? People with more experience dealing with narcissistic parents, please help me translate his behavior! What does he want? Is he thinking of leaving his girlfriend and preparing to make a Big Comeback into my life, after years of Barely Concealed Disgust at me? How do I, in HIS language, make it clear to him that it's not an option? That a couple of hours a couple of times a week several months of the year is already more than I'm comfortable with? That if he chooses to remain behind, he will NOT be getting constant all-day-every-day attention from us? That he's truly better off with her, because at least he'll be getting his fix in the mornings and the evenings?

And if I was right in my narcissistic interpretations and this is my fault because I've been trying to treat him the only way he wishes to be treated, what do I do now?

Do I have to start being mean to him or something?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My mother-shaped black hole

Hey, mom. Remember me? I'm your daughter. I was the last person you remembered when you were dying and the cancer had spread to your brain.

Well, last night, I came to a horrifying realization: I remember very little about you.

The things I remember sound almost like a coded message to myself, learned by heart, lest I forget all. When my husband, who barely had the time to meet you, asked me, after you died, what you were like, I could only repeat, like a parrot, like a broken record:

"She had no vanity at all. And she had a great sense of humor. And laughed a lot. Always at her own expense".

I guess what I made myself remember in code is, deciphered, that you were not a narcissist. Not by a long shot.

I remember you were kind to me and I was never afraid of you. You were impossible to offend. Which made my narcissistic father's very strongly implied demand that I disregard you and ignore you easier.

I remember you were strong and optimistic. I remember how, right after your breast was surgically removed, you kept making all the other women in that hospital room laugh. How you always cheered everyone up.

I remember how, right before you were diagnosed with cancer, and it still seemed there was all the time left in the world for the two of us, so I know it wasn't "forced", you said to me "You're growing up to be a really decent person". It's still the most wonderful thing anyone's ever told me.

But that's about it.

Your friends still miss you a lot and talk and reminisce about you, remembering your jokes, your warmth, your spirit. I don't. I don't even know how to miss you. I'm not sure I ever had you. Not like they did. They were free to enjoy you, I wasn't.

Your friend told me how, when father went away on business for a year (he was very worried how I'd ever survive without him), the relationship between us two was finally allowed to blossom. How we had fun together. How I told you "We're so happy now".

But I don't remember that. None of it. That year is a black hole in my memory. Could I have blocked it and buried it deep down because I felt so guilty about betraying My Father? Is that why I've blocked all my memories of you, of any real relationship we may have had? Why can't I unblock them now? Does he still have me under some form of hypnosis?

Everything I remember about you has something to do with Him. I remember how the two of us would talk like regular people, and we'd discuss something avidly, and raise our voices, and then laugh about it, and then He would come, and dramatically beg us to "stop fighting" because "he's sensitive" and can't stand to hear us "shouting" and "arguing" like that. It was beyond ridiculous. And you KNEW he was just trying to prevent us from talking to each other, because he was jealous of us. Your friend told me you told her about it. We remembered the same thing, and interpreted it in the same way.

And here's the thing: you knew, you must have known, you told your friend and your sister about some of the things he did to keep you from me, and yet you never diagnosed him. You just went along.


How come it took your psychologist friend just a few minutes with me and a few extra instances of his behavior that I told her about, and that you'd also witnessed, to congratulate me (the saddest "Congratulations" ever) on my diagnosis for him? How come you never suspected it? Or did you?

Were you just very, very naive? After all, it took you 10 years of dating and then a few years of marriage just to realize there was something profoundly wrong with his mother, your MIL, and THAT doesn't even take knowledge of psychology. It just takes basic humanity. How did they fool you?

You said to your friend that I "saved" you when I was born because your husband focused on the baby now instead of on his mother. He stopped focusing on you too, and your marriage suffered as a result, but you still preferred all that to the daily pilgrimages and worship of the Goddess, His Queen Mother, that you had to make before my birth. Was it worth it?

Did you... did you SACRIFICE me for an illusion of a "cohesive" nuclear family? For severing my father's umbilical cord tying him to his mother? Did you just let go of me?

Well, I blocked you out. You allowed yourself to be killed. I killed you. I killed you three times. I didn't nurse well, so you got breast cancer - the connection is symbolic, not necessarily medical, I know, but it resonates so strongly I won't resist it. Then I told all the kids in school that you were dead and I only had My Father. Then, when you really died, I didn't grieve, I didn't really cry, I didn't miss you. And I forgot, I blocked, I repressed almost everything I remember about you.

I'm actually hoping there's too much pain behind that blocked stuff. I'm hoping it's not just a black hole of a hopelessly hollow, cold, and unloving soul that is me.

So there you go. That's what remains behind you. And you were a wonderful person, everyone who met you thinks that. Everyone felt energized and at ease around you. You should have been the most wonderful mother in the world. You probably were. But, as it happens, I don't remember any of it. You were my mother, but I never had you as a mother.

The only thing I can do is talk to you. I actually feel closer to you now that you're dead. No one can stop me from talking to you. And I like to believe you're listening.

Friday, March 18, 2011

No News is Good News

Giving no information about yourself to the narcissist in your life is good news for you.

For the longest time, even before I diagnosed my father, even before I really knew there was something profoundly disturbing about him, I instinctively stopped sharing anything of import with him. If you'd asked me then, I'd have told you I didn't want to "worry" him with bad news and that his "excessive pride" in me made me uncomfortable if I had good news to share. 

I saw others share news with their parents freely, and receive both nurturing care (if something was wrong) and joy and pride (if things were good) from them. Just like that. And I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. Why I was so different.

But now I've allowed myself to understand and remember. I've always noticed it, but repressed it. I became a master at enduring cognitive dissonance.

See, my father never was capable of feeling love for me or truly wishing me well. This is why his reactions to news from me have never been... normal.

Whenever I was sick or hurt or anemic or whatever, he'd get all dramatic, give a performance of "I'm so worried, poor me", then give me a tirade on how I have to take better care of myself. If I told him I had a cold, his monologue would be something along the lines of "You didn't wear a jacket last Thursday and now you're sick, and you are so sickly and sensitive (like me) and have weak lungs, and now you'll get bronchitis or pneumonia, and miss school, and I'll have to take you to all the doctors (which I love, by the way, but it's a plus if I also make you think this is such a sacrifice for me)". The speech roughly translates to "It's your fault that I'm worried now, but I'll martyr myself yet again for you because I love you so very much".

I think I was 13 when I started doing my very best to hide every cold. I'd make myself tea, buy myself any medicine that I needed, and stay out of his way until the symptoms were gone. Interestingly enough, it was at this point that I stopped being so "sickly ad sensitive" (just like him). I've barely had a cold since.

Later, when I became independent, got married, had kids, I started noticing another thing: a gloating little gleam in his eye whenever he thought he "smelled" anything amiss. Anything would do - are those dark circles around my eyes that he sees? Is the baby keeping me up at night? "Poor daughter, she had it so much better when I was taking care of her."

As for good news, that realization came a bit later. I guess it felt good to be praised and thought of as worthy for my accomplishments. Being bragged about to others, in my presence, without being truly allowed to say anything myself, especially correct his exaggerating inaccuracies (I'd always been amazed at his "bad memory"; now I understand; narcissists lie) was humiliating, but my sense of shame had already become numb from all the scar tissue accumulated during my childhood with him around.

It was when I got married and "left" him that my good news started producing different reactions.

I wondered why I stopped telling my father about any success I had in life. I'd tell my FIL about my grad studies, the exams I passed, my articles that got published in journals, but never my father. Not any more. I couldn't put my finger on it. But now I let myself realize it: these things no longer made him feel good. My accomplishments were no longer his to appropriate. They were, in fact, proof that I existed and could do something INDEPENDENTLY of him. So his reactions were now:

a) Badly faked "happy for me" - big fake nervous smile, dead eyes, too loud. Underneath, envy or resentfulness is clearly discernible. Not too frequent a reaction, even at that.

b) Not Good Enough - "You could have done better, with your 'talents'"; "You got a job teaching at X university? Nah. I think Y university is more prestigious"; "Sure, you got your M.Phil. Nice. I thought you were planing on studying abroad, though. Right, but you got married instead (and ruined your life and career)."

So, now I don't share anything of import. Our conversations revolve around his daily routines and chores and his list of complaints against everyone who's done him wrong.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The hold he has over me

Even before I diagnosed him, I felt my father never really loved me unconditionally, despite his grandiose displays, and I wondered what would happen if I ever really, truly told him how I felt or what I thought. I'm still not telling it to myself, not really. I'm not allowing the words to form in my mind. I got as far as being able to acknowledge that his fathering has not been the ideal that he'd always projected to everyone, including me, and that I might not be who I've always thought I was.

Last year, after he accused us of being neglectful, cruel parents (after seeing us "parent" for a total of 10 hours or so, in his presence, where we just let him play with his granddaughter and tried to disengage from him and thus avoid his constant criticism) because we don't take our daughter out for daily long walks and because we allow her to play on her own, without telling her where to put her legos, I had a moment of honesty. I was pregnant, hormonal, sensitive, and it really hurt my feelings to be told I was a cruel, neglectful parent, by my own father, without any proof. So I confronted him and, in the process, I told him I remember precious little that was pleasant from my "perfect" childhood.

I remember him being angry and giving me the silent treatment for being "disrespectful" when I made a cute little joke at his expense at age 5. I remember he was angry at me for going out to the park with my grandparents, who were taking care of me, after I'd "made plans" to go with him. Seriously, at age 5 I was supposed to remember "our plans" and then tell my grandparents "We mustn't go out now, because I have prior arrangements with My Father"? Really? I remember, again, him, angry, sitting at the table, waiting for me to come home, coldly giving me a list of gruesome punishments I could choose from. The reason? We'd made "plans" to do something together and he got home early from work for that, but I wasn't there. I was 7, a latchkey kid, home alone between the time school ended and the time my parents came home from work. I heard a noise and went to the neighbor to wait for the time my parents would be home, because I was scared. I didn't remember the "plan". I said "I'm sorry, let's do it now!" "It's too late now. I don't want to do it now" was the reply.

When I told him some of these memories, he went pale, then red, then pale again. Silence.

Then I said "I love you and want to have a respectful relationship between two adults with you now."

"But that's impossible. I'll always see you as my child" said he, now in a saccharine tone of voice.

"But I AM an adult and that's how I need you to treat me. You deeply hurt my feelings. You can't attack the very basis of another adult's entire parenting without any proof or knowledge of it whatsoever. That's just not acceptable."

Interestingly enough, he backed off then. I thought I got through to him. Only to find out later that now he's badmouthing us for our cruel, neglectful parenting to the extended family. Behind our backs.

But telling him how I feel now? What would happen?

If I told him I dread his "droppings-in", always at his convenience, because he needs a place to wait while his girlfriend, his current source of supply, is in her classes that he chauffeurs her to and from? That I feel like my independence is jeopardized? That I feel suffocated by his very presence? That it's hard to endure someone I could never communicate with, just being there, even if he generally behaves now? 

Does a person even do something like that? How? He generally announces himself just a little before he'll drop by. He asks "Are you at home? I was thinking of dropping by to see you". Does a sane, decent human being say to her aged father anything but "Yeah, we're here. Sure, drop by"?

And if I said something, what would he do? What would happen? I have vague fears and anxieties about some sort of horrible, monstrous retaliation. But isn't it sad to begin with? That I think in very concrete terms of what he might do to my Family of Choice if I made him angry? That I think about possible revenge awaiting us every time he seems angry or resentful or like he's giving me the silent treatment over some boundary I set?

I imagine social workers, at our door, told we're neglectful parents. I imagine everyone in our family turned against us. I imagine people at the university where I work called, told horrible things about me. I don't rationally think all this would actually happen, and it certainly wouldn't work, but my imagination runs wild. And he has done things like these to people, including me, in the past, not quite to that degree, but unpleasant enough.

And I imagine him exercising the only real power he has over me - getting us evicted from our apartment.

Yes, legally he owns our home. Legally, I own his apartment, and could get him evicted from there, though, and we only switched at my insistence, mainly because he was so attached to the stuff he hoarded at the place that was legally mine and because he was so controlling about every single thing that went on in there that we felt like worse than tenants. No, make that worse than people grudgingly allowed at a homeless shelter of something. He wouldn't let us switch off the lamps. Stop the annoying cuckoo clock. Throw away old sheets. He used his own key to let himself in until I told him that we, a young married couple, actually have sex sometimes when we're home alone and not expecting company.

So we switched and now we've redecorated the old apartment, legally still his, and are living here. If he throws us out of our home, I can legally throw him out of the apartment he's renting (he's living at his girlfriend's house), and we won't be homeless. I don't think he would do it anyway - getting his daughter evicted wouldn't sound too good to anyone. I guess I'm afraid because he'd been dangling the apartment we're living in now for almost a year like a carrot, keeping us in line, so we wouldn't start redecorating the apartment that's legally mine and so we'd think of him, in effect, as the owner of both.

You know, so we'd think of the apartment we were currently in as "his" because he's the one that'll be keeping it, so we can't change anything, and the other apartment as "still not ours", and in effect, his as well. 

And it's not just the fear. I guess I constantly feel like I owe him for the apartment. Big time. And I often think I don't owe him much at all.

So, here's the deal: I actually, truly, honestly don't know if I'm right in thinking that I don't actually owe him much or if I'm right in feeling I owe him a lot.

First, in my country, parents traditionally help their adult children a lot when they get married and embark upon young adulthood. Adult children live with their parents, often forever. Many parents build or buy houses or apartments for their adult children. I never expected that, far from it.

But I'm the only grandchild of two sets of grandparents who all died. My mother also died. He grandiosely gave up his half of her estate to me at the court hearing. He repeats this all the time, to anyone who'll listen. How he gave this up for me. Was it real? Is one of the apartments really mine? He himself only earned about 1/8 of these two apartments, the rest is all inherited. My parents lived with my mother's parents all my life, and my maternal parents sold their own place so they could, all together, afford a decent apartment. So my father basically paid for 1/4 of one apartment. And I let him have both the apartments for three whole years when we first got married, because I was too afraid to ask him if I could move into one of them. So we lived in a dilapidated summer house, which we redecorated, built by my maternal grandparents, also part of my inheritance, because this I felt was not truly his, never was, and he wasn't interested in it anyway. So that was three years of allowing him to live in "my" apartment and rent out "his" apartment and take all the money from that, which was substantial.

But still, isn't ALL that REALLY his, because he's the adult and I'm the kid who's being allowed to "play house"? And he earned 1/8 of it all, but I earned none?

So I really don't know where I stand. Sometimes I think I'm independent, and sometimes I feel like he has a tremendous hold over me. Because I owe him. And then I think that I need to move out to really feel independent, but then I think "But why would I give both apartments to him? They aren't REALLY both his, are they? He might feel that way, but it's not true, legally, morally, factually... Is it?" Besides, we'd starve. For no good reason. IF I'm really "entitled" to an apartment. If I'm not, then moving out is the only decent thing to do, if I'm not feeling grateful and dutiful and worshipful. Dear God. I'm a mess.

So, today I'm waiting to see if and when he'll come. He told a neighbor of mine that he would, and she told me, so does that make me informed? Or will he call me, too? When? He obviously knows already that he's coming, but is waiting for the last minute to inform me. Why?

My otherwise supportive husband tells me I might be overreacting. He says if he does call only a few minutes before he drops by, it makes it even easier for me to say "I've got other plans" than if he were to call in advance. But I don't feel that way.

EDIT: Well, the phone rang as I was pressing "PUBLISH POST".

He asked if we were going to be there tonight and if he could come, then went on and on and on about his plans for the day, and then hung up. I never actually got to answer the "question".


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whose version would you trust? The narcissist's or the 4-year-old's?

This was a serious dilemma for me yesterday. I'll explain, but I feel obliged to issue a warning first:

Kids, DO NOT try this at home! NEVER leave your child alone with a narcissist!

Not even for a minute to go into another room, which is what I did yesterday. I handed my father the cranky baby and went into the kitchen to prepare dinner for my kids. My husband was out at the moment, so I had no other recourse.

My older daughter, aged 4, came to me, crying, several minutes later. She said grandpa kept her closed in the bedroom and she couldn't get out. I confronted him about it. He said "I was trying to soothe the baby and Older Girl was noisy, so I just left the room and closed the door behind me. The door must have got stuck or something."


I realized, with some sadness, that I really don't know whose version of the incident I can trust.

Both the narcissist and the 4yo have been known to skew the truth in order to look better, both have been known to play the victim, both have been known to exaggerate. Both are, sadly, on the same emotional level.

But the 4yo will grow out of it.

So I just hugged my daughter and said "I'm sorry."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Short Dictionary of Narcissese

I seem to be among the rare people who truly believe that, provided that your narcissist isn't abusive and you're secure in your independence from them, it is possible to remain in touch.

Sure, a real relationship with a narcissist is impossible. And you shouldn't expect one once you know a narcissist's limitations. You can, say, have a wonderful emotional connection with your dog, and not expect to have a meaningful conversation with it. Those are a dog's limitations. With a narcissist, you can't expect either. A narcissist is more like a kitchen appliance. You can't connect with it in any way, but it will work properly if you know which buttons (not) to push.

The most important thing to realize is that narcissists don't inhabit the same world the rest of us do and they don't speak the same language. It sounds similar, which is why we get so confused and hurt and outraged at times. But it's a separate language you must learn if you come into regular contact with a narcissist.

Here are translations of a few commonly used phrases:

"I love you"     =     The narcissistic supply I'm getting from you or through you is satisfactory at the moment. Stay on your toes, because this is subject to change.

Silence     =     You currently don't deserve my love, the most valuable asset in the Universe and the source of all life. You must understand what you did to offend me and then grovel, so I'll deign to love you again. (For "love", see above)

"Why didn't you call / reply to my email (which is just forwarded spam) / reply to my sms (which is a laundry list of my chores and contains no questions) / tell me you're going away for the weekend?"     =     I'm offended that you don't seem to appreciate being my mirror / extension / property as much as you should. 

"But I worry about you"     =     My favorite word. It serves three purposes: it makes YOU feel guilty and responsible for MY emotions; it is "evidence" that I "love" you and you belong to me, even if you think you're independent now; it controls you.

"You may be an adult, but I'll always see you as my child"     =     I'm only interested in a relationship where you are my subordinate / property / extension.

"I just wanted to help"     =     Why won't you submit to my control?

"I'm hurt"     =     I'm offended.

"I'm sensitive"     =     I'm easily offended.

"I'm emotional. An artistic soul. Unlike some callous people."     =     I have a great capacity for being offended.

Feel free to add your own entries.   :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Love, Again

I thought I was defective and incapable of love and felt guilty about being unable to reciprocate my father's excessive love of me. This followed me into all my relationships.

I'd meet a boy and enjoy the positive attention I got from him. I'd be happy that he was impressed with my "personality" and "intelligence". But then, to my horror, he'd say he liked me or loved me. I almost never felt the same way. But I thought I never would, because I was incapable of the emotion. And, again, I felt guilty and obligated. He SAID he loved me, therefore I owed it to him to become his girlfriend. Like I went through all the motions with my narcissistic father, although I never felt I could reciprocate what he SAID he felt towards me. I couldn't trust my feelings and my duty towards those who professed love for me was paramount.

This happened more times than I'd like to admit.

When I was as young as 18, I "swore off" boys, because this pattern kept repeating and I couldn't understand why, but I always seemed to lose myself in relationships with boys I didn't even like to begin with, only to lose them later.

It was then that I met my future husband. I wanted to honor my vow, but I was this time irresistibly drawn to him, for some reason. Thank God.

He's sane. He saw through the fake me from the start and wanted nothing to do with it. But loved the actual me unconditionally.


I never imagined I'd write anything entitled "love" in my life. Yuck.

After all, I was a dark, cynical, cold, unloving person. My father loved me sooo much, everyone knew that, and I was never thankful enough or loved him back enough.

His narcissistic mother once said to me "I love you so much I'd rip my heart out for you" and I just looked at her, shocked, confused, and ever so slightly nauseated. I was sure I didn't respond like I was supposed to because I was, yup, a dark, cynical, cold, unloving person. 

Now, knowing what I know, I'd just tell her "No need. How about playing something I want you to play with me, just once? How about talking to me, for real, without just boasting or criticizing, just once?"

I thought that was "love". And I wanted nothing to do with it.

Then there were my mother and her parents, whom I knew better than to show any affection to. After all, what have they ever DONE for me? That was the question my father used to guilt me out of emotions for people other than him and his family. If I loved others, then I was ungrateful for all that he's DONE for me and didn't appreciate it enough.

Reality was carefully manipulated to prove that only he and his family DESERVED to be loved. For instance, my mother's mother, Nana, took care of me while my parents were at work throughout my childhood, took me for walks, fed me. That had to be minimized. But when MY FATHER'S PARENTS decided to go for a walk with me ONCE, and my Nana had to bring me to the park that was in their neighborhood and then pick me up after they were done, my father DOCUMENTED the event with excessive photographing. Seriously, there are dozens of pictures of this 10-minute event that my father took, proving that his parents were wonderful grandparents.

I felt so guilty expressing love for others that there had to be good "excuses" for that. My mother made me a pair of shorts, and I thanked her and said "I love you" in a coded message, which my father decoded and asked what the big deal was with those shorts, anyway. My Nana once gave me a doll I liked, and with relief and a clear conscience, I thanked her, kissed her, told her I loved her, repeatedly. It wasn't about the doll. I used the doll as an EXCUSE to show love for my poor Nana. 

So my narcissistic father told his narcissistic mother to buy me a doll just like that, only in different color. Sure, I said "Thank you" and kissed my narcissistic grandma politely, like the good girl that I was. But, clearly, it didn't produce the same reaction, and there was apparent disappointment. Because, as I said, it really WASN'T about the doll.

So love is a tough issue for me. Until recently, I just avoided thinking about it. I assumed I didn't love my husband or kids like other people did, because I was defective, and I was depressed and felt fake and just tried to DO my best for them, even if it sometimes seemed like I was playing a part. I prayed to learn how to love.

My prayers were answered, albeit a bit differently.

When I found out about NPD and how people suffering from it generally affect their children, I was unblinded. I realized I actually already DID love my family, in a human, sane, gentle way, I was only blocking the actual emotions from registering, because I didn't trust myself with them.

I realized love isn't a maniacal, sleazy, insane profusion right out of a medieval romance, that I just couldn't feel (neither did they, I realize that now). It's simply a choice to keep your heart and mind open to accepting others as truly others and nurturing them and building them up and helping them develop into who they really are. It's actually EASY.

Much easier than what narcissists do.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How it all started

In a way, I admire my narcissistic father. Compared to his own narcissistic mother, he was a dear. He was somewhat aware of how utterly evil she was and tried, at least nominally and explicitly and in the official statements he made ("Live your own life" "You can tell us anything" "Whatever you choose in life is fine with us"), to parent differently.

My paternal grandmother, "Maka". I remember her vividly. Have you seen Disney's Little Mermaid? Remember Ursula the sea witch? Obese, scary, vain, with tentacles that smother and her collection of "poor unfortunate souls" whose life she sucked out and left them half-dead, shriveled, and miserable in her cave? Even when I was a little girl, I always thought of Ursula when I thought of Maka.

The fifth and youngest child of a poor widow who worked hard to keep them all alive, she understandably must have been deprived and neglected. And I understand how she had the conditions to develop NPD and grandiose fantasies. But nothing justifies what she did to her family.

Her husband was a classical enabler. He took her out of penury, and then did everything to please her, and nothing was enough. He took and then quit job after job, each more glamorous-sounding, and still she had complaints - the town was too provincial, he did have a personal chauffeur but the money wasn't enough for her jewelry, the apartment the company provided wasn't in the very center of the city... Nothing was ever good enough.

Then the children came. My father was the first and her Golden Child. Then came his poor sister, the Scapegoat, who was sacrificed at the altar of the Goddess.

I don't know what they hid, and they hid a lot, but judging from what they TOLD people as funny stories... I can only imagine. One funny story was about how Maka was resting and her enabling husband took care of the baby girl. She woke up at night and woke her up, so he spanked the 2 month old repeatedly until she learned not to make a peep at night. That was a cute funny story, often retold, even once recently by my father, oblivious to my shocked expression. Another cute family story: the little girl learned to talk late because when Maka was resting, her enabling husband TIED UP HER MOUTH so she wouldn't make any noise and disturb her mother.

Everybody had to serve and admire the Goddess. Her gigantic picture, taken when she was 19, hung on the dining room wall. It looked like an idol in a shrine. My father was the good son, and was praised and bragged about and he knew how to please her. My aunt tried desperately to please her too, but nothing she ever did was good enough.

The poor woman slaved away for her mother, even as an adult, even when she was grudgingly allowed to marry a poor boy utterly dependent on and in awe of this sick family. She still spent entire days and often nights too serving her mother, while her husband was alone at their home. Before this "marriage" she was forced to have an abortion and break up with a decent man who would have taken her far away from them. Probably BECAUSE he would have taken her far away from them. She was told she couldn't have kids "because of her heart condition" (she had none; her mother invented it; she wanted to stay her daughter's only baby). Even when her parents died, my aunt was still living in an invisible cage. Still alone in their apartment, still a shell of a person, empty-eyed, eventually successfully drinking herself to death. "Cirrhosis of the liver", says on a medical chart I found among some old papers. This was, of course, a secret, and my father would never acknowledge any of it.

My mother managed to sever... well, extend somewhat the umbilical cord between my father and his mother and my Maka hated her for it. They moved several streets away and they "only" had to come bow to the Goddess every evening. Once they went to the movies instead and my father LIED to his mother about it the next day, inventing some silly excuse. My mother said "No, we went to the movies" and that caused a scandal and my father was mad at her!

When I was born, he focused on me instead and my mother was relieved. They no longer went to his parents' every night, because they smoked there a lot and it was no place for a baby. He "only" had to phone her every night and report everything he'd done that day.

I was his new focus. In a creepy way, he tried to turn me into a new version of her. I'm sure he had a very ambiguous attitude towards her: he depended on her praise and attention, but he also resented her conditional "love" and the lack of freedom and the neglect and the need for constant service to her. So he dumped that on me. He "did" things for me, implying that he was treating me like a princess, that he was acting like my servant. I never wanted that and it made me feel utterly uncomfortable, but he insisted on things like driving me to places and preparing and serving food for me, to the point where my independence in these things seemed like a threat to him. But he also exuded an air of resenting the things he was doing and how he wasn't even expecting gratitude, but said with a hurt expression, as if implying I wasn't grateful. 

So, through her conditioning, he became the mirror image of her narcissism - hers was overt, a constant need for admiration and service. His is covert, a constant unspoken need for admiration FOR HIS SERVICE to someone. First it was his mother. Then my mother. Then me. Now it's his new girlfriend, with whom he's broken up several times because "she doesn't appreciate everything I'm doing for her enough". I understand. Poor woman. But - better her than me. She's a big girl. She could easily get out of it if she wanted. I did.

What was done to my mother

Her daughter was basically taken away from her. We lived together, but she wasn't allowed to do anything, because she was incompetent. Her breasts were incompetent, too, so my father took over, a hero brandishing a bottle of formula.

When I was 20, she died of breast cancer. How creepily symbolic.

When I was starting to emerge from the depths of my PPD (postpartum depression) after my first daughter was already over two years old, I allowed myself some free associations and symbolic thinking.

Why is motherhood making you so desperate?

Because I know mothers don't matter, especially if they have daughters.

Because I know daughters will adore their fathers and ignore their mothers.

Because I know mothers get KILLED by their daughters.


Why, yes. I killed my mother. I couldn't nurse well and my father took over and she was killed as a mother and, quite appropriately and symbolically, she got breast cancer. And it's our fault.

What was done to me

First, my father basked in my mother's undivided attention for 10 years of dating and then 12 years of marriage. Then, when they were 39 and 40, I was born.

He could have resented me. He could have ignored me. Instead, he usurped me and used me to get everyone's admiration and my adoration.

When they brought me back from the hospital, it started. All my life I've been told my mother "couldn't" nurse me. Recently, I got the story from the other women who were there. Basically, I wanted to nurse a lot and it seemed wrong to them for some reason. My father insisted I was starving and triumphantly "saved" me from my mother's incompetent breasts, by buying a bottle and formula. He also accused her of being incompetent in other areas, so he was the only one allowed to bathe me, feed me, take me for walks, and play with me.

I assumed he was just a doting father and my mother just wasn't as interested. Only recently did a friend of my mother's tell me how much she suffered because her baby was basically taken away from her. 

And I've been feeling a mother-shaped hole in my heart my whole life and tried my hardest to suppress that, by acting masculine and cynical and thinking of myself as incapable of motherhood and nurturing.

I adored him. He was the center of my universe and I was so happy he thought I was special enough to hang out with him.

I knew, though, that I wasn't allowed to love anyone else. He'd instantly go all dark or lash out or say something scathing if I showed affection to anyone else. My mother. Or her parents.

I remember him beating me with a belt on my bare bottom when I was two or so. For something like disagreeing with him. My maternal grandmother told me it was not an infrequent occurrence, and that she wept alone in her room when it would happen, but didn't dare confront him. When I asked him about it, he said "You don't remember right. Only your mother ever spanked you" and "Nana (his MIL) was crazy and she always hated me". Now I know the term for this - gaslighting.

When I was 7, a friend and I roughhoused with him, "attacking" him playfully, and he really very roughly threw us on the ground. I told him "You can do that to me, but I think it's not right to be rough to someone else's child" to which he said "You need to know I'm stronger than you". Jokingly, I said "Well, when I'm 30, you'll be old, and then I'll be stronger than you".

He then started to slap me, over and over again, slowly, methodically, and with such contempt and hatred in his eyes, saying "You little twerp, I'll teach you to say that to ME". Afterwards, he acted grandiose and still unforgiving.

Several months later, I told him this event bothered me but I love him and I've forgiven him. He said "I don't even remember that, you must be mistaken, but I forgive you too, see I've already forgotten about it, so it was nothing." Without looking me in the eyes.

For me, the love affair was basically over then. I realized there was something profoundly disturbing about my father.

Once, around that time, he gave me the silent treatment - a regular punishment, where I needed to realize what I'd done to offend him this time and apologize in order to get the grandiose reconciliation and be loved and noticed again - and I just couldn't think of what my offense could have been. As it turned out, he didn't like what I'd written about his mother in my diary.

I was supposed to know he reads my diary and I'm not allowed to be honest in it. 

If I was ever angry with him, I wasn't allowed to show it. Not even make a face in another room - he'd catch me. Not even bang my head against the wall in my own room - he'd barge in and yell that I wasn't allowed to be mad at him.

At 13, I wrote a coded message to my mother, saying "I love you and thank you for the shorts you made me". For some reason, I added "I hate dad". He took the message. DECODED IT. Showed it to me. Offended, angry, grandiose, frowning, dead-eyed. I tried to get out of it. I think I even lied, saying I didn't mean it and that I was expressing my friend's current emotions, as she was having dad-trouble at the time. It wasn't a full lie, as I didn't realize at the time why I felt the need to write that. Don't all 13-year-olds write they hate their parents at some point?

Red flag: it wasn't just the "I hate dad" part that got me into trouble - he was cold and full of hatred and rage for months after that. It was the "I love you, mom" thing too. "Why are you so grateful for a stupid pair of shorts?" 

Maybe I wasn't. But his love was always "apparent" in all the things he'd always done for me - and I don't even remember any, but this was repeated ad nauseum. So I thought I needed an "excuse" to show love to my mom.

When my mom died and he found a new girlfriend and I got married and moved an hour away... I no longer existed. I'd served my purpose. My once obsessive, "worrying", doting father rarely called, came to visit 2 times in 3 years, wasn't interested in my grad studies or my pregnancy or his granddaughter.

I thought he just lost interest because he had "another woman" in his life now.

I had horrible PPD and was angry at God for "ignoring" me. While my earthly father was ACTUALLY ignoring me, and I couldn't admit that to myself or allow myself to be angry at HIM. It was less scary to be angry at God.

But then, when I was defending my M.Phil. thesis, he came! He bragged about me to all the professors and then, instead of "Congratulations" or "Good job" he said "Thank you for making this possible for ME."

Then I was again on the radar when I moved back into the city. My first daughter was now old enough to be a brand new little mirror. He'd spent maybe ten hours with her, never alone, never noticing her, and then I really needed him to babysit. Once. For a total of 90 minutes. He took her out, they played, and when he went home, she started crying. Because he took off in the middle of a game. And because she was 3, and this is what 3-year-olds do when anything fun stops.

He called later. Said he was the only one who understood my poor daughter. That she was sensitive, just like him. That we're obviously neglecting her, because she cried when he left, he, the only person who ever paid any attention to her in her young life. He got all this from 90 minutes with her.

I hung up. Went on a family forum and wrote about this. Was told to look up NPD. And then the lightbulb moment happened.

I told him this discussion was off limits. That I was only interested in a relationship which included respect between two adults. He's been faking it well.

The mean, degrading, critical comments that have been the norm whenever we were alone ever since I declared my independence, were, I realized, the consequence of me saying something about myself, because I assumed he was interested.

"I got a job at the X university", for instance, got a disgusted face and "That's not as prestigious a university as Y" (that X is actually better than Y is beside the point here).

Recently, he called me to ask where I worked. After 3 years, he didn't know. But a neighbor of his apparently seemed interested and potentially impressed, so now he needed the information.

If I worked in a factory, wouldn't my father remember which factory? Wouldn't he be interested in anything I was doing, simply because I was his child?

But he's not. And he doesn't know anything about me now. He probably never did.

Now I don't volunteer any information about myself. I wait to see if he'll ask anything. He doesn't. He goes through his laundry list of chores he did that day. I listen and pray for him. I ask him about his family. He recites their successes. I listen with a sad smile and hear a very different story, a story of a horrible narcissistic mother. But that's another post.

Writing the Wrongs

Hello. My name is Pronoia and I'm the daughter of a narcissistic father.

If you asked me a year ago, I would have told you I was raised in a perfect family. Better than perfect. In fact, my father was so incredibly involved and loved me so exceedingly much that I could never reciprocate that or repay him. And I couldn't love my own daughter as much, because, clearly, I was a cold, selfish, unloving person. And I was profoundly depressed.

Also, when I was young, I was repeatedly told I was very talented - gifts I inherited, of course. But, somehow, nothing I actually accomplished was quite good enough or worthy of such superior genetic heritage. Especially when I became independent from my father. I was hiding it, but deep down, I was convinced I was an utter failure. At everything. While I was raising a small child as a graduate student and a university teacher.

Then I posted about a particularly baffling and hurtful situation with my father on a family forum, looking for answers. I was told by a poster to google "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". I did. Bull's eye. Everything fell into place and, apart from understanding so much more about my father and my childhood, I learned a lot about why I was who I thought I was. When I realized the evil, critical, anxiety-ridden, but also conceited, vain, and envious little voice inside my head wasn't really mine, but my father's, it was almost instantly gone and I started going through profound changes.

This is why I've created this blog. I don't think there can be too much information about the many faces of the same beast, the many heads of the hydra that is narcissism, out there in the world of the internet. I took a course in psychology, and I never would have taken my father for a narcissist with just the standard textbook information. A narcissist openly admires himself, right? Who imagines a narcissist spending time with his adoring little daughter and taking her to all her extra-curricular activities and to the doctor's and talking about her symptoms and bragging about her to all the teachers?

Without the information and validation and support I found, I would have spent my whole life as an anxious, guilt-ridden, depressed shell of a person. The information and support I found helped me realize I wasn't the shell - there was something REAL inside, and the shell burst. I'd adopted some traits resembling those of a narcissist to cope and survive, but, unlike the narcissist, I didn't need them. I wasn't hollow at the core. I unblocked my emotions and discovered I truly love - my husband, my children, my neighbors, yes, even my father, although now I know HE's the one who is incapable of loving ME back.

And it doesn't matter. The point is to love, truly and really and humanly, seeing others as truly OTHERS, and not a reflection of ourselves, which is why I took "Agape" as my "surname".

"Pronoia" has been my alias since the first time I came across an old Gnostic myth that deeply resonated with me for some reason. I think now I understand the reason. Pronoia, the daughter of Death, hollow and dark at the core, falls in love with Heavenly Adam, a creature of light, but all his light and love cannot begin to fill the abyss of darkness that is her soul, so they part. That was me, or so I thought.

Now I don't. "Pronoia" also means "Providence" and I think divine providence is guiding me in all these discoveries and changes. Thanks to the internet and other people's blogs.

I will be writing about the wrongs done to me, not out of anger, but as a source of information on what it is that narcissism does to families, as a source of validation and a reminder that it isn't right, and as a way to RIGHT those wrongs - to behave to others differently, to think differently, and to parent differently.

I will also be asking questions and strongly encouraging comments. I want to know what others in my position do to reclaim their true selves and feel their real emotions. I want to know how you are dealing with the narcissists in your lives. I want to know what you are doing to be a different kind of parent. Please stop by and comment. We need each others' support and validation, as so many around us don't understand - aren't our parents such charming, lovable people? It must be us.