Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I have a problem with clothes. I hate spending money on clothes and shoes for myself. I feel like it's a selfish, luxurious sin to be buying new clothes. Getting clothes second hand from friends and relatives is a sinless way to obtain them. For years, in my teens and adolescence, I only wore my grandfather's and father's old shirts, pants, coats, and wore the same shoes for years, until they fell apart. I looked like a hobo and though of it as my "style". I certainly didn't want to be a "lady" like my grandmothers, so that worked out well.

It was a source of weird pride for me. I needed little. I was ascetic.

Now I have a weird thing where I'll sometimes feel so starved for clothes, while at the same time feeling horrible about giving money for them, that I'll buy tons of dirt cheap stuff that will fall apart after the first wash.

And I've felt for so long that my parents gave me sooo much, that I only realized last night that they bought me almost no clothes after I was 11 or so. I was made to feel incredibly grateful for everything I was given, even if it was used. My father would give me an old coat of his, tattered and worn out, and make me seem ungrateful and unappreciative if I didn't like it. Like I was a spoiled brat. I had to justify needing anything and it had to be cheap. Things like shoes. My father glued my soles back on with superglue several times before acknowledging that I indeed did need new shoes, after, say, 5 years of me wearing the same pair.

I was too proud to acknowledge it even mattered. I never needed anything from them. There was pride in wearing old stuff and being a hobo and needing little.

When I was a baby, and in my early childhood, though, they dressed me up like a doll, in expensive dresses and shoes and bought only the best finery for me. And then, abruptly, it stopped, and I actually fondly remember getting a pair of stockings and some underwear, because it was such a rare, incredible treat.

And I only really understood this last night! This realization happened after I shared with my husband the fact that I never had a bed.

I never had a bed.

When I was little, I slept in my crib, and then on a couch.

Then, when my grandparents died, I inherited one of their old beds. With a mattress that was falling apart.

Only now do I realize how wrong this is. Now, when I've bought beds and mattresses for my family and seen how it is indeed possible to wake up without pain in my back.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reactions to death

Watching my father react to death all my life was enough to make me believe I was heartless and morbid and unnecessarily cynical, all at the same time. But now I'm able to See him for who he is, I realize it's not me. It's never been me. It's always been him.

The first time death was seriously mentioned in my home was when ummm... my mother's birth father's second wife died. My mother's parents had divorced when she was 10, her father died when I was 4, and I'd only seen this woman a few times in my life. I was seven. My father summoned me with "We need to talk to you about something". That was the "something's wrong and you're probably in trouble" speech. So I immediately asked "Is this about me?" (see why I thought I was narcissistic? It usually WAS about me. It's much akin to the old question: "If you're indeed being persecuted, are you still paranoid?" If it's usually about you, are you narcissistic for thinking everything's about you?) He said "No. It's about Auntie C." Relief. The first serious news of death I received was accompanied by my relief that I wasn't in trouble, that nothing was my fault. My father proceeded to very cautiously inform me of her demise, sighing, acting very tender towards me, all the while looking me straight in the eyes, as if examining me. Would I break down and cry? Could I handle it? Or am I insensitive? I just said "OK." I was sure I was cold and evil for feeling nothing but relief, and my father obviously thought I'd be shaken to hear the news, like a normal person would be.

For years it was the same. With each death in the family, my father acted in this solemn, sighing manner about it, he was all official mourning and saccharine telegrams with condolences, all the while treating me as a child who needed protection from the harsh news. And I went along, certain that people will find out I'm really not devastated by this death, but not faking anything. I really thought of myself as the most morbid and cold of people.    

It was only later that I realized my father wasn't devastated either. He didn't seem to grieve at all after his parents and his sister died. In fact, he seemed to blossom psychologically after their deaths. Which, of course, I understand now. It's hard to really miss a controlling, dysfunctional, narcissistic family. Back then, I again only felt relief that I wasn't the only one who was cold and evil. Maybe I started believing most people felt nothing when their family members died, but they had to fake it. Now I understand most people's family members aren't mostly narcissistic, and people do miss warm, loving, real people, for real.

Lately, I've had the privilege of Seeing more. When our next-door neighbor died, I informed my father, who'd known him for years and seemed close to him. His reply was "I'm sorry you had to be near when it happened. I hope you won't have to help the widow with anything." To his girlfriend he said (she reported this to me later, in shock): "He died because he wasn't getting any from his wife" (he died after a horrible battle with lung cancer, through which his wife nursed him).

This was finally bizarre enough to help me understand I'm the normal one and can trust myself. 

A few days ago, my father called to inform me that my cousins' mother had died. They'd lost their father just a couple of years ago, and their mother was pretty young, and I asked him "How? What happened? She was so young, wasn't she?" and he had no idea and it hadn't occurred to him to ask. Each instance of death was, I now understood, identical to him, an occasion for solemn, sighing formalities, and nothing more. He sent a telegram, he told me, expressing his condolences and saying she was a devoted mother and a few other disgusting commonplaces. I should send a telegram too, he said. I asked if he was going to phone, and he said "No, I don't want to bother them, they must be busy now with the funeral and everything". I finally realized he was just clueless and awkward and the really cold one. An alien among humans.

So I decided not to listen to him. I phoned. I talked to my cousin. Asked him questions, told him I was really sorry, told him I really thought about them a lot, sent my love. After I hung up, I cried. I like my cousins a lot and they're sane and I haven't seen them many times in my life, but we can connect and we did and I actually do feel sorry that they lost their mother. I had no idea that was all there was to being human.

I know this preoccupation with my own feelings and reactions seems narcissistic. But to me these are such weird discoveries - the capability to feel and trust and express normal human emotions - that I have to treat them in this way.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Sometimes it feels like I'm making progress. Sometimes it feels like I'm just going around in circles.

The truth is, I'm moving in a spiral.

After yet another angry phase, going deeper into the humiliating buried memories of my earliest childhood, I'm having yet another compassionate phase. I think of my father with pity and understanding. And even some fondness.

He did better than his mother. Much better. And that's something.

Wherever I am on the Anger-or-Pity circle, I'm constantly moving towards more strength, distance, freedom, and awareness on the third dimension of the spiral. That's what matters.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ugh. No social skills.

This is a part of me that's completely undeveloped. I gave up on it very early in my life and sort of just tried to manage by being completely honest as much as possible, while trying not to actually hurt anyone. That's all I know. I have no idea how people work or what their reactions are going to be.

So, yesterday, I had a friend yell at me for 20 minutes, telling me I've abused his trust. Because I repeated something he'd said to another friend in an effort to help their communication over a business project. Because they both talked to me about it and were frustrated about not being able to understand what the other's problem was and I saw where the gap was and filled it. I didn't even know I was told anything in confidence. I didn't realize there was a secret there.

The friend who shouted at me said I was acting like a "5-year-old Good Samaritan" and he needed no mediation and I exposed his private thoughts and put him on the defensive. I apologized. But I still honestly don't know what it really is I did. Or if I in fact did anything wrong.

Another thing. The friend's mother is diagnosed with OCD and paranoia. This was his upbringing.

My upbringing involved a narcissistic father who shared all my intimate details with complete strangers. I got used to anything I did or said being repeated anytime, anywhere, and acted accordingly. I made sure I had nothing to hide. And if I did something I was ashamed of or felt bad about, I shared it with others immediately. I thought of this as honesty and integrity. I thought everyone was like this, give or take. I only thought secrets were things people started with "Promise not to tell anyone this".

The fact that we're both messed up, albeit in different ways, makes it impossible for me to realize, on my own, if what I did was actually wrong. Like something a narcissist would do. Or if he really badly overreacted. Like something a paranoid person would do.

What confuses me even more: people I talked to about this told me telling the other friend wasn't immoral at all, but telling him I told was a foolishly bad move for the friendship! Whoa! I can't function like this! I can't hide stuff! I can't lie to friends! I want to crawl into a place where there's just being kind and honest and moral and that's all it takes to deal with people! I don't want to have to consider all this stuff I can't even begin to understand!

I told him, after the lecture and the apology, that I don't want him ever telling me things like this again. Have a problem in communication that involves another person I'm friends with? Please, don't tell me about it. I don't want to know and be in the middle of it! I might try to fix it...

The lack of sexual boundaries

Apparently, many narcissistic parents exhibit a disturbing disregard for sexual boundaries in their growing children. They are naked in front of their pubescent child of the opposite sex or walk in on them when they are changing. They bathe their children until a late age or shower with them. I don't believe family members being naked in front of each other is a bad thing at all provided it makes no one uncomfortable.

That appears to be the point for narcissistic parents. It's like they want to push the boundaries and make their growing children uncomfortable and get a protest from them ("Dad, I'm naked in here!") because they want to reply to that protest ("Oh, come on, you're my child, I changed you when you were a baby!") in a way that shows that the narcissist's child always remains the narcissist's child.

His CHILD. Not a budding, soon-to-be adult developing healthy boundaries.

HIS child. His property, an extension of his body.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poor nameless doll

The doll I used as my punching bag had no name. She never did anything wrong, but there was something fundamentally wrong with her. She was stupid and dull and had it coming. I felt sorry for her, but also hated her for being so unlovable. I wanted to destroy her, but she was indestructible. She never cried. Just looked at me with her sad eyes.

Sexual... stuff?

There's nothing to indicate I was sexually abused by my father, although nothing would surprise me coming from a narcissist. I just don't really get that vibe when I ask myself that question. On some level, I've always known I was spanked, although I have no memories of this. The same is not true of any sexual abuse.

However, there have been weird, inappropriate things. Like two comments pertaining to my behind. One made when he was describing to my 22-year-old self the "fleshy, well-rounded bottom" of my 2-year-old self, spanked, allegedly, by my mother. The other made when I was 10 and had come to him for solace when some older boys at school made comments about my butt. He replied, with a smirk, that I have a "nice round behind that boys will find attractive" and this was a disgusting comment to me at the time, especially coming from my father.

At worst, he saw me in a sexual way. At best, he was capable of objectifying me and coldly assessing my body parts. Women are objects, compendiums of body parts for him. Either way, it's sick and it nauseates me to think about it.

There's something else. My school friends mocked me once and said my father bathed me until I was 12 years old. I don't remember if this was indeed true. (I don't remember? Wow.) Anyway, there's something nasty about the whole thing - even if it was made up - why would they make that up, as opposed to something - anything - else?

I do know for a fact that I hated being seen in a sexual way, even as feminine and potentially attractive - by anyone. I wore hobo male clothes and wanted to be seen as "one of the boys" and only admired for my intellect. I still have a problem with this. I don't have a problem with sex and sexuality, and everything's fine when DH and I are naked - it's being seen as sexy in clothes that's problematic.

I don't know what this means. I'm just throwing it out there. Cleaning the basement of stinky old junk.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poor doll?!?

I really and honestly felt and feel sorrow for my doll. The one I spanked so horribly. The one that I loved and the one that represented me (I represented someone else, someone evil, when I spanked her).

I have yet to feel sorrow for little PA that probably suffered the same treatment. Nothing there. No emotions. Blank. See, I'm tough, and strong, and no one can do anything to me that can actually hurt me. I might feel a bit angry. Just a bit. But, you know, only in general, because, on principle, it is wrong to horribly spank very little children for no good reason.

But I do feel bad for that doll. If I could have her again, I'd hold her and hug her and tell her how sorry I am for what she went through.

Me? I'm fine.

I don't even know for sure what was done to me. But I know what was done to her.

The lady doth protest too much

On some level, I've always known I was badly spanked by my father as a little child, when I was too young to form clear memories. The only clear memory I have in relation to this was realizing I won't get spanked this time - or ever again - because I showed no fear to him. I think I was 3 and I remember the feeling of victory. And the realization that I've made him fear me, because he's actually the weak one.

It felt wrong to accuse where I had no proof in the form of clear memories, but this knowledge came out again and again. I remember telling a boy at school, at age 6, that I'd been horribly spanked when I was little. I told a friend about it when I was very drunk, in my twenties, a friend who knew and respected my father. I wrote a poem about it when I was 22, in which I debated with myself whether to confront him on the issue or not. If he confessed, the poem asserted, all civilization would somehow come crumbling down. If he denied, it would be even worse.

I did confront him, soon after writing the poem. He denied.

This wasn't just a simple, one-time denial. I might have believed it if it was that.

I think it was even before I asked him this, that he wrote in my birthday card how blah, blah, he loved me, as did my dear late mother, although she sometimes even spanked me. (And he didn't, the card implied clearly; or it might have even been explicitly stated, I don't remember.) The sheer inappropriateness of this, and the fact that he waited for her death to accuse her, were immediately huge red flags for me. Denying abuse and accusing your dead wife of it, in a sickeningly sweet, sugar-coated kind of way, ON A BIRTHDAY CARD?

When I asked him, he didn't just deny. No, he immediately talked in great, disturbingly, sickeningly clear detail about how my mother spanked me when she was annoyed or irritated (which I actually don't doubt per se, but this was not my question), and how he watched as she left red marks with her hands on my tiny, but fleshy and well-rounded bottom (what kind of sick father remembers this, and then retells it to his daughter, as relevant information)?!*

My mother didn't deny spanking me out of anger. She told me about one such occurrence herself and felt sorry about it. This was the "dress" incident: I refused to wear a dress to go outside because that meant no playing in the dirt, according to her rules; she spoke to her NMIL about this, and the evil woman said she needed to force me, because "If that child isn't obeying you now when she's just two years old, what will she be doing at age 18?" So she kept spanking me and I kept saying "No". She did win, in the end, and I wore the effing dress, but then, she recounted, a few days later I asked her "Why did I have to wear that dress?" and she replied "I don't know." There are other infuriatingly stupid instances of her spanking me, like once, because I climbed a tree and got dirt on my pants, and it was embarrassing for her to be walking outside with a girl with dirty pants. So we went straight home, she spanking me along the way. I was as old as maybe 8 or 9. This is all indeed maddening, ridiculous stuff. But it doesn't cover my vague memories of being cruelly and methodically beaten with a belt by my father when I was very little.

And, recently, he felt the need to bring it up yet again, at my recent birthday party. I told my aunt, somewhat proudly, how my younger daughter seems to exhibit signs of being a very strong-willed person, and my father chimed in, saying I was just like that, impossible to subdue, as my mother found out when she tried to spank me into submission during the notorious dress incident. But he himself never spanked me, he added.

So, these overenthusiastic denials coupled with the evidence in my previous posts are, I think, enough for me to decide to believe myself that I was indeed spanked by him, cruelly, when I was very, very little. All civilization didn't come crumbling down. Just his edifice of lies. Just the monument he erected for himself as the perfect father. Just my illusion of an idyllic childhood.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My poor doll

I had a doll I used for horrible spankings. I whipped that poor thing into formlessness. I have no concrete, certain memories of being spanked, but the vague recollections of being beaten horribly with a belt, with the comics I drew of babies beaten and whipped severely, with the fact that I beat my doll into a pulp (and I loved that doll; she was my favorite; she was me) are enough evidence for me. I was beaten badly as a little child. Also. Whenever I heard of anyone beating anyone with a belt, feelings of rage, fear, and nausea would well up in me. 

Proof enough? I asked my father; he denied: too energetically, in fact.

Nothing Personal

Learning to talk about myself and my life, although it sounds straightforward enough, has been one of the greatest challenges of my life.

When I was 17, a boyfriend of mine observed that "You don't know how to just talk. You discuss philosophy, religion, literature, politics, but you can never just talk".

I replied "Maybe I'm just an intellectual person. I never even THINK about anything else."

He said "No. I know other intellectual people. And they can talk about their personal lives just fine."

Intellectual was always safe. My parents are perfect. I'm so grateful. Now, let's discuss obscure medieval heresies...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My (Un)dead Mother

I know this sounds beyond tacky and horrible. I don't care. I'm real here and this is the realest way to put it.

I dream of my late mother very often. In each of these dreams, I'm aware of the fact that she's dead, and maybe as a consequence, she always appears as someone literally returning from the grave, sometimes partly decomposed, sometimes seeming like a zombie, sometimes only barely alive.

I'm wondering if there's something my subconscious is trying to tell me beyond the bare fact that my mother is dead and I'm aware of it even in my dreams of her.

Am I still not done with her? Am I unsuccessfully trying to bring her back from the grave to ask her something, to tell her something, to find out who she really was? The other night, I asked her, in my dream, all the while knowing she's dead, "Did you love me? Why didn't you protect me?" And her eyes met mine only for a moment, and she just cried.

Or was she always something like a zombie? Was she ever truly alive? Possibly raised by a narcissistic mother and then spending her whole life with a narcissistic husband, has she ever lived? Or was she just one of the living dead? For instance, last night I dreamed that I had to take her from the hospital room where she lay dead and bury her, and when I entered the room and looked at her already decomposing body, she was moving and looking at me. She only looked alive. But she wasn't.

I'm finding it increasingly hard to remember the lively, vivacious woman everyone knew. In our home, she was subdued and ghostly. Unreal.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Bizarre Memory

I am four years old. My father takes out a gun from a box. I ask him to shoot me dead. He refuses.

I kneel before him, crying, weeping, sobbing, begging him to kill me "Please, please, shoot me, Daddy!"

Amused, cold, grandiose, he keeps refusing. As if he simply didn't deign to grant me a wish.

Later, I find out that it was just my grandpa's starter pistol. But he didn't just tell me this immediately. Or say that it's harmless. Or tell me he didn't want to shoot me dead because he didn't want me dead or act as if his daughter begging him to kill her was a strange occurrence in the first place.

Why did I want him to kill me? Why did he react in such a way? I have no idea. This is a very clear memory, one I'm absolutely sure of. And I can't make any sense of it, other than "Darn, my early childhood was bizarre!"


The Torture Chamber for Babies

This was the title of my first work of fiction. I kid you not. I drew a comic entitled "The Torture Chamber for Babies" somewhere between the ages of 3 and 6. The storyline is simple, but telling: a baby who's crying and annoying her parents gets sent to an institution entitled The Torture Chamber for Babies, where she is subjected to severe spankings, constant shots, and the like, all in the hope that this will "reform" her and make her "behave". All it does, of course, is make the baby cry even harder, and annoy the parents even more upon her return. That's the moral of the story.

Now it looks like a representation of memories and possibly a cry for help. My mother took this comic to her office and showed it to her psychologist friends once when I went along with her to work. I knew even back then that there was something particularly unsavory about a child drawing something like this and with both shame and anticipation waited to see what their reactions would be. I don't remember that there were any.

Was she really just showing them this because I'd drawn "so well"? Really? I didn't believe it then. I believed she was disturbed by the contents and wanted opinions on why I'd draw such things. I wanted opinions on that too, because, as I said, I didn't really remember any form of physical abuse, I just had very vague and general apprehensions.

I remember being angry while I was drawing this, but my anger was directed at "those other bad parents who spank their kids". Not my own perfect parents.

I remember thinking the comic proved nothing, but kind of hoping someone, some colleague of my mother's, would ask me something, or act concerned. No one did.

There were many other comics with very similar subject matter that followed in the years to come.

If my child were now to become obsessed with depicting scenes of horrid abuse, instead of the houses and little girls and flowers and butterflies that she's drawing every day, you bet I'd get concerned! And try my best to get to the bottom of that!

I feel I'm slowly getting into dangerous, disturbing, horrifying territory here. A mixture of nausea, anger, and terror is welling up in my stomach. This is a good thing. In the words of James Joyce, "I'm almosting it."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Better Than Him

I don't know why I thought of my early childhood as ideal. Possibly because I remembered little of my entire childhood. Possibly because I was told by so many people that my parents, and especially father, doted on me, especially because they got me so late in life, an only child, spoiled rotten. Possibly because I believed and was taught that early childhood was such an important formative period and, naturally, I wanted it to have been good; I didn't want to be messed up for life.

One story my father told me, a story of a successful parenting action: they woke me up from afternoon naps early every day so I wouldn't go to bed too late and so they'd have their evenings free of me. (I always had a ridiculously early bedtime that no one believed). I dropped naps just after I turned 1, so I can't have been much older than 1. Every time they woke me up from a nap, I cried and cried (which is what a tired baby does when you force her to wake up, duh.) This irritated my father, so he spanked me. I never cried again when woken up from a nap. He told me this with an air of triumph.

I remember being utterly shocked when he told me that! Spank a baby because she's crying when you wake her up!? What sick person does that?! I told him I think that's horrible, and now I wish I hadn't, because he hasn't shared any parenting gems with me since, and I'd like to know more.

And still I somehow made myself think I was treated so gently and wonderfully as a baby!

Oh, I'm a better mom than that. I don't know why that matters, but it does.

Good Enough Mom

I'll admit it. I'll confess it to myself and others. I'm not an abusive, narcissistic mother. Nor am I a perfect parent, like my father had to convince himself and others he was. I'm somewhere in between, working to get better.

Part of my problem is that I only realized my parents had not been perfect after I had kids. I had few memories of my childhood and basically made myself believe that every early psychology textbook, parenting book, or article on good parenting exemplified their wonderful and loving treatment of me.

When I became a parent, I went through the motions of immaculate parenting, but kept getting more and more desperate. I wasn't measuring up to my father's standards because I didn't take my daughter out for long walks every day and play with her actively all the time, telling her what the right way to use that toy was. And even without measuring up, it was hard. And something didn't feel right. And I didn't trust myself with good feelings, so I only believed those moments of frustration and despair to be true, and discarded tender, loving emotions, because I thought I was faking it. I was convinced I didn't really feel love for my child, the way I was supposed to, the way my father always made it sound it had to be, and I was devastated about that. So I overcompensated with her, never leaving her, co-sleeping and breastfeeding longer than I really felt like, rarely denying her anything, all the while directing all my suppressed anger towards myself. All the while feeling like an utter failure as a mom and convinced my daughter will rightfully hate me as soon as she's old enough to see through me.

Then, lately, I've uncovered my anger and its hidden sources. I've started directing it where it's due - my father (or, rather, his representation in my mind's eye); but, also, where it's not due - I have, while learning to be "assertive", lashed out at my husband and daughter, raised my voice, even hit her. I'm sorry for this and have apologized. It's difficult to find the right measure between being a narcissist's doormat and being abusive, between being a victim and being a tyrant, if you've been raised by a narcissist and don't know how to be simply assertive and authoritative.

Because ACONs think in black and white. This is why parenting feels like such an issue. Because if I'm not a perfect parent all the time, then I'm an utter failure and my kids would be better off without me. There's no in between.

But there is. When I allow myself to understand that I am a "good enough mom" already, it makes me a much better mom here and now, and potentially better in the future.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parenting is a hard and thankless job

And you can do everything perfectly and be the best parent anyone could ever wish for, and your kids will still dislike you and be ungrateful.

At least those were the implicit messages I got and the conclusions I drew.

When I was three, I hugged my father and told him: "You're the best daddy in the universe!" He chuckled bitterly and said "You won't always think that. When you're older, you'll say you hate me".

Actually, I never did. But I remember being shocked to be accused of something that I was to do in a decade or more from the moment I expressed adoration of my father.

Later, though, I did believe him. I never told them I hated them and was a polite child and teenager, but I never actually truly loved my parents and never felt close to them or shared anything with them. And I thought how cruel that was to them - they were such wonderful, involved parents, whose only crime was spoiling me so much, and this is their thanks. I concluded that being a parent is horrible and all you can hope for is distance and contempt from your children.

I had PPD after my first child and saw the whole thing as a hard duty I must go through the motions of, but would rather be dead.

Having a good relationship with my husband's parents and, I hope, developing a real one with my own kids, I'm slowly starting to change my ingrained irrational thoughts on this.

How did you approach parenting after being raised by narcissistic parents? Did you have problems? Did you decide not to have kids at all? What surprised you in your own parenting and relationship with your kids?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I had none, unlike many ACONs. But there's no difference - I was lazy and ungrateful, and the absence of chores not only proved that, but also made me feel clumsy and incompetent throughout my life.

Only when I got married and had kids did I realize just how ridiculously easy the stuff they did was - vacuum once a week, do the laundry with no ironing and prepare two simple meals a day and do the dishes with ONE kid? THIS is what I was in awe of and SO grateful for all these years?

How about you?

Monday, May 16, 2011


Many ACONs seem to value the written word highly. And is it any wonder? Constant gaslighting makes you feel crazy for your memories or emotions, and having documentation in the form of private journals, public blogs, or exchanged letters, cards, e-mails, and text messages helps keep you in touch with reality and proves you are indeed the sane one.

Many of you journaled your way through your childhood and adolescence and emerged almost unscathed as a result. Not me.

My first diary was read by my father. I discovered this when he gave me the silent treatment once, when I was 7, and for the life of me I couldn't understand why this time. I finally got him to explain that he was offended by something I wrote about his mother. In my private diary.

After that, my next diary had a little key, but it was self-censored. It had only bleak, bland, one-sentence entries, such as "Went sleighing today" or "Went for a walk with friend". 

Then I had another real diary when I was 15. This one was read by my mother. She apologized.

I started hiding the diaries really well and kept writing, but less enthusiastically with time. I stopped at age 17.

But that's not even the full extent of the damage. A portion of the blame belongs to my husband and I told him so recently. He barely remembers the event, but when we'd been going out for a few months - we were both 18 - he was goofing around, took one of my diaries and asked "Aha! Who's this ex-boyfriend you wrote about here?" He was being silly, but he was also out of line - I should have told him "Leave my diary alone" and left it at that. Instead, having been conditioned by a narcissist, I realized to my horror that people's privacy is too fragile for me to cope with, and not only did I never write again, but I may have thrown away all my diaries! The fact is, I don't remember. I never found them in my old room. Did I really throw them out? Did my father find them? Did I hide them really, really well - too well? I have a black hole in my memory. And I was 18 when it happened. Or didn't happen.

After this, I stopped writing altogether. I used to write stories and poems, but no more. There were too many voices inside my head censoring me, telling me I'm no good, and perhaps the loudest and truest one telling me I was fake and lying with every word I wrote, because I was hiding something important from myself. I sounded effing didactic to myself in my head with every idea I had. I couldn't bring myself to even put these in black and white. 

Then, when I discovered NPD and especially, later, what it does to the kids, I started journaling again. No censorship this time. I knew where the censorship was coming from. My father's voice in my head.

(I knew my husband, now older and wiser and not a narcissist, would not pull the same juvenile stunt again. Not that I'd mind showing him my stuff this time - again, he's not a narcissist and I can share everything with him and he doesn't get offended by me. I shared being in love with another man for a year - during that whole year - every thought and emotion. My husband has proven he accepts me and can take me for who I am.)

It was incredible. In fact, I diagnosed my father about a year ago, but then somehow forgot about it. When I started journaling and writing this blog, it became real. Documented. Proven. Black on white. And I started getting better and getting better at dealing with him. I finally faced it.

Interestingly enough, my father who is a narcissist, but also an ACON himself, has an obsession with documentation. He keeps double and triple copies of everything. He saves all his correspondence. He copies his text message exchanges with his girlfriend on pieces of paper with dates. I understand this now. His mother was the virtuoso of gaslighting. I'm sure this is his desperate attempt at clinging on to a semblance of reality.

Trapped between two "shoulds"

In this post I was bashing myself for not living up to what I perceived as the ACON ideal: having no contact with one's narcissistic parents.

There's also the ideal of my culture - being nice and polite to one's parents and remaining in touch.

These two perceived ideals fight over me and cause me anxiety. As a true ACON, I haven't asked myself: "What do you WANT? How do you FEEL?"

Having allowed myself to imagine hearing the news of my father's death, I was surprised to find that my emotional reaction was one of disappointment and being cheated out of something. I'm not done with him. I don't want NC.

I won't see him until late October and we only exchange the occasional sms or e-mail in which he asks how we are, and I reply "Great". And I miss... not him, but the opportunity to grow stronger in relation to him. It may be sick, but I want him as a sparring partner. I want to be strong enough to feel perfectly calm and happy in his presence. I'm almost there. I find I've grown and changed so much since the apartment saga and he very seldom succeeds in pushing my buttons. 

I don't even really believe he'd throw us out of the apartment, and even if he does, it's not the end of the world, just an inconvenience - we'll move into the one that he's using, which is legally mine. This was my rationalization of why I'm not fulfilling the "ideal" of NC. Because I'm not allowed to do what I want (in this case stay in touch with full awareness of my father's NPD) but instead always strive to fulfill every ideal that I can read between the lines of blogs and fora.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Adult children of narcissists are not only very sensitive to criticism, or veiled criticism, or perceived criticism, or imagined criticism. We're very sensitive to ideals, real or inferred. And they can be ideals completely foreign to our culture, upbringing, or social circle. They only need to exist in our perception, and we immediately feel judged and thus No Good and thus annihilated if we happen to fall short.

This is because our narcissistic parents have used every single value system they came across, however strange and inappropriate, if it only served one main purpose: to use it as a Procrustean bed on which to mangle and crush their offspring. Strangely enough, these, or any other, ideals were never applied to them. For instance, my father, who has been overweight and had a high blood pressure all his life somehow finds it appropriate to lecture me on the necessity of watching my weight to ensure I don't develop hypertension - this only a few months after the birth of my second child, when I was back at a healthy weight, and have besides had very low blood pressure all my life. He even sent me a diet program via e-mail, to "help".

(This, of course, does not get resolved with solid argumentation along the lines of "I'm at a healthy weight and have low blood pressure, but thanks for your concern"; this failed, so I chose to deal with it by saying, in a strict, motherly tone of voice "If your mother hasn't taught you manners, now your daughter will have to: This is not in any way an appropriate or polite way to communicate with any woman and I will simply NOT tolerate it any more"; THIS worked and his only response was an "oops" facial expression; just a few months ago, I would have thought of this as cruel, but now I'm aware that this is the only way.)

But, although my father's opinions personally have little sway over me, the way of thinking that any ideal out there is out to get me, so to speak, is alive and well. For instance, there are no "Mommy Wars" in my culture. No big debate or even strong opinions about mothers in the work force. I've never had a conversation about this in real life.

But, yet, somehow I spent about a year of my life defending myself on different internet fora against perceived accusations that I wasn't fulfilling the ideals - get this - of BOTH sides. I was obsessed with proving that I was neither "neglecting my poor child" nor "neglecting my career", as my husband is a SAHD and I teach only several hours a week. I had great anxieties over this. 

The time would have been much better spent enjoying my situation, which indeed does provide me with the best of both worlds.

Maybe that's the ultimate ACON issue - we can't enjoy our lives. We can gain independence and awareness and strength, but our ultimate challenge lies in enjoying all this without constantly feeling like we still haven't deserved to.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

No No Contact: Am I a gutless liar? Or just rational? Or neither?

So many of you have gone into No Contact mode with your narcissistic parents. You refused to have a fake relationship and opted for no relationship instead. I respect that greatly.

When I realized my father is suffering from NPD, I mostly felt relieved. You see, I was aware that our relationship had been mostly fake for a long time before that, and I'd been emotionally distant from him since I was around 7. The only difference my discovery made was assuage the guilt I'd felt over that and give me some more strategies.

I was able to draw some important boundaries and it appears that my father sees his narcissistic mother, who he was terrified of, in me, and will behave himself if confronted.

I realized that I'd been engaged in a relationship of cold, polite confrontation with him for decades. We are mostly civil to each other.

Is it fake? The peck on the cheek that my husband and I exchange with him? I guess, but there's little more beside this that even exists or is expected of me in our "relationship". Just polite distance.

Sometimes I think of him as something like a business competitor that I'm on polite terms with. Because that's the most rational way to deal with that relationship. You want to keep your business competitor close and be on polite terms with him, although you might not love him. Because that's just good sense.

I know I can never have a real relationship with a narcissist and I'm not looking for one. I'd felt there was no possibility of a relationship on some level all these years, now I just have objective knowledge to back this up. I'm not hoping to reform him or make him See his problems and mistakes. I'm not looking for an apology or acknowledgement or validation. I get my validation from you, my ACON community (+Jonsi, who married into all this :)) 

Why not cut all ties? First, there's no real reason to. It seemed, every time I set a boundary that he didn't like, that he was giving me a silent treatment with the potential to grow into No Contact, but, as I ignored it and pretended I didn't even notice he was freezing me out, he relented every time and then honored the boundaries. He's not really interested in me or my daughters, so we're pretty safe.

Second, my FOC would be socially isolated if I cut ties in an unprovoked, aggressive way. In this culture, the parent is always right and to be respected. We'd be isolated even from the people who love us - people who know about his NPD and understand the whole story still never fail to tell me, after I come out as an ACON: "How awful for you! And there's nothing you can do - it's not like you can stop seeing your father, is it?" My ILs think the same way. No one would be on our side.

Third, I have no idea what kind of rage would be unleashed on my FOC by my father. He's vengeful. Would he throw us out of the apartment that's still legally his? We'd then legally throw him out of the one that's mine, but we've invested so much into our home, financially and emotionally. Would he call child protective services on us, inventing the same stuff he's already invented about us being neglectful, horrible parents? I really don't want to find out.

The old saying goes: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." I'm keeping my friends close, and my father... at a polite distance.

Is this cowardice? Lying? Weakness? Being reasonable?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Apartments

This was a sore spot for me, because the whole story used to make me feel both resentful and greatly indebted to my father. But Jonsi's perspective on their apartment woes made me See that normal children of normal parents normally expect the older generation to be helpful and supportive, as a matter of course, and there need be no shame in it. I used to think of myself as ungrateful; now I See that I've been conditioned to do so and am in fact even too neurotic about it.

The story begins long, long ago when my two sets of grandparents got their apartments in the Big City - one (maternal grandma) inherited from even older ancestors, the other (paternal grandpa) received from my grandfather's Communist company and symbolically paid off, in ridiculously small increments over many decades. (Years later, when they died and my aunt followed, my father inherited this apartment.)

Ten years into their marriage, after two decades of traveling and having fun together and spending money in a good economy, my parents decided they needed a place of their own to settle down. But they couldn't afford it. So my mother's parents sold their small apartment and joined forces with my parents so they could get one decent apartment together. With four good incomes in a good economy, they paid off the mortgage in a few decades. Then my grandparents died, followed by my mother. The apartment was in my mother's name, as was my grandparents' summer house, and according to the laws of my country, my father and I were entitled to 50% each of her property, but he waived his right to his half and in a heart-rending statement let me have the lot.

So that's two of us legally owning two apartments of roughly the same size and market worth in the city.

Still, somehow, when I got married, and he was living in one apartment and renting out the other, I couldn't bring myself to ask him to actually live with my husband in one of the apartments. So, instead, in order to assert our independence, we moved into the dilapidated summer house no one was interested in and redecorated it.

We lived there for three years, effectively allowing my father to use both apartments.

My father moved in with his girlfriend. He rented out one of the apartments for money, and used the other one as a safe base in case he broke up with her. His official story, however, was that he was saving this apartment for me, to use on the rare occasion that I came to the city (there was no need for that and I told him that; I could always spend a night at my aunt's house, for instance, but this is still his line).

Then when I was offered a good job in the city when my first daughter was 20 months old, I knew the time had come to have the Apartment Talk. I needed one of the apartments to live in with my family, and I knew sharing with him in any way would spell disaster.

Also, because I was the one who would actually be living in my apartment, while he would just be renting his out, I believed it only made sense that I could choose. And I wanted the apartment that was legally his, for the following reasons:

- It has more natural light
- It has a better organization of rooms for family use
- It's less depressing
- It's in a less dangerous neighborhood, more suitable for children
- It's close to a really good school
- It's the one he WASN'T insanely controlling about

So I asked him to give that one to us, and keep the one legally mine and do whatever he wanted with it. After deriding my job, he refused! He wanted us to live in the apartment that was legally mine, "at least for now".

What was that like? He'd drop in at will and let himself in with his key, then rage about the stuff we did "wrong" (turn off the annoying lamps; stop the annoying dysfunctional cuckoo clock) and "correct" them (turn on the lamps; wind up the cuckoo clock). We'd get startled every time he got in and I finally had to bluntly remind him of the fact that we're a young married couple who sometimes have sex when in their apartment, not expecting company! All this time, we refrained from redecorating because of the promise that we'd get the other apartment. "Eventually". So we treated the one we were in as his. Which was hard, as it was full of his old junk that made it hard to breathe. And he dropped hints that he expected us to save a room for him in case he broke up with his girlfriend! So, basically, he thought of both apartments as his, and he was just allowing us to barely be alive in one of them.

The situation was made worse when he made an agreement with my brother-in-law and then pretended it never happened! We were supposed to move into "his" apartment, my BIL was supposed to rent a room in "mine", saving the rest of the apartment for my father in case of a break-up, and this was as near to having his cake and eating it as I could arrange! So he agreed! My ILs heard the entire phone conversation (well, my side, but that's enough) when this was agreed, so I have witnesses and I'm NOT crazy! My BIL left the apartment he was renting and temporarily moved in with us until my father vacated "his" apartment. 

At this point, he started pretending there was no agreement and we were just being so nice for letting BIL stay with us!?!?! He was unable to find another apartment with roommates for a whole year, so we were stuck living together.

Now I understand that this situation was perfect for him: dangling the carrot of the other apartment to control us and keep us from doing anything to the one he kept us living in.

Then, one day, I just snapped: I couldn't take it any more. I threatened him. I said: "If you don't let us live in the other apartment soon, I'll treat this one as mine. And I'll redecorate it. And throw all the old furniture out."

So we moved. We won. But he was bitter. He was resentful about the redecorating. He didn't feel like he was controlling my space any more.

Once, I asked him what he thought of our new bookcase. He said "You've had it easy all your life and that's why you're ungrateful for what you've been given. You threw away (big old moldy wardrobe)".

We haven't had it easy. We're surviving on one paycheck in a bad economy. We rarely travel and never eat out. We ARE trying to make our place into a nice home, but it's not easy. That's our only crime.

There was such disgust and hatred in his eyes when he said it, that I was taken aback, and felt compelled to ask him: "Are you basically saying that you're not proud of me?"

He paused. For a long time. He thought. Now I understand he was doing calculations of comparative risks in his mind. I was now independent and getting stronger. If he said "yes", he might risk losing me instead of wining the round by hurting me. So he suddenly assumed a sickly-sweet expression and said "You're my only daughter. Of course I'm proud of you". I wasn't convinced, but that was the end of that conversation.

After that, he only ventured relatively small criticisms (Cf. Big Gray Phone).

Dangerous Narcissist pays!

Believe it or not, yesterday I received as much as 80% of what the dangerous narcissistic author owes me AND I've extended the deadline!

I may have learned how to communicate with him and stand up for myself! Because of conditioning by my narcissistic father, I was afraid to even imply normal things like "I have other offers by people who will pay" and "I need money for my work because I work for money" and "If you want your work done more quickly, feel free to hire more people to do it".

I had a phone conversation with him after he sent the money and basically said these three things in a somewhat more polite manner, and he said nothing in return! I also interrupted his new silly excuse on why he hasn't sent ALL the money he owes me - I'm not interested in hearing any of it.

So, I'm hoping now this can actually work out. He knows that if he wants his book translated, he needs to pay; if he wants it translated quickly, he needs to pay regularly; and no amount of whining over the phone will change that fact. So he stopped even trying!

I'm getting better at this stuff!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Making me sick

When I was 3 or 4, my father took me out to a park. There, he started spinning me on the merry go round - so hard, so fast and so long that I vomited afterwards. I don't know why he did it. I remember being scared and nauseous, but I didn't complain. What kept me silent was a mixture of fear and pride. I didn't want to whine.

It was not an innocent mistake, either. I've loved all sorts of rides all my life and never got scared or sick, so I know this was beyond excessive if it scared me and made me sick.

After I vomited, my father said to me: "Don't tell Mom about this".

This is the whole memory. What triggered it was seeing a scene in a movie where the merry go round was used in much the same way as a torture device - a bookie was using it to torture a guy who owed him money.

Why did he do it? Was I just a toy to him and he wanted to see what would happen if he spun me REALLY hard? Was he irritated about something? Was he drunk? I'll never know.

My mother's intuition

The cute story of the beginning of my parents' relationship:

She asked him to dance because she saw that a guy she didn't like was going to ask her. She didn't want to date him either, he was just a dance. He wanted to take her out, and her excuse was "I don't know if my mother will let me go out".

He phoned later, SPOKE TO HER MOTHER in a sickeningly sweet, charming, and polite tone, and asked for her permission to take her daughter out to the theater. Her mother was delighted by how polite and sweet and charming that young man was and my mother lost her excuse. My grandmother very probably had some narcissistic traits, and the idea of having her permission asked for coupled with the idea of her daughter going out with a young man from an obviously well-to-do, cultured family was appealing to her.

My mother allowed herself to lose her voice there and she silenced her intuition. My father was charming and sweet and persistent. And the rest is history.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Deconstructing a Narcissist's Relationships

Upsi's poem made of an estranged mother's comment gave me the creeps and made me think.

One wonders why someone would want to simply resume a relationship where there is obviously no understanding and no wish for understanding by the very person who wants the relationship! Why does the mother obviously want a FAKE relationship?

Because this mother obviously IS a narcissist, and thus different from normal people. And the difference is that they don't know there's a difference. We do.

A narcissist, I'm now entirely convinced, can only see her relationships via a binary system of two variables: On/Off and Win/Lose. There's nothing else. 

On/Off: A relationship either exists or it doesn't. There's no real difference between a "close friend" and a "casual acquaintance", because they're incapable of real intimacy, but will tell an absolute stranger private details if these are likely to impress him. Some narcissists collect people and want as many "relationships" as possible, or don't want the embarrassment of being in "off" mode with their children, so they will insist on keeping them "on" at all costs. They won't let go.

Win/Lose: This is fundamental for a narcissist, both outside of relationships and within them. Every relationship is hierarchical, and the narcissist will want to outdo every friend, acquaintance, and family member. Children are easiest to subdue and the natural losers, even to otherwise unsuccessful narcissists. Every conversation will center around the narcissist proving they're the best, or at least better than someone else, or at least better than you, and they will use criticism, pity, and blame to put you in your place.

If you show signs of impending independence, strength, resilience, and demand to be treated with decency and respect, some narcissists who value winning much more than being in the relationship will just freeze you out. Others, equally interested in both, will try to have their cake and eat it - gaslight or accuse you of being too sensitive or ask you to let go of your grudge, and then continue mistreating you once they feel secure again. Those desperate to keep the relationship "on" will even agree to "lose" a round if it will get you back - by issuing a non-apology. And they will demand their due, the return of the relationship back to "on", because they sacrificed winning one round. The quality of the relationship doesn't concern them, never has, never will, because they can't see colors, or even shades of gray. Just black and white.

Mother Figures

My mother may have been more of a disabler than an enabler, but I couldn't help seeing her as weak and insignificant in our family. I never had much of a relationship with her.

She may have been conditioned to yield to narcissistic abuse by her own mother. The more I think about it, the more it appears clear to me that my maternal grandmother, Nana, had at least some narcissistic traits. She kept badmouthing people. No one was as beautiful, elegant, well-dressed, cultured, and well-bred as her. She delighted in telling humorous stories of how she put people in their proper place. She could never have enough clothes and shoes and her husband worked long hours to be able to provide this for her.

He believed that it was during this overtime work that she started cheating on him with his friend. I don't know what the truth is, but the fact of the matter was that my grandmother and my grandfather's friend were married just a few months after the divorce. My mother then had to learn how to juggle, at age 10, a difficult mother and two father figures who used to be friends but could never again be in the same room together.

I thought I was just conditioned by my father not to show or feel any love for my Nana, but the more I let myself remember her, although she took care of me when I was little, the more I realize that I have no warm memories of her at all. I did feel guilt and obligation and a need to "even things out", but no warmth or affection.

I do remember one good thing about her: as soon as I was old enough, she handed me over to her second husband, my mother's stepfather, so I tagged along on his daily meanderings through the city. This man was the bright light of my childhood. Possibly the only person in the entire family who was neither a narcissist nor a co-narcissist. Just... human.

And my paternal grandmother, Maka, was a textbook case of a malignant narcissist. I knew that even before I'd suspected anyone else in my family of the disorder, before I'd researched it at all. I never could muster an ounce of affection for her.

You can understand how I naturally assumed something was very wrong with me: all these mother figures around me who showered me with "love", "attention", or gifts, and I felt disturbingly little warmth for them as a child. It had to be me, right?

I knew one thing when I was little: I didn't want to grow up to be a woman. Words like "feminine", "lady" and "pretty" made me nauseated. I didn't want to be anything like my beautiful, elegant, posh, ladylike grandmothers.

In my teens, I wore my grandfather's old clothes and dressed almost exclusively in black. All my life, I've been trying to run away from my female models.

Now I have two daughters and they're great. I've learned to embrace the pink, purple, and princesses that Older Girl seems to be pretty interested in at this stage. I don't mind that she likes trying on dresses and experimenting with make-up and nail polish. That doesn't make her in any way similar to my grandmothers.

Maybe I'll try being more feminine at some point too, when I get over some more hang-ups.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The dangerous narcissist replied!

Today I got a cute little sms that said I'd get my money on Monday and offered the silliest excuse ever for why it's so late - the Post Office in Paris is being privatized and it's all very chaotic.

First, he's been sending me money via Western Union. He could have used any bank in the last several months. Second, it's always a different excuse and they don't work together. He pretended to have sent me some money 4 months ago and then forgot about it when I insisted we investigated what happened to the money. Third, owing someone money for months because the post office is in chaos right now? Give me a break!

I just find it hilarious. I'm completely relaxed about this now. I've made my stand - I'm not translating until I get paid - however implicitly and politely.

I'm pretty sure on Monday he'll think of a different excuse. If and when I do get paid, I'll start translating another portion. In my own time and with no pressure.

I only replied "All right. Regards."

The Big Gray Phone

If the title sounds silly to you, thank you. It's supposed to, to any normal person. But the Big Gray Phone has caused sooo much trouble between my Family Of Choice and my Narcissistic Father. It's a symbol of his quirks that he uses to put us down, control us, and criticize us, a symbol of his hoarding, and also a symbol of a boundary I finally successfully put in place.

I'll write about our apartment woes another time. When we finally got NF to let us live in the apartment we wanted to live in (he's renting the other one out, anyway), I specifically asked "Dad, tell me now: Is there ANYTHING in this apartment that's dear to you? Please take it now, because we WILL be renovating". His response, after looking around desperately over the decrepit old place which no one had redone in over 60 years, said "Well, this clock is valuable" (it's not, by the way; it's 60-year-old Soviet crap, made to appear somewhat antique). And that was it. I knew he wouldn't TAKE anything, which is why I phrased the question like that. He'd have wanted us to live in a museum/storehouse/dump yard, because neither his girlfriend nor his tenants would agree to.

So, having received his blessing in this way, we started redoing the old apartment. We tried to sell the old furniture, then tried to give it away, and finally threw most of the junk away.

Among the stuff that was there, there was a 20-year-old, but functioning Panasonic fixed phone, which got relocated to our summer house.

The first mention of the Big Gray Phone was when he once came over and started going through our closet. "What are you doing, Dad?" I asked. "I'm looking for the Big Gray Phone (hand gestures describing something gigantic and possibly ancient). I want to take the cord (cords can be bought cheaply and easily anywhere). I can't find it. Where is it?" he asked, mildly panicky. "I don't know what you mean (I didn't. I thought he was describing something we must have put into the Obvious Junk category immediately. It sounded that way.) If it's not there, then possibly it was thrown away." "YOU THREW AWAY THE BIG GRAY PHONE?!?" He makes hand gestures that would be more appropriate for "YOU SMOTHERED YOUR NEWBORN BABY?!?"

He kept nagging about that, every time we talked, as if we'd done something to hurt him on purpose and it was the most insane thing anyone's ever done.

Then, when we realized that he was referring to the old Panasonic phone, we told him we hadn't thrown it away, but instead put it in the summer house.

A neighbor told me, much later, that she talked to him about us and said "They're good kids and good neighbors" to which he said "Them? Good?!? They're horrible! Do you know what they did? They threw away the Big Gray Phone!"

I confronted him about this, saying I don't mind it when he badmouths me to others and he can gossip all he wants, but it's not nice to use lies for that purpose. And we didn't throw it away and he knows it. He went pale immediately, terrified of what he'd done. I'm sure this was because, for his mother, that would have been the ultimate offense - gossiping to the neighbors, that is. Not lying. Or proving that you actually dislike your closest relative that you otherwise pretend to love (i.e. me, his daughter, in this case).

We have another fixed phone in the home, a cordless one, and the battery was acting up for a while, so sometimes, not often, when it rang, it would die, then we'd put it on the base for a second, and it was fine. So, because he's one of the very few people who call us on our fixed phone, he had to call back a few times. And he'd let us have it every time! "You need another landline. You can't just have that one. It's not working. And you threw away the Big Gray Phone!" I kept explaining, politely, that we're still in the process of remodeling and that we don't know where another landline would be suitable and that we'll be capable of purchasing a fixed phone ourselves and won't starve because of the lack of the Big Gray Phone in our lives. It didn't work - he'd bring it up every time.

Until, one time, he called us. I wasn't at home and my husband was putting the baby to sleep, saw he was calling on Caller ID and chose not to pick up because, yes, he was putting the baby to sleep. My father called later and said "See, the battery died again, didn't it?" And my husband replied "No, it didn't. I didn't pick up because I was putting the baby to sleep."

What does my father do? He sends me an sms a few hours later: "Dear Pronoia, you really need another fixed phone. I called today and the battery died again, so (your husband) couldn't pick up."

What on Earth? See that there? The crazy mind game? The trying to cause a rift between us? The trying to manipulate me against my husband? The sheer insanity of supposing that we'd lie to each other? That my husband would lie to me? And OVER THIS?

So I replied "The battery didn't die. (My husband) was putting the baby to sleep, as he's already told you. If, when, and what kind of phone we put in our home, is our business alone, so don't you worry about that." It was my by far the most "impolite" communication to him.  

He replied nothing. There was no communication from him for a week. And then he acted as if nothing had happened.

And he never mentioned fixed phones again, of any size, color, or shape.

Epiogue: We brought the Big Gray Phone back here recently because we decided to cancel the landline in our summer house - we really don't need it there.

His reaction when he saw it? "See this phone, Granddaughter? Your parents had it at the summer house for a while!"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Mother: Enabler or Disabler?

Kiki made me think about it again. She re-examines her father's role in her narcissistic family dynamic. In light of her discoveries of her mother's disorder, she is also beginning to see her father's behavior in a different light.

Which makes me ask myself one more time: What was my mother's role in our family dynamic? My problem is, I can't look at the way she's acting now, with my new-found knowledge and awareness, as she died when I was 20. And I don't remember much of her and our relationship.  And it's bad form to speak ill of the dead, anyway.

She let him have me, but she probably thought we were having a good time together, and he may have even been making her jealous on purpose by focusing his attention on me. She didn't stand up for herself and her right to have a relationship with her little daughter, but she probably didn't even think she needed to stand up for me and my right to have a relationship with my mother.

Whenever I think of the bad stuff he did or said when I was little, she doesn't appear in the picture, and, most probably, she wasn't anywhere near us at the time. NF and I had plenty of unsupervised time alone together.

When I was 7 and my father slapped me repeatedly in the face because I'd "offended" him, she was there. I told her later that "Now I love you more". I guess what I meant was "I realize clearly at this point that my father is a disturbed man and am asking for a closer relationship with you". To which she replied, after a long, nervous pause, something like "Well, I don't... Not like this..." I don't know what she meant at all. She didn't want to "win" like this? She didn't need to be loved more, just family peace? She didn't want us both to get into trouble if he found out I'd "cheated" on him with her? I don't know what she should have said. But I felt I was on my own here, that every act of rebellion would be mine alone.

Later, in the evening, I heard her tell him "You might have gone too far", to which he snapped angrily, and she went quiet. Overhearing this surprised me, mostly, I guess, because I'd never imagined anyone would ever question anything my father did.

Mostly, my deeper impressions of her inside our family dynamic were of a weak woman who wanted peace above all, although she was usually cheerful, outspoken, and loud, and, especially outside of the home, always said what she thought openly.

I do remember her gently mocking his antics. And this approach worked. He was manageable for at least a decade of my life that I remember, until she died. He would storm into our home, for instance, demanding to know whose fault something that was "amiss" was, and I dreaded his return from work, but the two of us, mom and I, devised a skit we played on him, shouting his usual words in unison before he had the time to:

"Who left the shoes on the floor? Why did you leave the shoes on the floor?" And we'd laugh pre-emptively. And he couldn't pull that anymore and look serious. So he didn't.

When he accused her of cheating, she replied as if she'd, naturally, assumed he was joking. And it worked. From what his girlfriend tells me, any other approach gets a woman seriously verbally abused!

Possibly he thought of her, a sane psychologist, as an authority on Normal. And tried to play the part of a sane man with her as his audience, at least a little bit.

When she died, there was no one who could use gentle, good-natured humor to stem his madness. And no authority on sanity to perform for. I only knew how to argue, defend, justify, explain; I fought back the best way I knew how, but living with him became impossible.

Could she have done things differently and how? I honestly don't know. She was the daughter of divorced parents and had to balance between her father and stepfather all her life, which may have made her good prey for a narcissist; also, her experiences may have made her very reluctant to even consider divorce as an option.

I was told by her colleague that she wanted my father to get therapy for his drink problem, and he said "No way. I'd sooner be divorced from you" so she didn't push it. She never diagnosed his NPD, or if she had, she never told anyone about it. He was in stealth mode back then. If she had known, really known, would she have done anything different? And should she have?

Thoughts? Help me see this a bit more objectively!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Picture Perfect

Jonsi nailed it. The post is brilliantly perceptive on many counts, but what really struck me was the observation made after a feverish photo-session of her newborn baby daughter by her NMIL that "she cared more about the photographs, than she ever would the people in them".

And there it is. The light-bulb moment that's been long coming. My narcissistic father's obsession with photographing people is about the photos. Not the people.

The people are there merely as objects of control, manipulation, and ownership. We are possessions. Or, perhaps even more aptly, we are prey, and the photos are his trophies. 

I've never seen my parents' wedding album. My father has promised to give me those pictures, which he keeps in the apartment that he's renting out. Nothing so far. He says it's just an envelope with a few photos anyway.

I've never seen a single picture of my parents together before I was born (well, conceived). They dated for 10 years and were then married for 12 more before they had me, so you can understand my confusion.

But there are 18 big albums full of photos that my father took of me during the first dozen or so years of my life. I only went through them once, when I was really, really idle. The pictures were just plain boring.

I used to think of those albums sitting on top of my bookshelf as irrefutable proof that my father's love for me was great, if somewhat disturbing. Those albums meant that whatever I did and felt for my father was bound to be insufficient and just plain ungrateful.

At one point, I rebelled against being photographed all the time, and also became intractable in other ways and just not as interesting any more, so the incessant photographing ceased. I have very few photos taken within the family after age 12 or so. The photos I have are ones I took with my own friends.

Then my mother died and my father found a new girlfriend. The obsessive photographing commenced once more. Album after album after album of his girlfriend, posing in front of different rocks or trees or buildings. The pictures don't get shown to many people. They seem to serve a different purpose. They imply ownership. Possession. Control.

They are also documents, evidence of his loving, caring ways.

Recently, my father became interested in my childhood pictures again. So he selectively started scanning some of them and giving them to me, portion by portion, in digital form. The latest installment was delivered in a solemn, official, gala setting, where they had to be seen by my entire FOC with his running commentary.

For the first time, I saw these pictures for what they were. And I felt sorry for that lonely smothered controlled little girl in them. No family or friends or people having fun together. Just me, isolated from everyone else, playing alone somewhere outside, where he'd lovingly taken me for a looong walk "with him". But he only smoked and took photos of me during these outings. I was really on my own. "This is you, smiling. Look how happy you are!" "This is where I took you to park x. Park y. Park z. The zoo." "Here you are petting a dog. A cat. A goat. Look how happy you are!" "Here you are climbing a tree. Playing in the grass. Playing in the sand. Look how happy you are!"

The only times there were other people in the pictures, it's his narcissistic FOO, posing around me with big, fake, eery smiles. You can see Little Pronoia's not buying it and her body language indicates polite efforts not to flee from these creepy people who pretend to be close to her.

When I went to my ILs' the next time, I told my husband: "Give me an album. Any album." He handed me one. "This is what a family album looks like. Look. Fun moments. Funny moments. People enjoying their time together. Celebrations. Get-togethers. Not a trophy pet child objectified incessantly through the lens of the camera. And serving as documented proof that her father was perfect."

Picture perfect, in fact.

But I'm free. My father recently came to see me on my birthday. He then sent me photos from the "party". There wasn't a single picture of me. He already stressed this fact in the subject of the e-mail, which went something like "Photos from your birthday without you in them!" His girlfriend later explained that the pics with me in them turned out all blurry. I guess he didn't want to give that explanation because he thought I might feel sad or hurt by the very unexplained absence of my photos and interpret this as being out of his favor. He was probably disappointed with the lack of such a reaction.

But I did have an emotional response to this. It was one of relief. I was no longer his focus.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My e-mail to Dangerous Narcissist

"Dear Dangerous Narcissist,

I'm sending a short installment that conveniently rounds up the sum that you still need to pay me.

(Transparent calculations for everything follow.)

As I have already informed you, I was forced to slow down with the translation. Apart from your book, I had to accept other work. We are remodeling our apartment, so my children would have a room to sleep in, and for this I need money.

Because of this, and as you said that you wish your book translated quickly, our original agreement, according to which I receive my "pay" each month for the work done during that month, is the only one that truly works for me. In this way I can afford to decline other offers I get for translation work.

If this is is all right with you, then in a month's time, after receiving my "pay" of (owed sum), I am planning to send you the next big installment, which will already mean more than half of the book is finished. By the way, the book keeps getting more interesting and exciting, and I would really like to be able to dedicate myself to it exclusively.

Best regards,
Pronoia :)"

Not a single lie, even the flattery in the end, which I thought would be good for a narcissist. I said "interesting and exciting" and the book truly is that. And also disturbing, and dark, and frightening, and at times not too literate. But it sure is interesting and exciting! And more fun than all the other work I get (doctoral dissertations, research).

Just reassure me that this is not enough to have me attacked, maimed, or killed! And tell me what kind of reaction I can expect. 

One thing: I'm really interested in avoiding his voice over the phone, as he's a Voice Manipulating Narcissist, who rages and whines in the same sentence! He only has my cell phone number. So I'll send him an sms that I've sent an e-mail, and end it with "good night", as it's late in my time zone now. If he tries to call, I'll send an sms that I'm having battery problems and can only exchange sms messages (which is actually true at the moment, as the phone's about to die, and I'm not recharging it, just so I don't have to lie! It would be fun to be able to say COMPLETELY HONESTLY "I don't want to talk to you over the phone because you use your voice to manipulate me and I'm not interested in that", but that's really unwise, so I'll do the next best thing.)   

Negotiating with the Narcissist Now!

Please advise!

The Dangerous Narcissist I'm translating for, apparently now as a volunteer, as he's not paying me, sent me an sms today:

"Hello, I just want to inquire how much you've translated so far. We haven't heard from each other in a long time. Regards."

I replied "I'll send a short installment this evening and write in detail in the e-mail." I wanted to buy time and think of the perfect reply that simultaneously extends the deadline, demands money already owed, and returns us to the original agreement, all in decent terms, inoffensive, and preferably without a single lie.

I'm an incurable optimist. But I do need to stop running away from this and face it. When my father left and I allowed myself to remember the ongoing problem I have with this man, I spent the whole day obsessing over it and it was that evening that I spanked my daughter! It's not a justification, not by far, but the stress of this thing that is weighing on me is NOT contributing to me being a good mother. I need to resolve this.

So, I'm sending a short installment that will, with what he owes me, add up to a nice, round number. Which will enable me to calculate his debts again and write them out in black and white, just so there's no misunderstanding. Without a new installment just restating his debt might seem accusatory.

Then I might write the TRUE sob story of how I had to accept other translations because I needed money for my family and my two little kids, and that's why his translation got temporarily put on the back burner. How I'm returning to it now, but will really need monthly payment, as previously arranged, so I can afford to decline other offers.

That's all I've got. Advice? Ideas? Very open right now. Will write and send the e-mail in a couple of hours, as soon as I finish the short installment I plan on sending.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Spanking out of anger is actually a manifestation of a part of my (normal) mother's legacy. When I was little, and she was exasperated, or tired, or angry, or was told she "had to win to be a good parent" (although she begged to differ), she spanked me. And then felt sorry. And I never held it against her, because I guess I was so overwhelmed with the legacy of my "perfect" father's inhumanity that I was actually grateful to experience human behavior, even if it was unpleasant. 

I'm messed up on different levels and in different ways.

When my daughter was first born and I had crippling PPD and hadn't even begun addressing my father's NPD, my behavior towards the baby and toddler was immaculate from the outside. I never let her cry. I breastfed on demand and co-slept. I held her in my arms all the time and later in my lap whenever she wanted it. I rarely raised my voice and never hit her. And I felt no love for her and was basically a well-functioning machine, and this was taking up all my energy and leaving me dead inside. 

Now that I'm becoming human again, I'm doing the bad stuff my mother did.

When do I get to be good?