Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Dig Deep

That's what I was told. In those words. When I said I wasn't really loved by my narcissistic family, though they may have boasted about my successes to other people.

"Don't dig so deep," the former neighbor of my malignant narcissistic grandmother, who suffered somewhat at her hands too, and knew how the evil woman tormented her family, said. I was amazed, to put it mildly. I'd never heard this sentiment actually expressed. I thought everyone knew you were always supposed to be digging deep. That's the accepted wisdom in my world.

Except, no one was ever doing it, not really. When I was "digging deep" before, I thought it meant acknowledging to myself how evil, selfish, cold, unloving, disloyal, cowardly, I really was. And everyone else probably was, to some extent. Except my perfect parents, who were the only ones above reproach.

Digging deeper than that made me realize I was being too hard on myself because their projection conditioned me to. At first, I didn't understand. How could I have hidden this from myself and instead thought horrible things about myself? And then, when I allowed myself to feel again, it hit me - it's easier to be evil than to be unloved. Unloved by your own mother and father. You'll lie to yourself, say that you rejected them, because you're cold and hard and cruel, anything, just to keep yourself from realizing that mommy and daddy never loved you.

The neighbor, in a way, had the guts to admit it: it's scary and dangerous to dig that deep. To the depths that make you realize you never had parental love, the most fundamental thing in the world. Everyone has at least a tiny measure of unease when they hear of the possibility of parents not loving their children. Because no one received perfect love from their parents. (If there's such a thing as original sin, that's got to be it.) That's why the myths and taboos surrounding parenthood are so strong.

And why we have such difficulty being heard and believed and validated.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Now and Then

People will let you complain on and on about your friends, lovers, and children.

But they won't listen to you talk about your parents and their parenting.

Long time ago, let bygones be bygones, water under the bridge.

I don't want to disparage, discount, or denigrate those who are suffering now.


What is being done to formed adults now is something that is being done to formed adults. Formed adults can walk away or fight back.

What parents do FORMS their children. They can NEVER walk away because their parents remain in their heads forever. They can NEVER really fight back because they'd be fighting against a piece of themselves. I'm trying to do that now, but it's so damned hard not to listen to their voices inside me!

So, how come people would listen to me complain about my husband forgetting to throw out the trash but won't be comfortable with me complaining about my parents never loving me?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fiction Therapy

I've actually started writing fiction again, after a decade, and this time it's real. I'm writing a fictitious story with fictitious characters, but it's more real and honest than anything I've ever written, including purely factual essays. And it's scary. And I don't know what will happen, but if I just let it happen, without interfering, it does. And it makes so much symbolic sense that it's eery.

For instance, one character (my false self, I think) hides another, (my inner child, I think) behind her bookcase from a persecutor who's trying to kill him. And the moment that occurred to me as the only possible course of action, I realized that this is exactly what I did. I hid my traumatized inner child and my truth and the real me behind my books. I wasn't allowed to think my father and my family were anything less than perfect. But I was allowed to read Orwell and feel rebellious against Big Brother. I was allowed to read Kafka and relate so perfectly to the feeling of being persecuted by an evil system designed to crush, denigrate, and annihilate. I was allowed to read about the Gnostics and despise the evil Demiurge who imprisoned souls in his world and demanded to be worshiped by them.

Writing fiction brings even more things to light than factual blogging! It's incredibly therapeutic.

The next thing that will happen in my story is an open confrontation with the persecutor. This scares me, because it feels potentially prophetic. Will it end in a general carnage, like a Shakespearean tragedy? I hope not. I hope 'my' characters can emerge relatively unharmed. One can hope.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mea Culpa

I can't, I mustn't blame my mother for anything, because it's my fault, it's all my fault. If I'd been gentler and warmer and more loving as a child, instead of agreeing to be appropriated by my narcissistic father and pushing her away, she would have shown me how warm and loving she could have been. But didn't dare. Or something.

He pulled me away from her and her away from me. I pushed her away. She just obeyed. It's my fault for allowing it. And now she's dead.

My aunt, her step-sister, is warm and loving and normal. So, she'd have been like that too, if we'd been a better family to her, right? They did have different mothers, though. And lived apart. In very different homes. 

I'm the cold bitch here.

There were a few hugs that were real. Unlike his, which were also rare, but fake, in addition.

But I have to admit.

She criticized me and pigeon-holed me and defined me in negative terms too. She embarrassed me in front of others by revealing private things about me and laughed cheerfully and innocently about it. She expected me to perform in front of others and make her proud - parade my "knowledge" and "talents".
She once showed much more concern about what a doctor will think than what I felt before a surgery I had. This was very painful for me at the time. I thought it was utterly unfair.

I might be starting to remember things about my mother.

And they're not too pretty.

They formed a duo of performers when we were out together. Both jovial, jocular, vivacious. At home, though, he was a dark tyrant, and she was a vegetable on the couch. But they had these roles well rehearsed, both of them, together.

She pretended away his insane behaviors and made light of them and excused them in front of me. She was his sidekick. They functioned together.

They shouldn't have had me. Maybe if she hadn't had me, she wouldn't have got breast cancer. Maybe they'd be happy now, in a fake world, together. The abuser and the willing abused, who look so good in front of others. With no one to ask questions.

I shouldn't have been born. I mean, God probably didn't mean for the two of them to even have a kid, right? But they created me and I should be grateful, right? Because they'd have been happier without me.

They should have had a spaniel. Or a plant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

All about my mother. Or, My Mother and Her Discontents

I'm becoming sure my mother was a child of a narcissist too, but never dealt with it. Instead, she married one, a much worse specimen. This was all she knew.

When she complained to others about anything at all, it was about how her mother wasn't getting her due credit. Her possibly narcissistic mother, who was living with us, was the one babysitting me when I wasn't going to daycare (although she thankfully made her husband take me with him on his daily meanderings through the city, which were the fun part of my childhood), and she didn't feel she was seen as important enough, what with my narcissistic father claiming me and controlling me completely, and his narcissistic mother agreeing to meet me for a photo-shoot of "look, we're taking our granddaughter to the park!"

(All these narcissists were just using me as prey, as a chessboard, as the territory they could fight over and claim. Who did the most for me? Who got to control me? Who was I supposed to be most grateful to? Dear God, I remember people telling me in whispers things that were supposed to make me love them more and be grateful to them more than the others. Well, I showed them. I didn't love any of them. I shut down. They all gave me the creeps. I became cold and emotionally reserved and cynical. Around them, anyway.)

It was still all about her mother. Who demanded her due. Rarely about her. Who got her baby basically taken away from her. She wasn't even allowed to nurse me. She tried, realized she had inverted nipples, and bought a nipple shield. My father, the engineer, who wouldn't let me touch a toy before he read the manual, then figured it out himself (playing with it on his own for a while), then gave me an hour-long tutorial, after which the toy would lose all its appeal, that insane technically minded man who read all the manuals in the world for everyone else, forgot to pierce a hole in the nipple shield. And this was only ascertained much later. And not by him. He claimed the baby, i.e. me, was too weak to nurse because she's starving, and that's why the nipple shield wasn't working. So he promptly bought a bottle and formula and "saved" me. He didn't forget to put a hole through the nipple of the bottle, interestingly enough. So he sabotaged our nursing relationship, like he sabotaged our every relationship from the very start.

But she didn't complain much about him appropriating me. She claimed to her friend that I'd "saved" her from the daily visits to her MIL. Because my father focused on me, he didn't pay the daily pilgrimages to his mother any more. It was cute when I first heard this. But now I resent it. I wasn't born to save anyone. If she wanted saving from her MIL, she should have refused to go. Or, better yet, she should have divorced that horrible woman's son. I was a baby and wasn't supposed to be saving family members from each other or be used as a pawn in their games. I needed saving myself.

Then, she had "fleas" of her own. She was used to being constantly criticized and didn't mind being the butt of cruel jokes. But she had so much riding on appearances in front of others, appearances that were supposed to be kept up by me. Her mother was a lady and looks mattered to her, and my mother internalized this. Not just being pretty, no, you had to suffer in some way, wear uncomfortable clothes because they looked fancy and lady-like. I remember a horrible cap that hurt and itched and got etched into my forehead, and I kept taking it off, crying, but my mother kept putting it on, because it was pretty. There was the oft-told incident of how my mother spanked me into wearing a pretty dress that I didn't want to wear outside because I knew it meant No Playing, Just Posing. I remember being as old as nine and going for a walk with my mother and my cousin and having to be dressed nicely. When we got to the park, we started climbing trees, and my pants got dirty. We immediately had to leave, because I was "embarrassing" her, and she spanked me along the way (that wasn't embarrassing?) although we'd just come and my cousin had to come from another part of the city to go for a walk with us.

I remember having career counseling in elementary school. Part of it included aptitude tests and an interview with a psychologist. I was told I was "above average" and could do most things I liked. I was happy with that. My mother wasn't. She was a psychologist and actually went to the psychologist who tested me and got exact information from her. She shared my exact IQ, which she wheedled out of the psychologist, with me, in a concerned way. "It must be higher than that" she said worriedly. "They applied an adult scale on you, and you're just 14" she added. Until recently, no, to this day, at this very moment, I'm painfully embarrassed by my IQ of 133 on the Wechsler scale (which roughly corresponds to 153 on the Cattel scale)*. I feel utterly inadequate. I only recently did some googling and was surprised to discover it was in fact not that bad. Top 2%. Good enough for effing Mensa. Why wasn't she happy with that? Why wasn't that good enough for her? What would have been?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not without her husband

My aunt only recently realized an astounding little fact.

She doesn't remember a single time when she saw her married sister - my mother - alone. Without her husband - my father.

He controlled her every movement and her every spoken word. Eery.

The narcissist's afterlife

... is living on in the carefully plotted narratives about himself that are to be spoken by those remaining behind.

My father dutifully repeats the narratives plotted by his mother about herself and her family, although his heart's not in it. He seems to expect me to do the same for him.

This is good. He doesn't want to be remembered by his grandkids as the Evil Grandpa Who Disinherited Us. Well, that's the hope, anyway.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Narcissistic parents engulf or ignore. They can't have a sane relationship with their offspring. My father was a combination of the two, more controlling when I was a little doll he could exhibit and take credit for, and more ignoring when I grew up and grew a mind of my own. Which felt so much better and made me think at the time that I had great parents who let me do all sorts of stuff.

One of the more annoying aspects of my father's engulfing ways when I was younger was his involvement in my school. Kiki wrote about how her mother didn't volunteer at her school and seemed utterly uninvolved. My father was too involved. But it wasn't about me. It was about him and the narcissistic supply he got from the teachers. He was president of the school board. He was the one who went to all the parent-teacher meetings. Very few teachers ever met my mother. He'd boast about me and ingratiate himself to the teachers, flattering them. It made my stomach turn.

What was worst for me was when he infringed on my times of freedom. The school trips! For a child from a perfect family, I sure loved the freedom from home that the school trips offered just a little too much. Two weeks away from home! Other kids cried and missed their parents. I never did.

During one school trip, he wrote me an elaborately illustrated letter full of silly cliches and with the instructions to show it to my teacher! I was later questioned on how the teacher reacted. The whole thing was beyond embarrassing.

And for a child who was "so attached to her father" as everyone, especially he, kept repeating until it became an unquestioned truism, I sure was horribly shocked and appalled to run into him just a couple of days into the delicious freedom that was the school trip! I was eight and I remember that moment vividly - I was walking down a path, with sunshine in my face, and he jumped out nowhere and stood in my path, blocking the sun. The world grew dark. I had the expression of utter shock. "Dad, what are you doing here?" I asked. "Aren't you happy to see me? I came to help the teachers. If I embarrass you by being here, I'll pretend I don't know you the whole time we're here." I guess, knowing what I do now, that it was supposed to elicit a reaction along the lines of "No, of course you don't embarrass me; please don't ignore me!" Instead, I took him at his word and said "Ok, great. Let's pretend we don't know each other!"

In the days that followed, however, although he dutifully ignored me, he started preying on my friends, acting wonderfully towards them. One by one, he took them under his wing, until I was isolated and alone in ignoring him and not talking to him. In the end, I relented too. He'd won. Everyone was on his side, hanging out with this wonderful, involved dad, not understanding why his own horrible daughter wasn't talking to him, not understanding why I felt betrayed by them. So I started talking to him too.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Impromptu lies are the most fun kind

Because the narcissist hasn't had time to weave an elaborate network of deception, and what he blurts out is just funny.

A few days ago, my aunt came to visit. As she is in frequent contact with my father, she told him of this plan, and he asked her to take a few pictures of our new redecorations in progress so he could see what the new big space in our apartment looks like.

He mentioned this when he called me on the phone yesterday. So I asked "Why would you ask my aunt to send you pictures? We've been documenting the whole process thoroughly with our own camera and can certainly send pictures ourselves if you're interested."

His response? "Well, ummm, I didn't know if you were at home. Or at the summer house. And you don't have a landline there. And text messaging is... Ummm."

He knew my aunt was coming to visit us. But he didn't know if we were at home. While she was visiting us. At home.

This just makes me laugh. But it doesn't help me get to the real reason. Is it beneath him to ask me for the pictures of my home? Is he demonstrating to me that he can find "spies" all around who'll provide him with pictures of everything I do, so he can "control" it from a distance? What's the real deal here? I don't get it. It's silly and it doesn't even upset me, but I find myself genuinely curious.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Only the Blind Can See

It sounds like a paradox, but I'm dead serious. The reason it's so difficult to explain to others what we were missing as children and are still missing now is because it is such a normal, essential thing that those who had it and have it don't even notice it. How can you explain Lack of Love to those whose parents really loved them? How can they understand what it's like never to have received free, safe, unconditional love from those whose duty it was to provide it?

So we talk about the fluff. We talk about their selfish or abusive or lying actions and are told that other parents sometimes do the same. They talk about how our parents raised us, put us through school, bought us stuff. But all this is irrelevant fluff. The issue is Lack of Love. Parental love is something absolutely essential, and yet something invisible, because it's simply taken for granted.

Like eyesight. We don't go around thinking about eyesight all day long, thanking God we have it and feeling empathy towards those who don't. We take it for granted. Only if you're blind, and have known what having eyesight is like, are you likely to See its importance.

When we are told "Well, maybe your parents were unable to really love you, but they put you through school and bought you stuff" it's like telling a person whose parents gouged their eyes out in infancy "Well, your parents blinded you, but they bought you some nice shades, and that white cane they got you sure is neat." 

I was blinded early in my life. And only recently have I begun to realize what having eyesight feels like. And only now do I realize what a difference it makes and how essential it is.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Infertility as narcissistic injury

Googling a bit today. Interested in how narcissistic fathers react to being infertile and having kids by donors. Was appalled to read in a book on infertility counseling some advice on how to deal with patients with narcissistic personality disorder while they're undergoing fertility treatment, which is especially hard for them because infertility is a narcissistic injury.

So, they're knowingly helping narcissists become parents? Have they maybe thought that these people are infertile for a reason?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How my father ruined our special day and then lied about it

It almost seemed like a genuine mix-up at the time, although so many things didn't add up. But now that I know my father is a pathological liar, I have a new take on it. He deliberately interfered with our plans for the day my newborn daughter and I left the hospital just so it could all be about him, and what he did ruined it for us.

The story: my husband and MIL are supposed to pick my newborn first daughter and me up from the hospital after 11 days we spent there (that's another, long, sad story). We have the time agreed upon. My father phones my husband and asks him when he's picking us up at the hospital. My unsuspecting husband answers the question truthfully.

I'm slowly getting ready to leave my hospital room, nursing my daughter in a relaxed way, because I know I have more than half an hour before my husband arrives. The nurse suddenly enters the room and tells me my ride is here! I start packing like a maniac and leave within seconds. The baby hasn't nursed properly, but we'll be home soon, so I can live with that, but still I'm a bit angry about this already.

Whaddya know? The person waiting downstairs isn't my husband. It's - surprise, surprise! - my FATHER. I'm in shock. I shout "What are you doing here? Is DH here?" He's genuinely surprised that I'm not ecstatic to see him, the only true light of my life, instead of my husband. His saccharine smile turns into a pale "oops" expression.

"This is not the person who's here to pick you up?" Asks the nurse. "NO!" I shout. "Then we can't release you." Of course. My husband was supposed to bring clothes for the baby and me. It's the middle of winter. I'm standing in the icy hallway, freezing in the thin, short, revealing hospital gown, and my baby... my baby is placed on a table behind glass, wrapped into cloth, and I can't hold her, I'm just looking at her lying there all alone, next to another poor screaming baby. My baby's not crying, she's just lying there, looking sad. 

I turn to my father. "What were you thinking? Why did you come here? Why did you get me out of the room?" I'm yelling.

He realizes now that whatever he was trying to pull by coming before my husband failed miserably. Did he want to be the first to hold the baby, even before her own father? Did he think he'd be the first to have himself some alone time with us and then boast about it? Whatever beautiful image was concocted in his mind was now shattering into pieces. "I didn't..." he starts. "She misunderstood. I just asked about you, and said I was your father, and they brought you here."

I was angry even while I believed it. Just coming there, uninvited, unannounced, completely inappropriately, on purpose beating my husband to it by half an hour, even if he wasn't planning to get me out of my room on his own, was a major offense. Now that I realize his story was probably a lie, and he most likely did want us out of there and to himself, I'm appalled.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A new take on Matt 10: 34-36

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household."

When you find yourself in a narcissistic household - a household controlled by someone closed to all light, truth, and love - and awaken and open yourself up to real light, truth, and love, the narcissist will become your enemy. It's inevitable. They can smell it.

I recently started replying to my father's "What are you doing?" with "We're enjoying life together" and he's been worse lately. This is because his daughter's ability to enjoy life with her chosen family is like a slap in the face for a narcissist.

They can't love and live and enjoy. They want to "suffer" and blame and complain. And they want others to do the same. If you dare be happy, you're not one of them. You're the enemy.

I cried in public today

I was waiting in a line with my one-year-old in a mei tai. A nice elderly couple started talking to me and cooing to the baby, tickling her. The man, in particular, paid special attention to her, and his wife kept saying "Oh, grandpa, you're boring that poor baby!"

And I just burst into tears, right there, in that line. I couldn't help it.

It occurred to me that this perfect stranger paid more real, positive attention to my child than my father has to both my children in the 4.5 years that I've been a mother.

And I was just so sad. I was so close to asking these people to adopt me.

I told my aunt this. She hugged me. I feel kind of "adopted".

I've become so much more vulnerable lately. I "didn't need" love before, or hugs, or attention. I was "strong". It was all so sickly sweet and sentimental to me. But it is only the narcissists' fake displays that are syrupy and sickening. The real thing also exists. And it's truly nourishing and wholesome.

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Because I hate you."

This was something my father said quite frequently.

I only recently realized that I don't remember he ever actually said "I love you" to me. It was just so strongly implied that no one would dare question it. And the most frequent way it was implied was when I asked permission to do something, he refused it, I asked "Why?" and he replied:

"Because I hate you."

He said it in a sarcastic tone of voice, and it was meant to be interpreted as "What you want is bad for you and I love you, and that's why I won't let you do it." I think. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.

Now? Now it seems to me that even a pathological liar of his abilities could not bring himself to lie on this one. He told the truth for once.

An exhaustive list...

... of things narcissistic parents do.

"Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”) As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)"

Sigh. The "perfect father" campaign was so successful that even I made myself grudgingly believe it much of my life - he boasts about me and praises my accomplishments in front of others, he must love me... right? I knew better than to air dirty laundry in public - in fact, I never spoke to anyone about anything personal at all, and hated talking about family stuff with anyone. As a result, I actually never had close friends - just discussion sparring partners.

Everything is deniable, everything is "not meant in a mean way", everything can be spun so that others find it hard to believe us. Kiki has a heartbreaking post on how her godmother took her mother's side and completely ignored and discounted her truth. The same happened to me with my ILs. Many things narcissists do has also been done by normal, imperfect parents. It's the moments when the mask slips, when you look at the abyss behind, the disgust, the hatred, the enjoyment of hurting you, that makes all the difference and that can't be explained or proven to others.

"While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it. "

I only now understand some of he sillier lies my father told. I'm an only child, so he seems to have used his girlfriend in an attempt to create the twisted golden child/scapegoat dynamic. For instance, when we redid the old summer house in an attempt to make it inhabitable at the beginning of our marriage, struggling with money all the while, of course, but happy and proud of what we'd done, he visited for the first time, after 16 months. He told me, for some reason, right after discounting everything we did with "You shouldn't have wasted money on this summer house" (which was our home at the time, mostly because I knew we wouldn't really let us have the city apartment), that he had just given 7,000 euros to his girlfriend so she could redecorate the apartment she rents out.

When I later mentioned this to her in casual conversation, she was genuinely surprised and shocked. He never gave me any money, she said. The crazy lie had just one function: to make me realize I was now the less beloved one.