April 13, 2009

Learning about narcissism changes our lives...for the better

"Houses at Unterach on the Attersee" by Gustav Klimt

Will I ever drive through a neighborhood again without wondering which families are handling tragedies, or have yet to face tragedies that are sure to come? 

Dear Lord, may I please arrive at KMart without speculating on who has a teenage runaway, who has a spouse deliberating leaving, who's facing foreclosure or losing their job and who might be coping with mental illness in their household? Can I please just go back to the way life used to be when I assumed accidents only happened on freeways, not office cubicles? When I believed people reaped what they sowed and a little bit of lovin' cured the ailing human heart... 

Life is so complicated now. Sometimes I think we have too much information, too much advice, too many answers, too many experts and it's far too difficult to make a decision because we have too many options. Like going into Walmart for a plastic container and leaving without buying one because I couldn't make up my mind: Blue? Green? Clear? Opaque? Handles? No handles? Narrow, wide, short, tall, with a lid, without a lid, wheels or no wheels, and do you want to have a drawer or not? If so, do you want it at the top of the container......or on the bottom?


When my nephew ran away, we got advice from people on what they would do were they in our shoes. How they would punish any ungrateful kid who ran away from home. How WE should act so so he NEVER insulted his family again. One perfect parent told us he disowned his son for ruining the family's good name. O yea, I've heard it all the past several months while determining how we might encourage a kid to grow up and take responsibility for himself and his mental illness.

One thing we're not guilty of is: Taking His Choices Personally. We've learned a lot about narcissistic parenting (blessings to everyone writing about narcissistic parents). We put this knowledge to use by examining how narcissistic parents enmesh themselves with the child's problems 
(drama triangle) OR punish the child for threatening the family's good name (ruining the narcissist's image). Those were two options we could eliminate from the list of What-To-Do-With-A-Child-In-Crisis.

The point of learning about pathological narcissism is not to label or denigrate someone with narcissistic traits or a personality disorder. What I've learned most recently (which came as a bit of a surprise) is that the point of our psyche education is to live a peaceful and SANE life--making sure we don't behave like narcissists ourselves. Rather than focusing on my nephew's narcissistic self-absorption, I've focused on myself.

If we grew up with narcissistic parents, we're prone to picking up where they left off, even when we resisted their control and insensitivity. We might fool ourselves by changing the means but ending up with the same goal in mind: control, control, control. In other words, focusing on controlling the child in order to manage OUR feelings and doubts and reputation. These are a few things I've learned so far:

*Establish clear boundaries between YOU and the child-in-trouble

*Allow the child to suffer for his or her mistakes

*Suffer your own grief when your parenting illusions are shattered

*Support the child, but do not alleviate the consequences.

*Deflect public criticisms and judgments. It doesn't MATTER what people think

*Be very clear about what you want your child to learn and then stick to your best plan to help them learn it

*Live the principles you value, don’t be a hypocrite

*Don’t let guilt do your parenting

*Don't be so needy for your child's approval that you're unable to enforce consequences

*If you feel ‘shamed’ by your child’s behavior, deal with it; don’t project your shame onto your child

*Listen to them without talking about you. Healthy parents meet the child's needs, not the reverse

*Don’t blame; don’t encourage them to blame others…not even their mental illness. No excuses permitted!

*Let them make their own decisions; they know what the consequences will be without your interference. In other words, let the law work for you and don't interfere.

*Remember: this is about the child, not you.

I am very grateful for everything people have taught me about unhealthy parenting. It would be easier to let a bipolar child 'off the hook' by blaming his behavior on his mental illness. But that would not serve him well in the end. Nor does it serve the narcissist well if we excuse his or her hurtful behavior by assuming they can not do otherwise.

I have learned a lot. Sometimes I think the past six years only initiated me for what the future would bring. The past was a preparatory period. The present is the test. "Everything is unfolding exactly as it should."

Bless everyone who has offered us the opportunity to examine ourselves and change dysfunctional patterns of the past.

Hugs all,


  1. Hello CZ of the wondrous spirit.

    Once again, you astound me with your courage and your spirit. What a powerful lesson to all of us -- no matter the age of the child, a child 'out there' or my inner child within, your structured approach to changing behaviour is powerful.

    Thank you so much for sharing and for being you!



  2. Thank you for this very well written, clear and helpful post.

  3. As I mentioned earlier I am going through a divorce. and a nasty one at that/ To give you some insight my attorney of 35 years has said he hasn't seen this kind of sick**** in his practice. This guy moved me away from family and friends. Controlled my every move, monitored every dime I spent, lied to family, friends,he had them convinced for awhile. He turned my best friend against me, my children from a previous marriage, and my siblings/ They all thought he was such a great guy/ I had medical issues, stomach, confusion, and was his servant along with his Mother when she would visit/ I worked my 40 hours per week but still was the good little wife who had dinner on the table, laundry done, and was there to please my husband/ He never had any consideration for me or any thoughts or wishes/ When I finally realized that I was nothing to him he punished me/ and boy did he punish me/ He took the bedroom and bathroom doors off/ He changed all of the door locks so I couldn't get into the house, He cancelled all financial support/ He went and got himself a girlfriend before we were legally separated. he did a fake suicide that he got sympathy from his parent and siblings/ He raped me when I refused to go to one of his open mike nights/ And now he has his a new girlfriend, new car, new job, and the support of his family and friends/ My life is ruined/ The house got sold (no equity,), my car of which he used was sold for $400.00. I had to move back in with my parents, no job, no alimony although he was ordered to pay/ And this smuck gets to on with his narcissist Mother and his narcissist self as if I did nothing wrong/

    Help, Please send help.

    1. That's a horror story, anonymous! And not unlike the horror stories many women have lived through. Narcissists are so good at image management and they know how to manipulate people's emotions. Yes, they are often perceived as "great guys" so if you even try to tell them he took the doors off the bathrooms in your home, they look at you askance. He's already warned them you were Nutz (most likely) and shouldn't be believed.

      While partners are being good little wives fixing dinner and assuming their marriage is fine, the narcissistic partner is moving on to someone else. Setting up a nest for himself so he doesn't suffer when he gives you the shaft. It is terrible terrible and stories like yours have been ignored, leaving you to suffer alone. Now we are talking about narcissism and their ghastly deeds towards people who trusted them and this will hopefully help the people who come after us. It's really tough being Devalued-and-Discarded by a narcissist because he or she has already discredited us to get other people's sympathy and support.

      That he found another girlfriend before he let you go is very telling. Society hasn't caught up to what we know about the narcissistic personality so you probably won't get much sympathy from other people. But know that finding another woman before you are divorced is a way for them to hurt your self-esteem even more (and keep theirs busting through the rooftops).

      I know it stinks for you right now...and it doesn't help for me to tell you that it gets better. But it does. I was not sure I could live through the D&D and all the financial losses we suffered because of our divorce. But people do move forward so remember this when you feel hopeless and despairing: This Too Shall Pass. I told myself that a million times and it helped.



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