February 18, 2014

Part Two Online Narcissists: A case study called PuppyGate


Part One: 22 Signs of Online Destructive Narcissists

Part Three: Cyber-Trolls  Just doin' it for the lulz! 



"And all for the love of a puppy at Christmastime" ~Melody

The Web of Narcissism Forum has been operating since 2005. We've had upsets here and there but nothing as gawdawful as the PuppyGate Incident, knockonwood.

PuppyGate was a turning point in my life: incontrovertible evidence of my spectacular inability to spot female narcissism in someone I liked. Pathological narcissism was not gender-specific. What a concept!
"Narcissists do enjoy status and dominance as a way to ensure their esteem, but they are not always heavy handed in their relationships with others. Often, narcissists’ goals are best met by the use of a soft touch. Narcissists like to be surrounded by successful or popular people (e.g., the in crowd). To get this contact, they can be charming, flattering, or simply enjoyable to be around. For example, narcissists are considered entertaining and not boring, energetic, and socially confident. Indeed, narcissists’ anger and hostility may rarely emerge if things are going their way." ~Campbell, Foster & Finkel 
Another article titled Chickens In Oz alludes to PuppyGate. Published in 2010, the only negative repercussion was having the article plagiarized by a scoundrel. Ya can't blame the guy for doing that---it's an awesome article discussing women's aggressive behavior towards other women (always a fun topic for voyeurs and misogynists). There's a reason women resist hanging their dirty linen in public. Too many people reinforce stereotypes about c-r-a-z-y women, rather than recognizing women are subject to aggressive instincts, too. And narcissistic women are experts at recruiting people to rescue them. So are narcissistic men. < ----feminist  statements

I've waited nearly a decade to write about this conflict. Messages have been edited and names have been changed. The MSN forums where PuppyGate took place, no longer exist. My assumption is that anonymous players have moved onBecause I've maintained the WoN forum since 2005, several people have reconciled with me, even years later. I hope this post doesn't reopen old wounds, enough time having passed and wisdom gained to presume we've learned valuable lessons about healthy boundaries and female narcissism. I hope this case study benefits people currently involved in online communities.

Creating WoN

I had only been learning about NPD for three years when deciding to create a forum. Being astonishingly naive, I asked an online friend to be my co-manager even though we didn't know one another very well. She lobbied for the role, just like she lobbied for an assistant manager role on another forum and I liked her. Other people liked her. (Do you ever get a complex about all the people you've liked who turned out to be crumb-bugs and the people you didn't necessarily like, who turned out to be decent people? In between the initial liking and the inevitable not liking, a lot of bad things happen. As we're learning from research, narcissistic people are generally well-liked...until you get to know them. An important thing to pay attention to.)

My story involves a MSN hosted forum with two co-managers, a chat room, a doctor, and a pedigreed puppy causing people to bypass critical thinking and act on sentimental feelings. If they loved puppies, then anyone who loved puppies was a trustworthy person, how much plainer could it be? The greater question about ethical leadership and responsible group behavior was lost in the emotional mania of cyber-friendships and puppy love. As the forum manager, I was a tad slow on the uptake but solidly grounded in the right thing to do. Which is always the harder thing to do because people have an inconceivable determination to support wrong behavior if they like the wrong-doer. As a result of my decisions, the WoN forum split into two separate groups. Some people believed my swift action was commendable; some believed me to be jealous of my co-manager's popularity; and as usual in disputes of such ilk, some people thought me evil. At least my family didn't doubt my integrity. They're cat people, though.

In fairness, this was a complicated situation because forum members were anonymous, never having met in person. If people had met me, this incident may not have spiraled out of control. It's tempting to imagine me as a power hungry monster if you don't see me chopping mushrooms in the family kitchen. Since there weren't any tangible clues about either manager's potential lie-ability, people were forced to pay close attention to the facts. Otherwise, they based decisions on how they felt---and I was not making them feel very good about themselves. I was making people feel really bad about themselves. Conclusion? I must be a puppy hating Hitler. No really. Someone wrote that. I'm grateful the mob stopped short of setting my house on fire. Narcissistic women are sickeningly adept at recruiting people to burn other people's houses down while they make their escape squeaky clean. 

It took about six months after the forum divided before people contacted me about their puppy-loving leader's financial shenanigans that should have been predictable had people not ignored the warning that someone they liked was serving herself first and foremost; that someone they liked would bend rules to get what she wanted; that someone they liked would take advantage of their gratitude. 

While reading this case study, you may want to refer to my prior post for "Tips about Online Narcissists" such as unreasonableness (1) and hostility (2). There was no way to reason with this angry group once aggressive torches (3; 4) had been lit by none other than the holy puppy mother (5;14). What people could not see was how much I cared about their safety, who really had their best interests at heart. How to communicate that properly was beyond my skill but it was still my responsibility and I failed miserably. I hadn't grasped the complexity of emotional enmeshment, nor the psychological transference between narcissists and followers. I didn't understand my precarious role as an authority figure when people had suffered parental abuse. And, I didn't see the covert undermining going on behind my back and under my nose. (16) (When your nose is to the grindstone, you don't notice who's holding the ax. Pay attention to that situation, too)

Always be cautious with female leaders pretending to be silk magnolias who'd never hurt a fly lie stick a pin in their sweet potato eye sty. If pea gravel melts in her mouth, put a padlock on your wallet and change the passwords on your bank account. If I ever hear "Smoochies! loooove you!" again, I'm hittin' the road jack never lookin' back. There's no second chances. You'll believe these women are safe friends, until they aren't. Relational aggression is the narcissistic female's modus operandi so once shit stirrers (16) joined in to distract themselves from their own stink, all hell broke loose. I had a bucket of water and a three alarm fire and bystanders found it awfully entertaining. Other people were cyber-traumatized with c-ptsd. That's Cyberspace Post Traumatic Stress Disorder coming soon to a DSM near you.

I mishandled some things and handled others with dexterity, adhering to the 12-step tradition of "principles over personalities". A team of advisers hunkered down to come up with the best solutions we could. Without these women supporting me, the forum may not have survived.

As one adviser wrote, "I believe very strongly that we are fortunate to have averted a disaster. We are here, we are a bit tattered, but we are here."

Not all online communities survive. One internet community after another has been destroyed by narcissism. Women's tangled webs of malicious gossip, insinuations, and out-and-out lies preclude reasonable resolution. If the narcissistic woman has failed to dominate the group, or she doesn't get her way, she'll do her damnedest to destroy the group she leaves behind. Narcissistic women ruin online communities, ruin marriages, ruin friendships, undermining relationships behind people's backs. You'll never be the wiser until the harm has been done and then you may spend the next ten years sorting out WhatTheHellHappened. Case in point: This article.

Before you read a condensed version of PuppyGate, you need to know I began to have serious reservations about my co-manager, having heard about her character-destroying phone calls. (16) We had never spoken on the phone, she-and-I, a necessary boundary if you intend on running a group and having a life of your own. She used emails like Johnny Appleseed planting seeds of doubt and spreading destructive rumors. She was one of those women who manipulates people pleasers to do the heavy lifting while taking credit for having done everything herself. (14) Even nice people catch on after awhile. (22) My experience as Ms. Fetch and Get It (19) was repeated post-PuppyGate by other people pleasers who also did her bidding. Until they they caught on, too. (13; 14)

Chat Rooms

The chat room is a potentially dangerous place for emotional contagion if people aren't aware. The chat environment allows manipulators to mirror people's emotions; to instill distrust through pseudo-intimacies and "whispers"; and best of all: there's no paper trail. Let me restate that: there's USUALLY no paper trail. I rarely attended chat but managed to collect transcripts after being alerted to suspicious discussions. The acquired transcripts proved my co-manager had been telling people she did all the work (13; 14;), triangulating women by suggesting I was power-hungry and crazy. (2; 3; 4; 5; 7) She was also staging a coup, plotting to demote my status upon completion of the website. (21) If she managed to lock me out of admin controls, she'd be the only manager.

There were signs of our incompatibility the first day we worked together. She sent an angry email the next morning because I hadn't asked her permission before organizing the format. The email was hostile enough that my sister read it. (17) "You cannot work with that woman!" my sister freaked. "Start over with someone else, or do it yourself! This will end badly!" My sister's words came back to haunt me because I didn't trust my intuition, rationalizing my co-manager's thin skin as understandable considering our situations. Had I been in a better place psychologically, the relationship would have come to a screeching halt but instead, I believed we could work things out. This is the naivete of easy-going people, working doubly hard while hoping for the best.

There's no denying this recounting of events is tilted in my favor, cognitive biases being what they are. You be the judge. What would you do if you were the manager? What would you do if you were a group member? How easy is it, really and truly, to Spot a Narcissist?

Three months after spending ten and twelve hour days organizing the WoN forum, building web pages and writing original articles while my co-manager emailed To Do lists and chatted............


PuppyGate 
the condensed version from thousands of emails and messages
"OH NO.  I cannot afford this puppy but I fell in love with her face.  She's a few hours away in Georgia and the breeder said she'd meet me half way.  Uh Oh  
(image of $1500 pedigreed puppy) 
Hope y'all don't mind I'm posting photos of my POSSIBLE puppy!  She's a beauty. Uh Oh. That's all I can think to say." Love, Melody
PuppyGate began with my co-manager's message to forum members. Melody had recently lost one of her two aging dogs. A new puppy would sooth her pain. But why was she looking at pedigreed pups when facing foreclosure on her home? I suggested she rescue a puppy from the pound. That would be fitting considering how compassionate and completely selfless she was. Why did she need a pedigreed dog costing more than some women spend in a month---with four kids to feed, no less?!

Melody formed numerous close relationships in the chat room. Her best chatting buddy was a chiropractor still reeling from her narcissistic relationship. Even though the following comment is out of sequence, it sums up the enmeshment developing between Dr. Chiro and Melody. A forum member defended their special relationship in this excerpt:
"Dr. and Melody have been hanging out in chat for some time now, sharing and laughing, talking and spilling their guts. They became something more than N-survivors talking about the where's and why-fores of N-survival. This breeds intimacy. Intimacy breeds care, love, concern, and the desire to do more.  To save someone from their latest plight. Last time I was in chat, everyone was discussing the pain that Melody has been in..."
Pay attention to your feelings when someone is in pain because empathic people want to help. It's simple-so-simple to be sucked into someone's pain without realizing they're relying on other people's pity to give them what they want.

While Melody and Dr. Chiro were sharing miseries in the chat room, they were also plotting schemes of their own. The first scheme originated by Dr. Chiro was nicknamed The Puppy Plot, later to be known as PuppyGate when it set off a series of unexpected consequences.

Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Chiro sent the following email to forum members, mostly chat room users. As you will read in her email, Dr. Chiro knew her behavior was potentially "wrong", yet she chose to do it anyway. In hindsight, I think the good doctor was being manipulated by my co-manager but the doctor's narcissism wouldn't allow her to consider such a thing. Nor would mine. ha! (Dr. Chiro eventually had a dramatic falling out with Melody. Puppy Gate was only the beginning of their troubles.)

This is her letter to forum members. What would you do if you received a letter like this? 
"Dear Friends,  
I want to help our Friend Melody buy this pup. Cross your heart and hope to die.  Shhhh secret enclosed. That puppy is super expensive and she has enough $ to pay for about  half. But what good is half a puppy? And which half would she choose?   
So many of you have expressed that you want to help get her this pup. So I am going to start a PUPPY collection. Your participation is STRICTLY voluntary and she doesn't know that I am doing this, so please  cross  your heart that you won't tell her!  I don't want her to know that we're conspiring to get her a puppy! If you could afford anything at all it would help.  And please please please if you can't afford anything it's SO OK!  I promise. Not meant to guilt you at all.    
Please don't tell her or the management cause I want  to surprise her.  
If you can help, please email me at _____.  Let me know what you can send. ANYTHING will help. I know she cannot pay her mortgage and get this pup.  Her brothers are going to help.  And she is going to pay some.  But if it isn't enough, we can just cancel the whole thing, I'll tear up the checks and no one will be  the wiser!   
For my part, I'm going to stop buying really unattractive SHINY things. Like the pointed gold beaded shoes I just bought because apparently my inner five year old is holding my credit cards! I knew it was WRONG...but I did it anyway! Luckily I keep receipts! Clearly I have lost my mind. Also yesterday I found a weird iTunes gadget that devil psychoboy bought for the office that was NEVER used...so I can sell it on eBay! And turn it into a PUPPY!  YAY!  Evil turns into GOOD! 
P.S. When we get it all together I wanna send her an ecard with all our  names!  I know she has helped so many of us.  Please don't tell her or it'll ruin my Puppy plan! The timing is important cause she has to put down a deposit.  So let  me know ASAP. Thanks so much.  I know she will be touched." ~Dr. Chiro
Remember, neither advisers nor myself knew about Dr. Chiro's email, nor The Puppy Plot; but we realized something was up because members were sending complaints about chat cliques. Then shock and awe, this note arrived in my email:
"Dear CZ,   
Dr. Chiro is getting money from members to pay for a new puppy. When I didn't send the money right away, she contacted me to see if I made payment to her Paypal account. I don't want to ruin the surprise (you are not supposed to know about it) but I feel uncomfortable sending money through Paypal. Instead, I would love to send the money directly to Melody for her puppy, she has helped me so much. I basically owe my life to her, literally.  Help me make a wise decision here without causing a problem on the board or ruining anyone's surprise!"~ XXX
I replied to XXX:
"Melody is aware of our stance about accepting money or gifts from members. I'd suggest you not participate in the puppy plot. We appreciate Melody for what she has offered but this is a free forum based on free support for our members. NO ONE is obligated to pay for help that was offered freely. NO ONE. Bless your heart for daring tell me; I'm sure it was a difficult and I respect your courage for having done so." ~CZ
It was hard for me to believe people would give money to a board member after being told to keep the plot a secret. It concerned me that members would yield to what appeared to be emotional manipulation. When another person emailed me about The Puppy Plot, I wrote:
"The WoN forum is not a Jerry Lewis Marathon! Our desperate financial situations are mocked by something as unnecessary as a pedigreed puppy!"     
The shit was hitting the fan as word of The Puppy Plot was spreading. Advisers and I had been through enough experiences with Melody to be concerned. She wasn't that different from the male narcissists women were writing about on the forum; i.e.: doing extra nice things and holding them hostage afterwards; demanding only the best for themselves and expecting others to give it to them. Yet here they were, giving a $1500 puppy to someone they'd never even met because they liked her?!! My advisers suggested we do the following:
1) "Dr. Chiro's decision was made independent of managers with no regard to the members. She used her membership status to extract money from selected people and deliberately kept her actions secret. There is no accountability as to the amount of money she will collect, or where it might go. Take the "everyone loves Dr. Chiro" thing out of the equation. Any con artist could come in and do the same thing!" 
2) "Melody is complicit. Her posts about not having enough money evoked this.  She knows people empathize and rescue. We should suggest she write a message saying she's aware someone wants to send her a gift, how much she appreciates it, but how inappropriate it is. Boundaries need to be addressed. Secrets need to be addressed. We need to hold her accountable to setting limits. That's what we would do."   
We tried reaching Melody to discuss the situation before the money had been collected but she refused to answer emails or respond to our manager's board. Not more than a couple of days after we were alerted to The Puppy Plot, Dr. Chiro posted her announcement: 
"Melody?? OH MELODY! We have a GIFT for YOU! I have excellent HOLIDAY NEWS! The best news I have EVER had the pleasure to deliver! We have turned Good Will into the best possible form of LOVE!  PUPPY LOVE!!!  We got the money!  We have it! I took matters into my freakishly strong hands and I emailed some of your friends here on the forum!  A Puppy PLOT!  A Grassy Knoll!  I asked for help, passed the hat, showed them the MOST recent horrible shoes I bought (and WILL return!)!?  Yes!  Oh yes! WE DID IT!  Melody, make that call!! GET THAT PUP! 
The puppy was *heart attack* expensive, but by splitting it all up and asking for ANYTHING anyone could afford, I have collected enough!  Melody!? GO GET YOUR PUPPY!  Happy Holidays!  For those of you that helped, THANK YOU! 
To Melody: one 12 pound boxer puppy, brand new with tags!  Includes soft puppy belly, soft little paws and sweet puppy breath!  No batteries required!  Now we need to NAME our WoN Mascot!  She's a protector for all of us!" ~Dr. Chiro

Several members replied before I could swallow another Xanax:
1) "I can't wait until Melody sees this!  A very merry, most special happy Christmas, my friend!  I am so glad I got to play a small role in the grassy knoll Christmas puppy plot!   OOOOH, may you get very many happy puppy kisses!"   
2) "Now we are sure you will have a Merrier Xmas :) Love you and glad you will have a super Xmas filled with more love than you can imagine!" 
3) "We hope you enjoy your new puppy Melody as much as we LOVE YOU!! You deserve it. May you have many many happy years together and always think of us, who love you so... and whom you have helped more than you will ever know. Way to go Dr.!! And Melody- you go get that puppy and give us lots and lots and lots of pictures. I hope you and doggie and the new puppy will all be very happy! Love you oodles and oodles! 
4) "i am all teary now.... i cannot believe this...what incredible people you all are...and of course i want to contribute. love you soooo!"
5) "I love you guys. This is impressive. Truly. This is genuine happy Christmas miracle heartmelting puppy stuff. Wow. "  
6) "Puppy is sooooooooooooooooo cute. I think my email is in my profile if not let me know and I can forward it on to who I need to. Give me an addy to send the mula!"
7) "I am so happy you all did this for Melody, but was I out or what?  I check my email everyday and I look in here every other day and this is the first I hear of passing the hat. I feel I missed the train somehow, so please count me in too. How did you get everyone to contribute?"  
And from Melody: 
"You all did this? Really did this? I am overwhelmed, speechless, OH MYGOSH My hands are shaking so badly I can't type. Oh Thank You Thank You! There are no words. As soon as I've calmed down a bit I'll be back. I am so Overwhelmed
We Love You ALL SO!"~ Melody & Doggie
At this point, I stepped in with a serious downer that didn't increase my popularity:
"Dear Dr.Chiro, 
Please email me immediately. We need a private discussion." 
Once the Puppy Plot had accomplished its mission, I worried about being locked out of my own forum. I rushed to admin controls lickety-split and demoted my co-manager to assistant manager status. Now she couldn't demote me or take over the forum. I also deleted Dr. Chiro's membership, informing her she had broken our code of conduct and if she wanted to be reinstated, she could apply for membership in two weeks. The demotion and deletion tactics learned on a prior MSN forum, didn't  go over too well on the WoN forum either; but damned if I didn't beat those rapscallions to the finish line. So much for nice people being stupid or weak. (22) I crafted a firm but kind email and sent it to Dr. Chiro:
"Dear Dr. Chiro,
We need to talk about gathering funds on a message board to buy a manager a gift. This is a boundary violation which I am sure you understand being a doctor yourself. We will not tolerate this secretive behavior. 
I received a few emails today from members who were told they ought not tell CZ. This undermines my leadership, divides members against one another and is highly inappropriate. As you already know, or you would have asked management first. 
I am suspending your membership immediately for undermining forum leadership. After two weeks, you may re-apply if managers agree to accept your membership. If you would like to correspond in private, you may do so at this address: czbz@TotallyExhausted.com"
It didn't take long for someone to notice the demotions: 
"Dr. Chiro's profile says she isn't a member anymore.....what is going on?" 
I chose not to publish my email to Dr. Chiro for members to read at that point, and maybe I should have because this is how Melody twisted the content after Dr. Chiro shared my email with her. Read Melody's interpretation of my email below and then re-read the actual email above. Without publishing the actual email, members relied on Melody's interpretation:
"Why wasn't Dr. Chiro allowed to explain she meant nothing sinister, was unaware of any MSN rule (which has yet to be posted and I can't find) and why was she sent such a cruel email that she nearly wrecked driving home from being pummeled with ugly words for her incredible kindness act? And all for the love of a puppy at Christmastime." ~Melody
"Ahhh...isn't she sweet?!!"
Meanwhile, away from the troops she was inciting to mutiny, Melody continued to ignore my emails and messages. The subject title of my last unanswered message might have had something to do with that and I regret writing in anger, but I was furious at what was happening to the forum. I titled my message: "Are you going to respond to this mess you created, Melody?" Frustrated by that point and completely ignoring BIFF rules for high-conflict situations (Bill Eddy would be disappointed) I wrote:
"Dear Melody,  
When we weep for a new puppy and BEG wounded people to buy her for us, this is what we create. I thought you would pull yourself together and realize it was wrong to trigger emotionally-suffering women's desire to give you, a manager for cripe's sakes, a new puppy for Christmas! And I've not heard a peep from you. Nor did you refuse to accept such a gift as good MANAGERS would do immediately. 
I would like to know if you have accepted money from other women for the legal advice you offered. You owe me at least that much. Otherwise, I shall write them myself.  Call me a bitch if you want but this forum is not a showcase for your troubles. You think you got problems? Take a look around yourself. As long as I am ripping you a new one, let me add: there is legal behavior and then there is moral behavior. This entire unfolding of events was immoral in my perspective. You took advantage of peoples' goodwill and I believe it was intentional on your part....extremely manipulative and dishonest. 
You can probe all you want into MSN's rules of conduct to see if you 'qualify' to keep that expensive puppy. OR, you can look into your soul and see how wrong it is if even ONE member feels badly because a bunch of wealthy women put their money together and bought a forum manager a very expensive gift.   
The fact that you are peering through the Rules of Conduct rather than asking yourself 'why' this might be inappropriate, says a lot about where your heart is. And it certainly says a lot about your ability to manage a forum of wounded people. We must be impeccable about accepting donations, gifts, money, etc. from anyone who is traumatized. Does this make sense to you or shall I find a link for you to read?   
Managers must be above reproach for our dear members who would do anything, absolutely anything to give back. I am horrified to find out you cannot see the distinction between yourself as a manager and members. I am doubly horrified at your message on the forum justifying unjustifiable behavior."  ~CZ 
This did not work out very well as savvy readers will have already surmised. Instead of answering this message when it was posted, she waited until the puppy had been given to her and THEN she published my private message on the public forum, titled, "A message left for me by CZ". Posting private correspondence is a common tactic with narcissistic people who appeal to the group for support, seeing themselves as more influential than they actually are; recruiting rescuers; and at the same time, betraying an ethical code. They trespass ethical boundaries when posting private correspondence and we all know this. Unfortunately, people who like that person will leap to their rescue, ignoring the infraction which may be a warning of bad things yet to come.

Because she posted a private message from our manager's board, I demoted Melody's assistant manager status to that of member. Melody wrote:
"Now I've been demoted to member but I just found this message. It's been copied by four other members so you can delete it if you want to, but honestly, it's going to get passed around. I think every woman I ever lent a legal hand to will tell you, I never would take a dime although they offered over and over.
Your behavior is appalling." (7) 
Blame-shifting, reversing victims, downplaying her transgression, and recruiting people to defend her integrity against the big bad authority figure who's spoiling her Christmas present: CZ. (21) She was also distorting the situation by suggesting she had everyone's support and I was in big trouble now! She was using the group to defend herself against me. My goal had been protecting people's safety and now they saw me as Melody's persecutor. Nobody manipulates the Drama Triangle quite like a narcissistic woman.

On Being Appalling

I've written to hundreds of people for over a decade, managing a free forum where they can build supportive relationships. Never in all those years has anyone offered me $1500. Is that because I'm not worth $1500 and Melody was? If anyone wonders how "innocent" Melody may have been in The Puppy Plot, t-h-i-n-k about it. She must have been doing something for anonymous people to fork over their hard-earned cash. (here's a guess as to why she got that puppy: covert manipulation). The truth is that lots of people have given her money---some women are very clever at wheedling. Benefactors won't know they've been had, 'til they reach in their pocket for lunch money and it's gone.
"I am one hair away from homelessness," someone wrote. "I have a few bucks to live on for maybe another month, but what greater gift could I give than to give love?  And a puppy is love.  Dr. Chiro did a beautiful thing."   
Another forum member said, "Dr. Chiro didn't seek only a few "wealthy women" to contribute, she emailed me and hell, I am not wealthy at all. Melody, I love you."
"Then she stamped her little foot and said: "Be so mean if you want to!...Hateful, hateful, hateful!"—and she flung out of the house with a new explosion of crying." ~Tom Sawyer
Everybody loves Melody

The following message is an example of incoming criticism and there was lots of it. Maybe fifty or sixty messages a day. Even repetitive nonsense such as "Puppy Hater" written over and over like a scene out of Jack Nicholson's The Shining. We set the forum to Moderation Mode, approving messages before they could be posted. I glued my fingers to me arse when opening  hate mail. The animosity was shocking. Even today, while reconstructing this sequence of events, it stuns me that people saw my co-manager as needing their protection. Oh, the crazy lengths we'll go to please our favorite narcissist!

The following email is an example of unreasonable anger. This is a harsh email, so if you're triggered by hostility, you may want to skip it:
"CZ, you have violated the trust of every single member of this forum tonight.  You have taken something that was a beautiful and special testimony of the affection forum members have for one of the managers - NOT you - and turned it into a projection screen where you strut your vindictiveness and jealousy before the entire NPD cyber world. You should be ashamed of yourself. 
You have taken an innocent gesture and distorted it into the most bizarre display of ill will and bad temper that I have ever witnessed on the internet.  You owe every member of this forum an apology! I can only think that some extreme stress in your personal life has caused you to react in an outlandish and unprofessional manner.  Perhaps you would be happier going back to being a manager on the NPD site. You have broken the trust of all here. 
One final thing. I resent being referred to as a wealthy woman. I get $645.00 a month from SSDI. I have a TEMPORARY job delivering phone books which is destroying the car I cannot afford to replace. I donated $10.00 toward the gift of a puppy for my friend. I'll donate another $10.00 toward your next session with a competent professional therapist. Oh, I forgot!  You'd be too "moral" to accept it.  Never mind." 
And welcome to the point, my friend. You are exactly the woman I am defending. This author emailed me after a falling-out with Melody precipitated her regrets. She said she'd been caught up in something she didn't understand, that she felt terrible about her behavior, and would I forgive her so she could let it go? Well, of course I forgave her. I had almost forgiven myself for doing the best I could even though it wasn't good enough to stop the situation from spiraling out of control. The fact is, I was in way over my head, clueless to the covert smear campaign that had been waged against me for months. 

We shut down the chat room to encourage people to write about their thoughts and feelings. Not everyone saw the chat room as emotionally destructive, though:
One woman wrote: "I found chat to be a place of humor, compassion, venting, problem-solving, and provided a way in real time for people who felt either less prone to express themselves in posts, or just needed help, support, or camaraderie in the moment. I don't feel chat is a less healthy way to express oneself than posts....most people did both." 
And a rebuttal from another member: "Chat, by its nature ends up as a private private forum unless the transcripts are posted. I get the benefit and the immediacy of chat and it is also cool to make friendships on the board. But there is nothing that chat adds that cannot be dealt with on the boards in full view of everyone, equally. Any time you turn something into an exclusive place it hurts those left out and, devalues and discards them. I spent to much time trying to get into the Ns club: his world, his life. Little did I know that was never possible. I don't want walls and velvet ropes, no matter how innocently they are put up, on a place I come to for equitable healing." 
Even with incoming insults and death threats (yes, really), forum members deserved answers and they definitely needed more explicit rules than our simple code of conduct. I wrote to forum members:
"Dear members,  
While we would like to please everyone, we also realize this would be an impossible task. In respect of forum members' privacy, we will not reveal additional information than has already been provided on message threads. These are Management's Decisions: Chat will remain closed for an indefinite period of time. Exchange of gifts or monies will result in mandatory termination. Melody will remain a member of WoN at her choice. Dr. Chiro will remain in temporary suspension until she chooses to re-apply.  
We appreciate everyone's input on this issue. We also hope that after thoughtful contemplation, each member will accept our decisions as protecting the safety and the sanctity of our forum." ~CZ
Now you might think this would settle things down and people could get on with the business of healing, but it didn't. Like all traumatic experiences, people needed to talk about what had taken place. How they felt about it. Their concerns and regrets. That was understandable. Cyber-relationships are relationships, after all. Scores of messages poured in:
1) "I was excluded and do not feel left out or sad. It was a wonderful giving Melody a puppy. I am sure those involved would have handled things differently, but it was done with the best intentions so what's wrong with that? If anybody is feeling left out and sad maybe they need to work out why that is? Perhaps there are other issues for them?"  
2) "I am disturbed Melody was not informed of her demotion before other members told her. This seems passive aggressive, like triangulation. I realize she did not respond to CZ's messages appropriately but surely nothing was so urgent that this courtesy had to be skipped? How 'bout "an attitude of gratitude" and some lassitude. Yes, I do mean special treatment. It gives the impression of management being stressed out and reactive." 
3) Gasper wrote: "It looks like a bloodbath to  me, with 12-step principles applied to it retrospectively."
My patience run-out at this point, I reacted:
"Knock it off, Gasper. We've had our run-ins before and if you don't like it here, get a towel, wipe the blood off your face and move on. Your choice. If members have further criticisms or judgments or wisdom from their vast knowledge of board management experience, please email us. However, we will not reveal any more information than we have already gone OVERBOARD revealing."
That comment from me made me take a step back and look at myself. Was I being too hasty? Maybe I was overly harsh with Melody, she had lost her beloved dog after all. Was I using power unfairly? Was I letting my prior frustration with Melody cloud my reasoning? Luckily, a welcomed email arrived from a trustworthy source, confirming what we already knew had been going on in chat. At this point, we realized other people besides ourselves were aware of the chat room shenanigans. We decided to keep this email and the chat transcripts private since we believed people had enough information to make their decisions. I still don't know if that was the right approach or not. The email said:
"Becky was in chat the night before PuppyGate went down. And guess what? Melody was getting ready to stage a coup and get rid of assistant managers and CZ because CZ had gone crazy and was power hungry!! Melody was drumming up supporters!"
So tell me, what would you do? Would you post this private information? At the time, we believed people had made up their minds and there was no point attempting to convince them otherwise OR defend my integrity. I usually err in "over-explaining", assuming people will be swayed by evidence or logic and this almost NEVER works. I concluded that healthy boundaries meant protecting my values and allowing others to live by theirs, learning as we all do through our mistakes.

As studies on cognitive dissonance suggest, people believe what they want/need to believe; they see what they want/need to see. If they had invested in The Puppy Plot, they'd justify their decision no matter how illogical or wrong it might be. 

The inevitable Suicide Threat

No online conflict worth its salt would be complete without a suicide threat, would it? The next episode in Upping the Ante was being charged with Dr. Chiro nearly killing herself. The threat of the doctor's almost-suicide released another torrent of outraged support for her, another round of darts and arrows for me. That I was popping Oreos faster than my former co-manager could fabricate lies, was my private hell. I wasn't about to use my anxiety to garner people's pity. Even if betraying a confidence might have saved me from a hanging, I resisted posting private confidences. This resistance gives troublemakers an advantage, though. They can twist situations to suit themselves while their victim is bound by her conscience (and her confusion, ha!).
1) "Dr. Chiro is damn near dead inside today! She almost killed herself on the way home last night. This is not drama, this is truth. She cannot stop crying. She's in terrible pain. How bitter I am. How wrong this is!" 
2) "My Christmas will be a better one because of that puppy, and imagining Melody's face when she gets to hold her. Love to all of you puppy people. The spirit that you acted in shines over all the ensuing crap." 
3) "Without my two beautiful, funny, naughty, dogs, I wouldn't be here. Literally. They saved my life. And now I need to go and hug them, because this place is a painful place to be and they are the only things in my life I can rely on. If you've never known the unconditional love a dog can bring you, you won't understand."  
4) "And all for the love of a puppy at Christmastime." ~Melody 
My former (thank god) co-manager wrote another message intending to discredit WoN now that she and her recruits had created a new forum. She insinuated WoN was unsafe and if people wanted security, they should abandon the Mother Ship and join their fearless captain on "Escape Narcissism: The Pirate Ship". Melody somehow someway managed to turn me into a dangerous and narcissistic leader (21) and people believed her when she wrote:
"The ugly words spoken to Dr. Chiro, her banning, the crushing of her spirit so cruel it is impossible to comprehend. Doctor is a very bright woman and would have understood had it been explained to her kindly. It wasn't explained to me either."
(Note: “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.” Haruki Murakami, 'Town of Cats'. Yes. Cats. Not dogs.
Melody continued: "My demotion? I know why, but members don't. It's because I don't agree with what has been happening on this forum, none of which you are aware of, and it involves admitting members without proper screening to create a spark on this forum.  It is being said that members need these disruptions to toughen up, that we cannot be their shield, their defender, their protector."  
The truth behind her secrets-bad-managers-won't-tell-you comment is that someone from another forum had applied for membership. I believed the applicant would be good for the group because she wasn't prone to GroupThink. She was a critical thinker and yes, okay, yea---a bit of a shit-stirrer. Because managers could not arrive at a unanimous vote to accept Queenie's membership, majority vote ruled over Melody's objection. The "seeds of distrust" planted in Melody's message demonstrates how narcissists bend the truth to create doubt in other people's minds. (As a side note, Queenie followed Melody to The Pirate Ship, rejecting WoN. O yea, baby. Emotional manipulators are just that good.)
Melody continued: "When I give my word and promise, I must know in my heart that it is the truth.  I've been fighting with my co-managers to defend my honor and it is that which is now being attacked. Very few things are ever how they truly appear. This is not about puppies, Christmas, whether an MSN rule was broken or not, or Dr. Chiro, although that is where the fallout has landed.  It's about the use of power for questionable reasons that would harm each member and will continue to do so.  That is what this is about, not puppies. And all of this, all of it---over the love of a puppy at Christmastime."
Take note of her blame shifting, secondary arguments, DARVO. (21) This comment is a perfect example of recruiting rescuers by telling people she's being attacked unfairly---thus setting up the drama triangle with  me as her persecutor. She claimed the mantle of honor while disparaging me as dishonorable, an example of splitting. (4) Many of you have experienced this with narcissistic people who flip reality, claiming to be of utmost moral rectitude when they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, their pants around their ankles, plotting mutinies in chat rooms. My only hope was that once the emotional tidal wave subsided, people would ground themselves in facts, in reality. My best recourse (or so I thought at the time) was to "hunker down and let the bombs fall."

And right on cue, someone picked up on Melody's inference that WoN wasn't a safe place:
1) "I am concerned about the narcissist getting on here and I EXPECT precautions be taken when a story sounds fishy or it mirrors the story of another member!!!" 
2) "This is about a betrayal of trust on the part of CZ toward the rest of us.  Until CZ makes that right, I for one can do no further healing here."  
3) "You need to look at the principals involved. Stop trying to force CZ to do what YOU want. YOU are not more important than everyone else here. Stop being emotional and use your brain for a moment!" 
4) "Please don't waste your time offering me your advice.  I am sure there are others here who could use your assistance.  I am not one of those people!" 
5) "CZ, you've let down SO many good people here and as a member I've been let down too.  I can't stay here.  Please terminate my membership."  
Because administrative maintenance reviewing membership applications was my responsibility (yea, the grunt work), I assumed my message would clear things up. Note to Self: never assume logic or direct evidence will settle an online conflict.
I wrote: "If members are concerned about WoN management not putting their safety as one of our highest priorities, please review past threads to see who has been doing the work to keep members safe. Your safety IS important to all of us screening incoming applications, reviewing threads, emailing concerned members, and reviewing suspicious messages. If this is not obvious by the countless hours we have spent sniffing out suspects in order to protect you, then there really isn't much more we can say." ~CZ
To illustrate people's divergent views of Puppy Plot, several well-reasoned comments were posted, such as the following:
1) "The controversy is not so much about the people. It's about what is appropriate and not appropriate. What issues are in question here? What boundaries have been violated? These questions will eventually help us to define our boundaries around forum collections and gifts. I want to encourage you to become patient with these issues.  Anything that we take with us, emotionally and mentally from this experience is more than a gift...it's something that we can't take up a money collection for...it's a soulful wealth that can be shared by all." 
2) "Let's give the money back, or agree to give it to the coalition Against Domestic Violence. Let's restore Dr. Chiro to the forum. Let Melody and CZ decide whether they can work together privately. Let us get on with the work at hand: Healing." 
3) "We have a lot of people here with financial difficulties. They are having problems with Christmas for their own children, money for food for their families, gas for their cars. It puts life in a different perspective when you are scrambling to keep your head above water and people are spending an inordinate amount of time on the puppy fund. The puppy fund should have been taken completely off the board, to private emails."  
4) "I am so sad about this. If the parties look at their motives and think through how the group was affected, the act was intensely selfish and that is the real lesson. All the back and forth jokes are self serving---the passing of the hat, the self aggrandizing (when you need attention for your charitable works, the works are no longer charitable). I have been logging on for the past few weeks and women who need emotional support go ignored as the puppy clique grows larger and larger. Many members have been excluded."  
5) "It is beautiful to love Melody and want her to be happy, but in a world where thousands of dogs need homes and will be killed this holiday season, a pedigree pup purchase is doubly wrong and sends a message I do not understand." 
6) "I stand by Melody and Dr. Chiro because of the fact that this IS a matter of the heart, and intentions were not meant to be cruel or evil. I understand CZ's position but there is error on everyone's part and with some effort and a little less drama, I believe it can be fixed. Otherwise this place will topple. This is in no way a threat CZ. It is the way these things end up, just one big huge mess.....a bloodbath with causalities everywhere." 
7) "No offence is meant by this post to anyone who opened their hearts and donated to the puppy fund. However, there are women on this list one step away from women's shelters, women escaping abuse with little or no funds, women without medical coverage, women with children and no idea how they will survive another week let alone provide a Christmas. Why are we not raising funds for them?  I know this was done out of love for Melody, but please keep in mind some of the terrible situations and dire straights members may be in and perhaps arrange this stuff off list."  
8) "A gift was given out of love. It should end there."

You may be asking yourself at this point: 
Is this a healing forum or is this a kennel? 

 
"Whatever happens dear Melody, know this: There are so many behind you. Should you decide to get the hell out, you will be followed where ever you go. Loads and loads of kisses and hugs and all things good---like puppies at Christmastime." ~an admirer
And with management's refusal to budge on our decisions, dissenters escaped narcissism, sailing away on a Pirate Ship with Captain Melody at the helm. Aye aye and tally ho! We now had two forums instead of WoN and people were free to choose the best place for their recovery. In a big picture view, this was a good thing. There weren't enough forums in 2005 and as a consequence, people were subjected to irresponsible forum leadership banning and deleting without censure.

Advisers and I restored our focus on WoN, reviewed the mission statement, and modified our code of conduct to protect people from financial manipulation in the future. And then:

The Inevitable Lawsuit Threat & Demand for Apology 

We had been forced to cancel several memberships before and after The Pirate Ship set sail, contacting each person and explaining why---which was a far cry beyond the typical "unexplained bannings" on N-forums. In the example below, the author was part of the chat room mutiny, yet she still sent me this email after her membership had been cancelled:
"CZ, because I have made my real name (LitigiousLilly) and my location (HellAndBack) known to the general membership, your comments are something I can hold you legally responsible for. I would also like for you to address your accusation of my behaving abusively in chat. I would like to see the transcripts. You have brought my personal integrity into question and unless you show me proof of your statements or issue a public apology and retraction of your words, I will seek legal action against you."
I replied to her concerns about her real name and location ruining her reputation:
"Dear LitigiousLilly, 
We have no messages on our forum about your membership cancellation. Any threads referring to PuppyGate have been deleted. I hope this is an early Christmas present from WoN managers to you and everyone who has moved on with their healing. 
It is our hope that each person will find peace about the inevitable division of forums. The more forums there are on the web, the more we'll be able to help others. Take care of yourself. I wish nothing but serenity and joy in your life."
 And LitigiousLilly replied: 
"In other words, having done the damage, you now have destroyed the evidence of your misdeeds when called upon to take responsibility for your actions.  Rather than retract statements that have no basis in the truth, you simply sweep the entire thing under the carpet, leaving those who read your words still believing them to be an accurate portrayal of my character.  You then have the audacity to describe your self-serving action as an "early Christmas present." It won't wash. I have screenshots of the pages in question. Merry Christmas!"
Damned if you do and damned if you don't! The ol' Catch-22. We removed threads in the hopes of restoring peace but did she interpret this as a peace-offering?  No. "You only did that to destroy the evidence!" she wrote. And no, there was no lawsuit, only the threat of a lawsuit.

Before moving on to resolutions, the following exchange merits placement in the story. It should say something to people studying narcissist's cool and collected behavior because as you can imagine, my emotional state was ragged. I was frazzled and broken-hearted now that my Web of Narcissism dream was in the dumpster and all over the love of a puppy at Christmastime. ARGH
"Melody, have you been taking Gandhi/Nelson Mandela pills? You are so chilled, diplomatic and laid back about this it is awesome!  Isn't she incredible?" ~a male admirer
Melody replied: "As much as we want to be peacemakers, straddle the diplomatic fence (which I am famous for), keep the peace to keep the boat from rocking, the waves rock it on their own no matter what we do."

Remorse---Gratitude---Resolution
Three signs someone is NOT a narcissist

The following comment was how I hoped people would handle PuppyGate and it speaks to the author's resiliency tolerating this traumatic conflict in a mindful way:
"When Dr. Chiro was banned, I didn't understand---I was mad, and I was mad at CZ for acting in what I thought was pure haste. How could CZ ban someone for such a loving gesture?  But I love CZ, so how could I question her judgement? NO! I'm mad!!! But she saved me!! Was she for real? No, how can she be---she just killed her board. But that isn't the CZ I have come to know and respect and love for all these months.  
"I had to take a day or so off the board to get my feelings in check and truly figure out what I believed. I have read numerous posts, some of them twice and I now have the understanding that I needed. CZ & Co., you did an amazing thing! I respect management even more now. I saw that some of the people who got banned, really needed to take a good long look at their behavior." 
A forum member responded to her message:
"Your comment was thrilling to read! I love that you took time off to ponder what was true FOR YOU and came to a loving conclusion that was so well written. I felt the love in your voice and the power of joy in your spirit and it lifted me, truly. Thanks for your tribute to the managers. They are amazing and wise women and I am so grateful for the time they take out of their lives and families to create a forum for many to share and hug and learn and grow. It's really a privilege, not a right. Maybe thinking and a little gratitude would have saved the bannees." 
The floodgates were opened and managers breathed a sigh of relief:
1) "I commend you for "holding the vision" together.  It takes courage to be a leader and the ability to regroup and come up on top. You have done this and you have my utmost respect. You have not wavered with your intentions of making this a wonderful community. When I first joined this forum in it's beginnings...... I embraced the principles that set this group apart from any other on the net."
 
2) "CZ, what a crummy job you have had these past few days. I was the CEO of a company and on my first day a sage person said to me, "You will have to eat a yard of shit every day but you must never forget you are the boss." He was so right. I did the job for 7 years and I never lost sight of his advice. Each time I had to make a decision I thought, what can I decide that helps everyone. And then I made those decisions. (always the co-dependent and I don't happen to think it is a bad thing!).  In the short term, people hated and cursed me but in the long run, they came to understand. You have to do what you have to do; for yourself and who you are, and stand for. Some of us out here love and respect what you are doing and will be here no matter what.  I get so much comfort from this board and totally respect what you are doing." 
3) "Gosh CZ, This is heavy duty and I know that it had to be done for the good of the general membership. A big hug for having the cojones to do what needed to be done. You have my respect and have created a safe zone for "wounded warriors" who need positive support. THANKS"  
4) "CZ, you have my profound respect and admiration.  There is no one I would rather have as the Manager of this forum. Your integrity and conviction of purpose is more apparent as time goes on. I am blessed to be in this place, at this time, with you.  Thank you for the opportunity to be on your team. And PracticalJude: You are the calm in the storm, the light in the dark, and I am privileged to serve with you on this board. Thank you for all you have done always and for your dedication to this board. Members, Thank you for your faith and hope. I look forward to that which is yet to come, for all of us."
Get the Kleenex. People were beginning to understand the serious issues at stake and no, it wasn't about puppies. It was about ethics and principles and leaders being able to set aside their PETty self-interests in service of the group. It took awhile before people could integrate the ordeal. We lost a lot of members who couldn't cope with the confusion. We lost a lot of members who gave up on cyber-space as a SAFE place to learn and grow. That is the tragedy of online conflicts, making it even more important that leaders familiarize themselves with the Signs of Destructive Online Narcissists. 


I will never uncover all the damage done because of my relationship with Melody. Critical emails were attributed to me. Phone calls were made to discuss my character. One woman was terrified she'd been emailing me privately since rumor suggested I was a psychopath. Melody used any bit of information to plant seeds of doubt in people's minds. Emotional pain works like fertilizer in the minds and hearts of suffering people. Perhaps Melody was the kind of person who tore people down to build herself up---narcissistic people feel diminished when someone thinks you're swell. They almost can't stop themselves from inventing insults to prove how bad you are (which makes them look superior and restores their self-esteem). If they feel guilty about assassinating your character behind your back, ten bucks says "Smoochies! I loooove you!" will show up in your email.

Numerous people have been brave enough to tell me about their experiences with Melody. That people believed outlandish lies was disheartening because some of her secret revelations involved my x-spouse whom she'd never met. She did this with anyone who knew me in cyberspace---even with people considered to be friends, but especially with those that weren't. When I confronted her about an email attributed to me but written by herself, she said:
"Everyone has been guilty of trusting someone, confiding in them, to have their words later used against them. This is nothing new. Every single person in this world has felt this sting from friends, intimate family members, and cyber buddies. We are human, we do this.  We share our thoughts, sometimes not so pretty ones, but it's the way we feel."
And there you have it. Feelings become facts and forums turn into kennels. When it comes to taking personal responsibility and admitting mistakes, the narcissist's agentic "I" magically transforms to the communal "WE do this". 

In case anyone wonders, had The Puppy Plot taken place off-board as some suggested and the gift collection managed privately, I'd still have demoted Melody's status for unethical behavior. As PracticalJude counseled, "Managers that make mistakes should be able to acknowledge them and correct them. Everything that followed suggested she wasn't up to the task of leadership." Pay attention to Jude's advice if you're involved in a conflict and managers believe themselves above reproach.

If any of my readers would like advice on starting a safe and trustworthy forum, you'll have to contact me. The Pirate Ship sank years ago when the trustworthy Captain swam away with the sharks, leaving her crew stranded on the poop deck. 

p.s. You may be wondering if I ever heard from my former co-manager again. Well, yes. I did. About one year later.
Dear CZ, 
I am sure this letter comes as quite a surprise.  Well, life is full of surprises and sometimes they are very rich and rewarding.  I do hope this turns out to one of them. Despite what happened in the past best summed up as raging emotions, we were there for each other through some immensely difficult times and that is worth remembering.  The rest just isn't. I've been off forums since 2006—the day a new chapter began that has been one of the best in my life. A magnificent time filled with those things life is all about—challenges wrapped with glorious happenings and new discoveries.  I have not cast my eyes upon the Pirate Ship nor any other NPD forum since that day. 
I was talking to so-and-so on the phone yesterday asking how everyone was, what’s the news and she said, "Why don’t you use my log-in and look at the Pirate Ship?"  I did. A grin the size of Texas spread across my face seeing the marvelous names of the marvelous people that once filled my every waking moment keeping me sane.   
So-and-so also directed me to your blog and it is quite lovely. One of the things I've been doing is internet marketing and I want to give you a few suggestions for visibility to your blog........(yada yada wordpress anchor-texts blahbetyblah rankings).......
We can talk about this later if you’d like. Right now let me tell you the reason for this letter. I am sending an email to the few remaining Ship members to gather again for a party, a bon voyage, coming together again. You are invited as are others who would like to drop by. In talking with so-and-so, we thought telling you first was best as some surprises we can do without.  We’ll decide on the date very soon.
My very best to you,
Melody

I declined response. 



Resources



Campbell, Foster & Finkel. Does Self-Love Lead to Love for Others? 15-page PDF

Jennifer J. Freyd. What is DARVO? University of Oregon.






62 comments:

  1. CZ, I'm tired tonight but have read this carefully. I will comment tomorrow, but for tonight I can only say HOLY CRAP. This is EXACTLY the kind of mush-minded slush that makes it so hard to trust so many women. SMOOCHIES? Where's the barf emoticon when I need it? Your principles were OF COURSE exactly right, en pointe. Melody was a giant piece of crapwork. "Glorious happenings"? Anyone who would even write such words is a raving narcissist. More tomorrow, but sheesh, the nuances of the lessons learned here are in the infinite fractals of boundaries and their violations. Can't think clearly enough to write coherently tonight. MOre tomorrow. love CS

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    1. Hi CS,

      I'm not sure how many people will have the patience to "dig in" to this case study. After witnessing numerous online conflicts though, the same dynamics are repeated. Different issue, same group behaviors. I hoped by reconstructing this preposterous situation, that people will "catch themselves in the act" if they're being Swept Up in the drama-of-it-all. I especially hope people will pay attention to "who" they are protecting and how far they are willing to go to defend that person. Usually (at least in most of the online conflicts I've seen), there's a narcissist stirring-the-shit and everyone else gets their hands dirty "for her."

      The principles at stake are much easier to see in this reconstruction. When the drama is going on and comments are posted out of sync, it's hard to make sense of the confusion. There's usually fifty tangential arguments going on at the same time, grudges to bring forth, and "flying monkeys" who seize the opportunity to drop their doo-doo on the group.

      Cyber-mobbing is like any other mobbing after a disaster. Instead of allowing the community to re-order itself, they perpetrate as much destruction as they can get away with.

      It's also important to note that while the WoN Forum is a small community today, we received over 2000 messages a week in 2005. It was, even on the best of days, overwhelming.

      Love ya too
      CZ

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    2. This is the same dynamic I saw my own ex-narc-"friend" pull on a game forum years ago. She went on the attack against a friend of her husband's. By the end of it, the friendship was in tatters, and she had lots of people thinking the friend was crazy. But when I combed through the whole sordid affair a few years later (I had printed it), I saw her narc behavior very clearly.

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    3. Hi Nyssa!

      It's difficult putting our feelings and thoughts into words which makes online communication dangerous. Anonymous trouble-makers can easily destroy someone's reputation and all they have to do is create an element of doubt. This isolates their target who might (only natural, right?) over-react by defending herself.

      It's interesting that you said your "ex-friend" accused the other person of being crazy. That seems to be standard and unfortunately, when you're being attacked and discredited, you might be reactive. Of course! The sad thing is that the victim plays right into the narcissist's hands by reacting', by defending herself.

      I can say from experience that it is very very hard to Do Nothing. To let the accusations and insults fly and go about your day as if you didn't care. People who are easy targets are usually "caring" people. They want to do the right thing, they want to resolve conflicts, they want to explain themselves. Defending ourselves rarely works though because narcissists are relentless in their desire to destroy an intended victim. (while claiming themselves to have been victimized, no less!)

      p.s. You probably learned a lot about narc behavior while reviewing your old threads. It's curious what we don't see at the time; another reason why reviewing threads can be enlightening. What didn't we see three years ago or five? It reminds me that even as slow as my recovery feels to be, I am making progress! ha!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  2. Up way too early again. What struck me reading through this last night was how easily umbrage (how I love that word) was generated when you tried to remind people that the forum was not only NOT for raising or soliciting money but was populated with a lot of women barely getting by and a pedigreed puppy (probably from a puppy mill) was totally inappropriate in this context. Secondly, that overly gushy and intense need to please Melody by "proving' how much they cared by getting her that cuddly adorable gift of love (that would crap and pee in the house, shred furniture for five months, etc) was part of the very enmeshment that led so many of the members into negative relationships to begin with. Third, it was a forum begun by you, and rules of decorum and principles of operation are necessary and ethical, and if they are bent to solicit money for a puppy (not, say, to help a member pay for a hotel room to escape an abusive spouse because all shelters were full), then the forum would become a clique club and popularity contest. How could grown women not see this? Because many grown women never outgrow the patterns of needing "to be liked" at all costs (even to their integrity and honesty). I was never on your forum; I don't know Melody or any of the players (except I've read Practical Jude in action from time to time on WoN and she rocks). But I know you very well. Even if you wrote a few missives in anger, they were always about ethical conduct and rules of the road. A lead administrator has responsibilities. That Melody was also working on a hostile takeover behind your back also shows who was were. And the publishing on the forum of private email communications, well, that is triangulation, enmeshment 101, isn't it? It's also a gross breach of trust. I personally know this because it's how my N mother and sisters operate. Nothing I wrote my mother (especially nothing that was kind or mature) was ever shared; instead she'd push and push until I expressed some righteous anger (never rage or exploding) at her ethics,then she'd cry victim and get my sisters on board. Even back then, before you knew half of what you know now, you still managed Puppygate with integrity.

    The world is full of narcissistic people, many of them men; many of these men are rewarded by the society for being "go-getters"; but there are just as many female narcissists, and because the culture doesn't reward them for similar behavior, they learn to go underground, or even above ground but with a different M.O. In the 'dustup' I was exposed to, I saw a Queen Bee play victim and get her flying monkeys to do her dirty work for her. It was but a fraction of what you dealt with in Puppygate. But one can see it when it's happening, see the escalation. It's often hard to describe, which is why seeing everything verbatim, in a proper timeline, is so enlightening here. The problem is enmeshment and an unwillingness to commit and hold to principles of membership. If friends want to be friends, great--solicit money for someone off forum, in separate private emails. But using the forum to pay for a pedigree puppy to "prove love" to "selfless" Melody (quite the shark), that's a big no no. Good for you for still being there with one of the best forums on the web, and of course this, THE blog of note for all things narcissistic. And scour as one may on this blog, nowhere is there a "contribute through Paypal or make a donation at" anywhere. You've never been in it for the money. Time reveals what and who people are. CS

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    1. One of my learning lessons was the importance of setting limits for people who needed explicit rules. This was something I hadn't considered when creating a forum with "lax" rules, assuming people had the ability to limit themselves without an authority figure telling them right from wrong.

      Obviously, the doctor knew it was shady sneaking around management with her Puppy Plot. Even the word "plot" suggests "collusion". My thesaurus says Plot also means: connivance, stratagem, scam, trickery. None of those words suggesting trust, inclusion, cooperativeness, or respect for managers. ha! I don't think the good doctor was oblivious to proper limits; I think she believed her relationship with my co-manager meant she was special and she could take liberties with "ordinary" social protocol.

      Melody was not perceived to be an "authority figure" like myself. Is it my style of writing? My moral rectitude? Not sure but I score very high in "authority" on my NPI. Guess it shows. Guess that means I have nothing to hide. Two traits I'm not are: exploitative and entitled.

      The way a covert narcissist (high in exploitation and entitlement) sneaks in there and causes trouble is by "hiding" their superiority, authority, and grandiosity. They ARE "controlling" but you won't see it because they'll claim to be a victim. One way to help ourselves avoid messes like PuppyGate is to learn about Triangulation and then 'see' ourselves acting in one of the three roles. This can clarify the confusion and we can get ourselves out of the DRAMA before we damage our self-esteem (or to others).

      Back to setting limits for people who cannot do that for themselves: IF you set a limit, expect people with narcissistic issues to Up the Ante. You must hold firm to the limits you've set even though the blowback can be mighty hostile. Stand firm in your principles. That is the only way to garner their respect. Back down because you hope to appease the mob, and you're toast. So's your forum. Or your blog. I haven't found it helpful to "reason" with people who Upped the Ante and my usual response is to set a limit and allow people the dignity of agreeing or leaving. Of course, I'd prefer it if we could all agree that $1500 puppies are inappropriate. Engaging in further explanations has never resolved anything--it has escalated the hostility, though!

      I hope readers see themselves in this story because anyone who has felt isolated, cut off and neglected by society, partners and parents, will feel a rush of gratitude when someone cares.And many of us DO care! But we must keep our gratitude in check and not REWARD that person with $$. That unhealthy behavior is why many of us ended up in narcissistic relationships---it was so wonderful to be seen and loved and (gulp) "mirrored."

      People are reciprocal. We want to repay kindness and that is what makes the world go round. Situations like PuppyGate make the world go flat, jading people's willingness to trust. And thus, the isolation is even worse than before they met an online destructive narcissist. ~CZ

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    2. I think I just wrote an another essay in response to your comment, CS. Hope you don't mind me "going on a tangent"...but then again, if you did mind---you wouldn't be my friend. ha!

      You're right. PracticalJude rocks. We've been working behind the scenes together since 2005. In fact, all my current advisers (let's call 'em close friends) have been working with me since 2005-6. That's long enough for them to "out" me as a psychopath, don't you think? We have all met in person, another prerequisite before sharing managerial control with anyone. Especially if you're setting up a business. You must meet that person and get to know them In Person. We miss a lot of cues with online relationships because we aren't aware of our own transference. More about that later......

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    3. Well CZ, given what's gone down in my neck of the woods, your response wasn't in any way shape or form a tangent :-)
      LIke you, I scored high in Authority on the NPI, and low in exploitativeness and entitlement. I think for me the high score in authority was partly due to just the years of doing my job. Something does come across when one is used to writing about a topic, and you at this point have an honorary doctorate in Narcissistic Letters (that's a degree you never wanted, eh?). Dr. Chiro was so ridiculous in her comments about all those shiny shoes and things she'd bought; like rubbing people's noses in her ability to buy herself such things. Your comment about how if Melody really wanted a pup she should adopt one from a shelter should've put the whole thing to rest. That Melody went ape-shit over a photo of a pedigreed puppy itself seems way dysfunctional to me. Add the "price tag" and you are dealing with, if not a puppy mill, a supplier to a puppy mill. And to my mind, that's not about love at all. That whole episode was so unsavory; your natural ethical instincts led you to choose principles over personality, something that I try to do as well. Being liked is lovely; but not at the expense of ethics or your own personal morality. Boundaries are exactly what victims of dysfunction need to learn about. And not triangulating or forming cliques within a forum. Private blogs, ok--forum, no ok!

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    4. ha! Yes, I see your entangled in a slush mush right now..."upping the ante" each time you set a limit. I also noticed that appeasing his requests didn't sooth his ego.

      Listen, it's a bit of an insult when our comments aren't "accepted" by a blog-owner. But the striking thing about non-narcissistic people is that they want to know "WHY". And when you tell them they say, "Okay." And then they respect your wishes and say "Thank You" for giving them a second chance.

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    5. Yup. The moment the insults start to fly is the moment you know you're dealing with a mentally unstable personality. I will quibble with your use of the word 'appease' tho (because I know it's perfectly safe to quibble with you about anything); I did it because I could see his point. Nonetheless, I have gotten sick of having my posts cluttered by careening prolixity that veers into intense self-indulgence. It's fine if someone wants to write like that on their own blog. We all know what it looks like when someone, male or female, leaves long meandering rambling barely coherent self-confessionals that they then merely gesture back to the conversation at hand. I'm tired of it. And I don't like the word "gals." IMHO, if women are still "gals" to you, you should be over 75 yrs old.

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    6. To me, appease is more like a "gesture of good will." Quibbling over word usage doesn't bother me in the least. I've picked up some great words from you, CS. Like "prolixity", aka: wordiness.

      Next time I'm at a family reunion, I'm gonna say how much my sister's careening prolixity disturbs this autodidact. And then someone will undoubtedly throw a rhubarb pie in my face. LOLLOL

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    7. hahahahaha. I was wondering how rhubarb fit into all this!! Thanks! yours, ever appeasingly, CS

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  3. Hi CZ,
    Wow, wow, wow for dealing with all that. I can imagine how difficult a period PuppyGate was for you, as a person, a friend and manager of the forum. I think you handled the situation with a tremendous amount of courage meaning you stood by your values, reflected on your own actions and sharing this with us to learn - not easy to re-live it, I can imagine.

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    1. Thank you so much for being willing to put yourself in my shoes and "feel" what I felt.

      I had devoted myself to organizing a forum that wasn't authoritarian, that didn't delete or ban, that treated people gently so they were in charge of their OWN process without harsh criticism from those who "assumed" they knew more than the person telling their own story. I wanted to create a safe place for people to talk openly and create supportive friendships. It was very hard for me to risk losing the forum for the sake of a principle. How easy it would have been to let Melody have her way in the hopes of "saving" WoN.

      Only in hindsight am I able to see that yielding our Principles to the Plot would have destroyed the forum. "Putting principles ahead of personalities" has become a cliche in my home today.

      THANK you for reading and commenting. I am still integrating this ordeal, considering alternative ways to handle online conflicts that would protect vulnerable people from C-ptsd. (Cyberspace Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). ha!

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  4. I have to write this in pieces, it didn't take my whole comment.

    Here are my thoughts as I read the case:
    when Melody shared the picture and the price of the dog and I read her financial situation - I was able to see that Melody was not healthy. Not that she was a narcissist at this point, but she was unhealthy. But that is not easy to see. Money is a hot button for me because of my FOO but not everyone has the same trigger. So, it can 'look' harmless.

    Then, when I saw Dr. soliciting e-mail to everyone except you and the advisors - this was a huge telling point. Because if she thought that this was acceptable behavior why were you not copied - the fact of not being so - says something about how Dr. reflected on her own behaviors. The excuse that Dr. was not aware of the policy ceases to exist for the mere fact that you and advisors were excluded. If she really thought this was appropriate then why, you - Melody's co-manager and friend - should not have been included in giving a gift.

    Then when you stood by the fact that this was not the policy of the forum to accept gifts was spot on. The forum is a 'business'. A business of healing where like other business there are ethical standards that hold true. This could not have been easy to face as a manager - going against popular sentiment and holding another manager accountable for their actions. But let me tell you, the best managers I have had are not necessarily someone I 'liked' but I thought they were awesome because they held others accountable. When a manager does not do this, it is a grand source of misery for everyone else - even when others aren't vocalizing it. I have been in misery in some jobs where the manager did not do this. I can imagine there were more people suffering than vocalized. You helped them by keeping the forum safe, a wonderful and sustainable gift.


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  5. When I read various reactions from the forum members involved I saw them being thrown a bone by Melody and others - go fetch (no pun intended ;). The issue was now about people losing their status on the forum or having a membership annulled or 'possible suicide attempt'. All of which served a really great purpose for Melody and even Dr. - not focus on root of the issue - Melody's poor decision making skills (regarding choosing a dog to replace the other) and accepting the gift as manager and Dr.'s e-mail soliciting funds on a free forum. This was convenient long enough for Melody to get what she wanted - a dog that she could not afford.

    Although I don't doubt that the forum members wanted to help Melody they didn't really 'help' her to heal. Melody was making a poor decision about the dog - she simply could not afford it. And part of healing is to learn to make decisions that are healthy for oneself. The conversation turned to other issues - intentions, proving love, wealthy women vs not, etc. I think their (forum members who donated) emotions and needs were being fulfilled above the real needs of Melody. Continuing a cycle that followed an old pattern - it was not healing, it was repeating patterns they needed to get out of, that they were trying to get out of by being part of the forum. And it is for these reasons that I think the decisions you made regarding how to handle the forum were wonderful, healthy and inspiring.

    I can understand sending an angry e-mail, I have written them too. You reflect on how you handled the situations that presented itself. You have learned a lot from this and have shared this information with us. How easy it would have been to mask your behaviors in telling this story? Who handles a situation like this perfectly? Throughout the case I saw you self reflect, a point I missed in any of Melody's words - especially the last e-mail from her. As I read this I wanted to not jump right away on Melody because it is clearly easier to do. And even at the point when it was clear there were smear campaigns going on I wanted to wait until I finished reading the case. And then in the last e-mail from her, it was clear. The last e-mail is priceless. No response indeed.

    Thank you for sharing this case. It is a healthy reminder that the relationships we build online are subject to the same unhealthiness we deal with face to face.
    Hugs, TR

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    1. "Although I don't doubt that the forum members wanted to help Melody they didn't really 'help' her to heal. Melody was making a poor decision about the dog - she simply could not afford it. And part of healing is to learn to make decisions that are healthy for oneself." ~TR

      Exactly, very astute! Members were enabling Melody to live a lifestyle she could no longer afford. Like myself, she was accustomed to a high standard of living but once husbands decide wives are expendable, a woman's gotta change QUICK or end up on the sidewalk. That members were rewarding her "magical thinking" and "unwillingness" to FACE REALITY was indeed unhealthy! Great point!

      I think narcissism can be seen as a "refusal" to accept reality. Instead of yielding to changed circumstances, narcissistic people hold onto what they WANT to be real. There's a certain arrogance to that, I think...an unwillingness to surrender their defenses. Narcissism has been described as "An Escape from Reality" and that certainly applies when a woman facing foreclosure obsesses on a $1500 dog.

      (I am not suggesting Melody was a pathological narcissist because I can't know that without a clinical diagnosis. But I believe she merits placement on the Destructive Narcissist Continuum because of the impact her behavior had on other people. She's fine and they're not. A telling sign if ever there was one. )

      "Who handles a situation like this perfectly?"~TR

      Not me. That's for sure. When a conflict gets going, you have to fly by the seat of your pants. If there's no cojones in there, yer in trouble. If you don't have the ability to rise above your own ego for the betterment of the group, yer in trouble. If you can't admit you make mistakes or 'observe' yourself behaving badly, then yer really in trouble.

      Learning to communicate online has been a process for all of us. Learning to manage a group has been a steep learning curve. I've always worked with women's groups and volunteered in a variety of roles (typical of women my age). The tough thing about online communication though is the immediacy. I may have been upset by some of the political rabble-rousing in EVERY group I've even belonged to---but I could usually calm myself down before speaking. Email and message boards and blogs make it easy to "catch ourselves in the act" after behaving badly. I don't fault people for writing mean stuff now and then...it's the aftermath that defines our character. It would be nutty to expect people to be harassed, insulted, dive-bombed, castigated, mocked, and godonlyknowswhatelse without Defending themselves or getting angry.

      One more tangent: Something I think is really strange and people who aren't shit-stirrers should pay attention to, is that WHEN the targeted scapegoat eventually REACTS, s/he is blamed for being hostile or hypocritical without any consideration for her predicament. It's as if mob-type folks push and push and push UNTIL they get a reaction and then they say, "Ha! See what horrid person she is!! I KNEW IT!"

      Maybe "hostile" people can't see the situation, can't see how they have caused the situation; but 'normal' people can. So we need to Take a break. Stand back. Notice the escalation of events and then give the scapegoat the benefit of our doubt and empathy. How s/he has been harassed to the point of retaliating is something we should think about, too.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. Amen, baby, especially to the last three paragraphs. They push and push and push and when we finally say "ouch" they scream that we've attacked them. My NM in a nutshell, not to mention the "dustup" bullies.

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    3. Hi CZ and CS, I have been thinking over the part where it begins "one more tangent". I see what you mean - everyone has a point where a line is crossed. Where one responds with angry words and that is in fact normal when any human or animal is pushed to their limits. It is to fight back. The pushing someone to the point is really, really manipulative. That is a good point. I took a lot out of the post and the comments. xx TR

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    4. How about when the narcissistic person has been pushing really hard to get that reaction from the scapegoat so they can hang them out to dry - have "evidence" of how horrible the scapegoat is - and the scapegoat STILL doesn't react and give them that juicy morsel - so the narcissistic person just makes stuff up! alludes to "horrible emails" and call me a "manipulative person" without ever presenting any actual source - because they don't exist. Such a low play.

      But then I think maybe the narcissistic person's interpretation of anything is off anyway? maybe everything SEEMS awful to them, they feel that way, believe it themselves (i.e. someone asking her to have a better attitude on the job, as was this circumstance and the spark that attracted the abuse from her towards myself). I am still trying to figure out what is real for the narcissistic person. Maybe they are feeling really "attacked" by comments which are just run-of-the-mill for others?

      Her biggest mistake was texting my husband and saying he had been manipulated by me, that she understood he was really on her side and just keeping the peace with me! (how little she knows him, he does only want he wants to, I love that he is like that). Anyway that didn't wash at all and he has had nothing to do with her since. I was shocked she would do something like that though.

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    5. She called your husband expecting him to side with her against you? Wow.

      Are you asking if the narcissistic person's interpretation of events is "off"? If so, the answer is "yes." Narcissists have distorted perceptions and they lack self-reflection but what they do have is "emotional conviction" which convinces people of their sincerity. They seem so certain of themselves which may be caused BY their lack of introspection. Ya know? If you don't doubt yourself and you don't understand the impact your behavior has on other people, you will appear to be "certain." That might be why so many people believe the narcissist and "question" the real victim or as you wrote: the scapegoat. Scapegoats are usually asking themselves "What did "I" do to cause this?" which is just enough uncertainty to convince people you're guilty.

      I have heard out-and-out lies about someone the N was attempting to discredit. Only by knowing that person very well, was I able to "disbelieve" the accusations. Instead of keeping silent as I've done in the past (and it hasn't worked because remaining silent is interpreted as giving our approval), I said, "I find that very hard to believe considering I've known So-and-So for many years." That was enough to stop the conversation. I learned the hard way to TRUST myself and my observations rather than being persuaded by the intensity of someone else's emotional conviction.

      Hugs
      CZ

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    6. Wow, thanks CZ, I appreciate your words and Hugs too. I am just beginning to discuss this on the net with people. The girl in the above story is exactly like you say. Her tears and hysteria seem so real, but its based on falseness. SO convincing though, she had me doubting myself. Yes indeed, she really thought she had my husband wound around her little finger. He put her right and she stopped texting.

      She is now "in a great place" apparently and pretending none of this happened. Meantime I just about lost my mind trying to get through it. If she was in a great place she would mention her bad behaviour and offer at least some kind of apology. But actually I am just really grateful the abuse has stopped, I know that is as good as its going to get.

      I have to say though, her problem, which seems to be passive aggressive personality disorder (she is it to a T, well my experience as her employer), is a kind of narcissism, but she has the MOST horrible confrontational narcissistic mother who has all her daughters on mood altering drugs and pin pointed with various problems (this girl has an "anger problem" according to her mother). The mother herself is a tyrant running the household. In the movie "August, Osage, Orange County" she is Meryl Streep's character twin, complete with booze and a compliant husband.

      This girl is the scapegoat, I know that. She cannot see what her mother is doing to her and no one is allowed to say anything about the mother, who bailed me up once and told me her daughter "fails at everything" (which isn't true). I was so shocked at the complete lack of loyalty I didn't know what to say. There seemed to be such vehemence I was almost afraid of this woman.

      This girl is now out of my life thank god, (she was my employee, she quit whilst having a tantrum and this time I accepted her notice), but I do feel so sorry for her family situation.

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    7. CZ - its a lot like that letter you got after a year. "Butter wouldn't melt" as they used to say, in the old days, which is a form of gas lighting of course.

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    8. Pauline wrote: "She is now "in a great place" apparently and pretending none of this happened. Meantime I just about lost my mind trying to get through it. If she was in a great place she would mention her bad behaviour and offer at least some kind of apology. But actually I am just really grateful the abuse has stopped, I know that is as good as its going to get. "

      Yes, just like the non-apology letter I received after my co-manager had ripped cyber-friends apart. SHE was in a "great place" too; pretending raging emotions were the problem---not her lack of ethics and manipulation! Just like your former employee, there would be no closure, no mutual accountability, no apology. In some circumstances, the best thing to do is Move On and ignore the ordeal because trying to work it out will only make things worse. As you also noticed, I declined response because I didn't have any familial ties to her and because I had learned my lessons the hard way.

      It's very difficult to see someone being 'abused' by his/her parent and then hold that person accountable. We offer excuses, giving them greater leeway than we would other people. We aren't necessarily doing them any favors by not setting firm boundaries and enforcing consequences, though.

      It is tragic how narcissistic mothers treat their children but eventually those children grow up and need to fit in to society. Teaching them through consequences that specific behaviors are unacceptable, may be the start of a new life for themselves. A life where they start taking responsibility for themselves and hopefully, establish better boundaries with the N-mother.

      I am relieved to hear that your spouse didn't fall for her tricks. A lot of people do! Manipulators are incredibly believable! I'm so glad to hear she's out of your life!!

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    9. I had two major bouts with two major narcissists within weeks of each other. This certainly was unusual, and one was with my birth mother. Between the two of them I went way downhill, I got major depression and anxiety, I was crushed under the weight of it for a while. The problem with my mother is probably not going to be resolved, but I have moved on from what happened with this girl, she sure left some carnage behind though for me. I did so much to support her, coax and encourage her, when she was my employee. I felt vested in her. I really have to stop doing things like that, she just ripped me with the fake accusations that had everyone doubting me, just a little. It only takes a little to hurt.

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    10. I think most ACoNs underestimate the impact narcissistic parents STILL have on them as adults. And ACoNs overestimate their capacity to deal with narcissistic people, including their parents. Rationally it makes no sense for competent people to be subject to undermining emotions stemming from childhood when as adults, they are competent and successful adults. But the early rejection and abuse takes a toll and many of us are temporarily destabilized by criticism, rejection and failure. For myself, it's a three-day collapse and then I rise, ready to try again. For some, the collapse lasts longer and if they are lucky and have enough resiliency to counter the inner and outer critic, they eventually rise, too.

      So it's true, it only takes a little to hurt one's reputation and to hurt one's sense of competence IF we are dealing with narcissistic people.

      What is truly mind-boggling is the amount of time we invest in a narcissistic person that is NOT reciprocated, recognized, or appreciated. With most people as you know, they "return the favor" and "live up to" the trust and faith others have in them. But instead, they find ways to backstab their benefactors, their friends. Why is that?

      Well to me, I think when people HELP them, they feel "inferior." After all, if they need help and we give it to them, then we are in a dominant position, right? Now you and I and other people who are not "narcissistic" don't view it that way because we know that while we're able to GIVE help this time, we'll NEED it the next time. And our gratitude to those who are willing to help is a cup that runneth over with appreciation. Narcissists however, feel like losers when they're needy. Self-reliance becomes a weakness, a sickness actually.

      We must be aware that when we're helping someone with a narcissistic personality, they may do something nasty to "even the playing field" again and make themselves feel better by putting us down. It's a crazy way to act to nonnarcissists but without understanding the narcissistic need to dominate and be fully self-reliant, we can't manage the relationship without being hurt. It's important to "spot" narcissistic leanings before we're ambushed.

      That may or may not align with other people's understanding but its how I've come to understand the people who Get Me Back for "Helping Them". I have a couple of great case studies on that topic, too. ;-P

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    11. Hi CZBZ

      Thank you so much for your in depth reply and analysis. Yes, the "Biting the hand that feeds you" scenario. When I think back now I see this girl had a whole back story schtick down "I'm just a girl from the country" etc., I found it charming and disarming. I know this girl's sense of importance was way out of whack with this cute back story, to the point where she obviously even entertained the thought that she could dislodge me from my position as boss through triangulation with another employee. She did attempt this. Truly crazy, but she really believed in her powers of persuasion. I think reality slowly set in, through my husband also, who put her right about his loyalty to me. So now she is at this unbelievable "great place" stage. I just sit back in awe and wonder at the audacity of it all. The immense self-blindness and convenient memory loss. . . .

      Obviously I need to sign up to the WONS site and get on the correct board and stop whinging here at Puppygate (the whole of which I read and can certainly relate to). I have MUCH worse problems with my mother because I am related to her. She is busy doing the DARVO thing despite being utterly in the wrong. . . .

      Thanks again so much for your time CZBZ

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  6. Chopping mushrooms with one hand while pressing the ‘delete manager – add member” button with the other hand is no easy feat. I remember coming together, putting away the mushrooms for a while and giving puppy-gate our undivided attention.

    AND WAIT A MINUTE! This feels a lot like the moment I internalized I was in love with a very SICK man BUT THERE’S A WHOLE COMMUNICTY OF HEALING TARGETS AT RISK, HERE!

    Now I’ve read the compliments you’ve given me, and I thank you. I’ll take full credit for my role as a behind the scenes resource person and when it comes to city-wide disasters in the face to face world, I can offer some input, BUT WHERE IN THE WORLD DID I PLACE THE CYBER DISASTER ACTION PLAN MANUAL? While searching for the manual, and while the cyber collection plate was being passed, I decided this was no time to sit back and wish it would all go away. Been there – done that, for years.

    If my memory serves me correctly, during the first 24 hours, behind the scenes discussions included group dynamics, boundaries, secrets, triangulation, integrity, cyber-begging, cognitive dissonance, mission statements, perceptions of safety, victimization, codes of conduct, group goals, decision making, team work, personal accountability, crisis strategies, healers, leaders, followers, worshipers, haters, benefits and pitfalls of chat, diplomacy, grief, negotiating, id, ego, super ego, cyber-safety, conscious and unconscious motivations, cyber-communications, trust, transference and counter transference, narcissism, insuring safety, limit setting, short and long term goals, denial and on-line/off line relationships - for STARTERS! There was so much more! We were as prepared as we could be with no idea of what might happen next.

    And, now you have heard the rest of the story. CZ became the perpetrator, the puppy-hater and the NAZI. Eventually, we all went back into the kitchen and chopped some more mushrooms, but the real proof was in the pudding. Because of CZ’s commitment to members she’ll never meet, her instinctive nature to do the right thing, her graciousness, her ability to connection with people, her understated talent, her years of study and research, her patience, her ability to be non-judgmental, her ‘real’ reactions, her gentleness, and the list of positive attributes could go on and on, WoN remains a safe haven for souls to gather and heal. And, she gives of herself, ‘All for the love of a safe, healing community at Christmastime’, and for all times.

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    1. Hello dear Practical Jude of the PuppyGate tribunal! Do you ever take a moment to marvel at our willingness to keep the doors of a forum open when people were writing graffiti on the walls, swinging from the chandeliers, and setting the draperies on fire? I've looked back on this incident and wondered why-on-earth we were willing to stick it out??!! Plenty of people would have shut the doors never to return to forum-management again.

      I am not sure...no wait! I am absolutely sure that had you not been by my side, the forum would not exist today. But that which doesn't tear us apart, glues us together and I tell people that Judy and I "trauma-bonded"---so our friendship will last forever.

      I hesitated posting the intimate details of forum management but thought it might be helpful for people to understand the hard work going on behind the scenes. And I thought it would be important to know an advisory team holds (most) managers responsible, educating and challenging her if she goes BONKERS with power! ha!

      I had to laugh out loud when you wrote: "WHERE IN THE WORLD DID I PLACE THE CYBER DISASTER ACTION PLAN MANUAL?"

      Oh yea! Who could have possibly anticipated PuppyGate? I doubt any "Cyber Disaster Manual" would have a chapter on Pedigreed Puppy-Noia.

      I appreciate your kind words, your validation, your WITNESS, and your friendship.

      Love You,
      CZ

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  7. The proof of what people are emerges over time. Consistency, that's the only thing that shows you who someone is. When they consistently abide by principles of decency, straightforwardness, default toward kindness, you know you're not dealing with a sociopath. Or a puppy hater.

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    1. Anyone can have a "moment." As PracticalJude said "real reactions." Any one can write a hasty email they regret, or lose their patience. If we're surrounded by "people of good will", a slip here-and-there won't turn into a crisis. Or a mobbing.

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  8. Holy Schmoley---what an experience... I can understand why you waited this long to tell the story.
    It can be lonely & very difficult to maintain integrity, when being attacked on multiple fronts. I tip my hat to you, for sticking to your guns.

    This was a bit triggering for me, as I've been living the real life version of a very similar dynamic, for the last three years---but it was also validating.. So thank you for taking the time to recount all of that, I hope it will have a healing effect for you, CZ.

    There really is no reasoning with people, or being heard, once they've been emotionally manipulated by someone with a convincing 'victim' script. As you said---it bypasses critical thinking. Some will eventually see through the manipulations---some might see through it once they get burned too---and some will never be able to admit that they were snowed.

    There are a handful of positives to be taken away after surviving a smear campaign, but the price sure is high........... Glad you survived, all the same. Thanks for sharing your story--it's a good reminder to keep one's critical thinking skills honed.

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    1. Hi Freestyle!

      I think online conflicts are magnified over "in person" conflicts. Anonymity and transference may have something to do with that. People feel slighted and become angrier than they likely would in face-to-face conflicts.

      Written text takes on "meaning" depending on the reader's filter. If someone is accustomed to being criticized and judged, then that's what they'll hear in the message/text. Considering the high anxiety most of us are dealing with when we join a forum (or post to a blog), it's damn remarkable we get along as well as we do.

      I'm sorry that you've also dealt with a similar dynamic. Anyone investing time in cyber-communities will witness an online conflict of some degree. I hoped that writing a story-form would be helpful because direct examples are powerful when written as a narrative. I hope you also experience some healing in identifying with PuppyGate. Thank you so much for commenting! (and especially for reading the whole thing. That was quite an investment of your time and I'm glad it was worth it!)

      Hugs
      CZ

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    2. I read it all these years later and have gained quite a bit.
      Thank you.

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  9. CZ,
    I wanted, first, to let you know that I've read your whole post and found it to be so very interesting. Thanks so much for sharing it (and all the hard work that must have went into compiling it). It truly was a case study, and I think these kinds of examples can be very helpful and informative as we learn about narcissism. It's a whole different experience to be able to "see" these things as they unfold and to look back and really understand all the dynamics and subtle manipulations. So many of these things can get missed in "real life time" of dealing with narcs. I don't have much to add of value to the comments about the post, but I did have some random thoughts:

    I found the Campbell, Foster, and Fenkel quote to be timely for me (and validating). DH and I were discussing his (N) brother the very day that I read this post. I believe his brother fits highly on the continuum but DH has struggled to accept it. It's been a long process of getting him to "see" his brother. And even on that night he said "But I like hanging out with my brother a lot. We have fun together." Well, of course you do!! If he was a jerk all the time, we wouldn't be having these conversations about why the relationship is so superficial. It's the key to the covert narc, hiding everything under the "good guy" image. And for my DH, since his brother still sees some value in him (unlike me), he doesn't get the "full" discarding treatment. When DH is with his brother, his brother is wonderful (well, sort of, if you ask me). But when DH isn't right in front of him, he doesn't seem to think of him hardly at all. Out of sight, out of mind, or so it seems. He makes little effort to really maintain the relationship with DH (and our kids. Or anyone really. BIL likes to be around anyone that he feels ups his "social" image. Sometimes we fit in, sometimes we don't). There seems to be no real connection, and DH is struggling to accept that. Anyway, I read him the quote...maybe it'll sink in somewhere ;).
    Also, in your comments, you stated "Something I think is really strange is that WHEN the targeted scapegoat eventually REACTS, s/he is blamed for being hostile or hypocritical without any consideration for her predicament". This really hit home for me. This is a "sport" in DH's narc family. They think it's great fun to push and push and push someone until they react. And then to shame the person for reacting. Or call them oversensitive. (My father also used to do this, so I've been trained well.) I was often told it was a "guy thing" (DH is one of four brothers and his mother is very "masculine" in her personality). It is a horrible experience to be on the "losing" end of this situation. And one that I never could quite understand. Why provoke someone and then smack them for a natural reaction? It's sort of like an amped up game of the childhood behavior of "But I'm not touching you!!" as someone holds their finger in your face. Have you written about this elsewhere? I'd be interested in reading about this.
    Thanks again, Jessie

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    1. Hello Jessie!

      What you've written about pushing-and-shaming sounds like bullying. Teasing and joking is healthy in a family but that's not the same thing as using "power over" to humiliate another person---to make them feel inferior and ashamed of their natural emotions. This kind of "pushing" may be a way to establish a hierarchy (the pecking order). BUT if the person being teased feels "shamed", then it's not healthy and normal---it's a power tactic, it's aggression.

      Many, if not most, people have grown up in families that humiliate one another as "sport". Children become so accustomed to the aggression that they don't realize they're being bullied. Some people may argue that it's Harmless and normal. But IF the person being ganged up on feels angry, humiliated, shamed, inferior and weak, then it's not healthy. I'd imagine it would be nearly impossible for a male 'victim' to stand up for himself and get his family to stop behaviors that have been going on for years/decades.

      I can understand your feelings about this because teasing was 'normal' in my family, too. But the child that is teased grows up to resent the 'teasers' so it ends up destroying the family's sense of safety. Parents should intervene but like you wrote, some of them participate in the bullying themselves.

      I don't know if this addresses your question but it's certainly made me think! Great question---when does friendly teasing turn into an assault?

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. CZ, I've often described my MIL as a bully. She uses "joking" as a way to form hierarchies, as you said. I've found that the people who are the most "joked" about are those of us at the bottom (me, SIL, and my learning disabled BIL, if you can imagine that). She uses this joking to subtly suggest our faults. For example, she's constantly telling stories about how SIL is such an airhead. Or joking that SIL is a bad cook. And then she brings up (in separate conversations) about what a great cook, she herself, is. It's so subtle (as it is done across time) that it's hard to spot. But it's not a coincidence that those things she "jokes" about us are those things she thinks most highly of in herself.
      Your response got me thinking further. I think one of the things that strikes me about MIL's teasing is it's often about something that is hard for the other person to control. For example, my DH and I often joke about how lose my keys. It's true, I'm not sensitive about it, and it's not something that speaks of my character. But MIL teases about people's physical features or intelligence. Or things the person is sensitive about (she used to make jokes about me publically for my breast size. No surprise, MIL is endowed with watermelons. When I brought this up to DH, many years ago, he said "tell her your sensitive". For me, it wasn't about being sensitive, but her being Insensitive....and cruel.)
      Also, I think friendly teasing goes both ways. MIL is notorious for not being able to take a joke back. Teasing in her direction gets met with icy stares and stiffened, clenched jaws. She does NOT find it funny in return. She also doesn't "tease" her two oldest sons (her favorites). And as I said above, the teasing increases the further down the pecking order you are. I think for it to be "healthy" and normal, the teasing should not be one directional.
      And further, and this is a big one, when someone says "stop", it should stop. And when the parents are egging it on and encouraging it, well, then you have a problem.

      I didn't realize myself how much I'd thought about this. It really was a hard dynamic for me to spot, and one that's taken me YEARS to even come to terms with.

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    3. Hey Jessy and CZ! I have to respond to your story, Jesse, because your MIL sounds exactly like mine! It is good you have spotted it. Better now than never. My MIL is actually not really my MIL, but my N-friend I live with involves me in his family like I am a part of it (if I want to or not). I saw through her really soon, because I have been studying narcissism for a while (this forum is the biggest help). So I decided to laugh stupidly at every foul comment she gives with my back straight as if it doesn't touch me. For me it is the best way to cope with it. I don't care what she thinks of me. I am above it. But after a whole day of seeking the best response to show her she can't put me down, whatever she tries, I have to admit it is very exhausting. Especially when my N-friend and she are together I just want to get out of there as soon as possible. When I am alone with one of them I can handle them quite well by being assertive, but with the two of them...pfffff. I will never tell her to stop what she does. When I do that I am sure she reached what she wanted and drag me deeper down the drain. I take it as it is, but it is a very exhausting game every time I have to be with them. I try to avoid her as much as I can. Fortunately I only see her once a month or so.
      My N-friend also has the excuse that some of his or her behavior is normal. Yeah, treating people like dirt is normal to them! Except when you do the same thing back to them. They fire back to you twice as hard. So when my N-friend says it is normal I simply answer him with 'Don't give me that crap!' and he backs off. I do the same thing with my N-mother lately. The first time I said that she was startled. After years of no contact she has to get used to the new assertive me. But my words had the same effect on her. They give up when they notice I give it no chance of discussion. Two narcissist responded the same way to my reaction. I hope this has the same effect on most of the narcissist so I can give the advice to respond the same way. But I am not sure of this yet. It is my personal experience with only two people.

      And to you CZ, I am happy and proud of you that you are so strong to continue what you want to do. Nothing and nobody holds you back! It takes a lot of guts to open up like you did. As I just wrote, I am more assertive lately, but not there where you are yet. You inspire me as an example ( I have not met people like you yet. I am a magnet for narcissists) how to deal with such difficult situations. You are extremely kind. I think that makes people think they can walk all over you. But you always step up when you have to in the best way I can imagine.

      Hugs,
      Flower bud

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    4. "he said "tell her your sensitive"." ~Jessie

      NO! If you believe your MIL is narcissistic and you've seen her bully people in the family, telling her you're "sensitive" won't result in getting her respect. Or her apology. You might say something like, "Do Not make fun of my breast size. I expect you to honor this boundary." And then if she does it again, Walk Out of the Room.

      Another thing to try when she's putting someone else's cooking down is saying something like this: "You are a fabulous cook." When she makes fun of a DIL's hair, "Your hair is always beautiful." I know this sounds yucky but it might work in your situation because she is your MIL. You can reaffirm her 'specialness" for her because that's likelyl why she puts down her daughter-in-laws. You have to shake things up a little and get to the point without validating the comparisons. If you want to get along with a narcissistic person, you have to grow a thick skin and understand their defenses. It's not easy but it can be done!

      p.s. I totally agree that when someone complains about the teasing and says "Stop", people should honor their boundary.

      Hugs
      CZ

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    5. Hi Flower bud!

      I am a kind person, no doubt about it and yes, people think being kind/nice is a weakness. Kindness may have been a weakness when that's how my culture expected me to behave. If we make a conscious choice to be nice/kind, then it's a strength.

      I don't think its normal for human relationships to be passive-aggressive or dominating. It may be natural to your friend because he grew up this way but it's not healthy AND it's not nice. ha! Ask yourself, "How do I feel after being with that person?" and then ask yourself, "How do people feel after being with me?" This question really knocked me back for a bit. It was life-changing the day I thought of it. That was quite a few years ago, to be honest.

      I'm glad his mother doesn't drag you down the drain---that you are able to cope with her passive-aggression without reacting. That's no easy feat. We are all susceptible to reacting when someone needles us with pokes and jabs and insults! If we fall down and 'react', well---there's ALWAYS tomorrow! We just pick ourselves up and try again!

      Hugs
      CZ

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  10. I have to admit I didn't ready the ENTIRE post, as it was so painful to imagine you went through all of this. Our gorgeous pit bull, Layla, (adopted from the Pasadena Humane Society) three years ago just wanted to say that you were spot on in suggesting that rescuing a puppy would mean more. Some people use animals as a status symbol, like a designer purse? UGH! As a third-grade teacher, I'm often intrigued by how girls and boys deal with anger, envy, and all the emotions in between. Boys tend to just smack someone/something, but girls tend to use relationships to even the score. I've found that "girl drama" is way more intense and devious than with the boys. Thanks as always, CZ, for saying what needs to be said - with grace and your characteristic dose of humility.

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    1. Hi Jan!

      To be honest, I didn't expect very many people to read PuppyGate if they hadn't been involved with the conflict. It was mostly a reconstruction for myself, putting events and messages into chronological order. But thank you for reading and for stopping by. I always love to hear from you!

      I've witnessed other online conflicts but haven't been in a position to know the nitty-gritty details leading up to what appeared to be a totalitarian smackdown. Because cyber-conflicts continue to disrupt blogs and forums, I hoped to glean some insight about quelling upsets before communities are hurt. What might we have done to resolve this before it blew up? What did I do to make things worse? You know, those kinds of questions conscientious people ask themselves when they no longer question why their marriage fell apart. You have to think about something when you're lying awake in the middle of the night...ah, the joys of aging.

      Tell Layla "hello" from the PuppyLover and here's 3 x <3 for rescuing her from the humane society!!

      Hugs
      CZ

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  11. Wow...I coulda saved myself a whole lot o' trouble had I read this post before the beginning of the week. This is no more than mob mentality on the part of the women who gathered together in support of Melody and this puppy issue. What a load of crap. That Melody is near forecloseure and had 4 kids (if I read this right...) and wants a $1500.00 puppy says that she has her priorities SORELY out o' wack. This is amazing crap.


    Well, there is nothing harder than to stop rumours, gossip and ill will in these things.. That you were able to salvage sanity and members, and get apologies later..CZ is remarkable...and testiment to the sanity of SOME of these women.

    I have also been dealing with crap on a bit of this score....the attempts at character assassination (mine) by a whole bunch of women. It has been very painful...but I have come to the realization (and not knowing the majority of these women and they not knowing me) that I really wouldn't want these women as friends, or to be on a forum with them. They violate everything that is sane and decent. Good God...the level of behavior and missed clues on Puppygate is remarkable.

    Some times the only thing is to walk away. At least you were able to salvage the best here.

    Love, Lady Nyo...so many lessons in this Puppygate. narcissism just keeps on giving, neh?

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    1. Hi LadyNyo! I kinda disappeared because I've been occupied taking care of my daughter this week. Sorry about being too pooped to post! One correction: Melody didn't have any children. She was completely on her own having recently divorced.

      I will say though that it's easy for me to understand how PuppyGate could start out rather innocently and generously by people who wanted to do something kind for someone who was kind to them. We still, even if we value our generous hearts, need to pay attention to the social norm of reciprocity. How might someone be tapping in to our natural desire to reciprocate?

      I know you've been dealing with a lot of crap and almost by serendipity, I'd be writing about PuppyGate! If people have the time to read this "tale", it might offer some clues into their own online 'mobbing.' I think one of the biggest problems is that people try to reason with the "mob" which means their number one mistake is assuming the mob is reasonable. It's traumatizing to the scapegoat. How are you feeling now?

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  12. You know what is really confusing? the fact that a lot of TV comedy characters are basically narcissistic and I'm not sure we should be laughing at them as they are basically quite destructive, hurtful people, but comedy is weird like that isn't it? we would not laugh in real life as a character played by, for example, David Spade ("Rules of Engagement", "Just Shoot Me"). But maybe its safe as its fictional, but do you know what I mean. That SO wouldn't work in real life, with real people, yet its funny on TV . . . .

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    1. HI again Pauline! You're so right about laughing at narcissistic characters on television and in film! Have you read Drew Pinsky's book, "The Mirror Effect?" He and Dr. Young are very concerned about the way we're NORMALIZED narcissistic behavior and traits displayed in our media. At first, they kinda shock us and then we get used to it and then we laugh and then we "mirror" their behavior. The problem is that people aren't narcissists and so they get hurt when people reject them because they're too obnoxious to be friends with or even work with perhaps!

      I think Pinsky's book is excellent and once you've read it, you won't forget it. I can't watch television any more without thinking about the way we've normalized abnormal behavior that our children COPY. Kids are influenced even more by the social world around them than their parents, I think. So we need to pay attention to the role models we present---such as obnoxious, spoiled, attention-hungry, and shallow celebrities. Or how about those raging monsters on "reality shows"? I'm waiting for a new psychotherapy show: "I got PTSD from watching Reality TV." ha!

      Hugs
      CZ

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  13. I know - even the whole nature of FB is a self publishing, self-aggrandising competition. And yet, I know many people get into it and I don't hold it against them, but feel like I am being a self-promoter if I do the same as them? I could never be a Kim Kardasian, what sort of existence is that? I don't think its healthy at all and I think there will be psychological hell to pay somewhere along the line.

    I haven't read the Pinksky book, but I will keep an eye out for it. I have just started "Curb Your Enthusiam and Philosophy": Awaken the Social Assassin Within. Apparently Larry David feels the real David is what in front of the camera, and his normal life David is an adjusted person that doesn't "go there", but not who he truly is.

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    1. Never heard of "Curb your Enthusiasm". Let me know what you think of the book when you've finished reading it.

      I don't keep a Facebook page, but recently understood why many people do. One of my friends had a car accident and how wonderful it's been keeping up with her recovery through Facebook. She can write one post and the information is shared with all her friends! It's made me rethink my reluctance to participate on Facebook. I tend to lean towards long, heart-felt messages on forums and blogs rather than little snippets or inspirational images. But that might be a reflection of my age.

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  14. Hi CZ and everyone else...I'm doing much better (with sword in hand....lol) but I agree with Pauline...there is such an idolization of narcissistic behavor on tv. And those people , who are the majority of folk watching tv, aren't aware at all about these narcissistic traits being played out in front of us each night. I hate David Spade, or his character...it is so damn demeaning. It's the epitomy of inhumanity. Gives me the creeps.

    We put these celebraties on pedestals for their bad behavior and what are we teaching our children? Well, what are we teaching ourselves? Kim Kardashian? bad choices in life (and men) and whoops there are the role models for our society?

    I'll look for "The Mirror Effect" today on Amazon.com.

    Thank you, CZ for maintaining the marvelous and healing blog in the face of everything you are going through.

    Love,
    LN

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    1. You are welcome, LadyNyo. It's a relief for me to have people to talk with, too. We need not be isolated now that we have online communities comprised of wise and informed people! It's not so easy to talk about being mobbed by a cyber-gang if our friends haven't experienced a similar thing.

      "The Mirror Effect" should be required reading in a culture obsessed with celebrity role models. It's surprising this book hasn't been recommended more often. Let me know what you think after reading it!

      Scroll down for an excerpt from "The Mirror Effect": http://woncinema.blogspot.com/

      When people watch reality tv bullies for entertainment, they are identifying with the bully---not the victim. This may (imo) reinforce narcissistic behaviors rather than encouraging the development of empathy and sympathy for the victim/scapegoat. The fact is, whoever is left on the island is the winner and doesn't everyone want to be a winner? So in a horrible way for society-at-large, scapegoats/victims are reduced to disposable objects in winner-takes-all game. People mimic this behavior without realizing narcissistic values have replaced their HUMAN instincts.

      Love back,
      CZ

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  15. CZ - I read your article on puppygate! Wow! It's amazing you still kept the forum! Shows your sound mind despite all the stress! Even if it didn't feel like it at the time...
    I have noticed that people will often want to give to a narcissist, even after they have been cruel to them. My older sister is the narcissitic golden child;and I watch how people just give and give to her; things, time, money etc.; even after she has been cruel to them.It's like they overlook it, or don't see it. I've been guilty of it myself in the past. It's like she's a magnet!? What is that!?
    I clicked on your puppygate post because I had my own sort of puppygate(but different).I wanted a picture of myself when I was eight, with my dog biting my braids(very cute picture,loved our dog). But, being the scapegoat child from a nar family; they are passing around the photos and I am barred from them.It's been so insane and frustrating that I'm not sure I want any childhood photos anymore.Has anyone ever heard of families keeping photos from one member?
    Well, I'm sorry for your stress and troubles, and yet this website is still wonderful! Well done you!
    Many good reply posts here also!
    Thanks - Suki

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    1. Hi Suki! It is amazing we kept the forum, isn't it? Well, when you are passionate about something, you're willing to "walk on fire". It all depends on your commitment so it's probably fair to say that we were willing to do whatever it took to provide a safe place for people to talk about narcissism.

      Good observation about people trying to please narcissists (or anyone who isn't easy to please). It's a strange thing, isn't it? I think it ties in with the idea of "intermittent reinforcement." When people are pleased sometimes and not at other times (or if they are available at times and absent at other times), people try HARDER to please them. I've noticed this with people (and myself UNTIL I learned about my behavior). When someone is rude or critical or causes strife in the family (for example) people cowtow to him or her, hoping to make them happy. It's like "WHAT?!!" Crazy, isn't it? We should be nicer to the people we're securely bonded to, the ones who treat us well. Instead, we take them for granted and try to win the love of the rudest person in the family. IN short, we try harder when someone treats us badly. The best way to avoid repeating that pattern is informing ourselves, educating ourselves about "normal" reactions to abnormal behavior.

      I would say I can't believe your family would prevent you from having the family photographs that you want. But I've heard some pretty horrible things from people growing up in narcissistic families. So it's not unbelievable anymore. Narcissistic families tend to punish each other for the most minor of infractions, like talking about the narcissistic family for example. Not giving you something you wanted would be a way to 'get even' and punish you. Evidently, you don't just go along with the script you've been handed!

      Thank you for reading and commenting and complimenting my blog!

      Hugs
      CZ

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  16. CZ - Thanks for the insight about "normal" reactions to abnormal behavior.
    Your right, I am being punished because I won't go along with the script.Good insight, which I think I already knew somewhere deep inside. Just needed someone to say it out loud to me!Thanks!
    Be Well - Suki

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  17. Dear CZ,

    I came across a link to this site on Lucky Otter's blog yesterday and I've been having a wonderful time reading through your interesting posts. I really appreciate your well-balanced, down-to-earth attitude. I'm so glad I found you!

    After reading this post all the way through, I've been sitting here shaking my head in amazement. Wow. Just... wow.

    Until I married my husband in 2004, when we were both in our 50s, cats were my thing. Dogs, in my opinion, were noisy, smelly, high maintenance, and they like to hump your leg. But my hubby is severely allergic to cats, so shortly after we married he talked me into getting a dog. Prior to that time, I had no idea how loving and almost human dogs can be. Now that I know, I never want to live in a house without a dog again.

    A little over two weeks ago our precious Cattle Dog, Lady, whom we adopted from a no-kill rescue organization 8 years ago, died unexpectedly in my arms. She probably died of old age, although we aren't really sure, we had no idea how old she was when we got her. For the past year or so she had been slowing down and her coat was turning gray. We took her to the vet regularly, in fact he saw her just 4 days before she died, but did not find anything obviously wrong, other than the lameness he was treating her for.

    I was so devastated when Lady stopped breathing that I screamed and cried her name. After about two minutes of her not breathing -- while I was sobbing her name, over and over -- Lady came back. She started twitching, kicking, and then suddenly she was breathing again! I believe, since hearing is the last sense to go, that she probably heard me crying her name and fought with all her might to come back to me. At that point, when I saw she was breathing again, I tried to pick her up, to take her to the vet, but I could not lift her, she weighed over 80 pounds and she was limp. As I held her in my arms, telling her how much I love her, she lived for another 5 minutes, and then she died... right after hearing my husband on the speaker phone tell her that he loved her and he was coming home.

    Earlier today I posted on my new blog about the grief I have been going through since we lost our precious girl. Then I came here and read this.

    Like I said, I never want to live in a house without a dog again. But... a $1,500 pedigreed puppy? Which is -- I don't even know how much that would be in today's dollars, after 10 years of inflation!

    Not just NO, but H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks NO!! Multiply that by about a thousand, if you have to raise money from your caring online friends in order to buy the animal...and triple that number of NOs, if you are a moderator of a free online support forum and donations to pay for the dog are being solicited from the vulnerable members of your forum!

    In my opinion, CZ, you handled this with great integrity. I admire you so much! So you got a little pissed in the middle of it. Who in the heck wouldn't? I, too, have been burned on N websites in the past. I, too, have gotten hot under the collar. When that happened, I examined my heart, realized my mistake, felt guilty, owned up to what I had done wrong, and apologized profusely. But, my honest confession and humble apology did absolutely no good – those black and white thinkers had already decided that I am a person who is Not Fit To Live. So I left very quickly, and did not go anywhere near any N sites for several years, until recently. I think I am strong enough now to handle the dangers. I hope I am. Now, after reading this incredible story, I know that I am not the only one to get beat up on N sites. And with someone of your insight and integrity at the helm, CZ, I feel a lot safer here on your blog.

    So anyway, now that I'm grieving so terribly about losing our poor precious Lady-dog, I have been looking at ads for pedigreed puppies and I've fallen in love....

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    1. Dear Surviving,

      I'm so sorry about dear Lady, whom you loved with all your heart. Grieving is so painful when we lose a beloved pet and my heart goes out to you! When my sweet cat passed away (during my divorce) I believe my heart would break, it was so painful! But now I have sweet memories of her gentle nature and am grateful she came into my life when she did. I hope you are moving through this loss and will soon be filled with joyful memories of your time with Lady.

      The Internet can be hostile and aggression seems to be increasing. I had hoped things would settle down and people would sit on their hands rather than typing insults. I assumed people would learn to be more civil, not less. I wonder if people are so desirous of an audience, that they're willing to scapegoat someone for a minor infraction/misunderstanding? It's like they're just waiting to take advantage of someone's misspelled word, or opinion, or "tone".

      I'm sorry you went through something like PuppyGate, too. Yes you are right though--I was hot under the collar after a while because my co-manager's infraction was so obviously wrong to me! How could people honestly attack me for saying so? I've never forgotten the misery of this experience and have used it to guide my behavior when someone else is being bullied. I don't stand back if I know the person who's being attacked because it is isolating and horrible.

      p.s. I laughed out loud at your final comment about falling in love with pedigreed puppies!!!Thank you for laughing with me...it makes the whole thing less sordid when someone else can identify with my experience and forgive me for losing my cool!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  18. Hi CZ,

    I'm a passerby who found this on a Google search. As a survivor of narcissistic relationships, I find myself often questioning (I'm guessing most of us have. I think so?) what in my pathology creates the relationships and why I've drawn so many. I've done analysis into this to the point of self-harm and I am now beginning to disengage from it, which I take as a welcome transition. I inevitably find myself wondering when I hear some things that I have had said to me by people on the Internet, and by false friends who weren't friends (I have a strict no-frienemy policy now, I am sure you relate.), who the narcissist is, me or them. I have moments I question myself; that seems to be the most messed up part of a relationship with a N. Something about it is as designed as anything crazy can ever be designed to make you wonder who's the problem, you or them. I've come to understand, hard pill to swallow, that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, so if you attract people working toxic narcissism, then the odds are good you not only have issues with too little healthy narcissism, but...here's the broken glass part, you are also working at least one facet of unhealthy narcissism yourself and are being called to look at it. Mine was excessive vanity: an unrealistic attachment to my own youth and beauty that led me to believe I could date someone I could have mothered and live happily ever after like I'm ageless or some action (now firmly in the "I'm not comfortable with that" category: and just as a note, I'm old enough that someone young enough to be my son is a full-grown adult). The good news is that as the non-full-blown narcissist, you have an actual chance to overcome the vibration you actually share with the unhealthy narcissist, whereas the FBN never will.

    Nobody who knows what this thing looks like wants to see it, any part of it, in themselves, but I feel crazy if I'm not courageous in the face of my own true nature, so I tend to go all in.

    I read this whole blog and it sounds like quite the mess. I too have horrid net-based stories and the politics always stun me. I have to ask though, is it narcissistic for Melody to have tried to contact you at all, or was there some amendment to the content you'd have appreciated or that would have shown growth? If you could re-write it to a message that doesn't make all your hair stand on end, what would it say:

    I think she's being faulted tor escaping a net-fray and taking time by herself to think. I wonder why that's wrong. I am sure I am just missing something, but I genuinely don't get it. And I look at this pate and I see a lot of people rah-rahing you, and I can't help wondering, why it was important to tell this story now when you'd done such a good job of resistance and moving forward. And you seem rather...it's late and I'm on two sleep aids so try not to get upset if I'm blunt but....it sounds like you guys are here doing pretty much the same as what went on with Melody and the hoardes..

    I just see comments in the dynamic of this page that themselves look like who's the narcissist? I mean, when I don't want to deal with someone anymore, I don't make excuses and I don't talk to them period.

    Thanks

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    1. Most people have a shallow understanding of narcissism and it's understandable why this article and subsequent comments might lead you to assume I/we are acting like narcissists. I wrote the story and published it for the general public and you are entitled to draw your own conclusions. You aren't the first and won't be the last to accuse me of being "a narcissist", but before making accusations like that, I might suggest reading more about that person's life. 'cuz it's a pretty mean thing to say to me. I also think your accusation is silly and illustrates gross ignorance on your part.

      Please read the article at the tippy-top of my sidebar links where I've created a graph explaining the "narcissistic continuum". It's important to know that narcissism is NOT a binary where people either have it or they don't. We are each on the continuum and it's a fallacy (although a common perception of most laypeople) that if one person is a narcissist, the other person is not. Not so...it is very likely that someone with extreme narcissism (such as NPD) will partner with someone who has fragile narcissism. Make no mistake however, both people are extreme enough that they could each be considered a narcissist. A healthy balance between SELF and OTHER is where we'd like to be so if you recognize your "vanity" you can watch for that and modify your behavior. My highest narcissistic trait is "authority" which is not like "broken glass" to me. And by the way, my loyal readers are well-skilled in self-observation and unafraid of examining their narcissism. WE have been doing this for years...Taking responsibility for my unhealthy narcissism prevents me from leading the nation to ruin because of my unlimited sense of "entitlement and exploitation." ha!

      Entitlement and exploitation are the two most worrisome measures on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and lucky for my blog readers, I'm decidedly low in each. Who cares if someone is conceited (vanity) or takes too much responsibility (authority)? Do they take advantage of other people? Do they feel entitled to take advantage of other people? Will they serve themselves without considering the impact of their behavior on other people?Feeling "entitled" to have a pedigreed puppy leads to "exploiting" people to get that pedigreed puppy. See the problem?

      Entitlement and Exploitation (the two most dangerous traits for pathological narcissism) should be obvious to readers. The other sign of narcissism was deception and manipulation undermining my credibility. Not to mention plotting to "steal" the forum out from under me once I'd done the work. If that's not narcissism, tell me what is!

      What would I have expected in Melody's letter a year later? First of all (and this is something I had to learn): an apology. An apology would have been appreciated considering the damage done. I would have expected Melody to take responsibility for her behavior and at least have a modicum of remorse! Now to be honest, an apology would not have renewed our friendship. No, dear anonymous---we must not let narcissists get away with saying they are "sorry" after they've tried to destroy us.

      Please note also: she WANTED something from me. She wanted a red carpet welcome in my forum so she could "sell" her newest pyramid scheme. And she tried to tempt me to agree to this transaction by offering her web services to promote my blog since I obviously wasn't doing it "right." (Maybe it's hard for some people to believe but there are people like myself who aren't inspired by profit).

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  19. idk....i dont think this woman was a narcissist...she just seems like a regular self-absorbed , selfish woman of which i know many, in fact most women i know are like this and nobody thinks its wrong at all...maybe they have narc tendencies but are not pathological. my mom is a narc and this is nothing compared to her exquisite cruelties....but maybe u have left a lot out tho....

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    1. Maybe I left a lot out...well, yes. There were plenty of financial shenanigans for years after my story ended. People would write to me, asking what they could do to maybe get their money back.

      Now perhaps this woman was/is not a pathological narcissist (i didn't claim such a thing in my story, did I??). But even narcissistic traits can ruin a relationship and harm other people who fall for the "N's" manipulation. And I spent enough time crying about the online abandonment of people assumed to be good friends, that something nasty was afoot. When there is no reconciliation, no apology or remorse, when victims continue to accrue through the years---well, it's probably narcissism. At least it's good enough information to draw a reasonable conclusion, I think!

      The point of understanding someone's narcissistic traits is knowing HOW to protect yourself. And had I recognized teh signs early enough, I"d never have risked losing "my forum" to someone who needed to be on top, no matter what underhanded, yellow-bellied, low-life thing she had to do. ha!

      Hugs to you...thanks for reading and offering your perspective!
      CZ

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  20. also i came back to say that i didnt mean to downplay the pain u felt, not at all...but i still think its not so uncommon unfortunately. i guess im around a lot of shitty people, shitty women....i guess people think its ok for women to act like this and they always seem to defend them...the more society defends these shenanigans the worse people will act especially pretty women who can get away w/ murder

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    1. I may have a broader perspective on "narcissistic traits" than many people. I think we are, as a society, encouraged to behave narcissistically and this is very different from years past when people were encouraged to "serve others" and "think of others." Our media, our advertising, even our religions are telling people they deserve to BE served, to please themselves, to be unique and special. While that was helpful to think about for someone like myself, it's gone too far to be healthy for ouro society now. That's a quick summation of my thinking about the normalization of narcissism in contemporary society.

      That doesn't mean people are pathological. Pathological narcissists are fairly rare, statistics remain fairly steady at 1% of the population.

      That was kind of you to be concerned about my feelings, worried that you had downplayed the pain I felt at the time. I didn't get that impression at all AND something I appreciate is hearing differing perspectives from readers. If I write it, you're welcome to offer your opinion!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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