From House of Mirrors:
Let’s take a look at why malignant narcissists not only don't change but become worse. Keep in mind, they have mastered a lifetime of this twisted way of being in the world, and are always pushing their warped behavior to the limits.
All Malignant Narcissists are a case of arrested development. They live in the mindset of a child. Like a child, they know the difference between right and wrong but choose to do wrong when they can get away with it. However, unlike a child, the narcissist cannot be influenced by authority figures. The narcissist believes they are the ultimate authority on everything. They are determined to remain children who always get their way. And like all spoiled brats who control everyone by temper tantrums and bad behaviour they only get worse with the more they get away with.
“…they know the difference between right and wrong but choose to do wrong when they can get away with it…” This describes my mother to a T. How do I know she understood that some things were wrong but chose to do them any way? Because she taught me they were wrong and punished me when I did them. She also taught my brother, the Golden Child, that such things were wrong, but when he did them, I got punished for letting him.
For example, she taught us it was wrong to lie. If she suspected I was lying, I got punished (and punishment at her hands was brutal!). And yet, she regularly and easily lied, and even forced me to be complicit. My father worked two jobs, one full-time day job and one part-time evening job. When he would leave after dinner for his evening job, MNM would dress up, put on make up, high heels and jewellery and go “bar hopping,” (her term) leaving us alone. Not only was I admonished not to say anything to my father about her nocturnal activities, I was expected to keep my hyperactive, undisciplined little brother (who was bigger than I was) out of trouble while she was gone…nice trick for a scrawny 7-year-old and a husky bruiser of a 5-year-old!
On one occasion my brother found our father’s camera and disassembled it. Unable to put it back together, he got a hammer from the kitchen drawer and used it in an attempt to force the front and back halves of the camera back together. I was unable to stop him (and, truth be told, I was afraid to try to wrestle the hammer away from him lest he clobber me with it!) and when my mother got home, shortly before my father was due home from his night job, all hell broke loose. I was punished for “letting” my brother break the camera and we were both sent to bed after being told to say nothing about this, that she would handle it.
The walls in our house were paper thin and my bedroom adjoined the living room. My bed was pushed up against the shared wall, so at night I could hear what was going on in the next room. Through that thin wall, I heard my mother tell my father than my little brother had damaged the camera while she was out at the wash lines…a blatant lie if I ever heard one!...and that he had already been punished for it.
She knew it was wrong to steal, and she taught us it was wrong to steal and even punished us for stealing. But, like all narcissists, the rules didn’t apply to her, only to us lesser and unfavoured mortals.
My father liked to fish and hunt. He and my mother both had jobs to support my mother’s upwardly mobile lifestyle, and my father had a second job as well. What my father wanted more than anything was a good hunting rifle. With it he could not only indulge his pleasure of hunting, he could provide meat for the table. And to that end, my father began saving money, secreting it in the closet, far back on the shelf.
My mother, however, considered such pastimes to be “low class” and did not support his ambitions. Instead of the hunting rifle he wanted, for his birthday she gave him a solid gold tie pin in the shape of a crab. My father was a Pisces, not a Cancer, and I doubt he had ever eaten crab, so the reason for her choosing that emblem was a mystery. And a tie pin? My father owned only one tie and wore it no more than once a year. But it was gold and it was a tie pin so that when they got dressed up to go somewhere, my father would look prosperous...God forbid my mother associating in public with someone whose appearance did not shore up her own.
So, knowing the rifle would never be a gift from his wife, Daddy started saving money from his night job. And then my mother found it. I know she didn’t ask him about the money, what it was for or why he was hiding it. I know this because I still remember hearing them, through that paper thin wall, fight about it. He demanded that she give it back and she very sarcastically said she wouldn’t even if she could—it had already been spent. He was outraged, she was completely unashamed…her tone of voice was superior and condescending. And a few weeks later a new living room suite arrived, a sectional sofa and chair and several blonde wood tables, all perfectly in keeping with the trend of the day. She even got a neighbour, who was a carpenter and painter, to come and paint the living room walls to match the rosy pink chair and intense turquoise bouclé loop sofa. Daddy’s savings were gone, but my mother had the trendy new furniture she wanted that leapfrogged her into the position of having the newest, most fashionable and enviable stuff on the block.
She knew stealing was wrong…she told her children it was wrong and even punished me if she suspected me (or my brother) of stealing. Yet, when she found it, she shamelessly and without remorse, stole the money my father had been saving for a hunting rifle, something that would not only bring him pleasure but would have the added benefit of putting meat on the table (he liked to go deer hunting and a single deer could provide us with meat for the table for the better part of a year).
While Lisette states that narcissists cannot be influenced by authority figures, like parents, I am not so sure this is entirely correct. My mother, for example, moved from the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon to San Diego to distance herself from her parents (and a scandal she created that caused the people in their very small town to shun her) and she seemed to dread their visits. She changed when they were there, she actually seemed normal. It proved to me that she did know how to behave properly because she did so in front of her parents. I got no beatings while they were around, no nasty, vituperative tongue lashings, and I wasn’t punished for my brother’s misbehaviour. Life seemed normal…or at least what I imagined to be normal…when my grandparents were there.
My grandparents had several big walnut trees in their back garden and when they came down to visit, they always brought a big box of walnuts with them. I can remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV, cracking and eating walnuts to my heart’s content—I was never hungry when my grandparents were around. But as soon as they left, those walnuts were gathered up and put away, with instructions that we were not to touch them without permission, permission for which I was too intimidated to ask. Eventually they would go bad and they would be tossed out with the trash. Once my grandparents were gone, so was my mother’s “good” behaviour.
My mother had a temper and I was terrified of her when she let it loose. “…like all spoiled brats who control everyone by temper tantrums and bad behaviour…” Yep, that was my mother. I was afraid of her in general, but when she got angry—which was often—I was frequently in fear of my life. For one thing, anything could set her off. I had to wash the accumulated breakfast and lunch dishes when I got home from school (even though I was so young I needed to stand on a chair to get to the sink). My brother was supposed to dry them and put them away, but because he knew that he would not get punished for failing to do so (I would get it for not making him do his chores), both the washing and drying fell to me. If I did not put them away “right,” if I stacked the pans wrong, if I put the can opener in the wrong drawer or mixed a big spoon in with the little ones, it was a punishable offense. I have been dragged out of bed by my hair, my mother screaming almost unintelligibly at me, and pulled into the kitchen where I was told to put a glass or cup in its proper place or pick up a piece of trash that had not made it into the sack, then whipped with a thin leather strap every step of the way back to bed. Did she know this was wrong? Of course—“if you tell your precious father about this, you’ll get twice as much tomorrow when he leaves for work,” she would tell me…like a naughty child, a schoolyard bully, who threatens you with more violence if you report his bad behaviour.
They never grow out of it. My mother remained mean and angry and punitive right up to her death. When she died she had two children and four grandchildren. She had inherited a lot of money from her parents and when she wrote her will, she wrote one child and three grandchildren out of it “for reasons they already know.” One of those grandchildren she had refused to meet for the whole of his 26 years—how could he know anything? But her last act was to put the cat amongst the pigeons and create conflict and hurt feelings among her children and grandchildren for years to come. I can just imagine her writing out the will, smiling and congratulating herself for turning one of her grandchildren into the next family bully and sowing a legacy of dysfunction into the next generations. Like spoiled little chidren, narcissists must always get their way.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.