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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing older…and worse, too

In her wonderful post Malignant Narcissists Get Worse With Age, Lisette delineates a list of characteristics of malignant narcissists, each with some brief, illustrative commentary. The list is an excellent one, as is the commentary, and each characteristic will be explored in greater, more personal depth on this blog. Lisette showcases Livia Soprano (The Sopranos) as an archetype of the aging malignant narcissist. Facing the end of her own life…running out of time, as it were…Livia takes out a contract on her own son, fully intending to have him killed. It does not trouble her that the action she takes is no less evil than his own narcissistic endeavours because she feels justified in her actions and she has therefore rationalized that what she is doing is a good thing. Livia is the embodiment of the malignant narcissist in extremis.

Normal people tend to think of others as “mellowing” with age. Our grandparents were more indulgent with us than they were with their own children, for example. Narcissists in general and malignant narcissists in particular, do not get more flexible and amenable with age, they get worse. Time is their enemy, it is running out, and they still don’t have it all!

Getting “better” would require the narcissist to acknowledge that all of her heretofore behaviour has been wrong and that a change in a more compassionate direction is in order. This is not going to happen for several reasons:

1) The narcissist is never wrong. Grandiosity being what it is, the narcissist truly believes that she is right, even when others don’t agree with her. In fact, if they disagree, it only proves to the narcissist how much smarter she is than they are because she can tell she’s right even if they can’t!

2) Such emotions as compassion and empathy are regarded by the narcissist as weaknesses. No narcissist—especially no malignant narcissist—wants anything to do with compassion or empathy except in others, because those emotions allow others to be exploited by the narcissist. It gives them a way to manipulate and ultimately control the compassionate person.

3) The narcissist would see nothing in it for her. Oh, she might feign some compassion and empathy when she thinks it will get her something she values, like attention or the esteem of others, but it will be an act, carried out for as long as the acclaim lasts. Once it ends, so do the tender behaviours.

Narcissists do what works for them. Because they have no boundaries where others are concerned, because they have no self-imposed limitations, no sense of shame, they do whatever they think they can get away with. Our society tends to be more lenient with the elderly, and a narcissist will take shameless advantage of that, doing whatever they can to garner sympathy and leeway from others, all the while secretly gloating that they have fooled yet another fool into doing their bidding.

The narcissist’s ability at self-deception is vast and it becomes more pronounced with age. What they consider good reasons for their behaviour normal people cannot even fathom. My former mother-in-law was the executor of her sister-in-law’s will. The family was very small, just the two women and my mother-in-law’s two sons, and the estate was more than a million dollars. When the old lady had a stroke and lay unconscious in her hospital bed, my mother-in-law wanted to pull the plug, reasoning that keeping her alive would just deplete Auntie’s assets and reduce the inheritance (of which she stood to gain a third). She could not seem to understand why her oldest son was horrified at the idea, since he stood to gain as much as she did. She was unable to manipulate him into agreeing to having the old woman disconnected from life support and furiously blamed me, his fiancĂ©e, for “influencing” him against her.

Anyone else would have been horrified at the idea of essentially killing a person in order to inherit a sizable estate, but this malignant narcissist, who was in her 70s at the time, considered us “stupid” for reducing the size of our inheritance by keeping the old lady alive long enough to regain consciousness and make her own wishes known. My mother-in-law was livid when the old lady decided to keep the life support and move to a pricey nursing home, further depleting her assets. At one point she blamed my husband (then my fiancĂ©) for the reduced assets, saying she should deduct the cost of the nursing home from his share of the inheritance.

My husband’s younger brother, no less greedy than his mother, had the social acumen to keep his mouth shut, even though he agreed with her. He did not rail about the reduced inheritance but he voted in favour of pulling the plug. Interestingly, he was a millionaire and my mother-in-law was financially in good condition, it was my husband who worked a blue collar job, drove an old car, and lived in a working-class neighbourhood, living from payday to payday. Age had not mellowed the woman or brought her compassion for the sick, it merely made her impatient for the old woman to die so she could put her hands on her money while she still had time to spend it.

Why are they like this? Why cant they mellow out with age like normal people do? Lisette lists nine characteristics of narcissists that makes it difficult, if not impossible for them to change. Tomorrow I will debut the first of those characteristics and my take on it.

Next up: All Malignant Narcissists are a case of arrested development.

12 comments:

  1. Violet,

    Thank you so much for expanding on my blog post "Malignant Narcissists Get Worse With Age."

    You've added much depth and insight to the subject, and it's an excellent read for those searching for more detail and understanding of the aging MN.

    I recently found your blog and have added it to my roll. I will bring it to the attention of readers who may be in search of more info on this topic.

    You write with such precision and honesty. And I thank you for the reference.

    Lisette

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    1. Thank you for writing. I found your blog to be an excellent source of insight into these twisted beings and since we can do nothing to help or to change them, insight is what we desperately need when we have to deal with them.

      I am far long on the path of healing from this: my MNM has been dead for 14 years, I did a lot of therapy, and I am well into my 60s. But I see so many younger women struggling to deal with their narcissistic mothers, women who don't have the luxury of detachment and hindsight to guide them, that I felt compelled to tell what I know, to flesh out excellent posts that I have read elsewhere with personal anecdotes because true-to-life examples allow people to connect, to realize "I am not the only one..."

      Thank you for listing me on your site. You've been listed on mine since Day One!

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  2. I don't have a narcissistic mother but came across your site when I was looking for info on bullying. I feel sadder than I can say that you and others had to experience this. I haven't read every page of your site but am wondering if you have a theory about why these mothers are like this. After all, I believe we're biologically primed to love and care for our children so why are some mothers different?

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    1. Personality disorders, of which NPD is only one, cause people to behave in ways the rest of us cannot fathom. Narcissists are deeply selfish people who lack empathy and compassion and have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. This personality disorder overrides our biology such that when there is a conflict between a child's needs and a narcissist's wants, the narcissist wins almost every time (the child wins when the narcissist perceives some danger to him/herself in not attending to the child's needs, like legal repercussions--but even that doesn't always work).

      Surely you have heard of women who kill their babies through neglecting to feed them, men who throw a baby against a wall for crying, underfed children who are found locked in cages, children left alone for days...some, if not all, of these children have narcissistic mothers who put their wants above their children's needs. Sadly, some of these children grow up to be just like their mothers because their emotional development arrested in childhood due to neglect and they had no better role model.

      NPD is a complex condition and may be co-morbid with other personality disorders. A malignant NM, like mine, probably suffers from sociopathy as well (my therapist once suggested my mother was a psychopath). What is particularly heinous about these people is that they are not delusional in the way a person who has a psychotic break is: they don't see pink elephants on Main Street or get messages in their head from Martians. No, these people have CHOICE--they can choose to be selfish or selfless and invariably choose selfishness with a huge helping of justification, rationalization or blame to others.

      Narcissists are bullies, although not all bullies are narcissists. In your hunt for information on bullies, you might want to look into personality disorders because bullying can be a big part of NPD. And like all Ns, bullies have a choice and choose to do evil. M. Scott Peck, author of People of the Lie, identified narcissists as people who choose to do evil over good because it advantages them.

      Thanks for writing and good luck on your search for info about bullies.

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  3. Since my wife had to work, we decided to leave my youngest a girl born premature to live with my mother in law. My MIL was so sweet and charming that she had the world fooled into canonising her. She was a full blown malignant narcissist. When i found my daughter with dental caries, the first thing i found was she had never bothered to feed her. She had to be operated under anesthesia, and i prayed to the almighty to forgive me. What she was trying to project to the world was that she was a saint by taking care of my child. As you rightly said narcissits worsen with age. But according to Dr.Vaknin narccissists mellow with age. Albeit an expert, my practical observations side by yours.

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    1. I am sorry to hear about your daughter. I hope she is recovering well?

      There is more than one kind of narcissist. The "garden variety" narcissist may well experience some mellowing with age but the malignant ones? I don't think so. Like you experienced, mine became worse with age and among my network of DoNM friends, the MNMs just get worse and worse and more and more spiteful. It is as if they know the clock is ticking down and they are getting desperate to get as much of their inner ugliness out as they possibly can in their increasingly short time left. And your MIL's public sweetness, shored up by her halo-polishing with respect to her "care" of your child is not only typical, it works--she looks like a saint and you look like a boor to bash her.

      I can only hope you have a good plan in place with respect to your daughter's contact with her grandmother--I didn't and the results have come back to haunt me.

      Thanks for writing and please feel free to join the blog if you would like automatic notifications when new posts are published.

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  4. Violet

    The thing is that my wife being reared by a NM was coy and reticent for nearly a decade of marriage before i jerked her out of the nonsense which is an antithesis to survival, today she has recovered her womanliness and is the prettiest thing. I make sure that she follows every possible self care for DONMs dont self care, they neglect even essentials like good food leave alone spending time in a beauty parlor to groom. DONMs who are liberated are the typical cinderellas. The person to liberate them is her husband. It was lucky my wife found me an alpha male a corporate manager and a master psychologist who has gone through hell of inferno with narcissistic people. Unfortunately most DONMs end up with another narcissist. By DONM i mean the scape goat.

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    1. You are right--most of us end up with another narcissist.

      But even if we don't, ending up in a situation in which we are emotionally dependent on another is not the healthiest situation...what happens if that person is taken from us through death or disease or dementia? We must all, to survive in the most emotionally healthy way, learn to be emotionally independent, giving our love to others from the freedom of emotional independence, rather than remaining infantilized and dependent on the esteem of another for our sense of self worth.

      I know there are cultural issues that may make such a thing more difficult, but it is still essential that any daughter of a narcissistic mother come to a place where she feels independently strong and whole. Only then can she truly be free of her upbringing and free to give herself to another without remaining the emotionally dependent child her NM shaped her to be.

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  5. my mother is amoral. that i have come to terms with this has brought lightness to my being. she now has dementia, which has caused her to be alot more easy to be around.she cannot remember her hate.or not with the violent momentum of the past. i have been healing for about 17 years. at the moment i am not capable of intimate relationship.she gets little or no information about my life.what little are probably lies. i will not feed her.i was too scared to have kids , i thought i might pass it on. her performances around my nieces and nephews is award winning.i just watch people sopping it up.as her child, i can tell you that she hates children. well, she hates everyone. my attachments to suffering become less and less.as this happens, i focus more on me.
    thank you for this forum.

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    1. Thank you for writing and welcome.

      Your comment was a bit of an eye-opener to me---it had never occurred to me that an NM with dementia might forget at least some of the hatred and antipathy...what a wonderful gift for you!

      you are not the only DoNM I know of who refrained from having children out of fear of passing the craziness on (or fear that their ability to mother had been irreparably warped). I had three--two of them have grown up to show very strong N traits--so your fear was wall grounded, I think.

      Know that you are not alone---there are thousands of us out there, thousands who know exactly how you are feeling, exactly what you experienced, exactly what you are going through. We "get it" in ways so many other people simple cannot. We understand how fake they can be in the presence of others, how important it is to keep them in the dark about our personal lives to minimize the amount of ammunition they have to use against us, how they make us wary of closeness with others. We get, we really do.

      There are lots of posts here to explore, links to more places to explore, all with information and comments from people like you, people who grew up in an N household. Please feel free to avail yourself of the resources and even to join the blog. I'd be happy to have you as a member.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  6. Hello, yes I too know so well the wrath of a narcissist.
    Only child, I was the good and the bad, just never knew in advance which one at that moment. The temper tantrums, lying, cruel treatment and so on. I know her better than she knows herself. I can tell who she is talking on the phone with by the tone of her voice.
    I used to pray for her to get a heart, that is whats lacking.

    By reading about other peoples experiences, I am very surprised that many narcissist had more than one child, mine would never give birth to another child, nooooooo way. She had two abortions that I know about. She did try to kill me when I was a baby, my grandmother saved me, and to this day I wish she had not.

    It was a life I would not wish on my greatest enemy, and yet I love her for she is my mother, but there is that deep dislike.
    School is a place where I always felt really good, I still love the school atmosphere. That is the first place where I was told, that I was smart and good. In school later on when they had presentations about abuse it was always either sexual or physical, never the emotional, oh how often I wished I could show them my emotional scars, but they are not visible. She did always say life was a big act, and that she always had to act. By the way she did want to become an actress. To her I was responsible for all her failures.

    Well I am 55, but carry the scars, many triggers.
    Thank you for this site, It won't change my life, but it is good to have this understanding.
    havefunbegoodbehave
    tin

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    1. The blog won't change your life--you are right about that. The only thing that can change your life is action that you take, and that presumes you want to change it.

      For some of us, understanding is enough to continue, but remember that your NM won't live forever and when she is gone, your like WILL change. It might be prudent to enter therapy before that happens if, for no other reason, you will have some preparation for the kind of individuation that will be inevitable at that time.

      In the meantime, however, I welcome you to the blog and hope you can find some enlightenment and understanding in these pages.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.