From the 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.
Narcissists feel entitled. Like bratty children, they expect favourable treatment and excessive amounts of attention and adoration despite their unsavoury behaviour. They feel special and exempt from living as others do. They have no desire to grow-up. They feel entitled to remain a spoiled, foul natured, controlling child.
One of the things that strikes me about my mother, looking back, is the double standard she lived by. Narcissists hold others to a higher standard than they hold themselves, and they exempt themselves from the very rules they hold others to.
She absolutely hated it when people dropped in on her, especially when her parents paid her a surprise visit. And yet, she regularly dropped in on her friends (when she had some) unannounced and later, when I was an adult, dropped in on me without warning. Why did she hate drop in visits? Because of the potential of catching her off her guard, her house a mess, herself not dressed—maybe even in the middle of one of her narcissistic rages and meltdowns. She had an image she conveyed to the world and in order to maintain that image, she needed notice of impending arrivals so that she could be sure everything was in place. Of course, she gave no such warning to others—how else could she catch them out in something that she could squirrel away as potential ammunition to use against them later?
She had no boundaries where other people were concerned, especially me. Of course her own boundaries were rigid, fixed, and zealously guarded: my brother and I were not allowed into her bedroom, for example, unless we were specifically invited and stood to be punished if we so much as opened the door. Or, rather, I stood to be punished, because if my younger—but bigger—brother misbehaved, I got the punishment for “letting” him. I was actually forbidden to have boundaries, something that was to have serious repercussions for me later in life.
By the time I reached my teens, my mother was giving me her cast off clothing in lieu of buying me new ones for school. Not only were they dreadfully out of date, but cheap and tasteless—she had always had tawdry taste and it just got worse as she got older. But between gifts from my Nana and my stepmother, and my summer job picking berries and beans, I managed to pull together a decent wardrobe by the time I entered my junior year of high school, something that did not escape my NM. In fact, my closet became the extension of her closet, despite the fact that I was slimmer, especially through the hips. My stepmother, who had excellent—and expensive—tastes, bought me several wool pencil skirts with coordinating blouses, skirts I loved and cared for carefully because my mother would not stand the cost of dry cleaning. By the end of the school year, every one of these skirts was stretched out in the butt, making them baggy on me when I tried to wear them, because of her incursions into my closet. One skirt—and a brand new top—was even ruined beyond repair by her, without even an attempt at an apology or an offer of recompense or replacement. What was hers was hers, and what was mine was hers, too.
She felt entitled to snoop, not just when I was a kid but when I was an adult as well. Anything she wanted to know, it was her right to know. Right to privacy? Only she had that. Being a malignant narcissist, violence and intimidation were part of her repertoire, so to object to her predations—like going through my purse, gym bag, dresser drawers or coat pockets—was to invite retaliation, both verbally and physically. I learned early not to say “no,” not to object to anything another person expected of me, because I would get hurt as a result. I couldn’t even allow my facial expression to convey anything lest I get smacked, so I learned to school my face into a blank, something that still happens without thinking in times of stress. I learned to make myself numb to her predations—then to all predations—then to all forms of stress—and to make my face reflect only a numb compliance.
Charlie, my late husband, had such a mother as well. Charlie was a magician with his hands…he could build anything. But Charlie, who was dyslexic, had failed to graduate from high school and because of his reading problems, his mother labelled him “stupid.” His younger brother. Alvin, was not dyslexic and he not only graduated high school, the family sent him to college (Maman said she would have sent Charlie to college if he wanted to go, but he was too stupid—whether she meant too stupid to grasp the opportunity or too stupid to make it through, she never made clear). Alvin was a self-made millionaire and very clearly Maman’s darling. The fact that Alvin’s millions were not cleanly made, that he was regularly in trouble with state regulatory agencies for the less-than-honourable methods he used to make his money, didn’t bother her a whit: Alvin was a millionaire and that excused everything otherwise unpleasant about him. Charlie was an afterthought…except when she wanted something. When she bought a new house and needed a deck build, she called Charlie. She expected Charlie to drop everything and come build her deck…and she expected him to pay for all of the materials, supply free labour, and do it on her timetable, regardless of what his plans might have been. If Charlie demurred, if he asked for money for supplies, if he didn’t get it done on her time-table, he got the sharp side of her tongue…and everybody in the family heard about it for months, even years, afterward. Charlie did not have the option to refuse…he was her son and she was entitled to the fruits of his labour long past the time he was married, a parent, and a homeowner himself. She monopolized him until he was done with whatever she wanted, then ignored him until she needed him again.
Charlie couldn’t say “no” either. His narcissistic mother was the only one allowed to draw boundaries, and those boundaries were one-way only. The problem with this kind of entitlement on the part of the parent is that children learn very early that there is an unpleasant consequence for noncompliance, no matter how outrageous the demand, and come to believe they have no right to say “no.” In later years, when the threat of repercussion may be long past, the person still believes they have no right to say “no,” and this can lead them down destructive paths they might not otherwise have taken.
This inability to say “no” cost me time (agreeing to do things I didn’t want to do), money (agreeing to donate or give or spend, even though I could not afford it or did not want to), and self-esteem. This last came from my inability to say refuse sexual advances from dates. This led to a promiscuity problem that perhaps could be more accurately called “date rape,” in that I initially resisted but if the man was insistent, I did not feel I had the right to say “no.” Lurking in my subconscious lay the fear of retaliation for refusal, and so I complied. This was the later effect, however—I was sexually molested by a neighbour at about age nine because I was afraid to break away and leave: he was an adult and I was compelled to submit to anything an adult might want (heavens, if I had to lay across the bed while my mother striped my bare butt with a thin leather strap and not move or cry out, how was I to know it was OK to run from a neighbour who was holding me securely in his lap, one hand under my skirt??). I was also sexually molested by my stepfather at age 16 for largely the same reason. I, of course, gave both men a wide berth after my experiences with them, not an easy thing to do with regards to my stepfather in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in which I slept in the kitchen!
The narcissist’s sense of entitlement extends beyond family members and friends. Narcissists believe that rules are made for other people and that they are exempt. James (now my N-ex) and I were going to work one morning in his car, and he was driving. The freeway ramp we needed to take to get to work was stacked up as usual and James simply drove onto the right shoulder of the ramp to pass all of the waiting cars—something he did every morning. I had complained about this (I am a “wait your turn” kinda gal) but his reckless, retaliatory driving after my complaints were scary enough to shut me up. On this particular morning I could see that there were several police officers standing in the grass just off the shoulder with ticket books in their hands and I warned James. He ignored me and, sure enough, he got pulled over and given a ticket. He was outraged! The fact that he had driven that shoulder every morning for weeks, in his mind, made it his right to do so, and he was livid at the police for “taking away” that perceived right.
But the story doesn’t end here. The following morning he did exactly the same thing and got another ticket and he was even angrier the second morning that the first, accusing the cops of setting up a “trap,” and his ticket entrapment and therefore unjust. This was not his last stupid car trick, either. Driving the kids home from some event one afternoon, James ran a red light. There was a police car behind him and when the police car didn’t pull him over, James took that as permission to run red lights and proceeded to do it again! And he was angry and verbally abusive to the officer when he got pulled over and ticketed again, because after he didn’t get nailed for the first light, he felt entitled to run the next one.
This kind of entitlement can be unbelievably petty: I once bought English muffins at the market because they were on sale—ordinarily we could not afford them. From that day forward, James complained bitterly about no English muffins for breakfast: he was entitled to his English muffins and I was a withholding bitch to refuse to buy any more! And it can be huge: I knew someone once who broke into an old house that appeared to have been abandoned and stripped it of antique furnishings, dishes, and a host of other lovely—and collectable—things. “Nobody is using them, so why shouldn’t I have them?” was his rationale. But the house and its contents was part of an estate that was being litigated and he was merely rationalizing his thefts, as narcissists are wont to do.
Children are born feeling entitled and they raise holy hell when their needs aren’t met. It is programmed into the as a survival mechanism—baby cries, Mama feeds, baby survives. Young children have no concept of “others” as existing for anything other than their own survival and entertainment. They have no empathy, compassion, or remorse (ask your infant how bad he feels about keeping you up all night…). But children are supposed to outgrow this infantile narcissism as they become socialized, they are supposed to learn that they can’t have everything, that they must share, and that the feelings of others are just as important as their own. Some children never grow past that sense of entitlement, that feeling that they…and what they want…supercedes the feelings, wishes, and needs of everyone else on the planet. It is this arrested development that leads to their epic sense of entitlement.
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.