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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

True Confessions

“Oh, no you don’t, Miss Priss,” Mother’s voice stopped her as she was half-way into the passenger seat of the car. “You get your smart ass in the back seat with the dog, where you belong.”

She was beginning to think she was crazy. She had no idea why she was being dragged to the juvenile court…she hadn’t been arrested…she hadn’t gotten in any kind of trouble at school…her grades were good…she didn’t talk back to Mother or defy her rules. What on earth was going on?

“You incorrigible little bitch,” Mother snapped from the driver’s seat. She could see the garish red-lipsticked mouth in the rear-view mirror…almost as if it was dripping blood. “I don’t know what you think you are up to, conspiring with your father against me, but let me tell you, you won’t get away with it! Not this time, not ever!”

“Daddy?” she said. “What does Daddy have to do with this?”

“As if you didn’t know,” Mother sneered, twisting around in the seat to face the back. “You and your precious father…you two think you’re so goddamned smart, but you’re not. He thinks he can run me broke by dragging me back to court for custody but it’s not going to happen because before this day is out, you’ll be out of his reach.”

She must have looked puzzled, because Mother laughed. “I have outsmarted you both, this time! There won’t be any more lawyers and court visits and trouble because you are going up the river, my girl. Up the river!”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied, keeping a tight rein on her fear.

“You know, this is all your own fault, don’t you?” Mother said, almost conversationally. “This whole thing centers on you…but then you always did like to be the center of attention, didn’t you?”

She shook her head slightly. Actually, she preferred to be as close to invisible as possible, at least around Mother. It was safer that way.

“Well, you’re going to get your wish, little girl! You are going to be the real main attraction here! This whole hearing centers around you, and when it’s over, your father will have to pay the court fees, my lawyer’s bill, and a whopping monthly maintenance bill.” Mother paused to wipe a tear of laughter from one eye.

“Yessiree! Your father and his pasty-faced little paramour are going to rue the day they crossed me! And you are too!”

She shook her head again, wiping the beads of sweat off her upper lip. It was hot in the backseat, with the windows rolled up tightly. “I don’t understand.”

“Well then let me spell it out for you, Miss Genius,” Mother laughed scornfully. “Your precious father is taking me to court again for custody. But before that hearing, you have a hearing in chambers…I’m having you declared an incorrigible child, the judge is going to send you to reform school, and when your father gets to his custody hearing, all he’ll get from the court is a bill!” Mother’s laugh was triumphantly self-congratulatory.

She paled, sitting immobile in the back of the car. Reform school? Wasn’t that where girls who rob and steal and stab each other get sent? She wracked her brain for even a single transgression sufficient to warrant such a sentence. “What did I do?” she wailed, suddenly overwhelmed with panic.

“Incorrigible child,” her mother said smugly. “The law says I can have you committed as an incorrigible child and that is exactly what I am going to do!”

She wept. “If you don’t want me, why can’t I just go live with Daddy? Why do you have to do this?”

“Because he wants you,” Mother said through thinned, tight lips. “Because he wants you and I will be Goddamned if I will give that man anything he wants!”

“Why?” she said through her tears. “Why?”

Mother lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into the closed interior of the car. “This is all your fault, you know,” Mother said, resuming her conversational tone of earlier. “If you hadn’t been born, none of this would be happening, my life would be different…better. But no, you had to come along and ruin everything!”

Mother blew a couple of smoke rings before continuing. “You know, I had it all figured out. Your grandfather, that rigid, old-fashioned old fart, wouldn’t let me go out or do anything. Oh, Pete and Gary could come and go as they pleased…they were boys, and even though Pete was two years younger than me, Grandpa let him do whatever he wanted while I had to ask permission to do just about anything other than take a pee.”

Sounds familiar, she thought to herself, but held her silence rather than break the spell of Mother’s memories.

“And then one night I was at a high school football game and there was this cute sailor in the stands, home from the war. And I flirted with him and when the game was over we went off on his motorcycle for some ice cream and he took me home.”

Mother took another deep drag off her cigarette, rolled the window down an inch and blew the smoke out the window, then cranked it up tight again.

“I had to sneak out after everyone had gone to bed to see him, Grandpa wouldn’t let me go out with him because he was Hill People…you know, poor dirt farmers who lived in houses with no plumbing or electricity. But I knew he was my ticket to freedom.

“So one night, just after school was out for the summer we sneaked away and got married. He was 21 and I was almost 17. His leave from the Navy was almost up and he was going to be shipped out to China…the Navy was going to send me money every month as his wife for living expenses…and as a married woman I wouldn’t have to answer to Grandpa anymore. I could take that money, move out of the Godforsaken little gossip-ridden hick town, and live my own life, no father…and no husband, either…to tell me what I could or could not do.”

Mother stopped talking and looked out the window, a faraway look in her eyes. “At least that was the plan,” she said softly.

“But things didn’t work out that way,” Mother resumed, her voice tinged with bitterness. “Gramma Janssen wrote to the War Department and told them that he was their only son and they needed him to help out on the farm and the War Department discharged him. There went my freedom…he wasn’t going to go to China and there wasn’t going to be a monthly check from the Navy and before my father could put together an annulment…” Mother turned her hard, embittered face to the backseat, “…guess what happened?”

She shook her head slowly, afraid to hazard a guess.

“I found out I was pregnant. With you. And then it was all over for me.” Mother opened the car window again and flicked out the burning butt. “I swelled up like a poisoned pup. I got stretch marks all over my belly, my boobs, I got so fat I would barely waddle. Then, when I went into labour, you wouldn’t come out. I was in labour for 36 goddamned hours before they finally decided to do a caesarean section…your head was pointed from being crammed against my pelvic bones for so long! And then I almost died. I had to have a live transfusion from Grandpa because that tiny little shit-assed town didn’t have a decent blood bank. I got milk fever. You lost weight because I didn’t have any milk and those blockheaded nurses wouldn’t give you formula.

“And once I got you home, all you did was cry. All day, all night, you cried. Then you got the goddamned eczema and had raw, open sores all over you and I had to keep your diapers and your bedding and your clothes sterilized…but we were living in that drafty old shack next to Gramma Janssen’s house with no electricity or running water. And I couldn’t drive, so I was stuck out there living like a goddamned heathen, only ten miles from town, but I might as well have been in the goddamned middle of nowhere! So there I was, stuck out in the sticks with a screaming baby…it wasn’t at all what I expected, you know. You can’t put a baby back in the closet and close the door when you are tired of playing with it. I was stuck in that horrible little shack with Gramma Janssen always looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do and no way out!”

Mother paused for emphasis, fixing her with an unmistakable glare of enmity. “And all because of you. If you hadn’t come along, I’d have had that annulment and found another way to get away from Grandpa. But you ruined it all.”

“But…” she hesitated.

“What?” Mother snapped.

“But what about Brother? If you hated it so much, why did you have another baby?”

Mother shrugged and lit another cigarette. “When your life is already ruined with one screaming, demanding brat, what the hell difference does two make?”


  1. this story almost made me cry. i hope im not becoming a crazy mother. or maybe i already am...

    my english is not too good , so better delete my comment if too many grammar errors occur.

    i too wanted some independence when i married. and i wanted a man in love with me and a child. i was hoping for a child since i was in my 20's. i was 34 when i married and become a mother. my baby arrived as a premature child.
    some neurological damage was probable because of her prematurity. before she was 2 yrs old , she was ok except behavior. im talking about a very cute , beautiful and smart child. the neurologist warned us she might be a handful. i think thats the expression. very naughty , sometimes. i spoiled the baby and gave her anything , anytime. now im dealing with uncontrollable behavior. she is not doing crazy thing , she just dont do what i want/ask/beg her to do. not ever.

    "Your grandfather, that rigid, old-fashioned old fart, wouldn’t let me go out or do anything. ".... yes , thats my father , all right ! and i was hoping someday i will raise my child in peace , loving it and giving it whatever it needs. but seems im no better than my old father , i scream at my daughter , sometimes slap her , horrible words coming out my mouth. i am at the point of considering divorce just to give the child a chance of a happy home without me around. yes , the child makes me crazy and raging but i suspect is is not her fault. it's me. i do not know how to make things work , i was raised by my father alone. my mother never wanted to know how i was.

  2. Reading the anonymous comment about being a crazy mother reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by the poet activist Maya Angelou:

    "You did what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better."


    1. I like the quote-it is SO very true...

      The difference with our NMs is, I think, that they knew. My NM hated me from the moment she knew I existed. Had abortions been legal or safely available back then, there is no question in my mind that she would have aborted me. I was never more than a burden, the cause of her unhappiness... She didn't have ignorance or a hostile family as an excuse. Her own mother was a good mother, and so was her mother-in-law. She had role models, she had people to give her advice and help her out, but her choice was to repudiate their advice and help and blame her circumstances on a baby.

      My NM knew better but chose selfishness...and arrogance. And in the end, it killed her, dying at 69 because she refused to take her heart medication as ordered by her doctor after a bypass, change her diet or stop smoking. "That young pup?" she said about her doctor. "What does HE know?"

      I am sure most of us do better as we know better, but some of us resist any change that does not specifically improve our own lot in life...your NM and mine are proof of that.

    2. I'd never realized until now that my mom's habit of remembering and reciting old complaints was due to NPD. I thought it was just her. She's not the sharpest tool in the shed and I felt that was the problem, but this trait seems to be part of the standard modus operandi for NPD. She's furious about my going on a trip she forbade me to go on at 19 (that I had every right to go on), when I was legally an adult, working full-time and going to school, owned my own car, and was paying her rent.

      I recall many fights she had with my father, when she would bring things up that happened 10, 20, and even 40 years before when they quarreled in their golden years. What a sad way to live!

  3. Yes, I agree. My mother is still alive, and getting more hateful and verbally abusive with age. Me... I am still very much of an imperfect human being with more than my fair share of faults, because I am still badly broken. But I am trying. With everything that is in me, I am trying, to do better, to be better, to HEAL.

    When I realize that I have an N Flea, I am horrified, and I try to get rid of it, try to make it right. I CARE. When my anger lashes out in the wrong direction, and I realize it.... after the fact, damn it, if only I could realize it and stop it BEFORE!.... but when I realize that I've screwed up yet again, I try so hard to make it right. And I beat myself up with huge guilt until I am emotionally black and blue, even though I know that does not help any one, I can't help doing it.

    Did my mother ever beat herself up with guilt? I don't think so, but she sure as hell has beat me with guilt over every nitpicky things she thinks I have ever done wrong. She writes insanely long letters rehashing my childhood misdeeds which were so laughably small... she wrote that 62 page hate letter to me and sent copies of it to my FOO, last year, when I was 58, complaining about things I did wrong when I was a little girl. While she lambasts me for things that happened in some cases more than 50 years ago... she excuses her ultimate abuse, her several attempts to GAS US ALL TO DEATH IN OUR SLEEP, by saying: "I was going through a really hard time then."

    She can literally attempt to murder all of her children, and blow it off with the excuse that her divorce from my dad was hard. But my tiniest childhood misdeeds are forever inexcusable to her skewed thinking.

    There's the difference, isn't it? No sign of true empathy, no evidence of a guilty conscience, and no apparent self-awareness.

    1. "When I realize that I have an N Flea, I am horrified, and I try to get rid of it, try to make it right. I CARE. When my anger lashes out in the wrong direction, and I realize it.... after the fact, damn it, if only I could realize it and stop it BEFORE!.... but when I realize that I've screwed up yet again, I try so hard to make it right. And I beat myself up with huge guilt until I am emotionally black and blue, even though I know that does not help any one, I can't help doing it."

      There is a better, more effective way to handle finding an N flea--apologize. If it popped out at another person, just stop yourself--mid-sentence if necessary--and say "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that and I apologize. I hope you will forgive me." It is not as easy as it sounds, but it IS the right thing to do, the thing that our NMs would and will never do. If it pops out in other ways, apologize to yourself and then give yourself forgiveness. Beating up on yourself is acting like your NM, the last thing you want to do.

      You are right, of course, that they have no empathy, no guilt, no true self-awareness. We sometimes act like them because we are conditioned to...but we aren't them and when we catch ourselves acting like them, we can make ourselves stop. And then forgive ourselves for doing what we were trained to do...

      Nature abhors a vacuum. You cannot break a bad habit--you will stress yourself out trying to and eventually succumb to the stress and go back to it. What you CAN do, however, is create a new habit to take place of the old. I quit smoking by substituting sugarless gum for cigarettes--that was more than 25 years ago and I am still smoke-free. This works with behavioural habits as well. Pick a bad behavioural habit you have...let's say, calling yourself stupid. Next time you call yourself stupid, say "No, I'm not stupid..I am very smart, I just reacted without thinking..." At first it will be after the fact, later you will catch yourself mid-thought, and eventually you will catch yourself before the "STUPID Charity!" thought fills your brain. Yes, you have to put in effort, but the outcome is worth it.

      A lot of what goes on with us are bad habits we picked up from our NMs--fleas--if we can substitute good habits, we will go a long ways towards healing ourselves.



  4. This hit too close to home. I was raised to believe that I was evil because I cried in the crib, She said I did it to upset her.....

  5. How many times was your mother married? Or am I just counting husbands and boyfriends? My NMIL has been married fives times. My poor husband was shuttled all over the place, different step dad's and his real father wasn't terribly present. His mother was and still is a horrible selfish bitch.

    1. I don't think anyone knows for sure how many times she was married. Twice to my father, for certain...then there were two men to whom she might or might not have been married, one of them being the stepfather I refer to. I heard through the family grapevine that she married some guy in Las Vegas and it lasted all of 6 months but I don't know for sure.

      I don't hold multiple marriages against anyone, however, having been married several times myself. Pre-therapy I had a penchant for narcissists and sociopaths and had numerous relationships with men of this type. Post therapy, however, I have married only twice--the first one died after 9 years of marriage (12 year relationship), the second one I have been married to for 11 years.

      The REASONS for the breakups (marital or not) and the kind of people chosen as new partners are more important than the actual numbers.

    2. Ironically my NM and my father were married for over 50 years. It is totally lost on my mother that I had multiple dicey relationships because of growing up in a dysfunctional family (dad was bipolar). She has many times used my relationship history against me, always making me out to be a bad person. The flying monkey does too, though he is bipolar and has a history of drug abuse and was married to and divorced from the same woman twice. He may be borderline NPD himself because he has similar traits, though milder.

  6. The more I read your 46 memories, the more I'm seeing my mom reflected in them (though to a smaller degree). She always seems to expect a marriage or boyfriend to rescue her from whatever situation she's in, instead of doing something about it herself.



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