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, April 13, 2012

Narcissists are shameless

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.

Narcissists are shameless: Without a conscience the narcissist is unable to process the feelings that make us want to alter our behaviour like shame, guilt, embarrassment, and remorse. They simply excuse, rationalize, blame-shift and project all their problems and bad behaviour onto you. Whatever shame sneaks into the narcissist’s wisp of a conscience is simply dumped onto you.

My parents had a rocky marriage. They divorced when I was two, remarried when I was four and moved to California where they separated again when I was eight, reconciled briefly, then separated for good and divorced when I was ten. In that final separation, my mother simply told my father that she was going to be seeing other men, and she might even be bringing some of them home, and he could stay or go, she didn’t care. And then she did just that. Absolutely shameless.

My father, of course, moved out and, because it was the 1950s, my mother got the house, the new car, the furniture, and full custody. My father got his 10-year-old car, his hunting and fishing gear, his mechanic’s tools, and the bills. When his financial obligations to her became so onerous that he literally did not earn enough money to pay them, he left the state to avoid being arrested…a circumstance that caused her no end of joy, as it allowed her to simultaneously wear the victim mantle and smirk at her victory over him.

All of the separations and both divorces were at her behest and yet my mother managed to make herself the victim in every case. Publicly, it was poor her, saddled with two kids and not enough money to support them…yet privately there always seemed to be enough money for beer, for cigarettes, for new cocktail dresses, for barhopping.

Appearances are everything to a narcissist. She must look prosperous, even when she’s barely middle-class. She lies not only with her words but with her actions and appearance as well. We all want to look our best, even fashionable, but the narcissist wants to appear to be better than she really is, to fool others. And if there isn’t enough money to support her efforts and take proper care of her children, the children do without so that NM can have.

So what if someone sees elegantly appointed NM and her shabby kids/home? Why, she blames the kids, of course! Preening under hearing such remarks as “She is always so well turned out!” she explains her scruffy kids by shamelessly blaming them. “Oh, I can’t get her to brush that hair,” or “he won't change into play clothes after school and I just refuse to spend more money on things he will just ruin…” A rundown house and dilapidated furniture can be blamed on the husband who abandoned her and the unmanageable kids. She shamelessly spends money on herself, and blames others for the deplorable conditions that an infusion of that cash might have remedied.

We left Oregon under a cloud. Her scandalous behaviour was such that we could no longer live in our small town. We drove to San Diego in a rattletrap old Ford and moved into a cheap motel while my father looked for work and we applied for a place in the post-war Navy housing projects.

My father worked as a mechanic and my mother got a job as a bookkeeper. And every night she would shut herself into the kitchen with her sewing machine. Under my bed were suitcases and she regularly added new clothes to those suitcases—clothes we were not allowed to wear.

After months of this, my father suddenly came home with a new car—a 3 year old Buick with all the options available at the time. My mother had mandated a new car and my father obeyed. Never mind we slept on cots, the lamp tables were up-ended orange crates, and for blankets we had my father’s old Navy blankets, cut in half and the house was barely furnished—my mother was going back to Oregon to put those “old biddies” who ran her out of town “to shame” with her false image of prosperity.

We could have eaten better. We could have had decent furniture. We could have worn the clothes she was sewing rather than the outgrown and threadbare things we had. But everything was sacrificed to her desire to create a false image of prosperity and show it off to the women who had shamed her—and rightfully so, for she had abandoned one of her children, left her husband, and spent two years earning herself a reputation as the town tramp—into leaving town. She was, in a word, shameless. Completely without shame and driven only by a vengeful desire to “show them!”

Narcissists have no shame. The emotion that makes you and me uncomfortable and sparks in us a desire to change something so we won’t be assailed by it again, does not exist in the narcissist. When it rears its head, the narcissist’s psyche immediately converts it into something else. When the women of our small Oregon town began to shun her for her behaviour, rather than take the point, feel ashamed and change her behaviour, my mother felt angry and victimized. And rather than be motivated to change her behaviour, she was motivated to create an image of prosperity so that not only would they feel “less” than she was, but so that she could don her cloak of affluence and feel like she was better than they were. And if she was better, then she was right, thereby shamelessly justifying not only her fantasy foray into prosperity, but rationalizing that these women had no right to judge her scandalous behaviour and shun her.

Shamelessness comes in many, many varieties. The mean girls who ostracize others and feel good about doing so, bullies who try to justify their behaviour by blaming the victim for being “too fat,” “too nerdy,” “gay,” or anything else they find personally not to their liking. Public officials who condemn the very behaviours they privately practice. Newt Gingrich abandoned two wives during their terrible illnesses, kept mistresses, and yet shamelessly attacked a sitting president for having an affair (a president who was still on his first wife, nogal). Narcissists take shamelessness to new heights—or depths, if you will—in their sense of self-righteousness. Rick Santorum, erstwhile GOP candidate for the presidency, has spoken out against abortion despite his wife having had one with his knowledge and consent. Narcissists are shameless in their hypocrisy.

This shamelessness has a terrible “trickle-down effect.” Children learn more by what they observe than what they are told, and those who have parents who behave shamelessly either never develop the capacity for shame themselves and carry this awful legacy to the next generation or they become the repository for the shame their parent(s) should be feeling. They become perpetual victims, overly responsible, believing themselves at fault for anything that is wrong in their lives or the lives of those around them.

I was married at one time to a terrible malignant narcissist. My therapist asked me why, if life with him was so unbearable that I had been contemplating suicide, did I stay? For a long time I couldn’t articulate my answer—it was just a nebulous feeling of needing to remain—and then one day it coalesced and just popped out: I felt responsible for him. I spent hours each night after dinner, talking him out of his paranoid fantasies so that he could go to work the next day and not react explosively to those imagined barbs that brought him home seething every night. I was afraid that he would get himself fired—or worse—if he was allowed to go back every morning with those paranoid notions growing daily in his perceptions. I knew how cruel he could be to women and kids, how he glowed with joy when he trounced a 6-year-old at Monopoly, how his chest swelled with pride and a grim smile of satisfaction would come over his face when he had gaslighted me into a quivering heap of tears. How could I turn this monster loose on the unsuspecting women of the world?

This was the daughter of a malignant narcissist thinking. This was the adult version of the child who had internalized the shameless blaming, who had come to take responsibility for the misbehaviour—even the conscious, knowing evil—of others. This is the adult version of the child who was beaten for her brother’s transgressions because she had not prevented that brother from misbehaving. This was me, sacrificing myself to keep this monster contained, not because I feared external punishment, as I had as a child, but because I had internalized the belief that his behaviour was my responsibility. As my mother shamelessly dumped her responsibility for controlling and managing my brother on me, my brother learned he could do anything he wanted because the consequences would be borne by another; and as I had learned to be a good little whipping post, I managed to find for myself a husband who would perpetuate the dynamics of my upbringing: he needn’t think or critically assess situations, he needn’t keep his baser impulses in check, he could indulge whatever he fancied, and the responsibility for being rational, the blame for his misdeeds or even his unhappiness, would all fall to me.

This is one of the legacies of being the child of a malignant narcissist—we attract people with whom we can resume the familiar but unhealthy dance of our childhoods. And the narcissists we attract shamelessly use us, for haven’t we been trained just for them?


  1. I tend to think that rather than lacking shame, the narcissist is so weak that his inability to bear with its depth & ugliness, he projects it outward. If they lacked shame, there'd be little need to shove blame off themselves. It's their very awareness that what they are doing is wrong that forces them to cast it off onto others so they may continue to evade feeling shame. I guess this isn't too different from what you wrote except that I think they fear shame do acutely that they'd rather destroy everything outside of themselves than sit in their own truth.

  2. You may well be correct with some narcissists, but the ones I have known, up close and personal, were so distanced from their real feelings that they would not have known shame if it bit them on the butt.

    Narcissists tend to regard such things as the ability to feel shame as a weakness--and weakness is exactly what they exploit. To even suggest to my mother that she was afraid of shame, of being shamed in a very real, personal, emotion-producing manner would have set her off in a rage and your implication that she harboured such weak emotions as fear or shame. That was something WE felt that SHE could use to manipulate us.

    Somewhere deep inside her shame (or fear of being shamed) might have lived, but for all intents and purposes, it was dead. She had buried it so deeply that it did not exist in such a way that it might have mitigated her behaviour. She was, along with my N ex-husband, shameless in the extreme.

  3. Narcissists lack any human feelings a reason why they act like zombies. What they put on as emotions is a mere affect. My mother was a malignant narcissist and so were her brothers, so long as things went well they were hand in glove and were responsible for my brothers demise, once things went downhill and my mother went insane after a prolonged confinement in a hospital owing to foot fracture and the fact she was a long term diabetic, her brother kidnaps her and confines her in a geriratric home unknown to anyone. I refused to attend to her even once when she had her fracture and was hosptialised, the infromed consent was signed by her brothers. My mother's policy was that i need to change her adult diapers while her brother enjoyed her bank account. In anticipation of her surgery she wrote him a huge check. In india banks are corrupt and police the worst. The state bank of india issued him the amount without even a authorisation letter. She lasted three months after that. His total expenditure was 10% of what he withdrew and he swindled the rest. NM had a tremendous faith in her narcissistic brother, but when he kidnapped her she became insane. I managed to locate her without any police help and kept my visit a secret. NM was living in his apartment for a cheap rent and refused to live with me giving out various reasons that narcissists usually give about SGs saying i am this and that. He swindled her furniture and other stuff. The reason she chose to live with him as to closely guard the bank savings and to hide the reasons for her GCs death which i would start probing. The major part in a post office i went ahead and locked the account for the same. The post office is more ethical and never entertain strangers with a check. The NM died 5 years after terrible suffering and the last three months were the worst with alzheimers and coma, seizures and finally bedsores septicemia and death. After the untold torture that i underwent for nearly three decades, the last four months of her life were the worst. What she had sown she reaped in the form of a frankenstein of her brother.

    She loved her brother so much more than her husband. When my father was in the hospital of a heart attack she never admits him to the hospital for 16 hours, later admits him and finally goes to work and comes back from work to find that he is dead. That is their level of empathy. Today as a parent if my little girl were to have a cold and fever it spoils my day and i find it impossible to concentrate on work and keep phoning my wife every hour. I might not be super rich but the first thing i ensure in my house is lots of food, for i had seen starvation all my life till i got independent that i was stunted and undernourished till the age of 25 after which i caught up with my health. NMs deliberately, instinctually starve their children so that their capacity for independent thinking and rebellion is snuffed out akin to the concentration camps. My wife too is a SG but a docile SG, whereas you can call me the scapetiger for sniffing out narcissists and kicking them.

    NM was more interested in her brother's welfare than her husband's and chidlren's welfare both of whom she wished dead. But when her brother has the least ailment she used to force each of us to go enquire his health, which i never used to for i believe in dignity and not fawning. The body language of both combined with my astrological insight was clear to establish a case of incest which was another topic of blackmail the NM had over the brother.

    Finally the narcissitic brother hands over her body and never attends her funeral despite the fact that it was the NM that tended to him as an orphaned infant and brought him up. Today the entire town talks of it as a murder.

    Sorry for the long post, that is the extent of horror that people face with narcissists

  4. No shame, none at all. I used to feel NM preferred to look like an idiot that be wrong about something, but I realize now she does not have that inner "mirror" that people should have. Her screaming,crying fits, physical abuse, and the times she had the community in an uproar because of something she did/said, none of that even registers to her. If I asked her today, which I won't because of NC, she would swear up and down that she is an upstanding woman who is beyond reproach. I don't think the fact the she lost her only daughter matters to her, just how it looks that she lost her daughter.

    1. One one short paragraph you have captured the essence of the narcissistic mother. Thank you.


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