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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Low Contact—an alternative to No Contact

We have explored No Contact and its pros and cons. The anticipated backlash from the NParent can be intimidating and may cause some people to shy away from it. Others may find No Contact to be unworkable in their personal situations: they may have sickly family members they feel they must stay in contact with and it can’t be done without the NM being involved, they may still live at home due to youth or economic pressures, they may have NM living in their homes or have some financial link with NM that cannot yet be broken. The reasons one cannot (or will not) go NC are as varied as the people who back off from it.

But there is a saying that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, over and over again, expecting to get a different result. If you want something to change, then you have to change something, and this goes double when you are dealing with an NM. So if you can’t go No Contact—for whatever reason that motivates you—you might want to try Low Contact.

Unknowingly, I went LC with my NM when I was still a child. I did what I had to do—chores, listening to her diatribes, whatever else she demanded of me—then I disappeared to my room. I found ways to make her willing to leave me alone by observing what things I said or did that resulted in her giving me space…and then I did them. One of the things I discovered was that she would not bother me if I told her I was doing homework. Even if I was reading a novel, I would tell her it was for a book report, which made it homework. For some reason, when I was holed up in my room with “homework,” she left me alone. She would also leave me alone if I was sleeping. So I slept very late on weekends, even if I didn’t feel like it…just to minimize contact with her. The secret, I realized many years later, was to find something she respected and then do that (or say I was doing that). I got many peaceful hours at the library by telling her I needed to access their research section for a school paper.

I learned early that “out of sight is out of mind.” If you have an ignoring NM, making yourself scarce just puts you further out of her mind. When you are present, when she can hear and/or see you, she is reminded of your presence and that can trigger anything from her besetting you with petty complaints to putting you to work to finding yourself at her mercy for some real or imagined flaw like your hair, a pimple on your face, or some other thing you would be better off if she didn’t notice. I cannot tell you how many awful home perms I had to suffer through, how many boils on my legs she forced me to submit to her squeezing, how many lectures I had to sit through about my inadequacy as a daughter or as the household help…nothing I did was ever good enough—and neither was I—and her awareness of my presence could trigger anything from being ordered to do additional work to outright abuse. I spent a good part of my childhood hiding from her.

Engulfing mothers, I think, are a different species and need to be handled differently. I have no personal experience with an engulfing mother—just about everybody I knew had “normal” mothers (which was one way I could tell mine was not), my grandmothers and aunts (save one clinically depressed aunt) were all pretty much normal as well. I really cannot know how the daughter of an engulfing mother could escape enmeshment except through tactics like those I employed with my own ignoring NM: to be out of sight as much as possible. Our positions as children in the household severely limited our ability to challenge their abnormal behaviours, had we even recognized their unhealthy conduct for what it was.

Engulfing mothers, I think, may be more difficult to manage than ignoring ones. With an ignoring mother you can disappear for extended periods of time without notice, whether you are a child or an adult. With an engulfing mother, I suspect you can’t do that without her hunting you down and forcing contact. Many DoNMs are enmeshed to the degree that they don’t know what they want or how they feel, as they are mirrors or echoes of their NMs and have never individuated. Others have to engage in stark rebellion in order to individuate—I have a friend who went through a Goth phase and very overt rebellion—and it didn’t do any good. She has gone NC with her smothering mother and even years into NC, her NM will take the tiniest crack in the NC as a sign that all is back to “normal” and she swoops in, trying to take over my friend’s life yet again.

Low contact is probably easier to maintain with an ignoring mother than with an engulfing mother. But the process and rules are the same, regardless of your NM’s type—it may just require more effort on your part to establish and maintain if your NM is an engulfing type.

First of all, there is no LC letter to consider. You don’t write one (unless it is for yourself to remind you of what you are doing and why), you don’t announce you are going LC, you just do it. Your NM may start questioning why you are suddenly too busy or not around so much—you owe her no explanation. And that is the very first step of LC: for you to realize that you owe her nothing: no explanations, no excuses, none of your time or your attention or your soul. You owe her nothing and you can give her as much or as little time as you want to give.

This is huge. This is the very core of Low Contact: turning the tables so that you are in control of the relationship, so that it is based on your desires and willingness to spend time with your NM. And that means all kinds of time, not just face time. It means telephone calls, emails, texts, letters, visits, lunches out, shopping expeditions—it means all forms of contact. It means that you take control of those contacts, rather than allow her to drop in and disrupt your life at her whim.

How do you do it? Well, you start with recognizing that she is not going to like it, no matter what method you employ and you prepare yourself for it. Depending on the type of NM you can get anything from tantrums and threats to pathetic self-pity as a response. You know your NM better than anyone else…project what she is most likely to do when you tell her “no,” and prepare yourself for it.

The next step is for you to figure out what is an acceptable amount and form of contact. Suppose your NM calls you four times a day for petty reasons and keeps you on the phone for half an hour each time: that’s two hours a day she is sucking out of your life, two hours that you could (and probably should) be using for other things. So, when she calls, instead of hanging on the phone waiting for her to get tired of yakking, you say “Mom, I can’t talk right now. Can you call me back at 11…I think I can spare 10 minutes for you then.”

She won’t like it. She may talk over you, ignore you. She may go all bombastic on you, or pathetic and whiny. She may tell you she is busy at 11. Ignore it. She is negotiating with you and you are not going to negotiate. Interrupt her…yes, interrupt her…and tell her, “Mom, I have to hang up now. Call me at 11,” and then put down the phone. If she calls back, don’t answer. If you are at work, pick up the phone and put her on “hold” without even saying “hello.” Do not answer until she calls at 11.

If she calls at the designated time, be prepared for a diatribe. Interrupt her (you will be doing this a lot in the beginning) and say “I told you I couldn’t talk then and I only have 10 minutes now…what did you call about?” When the ten minutes is up, tell her firmly, “I have to go now, Mom. Talk to you tomorrow.” Then hang up. Do not take any more calls from her that first day.

On the next day, she will call you and be furious (or, depending on the personality, hurt and bewildered and guilt-inducing). Now is the time to clearly set your boundary. “I just don’t have time for all those leisurely chats anymore. I can set aside about 10 minutes in the morning for you around 11, but that’s it.” Allow her to negotiate a time that is better for her if it works for you, but don’t let her negotiate more time. Expect her to want multiple phone calls, expect her to want more time, expect her to want to be in charge. But, just like dealing with a greedy toddler, you have to say ‘no’ and you have to enforce it.

If she starts texting you in place of the phone calls, send her a message that limits her texts: tell her you will read her first text of the day and, if you have time, you will respond to it, but subsequent texts you will delete unread. Then do just that, ending your one response with “No more texts or calls today, Mom…I have too much going on.”

At some point she will want to know why you are suddenly so busy that you don’t have time for her. How honestly you respond will have to depend on what kind of reaction you can realistically expect from her. Some NMs will take “I just don’t have time for chitchat on the phone and keep up with the house and the kids and the job…” well, others will feel insulted that washing dishes and changing the cat box is more important than they are. You have to tailor your answer to the kind of response you expect to get. Just don’t tell any blatant lie that she can check up on because that will end up being circulated around the FOO and will eventually be busted, making you untrustworthy because you are a liar.

NMs will drop in unexpectedly and unannounced. You have to use the same tactic: “I don’t have time to visit today, Mom. Can you call first so you don’t come over for nothing?” Of course, when she calls, you will be unable to accommodate her. To make this work, however, you need to actually invite her over every few weeks or so, when you do have time to entertain her for a short time. When you invite her, expect she will not want to leave, so try to make it late in the day so her visit does not usurp your entire day or make it an invitation for coffee in a public place where you can’t linger for too long.

Some NMs try other tactics: one friend of mine found her NM presuming she could stay at her house while she was in town on a business visit—expecting to use my friend’s house like a free hotel with no consideration for the imposition it might pose. Another friend found her engulfing NM planning an overseas trip for the two of them, completely ignoring the fact that my friend has a husband, two young children, and her own business. NMs will try to find ways to inflict themselves that look not only innocent but generous, making the daughters look selfish or spiteful for refusing. What if NM offered an all-expense paid trip to Disney World or some other such child-magnet, the catch being she would be part of the party (or the catch being you now owe her attention in return for the largesse)? Your kids would be upset, your friends would be appalled, if you turned it down, even though you know it to be just one of her insidious ways to weasel more attention and time and contact with you. Be prepared to set limits for anything and everything because if one thing works, she will repeat it over and over again. If Disneyland worked, then tickets to a concert, Cirque du Soleil, a Broadway musical—whatever she thinks you cannot turn down—will be next. She will refuse to understand than you simply need less time with her and more to yourself, or that you need to be able to schedule your time without her barging in and seizing control of it.

Low Contact is about one thing: putting yourself in control of the relationship instead of her. As the mother of an adult daughter and sons, I invited my kids over for holidays and birthdays and I waited for invitations from them to visit. I grew up in the old days when it was considered impolite to drop in on someone unannounced and unexpectedly, and it was bad manners to overstay a visit. Since those particular points of etiquette seem to have fallen by the wayside in today’s society, you are going to have to revive them for people who disrupt your life and impose on your time, including your own mother.

You have to make a decision about how much contact you are willing to have with your NM and then set limits and then enforce those limits. I would guess that most of them will, at least initially, resist because they don’t like their power taken away from them. They act like spoilt, thoughtless children, imposing on your life with no thought of what you have on your plate, and they resent limitations and boundaries imposed on them, especially by you, whom they view as their subordinates…they have never let go of the once-legitimate role of them being in charge and you being obligated to submit to their rule. And they won’t let go until you force it upon them.

Low Contact, in my opinion, is harder to pull off than No Contact for two basic reasons: 1) you must remain in contact with your NM so you are constantly reminded of the difficulties she imposes on you and 2) because you remain in some contact, she will invariably do whatever she can to sabotage and disrespect your attempts to control that contact. NC is tough, especially in the beginning, but eventually is eases off as all parties become accustomed to the lack of contact, but LC is a battle that keeps on being fought.

For some of us, however, LC is the only way we can go if we are to remain in contact with our dementia-suffering father or to continue to see siblings, nieces and nephews, to participate in family traditions and continue being part of the family. For some of us, it is worth it…for others of us it is not. Only you can decide which is right for you.

Next: The ABC of Boundaries

39 comments:

  1. LC is hard. I maintain it with my NF. I'm NC with my mother (although I do send her a bday card). But he hasn't been as egregious as she has been.

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    1. This is very interesting--I had not thought about being NC with one parent and LC with the other.

      Do you find the LC to be more difficult to maintain than the NC? If so, could you tell us why?

      Hugs,

      Violet

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    2. With divorced parents, it's possible to be NC with one and LC with the other.
      LC is harder for exactly the reasons you outline--you've always got one foot still stuck in the trap. Still, it's possible to be cordial and kind from time to time, with one parent at least. The other, meh, not so much.

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    3. Thanks for that--I was NC with my NM, but "normal" with my father. I can see where NC with one parent and LC with the other, especially if they were divorced, could work. But LC seems like a lot of work to me, especially if the NParent isn't being cooperative.

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    1. Thank you, Bess.

      And thanks for stopping by.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  3. Eye-opening post in many ways. 25 years ago, I had a job during college at a vet's office. There was one woman who would call and talk for an hour if you let her. My first day on the job, my co-worker disappeared, leaving me completely alone at the front desk. I fielded incoming and outgoing patients and manned the cash register alone for a full five minutes while on the phone with this woman, until I said something along the lines of, "I'm here all alone at the front desk; do you have a question for the vet that I can ask for you?" When she said she didn't, I said goodbye and hung up the phone...and the next day I was counselled for being rude to the customers. From that point on, that particular client referred to me as "her" and refused to speak to me...because I set limits with her.

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    1. Wow! Talk about enabling! But you are exactly right--not everybody cooperates with limits being set on them. The bright side of this story, however, is that you no longer had to tolerate her chewing your ear off!

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  4. Thank you for this post. I haven't seen anything else written on the topic, and this is helpful and illuminating, with no BS.

    My narcissistic father and I exchanged apartments on an oral agreement, at my request, before I knew exactly what was wrong with him. So, we now live in an apartment owned by him, after investing loads of money into making it a perfect home for my family.

    Also, he's pretty much an ignoring narcissist at this point, which means that he is pretty capable of honoring boundaries - he doesn't care either way. The boundaries I imposed had to do with the topics of conversation I was not willing to engage in - like him questioning our parenting or our decisions or him complaining about others. This effectively made his phone calls much rarer and shorter. There's no actual relationship with him, but also no abuse or anything but basic civilities between us.

    We basically have contact with him only when he needs something practical - to use our apartment as a waiting room for 2 hours a week at this point. My husband is there all the time so he's on his best behavior. When we lived elsewhere - an hour away from him - I never saw him at all.

    He calls - probably out of some sense of obligation - about once a week and the phone call lasts about a minute. I never call him nor am I expected to.

    And 6 months out of the year, he's abroad and we exchange a few texts during this whole time.

    There's no pretext for going NC. Things sort of function right now and this seems like the safest and easiest situation for my FOC at the moment.

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    1. Another great example of LC and why NC is not warranted. You know, if LC is working, I don't see any reason to go NC. It is only when the NP refuses to honour the boundaries set in an LC relationship that NC becomes the only sane alternative.

      I think you are right about your ignoring NF--they don't care and I think they are easier to go LC with. Unfortunately, even though my NM was also ignoring, I learned the hard way that even ignoring Ns can pay no attention to boundaries and I got burned, big time, by not keeping her cut out of my life (I was pretty much NC for several years and then she suddenly started getting entirely too attentive, which I should have taken as a danger sign but did not).

      But if LC works for you, I see no reason to change that. It is, after all, what works for your situation that is important, not the opinions or speculations of others!

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Pronoia! When Violet announced she was going to write a 'Low Contact' post, I was very curious to see what kind of stories would be left in the comments section. Another great post, and I always enjoy reading the feedback from other DoNMs too. I've had to go NC, and fight to maintain it, because I deal with obsessive psychos who have been violent in the past. I'm so glad you've got a situation where this solution works for you :) Best wishes to you and of course to Violet :) Really looking forward to the 'boundaries' post, dear! This blog is a wealth of useful coping and learning tools and scenarios.

    Lola :) xx

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    1. Lola, I think that often the comments are better than the blog post! A good part of what I know has been synthesized from listening to/reading the experiences of other ACoNs. Combining their experiences with mine gives a much broader, more accurate picture of Nism, how it affects us, and what we can do about it.

      "Boundaries" is a big subject--this is taking some time to write! But, as always, I will get it done and posted as soon as I can.

      Thanks for reading...and commenting!

      Violet

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  6. Couldn't agree more, Violet: NC is neither necessary nor desirable in some situations and I DO feel bad when AC's feel NC is the "Only" option as clearly it's not and unfortunately, it's difficult to tell "up front" which will "work" or how to implement LC/MC. This Post outlines great strategies for LC.
    IMO, LC-although it can be exhausting initially, but should dissipate over time-would seem to be the first choice. Depending on how the NP(s) respond, NC is still an option. Yes, they're gonna throw a fit, regardless of whether they're Engulfing or Ignoring particularly as some demonstrate elements of both. However, it appears to me some AC's can make it work, while others experience on-going back-lash and invoke the "Nuclear Option" (as I call it) on the road to NC.
    Thanks.
    Great Post.
    TW

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    1. NC is not something that should be entered into lightly: once you do it, to make work, you have to keep it up. You cannot go in and out of NC with an N parent and expect them to respect it--or you. After the second or third time you break NC and then reinstate it, their attitude is "Oh, she's having one of her little snits again...it will be over soon and then we'll be back to normal."

      LC, on the other hand, does not need to be so draconian. Depending on how well the NParent responds to the boundaries, it can be almost transparent. You can be available for family functions and events, you can maintain relationships with other members of the family, you can be so distant it is almost NC, so close that it doesn't look like LC at all. The key is that YOU are in control of contact, the NParent is not.

      Yes, it can be difficult at first--and impossible with some NParents--but it is certainly worth a try and if the NParent is just egregiously uncooperative, NC is always an option.

      It's all about setting and maintaining those boundaries...

      Hugs

      Violet

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    2. I completely agree! LC is easier. I have found thisnto be perfect with my NF. I do LC to keep my mother happy and to feel I am respectful as a daughter. I only send cards with a gift card on his birthday and for fathers day. That way my mom is happy.

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  7. I've found with my engulfing mother that physical distance is key to low contact. In high school, I joined as many clubs as I could so I was constantly away on sports trips and the like. She had no interest in sports but she could use my accomplishments for bragging rights, so she'd leave me alone and let me focus there. She wanted to make sure I got the best awards possible and her interfering wasn't going to help that. If it was a trip with no possible rewards, like a museum field trip, she wouldn't respect that distance. She signed up to chaperone so she could monitor me and make a martyr of herself for volunteering so much.

    I put 5 hours between us for college and that drastically cut down on contact. I got her to agree to only weekly calls because I had to study. She respected that because she could brag about the Dean's List. After college, I moved across an ocean from her and we're down to calling every other week. I started a business, so I used that as a reason to cut back. She fought that a little harder and still tries to call me during my work hours sometimes (business has less tangible awards, I suppose) but it's been mostly successful, especially considering I didn't know about narcissism or low contact when I was setting it up. Now I just need to figure out how to make certain topics of conversation off limits without her blowing up. I'm looking forward to your boundaries post!

    Thanks again for giving me the space to process all of this.
    -MinervaB

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    1. Sounds to me like you have got an excellent handle on this and are working your way towards NC over time. LC is harder, but it leaves doors open to you that NC closes, so when possible, it should be tried first.

      You are right...boundaries are the key...that post is still in the works as it is a complex topic that is difficult to reduce to simple terms...but I promise you, I AM working on it!

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  8. This was a powerful blog, Violet. It's obvious that you have some (unfortunate) experiences but the good thing is that you can help a lot of people with your insight.

    I have a narcissist in my life--not a mother but an older sister (which you and I have talked about privately) and I agree that no contact is easier than low contact. At this point, I *am* having low contact but it is because of my mother, who is now 85, that I am having this limited contact.

    What I have had to do is to change MY role in the situation. I will no longer allow her to sink her fangs into my psyche and mess with my emotions. These are toxic people--emotional vampires who suck the very life out of you. I am now treating my sister almost as though she is a professional colleague--one that I don't like--but that I am keeping on polite terms with for the good of the company (ha! my family).

    I have so much more peace of mind--just even recognizing the N for who they are helps one find sanity. My sister somehow knows I've empowered myself regarding her--and now her tactic has changed to be SUPER nice, supportive, and sweet--but I realize this is a tactic to throw me off my track so she can sink those fangs into my psyche again. It won't work again. Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me. My N has fooled me too often in the past! I won't allow her or anyone to interfere with my peace of mind again.

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    1. There is an old saying that continuing to do the same thing, over and over, and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. If you want the dynamics between yourself and another person to change, YOU have to initiate the change.

      It has been my observation that people who have been victimized by narcissists often don't take that initiative but wait for the narcissist to "realize" the harm and pain s/he is causing and to change as a result of an attack of conscience. Because WE would do so, we expect others to do so. But narcissists have no conscience (or if they do, they are masters at rationalizing it away) and so unless we take the step to change how we interact with them, nothing changes.

      As you have discovered, they often respond by changing how THEY interact with us. But you are wise not to be sucked in...the change is as superficial as the narcissist herself is...and as soon as they smell vulnerability, they will be back at you. What your NSis is doing could fall into the category of "hoovering" (see the Glossary), where she is trying to get you back into a position where she can get Nsupply from you again. It is sad when our own family members are predators and view us as prey, but sometimes that is the hand we are dealt by life, and it is the one we have to play.

      I'm glad you've achieved clarity with her and now can protect yourself. It is perhaps not the most desirable place to be, but it is certainly the healthiest!

      Hugs to you,

      Violet

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  9. This blog provides emotional support I have received from few other people and sources in my life regarding my NC "run like hell" perspective on my NM. Thank you, Violet.

    Mine alternated between engulfing and ignoring, and has always been sadistic. I have learned that once they have showed those traits, NC is imperative. As these people age, and develop the faint idea that they too are mortal beings, they become exponentially more dangerous. After my mom accelerated my dad's demise from cancer to ensure it (somehow the millions they had needed to be reserved for my materialistic mom), and tried to kill my sister by trying to talk her out of a potentially life-saving hysterectomy (cervical cancer, must make her pay for that, who cares if she never wanted kids) while running a breast cancer support group, she had a massive stroke, from which she experienced an unprecedented recovery (no thanks to us and all our efforts). After being in a position where she felt we had compromised her dignity (being frank, although more gentle than she deserved with her doctors, and telling the dog trainer about her vision loss to try to train him to be aware of it, apologizing to people in the grocery who she rammed with the cart) she tried to kill our kids in front of us. If you think they're bad, wait until the things they control start falling away and then they'll try to find someone to blame and make them hurt, too. If they are sadistic, run!

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    1. Sounds like you have a malignant narcissist on your hands and, quite honestly, I agree with you. It is virtually impossible to remain low contact with a malignant narcissist with any degree of safety.

      But aging narcissists can be dangerous, whether they are malignant or not, whether they are ignoring or not. I addressed the topic of the aging narcissist here: http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2012/03/growing-olderand-worse-too.html

      I am glad you are finding the blog helpful and that you recognize that you are not alone. Hopefully, together, we DoNMs can forge ahead and repair some of the damage these selfish, self-centred, mean-hearted women wreak on those about them. I am sorry you have to be one of us, but happy you have found your way here.

      Please feel free to join the blog and to comment at will.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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    2. Thank you so much. NC hurts. It hurts to ignore/be emotionally unable to read attempts at contact by family members who I know are decent, but who I cannot face because I must tell them what has happened, which they do not deserve, and that they might think I am exaggerating and that I should be forgiving since none of us are perfect. Even those who would completely believe me were not the most affected (as I was the scapegoat) and so it doesn't matter. I certainly was not a perfect kid, but now that I have three of my own, can attribute so much to the horrible, abusive, sneering, manipulative and humiliating environment. I get it now, and don't feel like a horrible person anymore, but I still feel worthless sometimes, with a big, empty hole inside. I just began therapy, and am eager to continue.

      Some former not-so-friends who have always known me to be deeply thoughtful and questioning, and never deliberately inconsiderate, have told me I should go back for more, like they don't believe my husband and me when they have always known us to be reasonable, hard working, and so helpful to others. After all, my sister forgives. Of course she has always coddled and curried favor and been on the gravy train and we never were. We can't be bought the way others in the family can (like we're worth it, if we could be bought).

      But, we are doing better on not repeating narcissistic patterns in relationships. We have a wonderful family of our own, based in integrity, and are now physically removed from all of it, but for me, the damage lingers, although there is so much about our new world that is happy. I worry about who else she is hurting, and that it will be too late when they figure it out, if they ever do. I also still feel the fear that people will think there is something wrong with me for having walked away from these damaging relationships, as I have been unfairly judged so often before. Distance does make it easier to gloss over, though;-)

      Having contact with others who understand that if someone is badly hurt, it matters, even if it is not ourselves (this time, at least), and that it should be fought against is not something I've had much of so far, although our new home is in an area of people with greater social responsibility. So much of what happened to my father (who grew up in Southern Oregon and started out in the timber industry, btw) happened because people knew but didn't want to deal with it themselves, and my father believed he faced isolation and even greater worthlessness if he left.

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    3. Katie, in a nutshell, you are afraid of being judged, and judged harshly and negatively. I am sorry to say, your fear is likely well-founded because all too often, people who have not been on the receiving end of an NM's animosity just have no clue what it is like and why No Contact becomes essential.

      I would like to address one particular comment you made, and that is your remark on forgiveness. It is commonplace nowadays for people to pressure the victim to forgive the perpetrator, but I disagree emphatically. I don't know if you are Christian or not, but often people will say "it is the Christian thing to do," and they are completely wrong! The Christian god does not forgive sins without acknowledgement, contrition (remorse), and penance on the part of the perpetrator--why should you be held...or hold yourself...to a higher standard than God imposes on Himself? Some months ago I wrote an entry on that subject and I think it would help you to read it because it should relieve you of some of the guilt you are carrying with regard to being NC with you NM. http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2012/09/forgiveness-gift-you-give-yourself.html

      Advice from people who have never been in your shoes should be taken very, very lightly. At best they can only speculate what it is like to be the daughter of an NM...and few people even try to do that. They simply assume that you are being petty and vindictive, that she loves you because she is your mother, and you should forgive her because of that. My answer to that mindset? Bullshit!

      I am glad you are in therapy. I was in for 5 years before I was able to function fully on my own without guilt, shame, and being vulnerable to more Ns. Therapy not only helped me out of a deep pit of depression and self-loathing, it gave me the tools to go forward and deal with not only my NM, but the other Ns in my family (I think they are like rats...for every one you see, there are a dozen more lurking about that you haven't seen!). Not everybody takes five years to get there...I know someone who was recently "fired" by her therapist after only 18 months because she had resolved her major issues, had the tools to deal with the rest, and was ready to go out on her own. So please, if your therapist is a good one, stick with it. If your therapist is not, then get a new one, but stick with it!

      And you are always, always welcome here on the blog. Please be well and keep in touch.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  10. Thank you so much. I believe my therapist is excellent, and he has a lengthy law enforcement background, which might be of help, depending on what happens. She has lost control, and I am scared of what she's done/will do to others, and possibly to my own family (although we are further away now, making it harder for her to reach us). I vacillate between agnosticism/Atheism, and having just left the Southern US after 25 years, the "forgiveness imperative" you mention (often most levied by people who themselves are narcissists/enablers) was very painful.
    In fact, I shared an excerpt and the link from your forgiveness article with a friend a couple months ago, who is from a similarly abusive background. We both found it very comforting.

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    1. Glad I could be of help.

      Your therapist sounds like he could be very helpful in more ways than one. You know you are on the right path, so please don't let circumstances that come about deter you. Nothing threatens an N more than being exposed for what they really are, and your being in therapy may make your NM nervous about the truth coming out. Tough nougies--you do not owe her anything more than the truth, whether she agrees or not.

      Forgiveness is a good thing when sought out by a remorseful perpetrator and freely and willingly given by the victim. Under any other circumstances, it is not real and it does, IMHO, more harm than good. NOBODY has the right to pressure or guilt you into forgiveness...and YOU have the right to tell them so! Forgiveness must come from the heart and, if the perpetrator does not acknowledge his/her transgression and feel remorse, your forgiveness will be interpreted as permission to carry on. I agree that those who levy the "forgiveness imperative" are all too often enablers or Ns themselves. There is a lot to be said for truth and honesty, no matter how painful they may be.

      Please keep in touch and best wishes to you in your healing journey. It is not easy...and very painful at times...but in my experience, it is very much worth it in the long run.

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  11. Hello dear Violet :) I happened upon this story today and wanted to know what you make of it. Looks like a pretty clear case of a daughter trying to go NC with an engulfing MNM to me! Have a glance and tell me what you reckon! Hope you're well :)

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2243702/Modern-Family-star-Ariel-Winters-mother-tried-sell-nude-photos-daughter-according-publicist.html

    Love,

    Lola xoxo

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    1. I think you are spot-on, Lola. This is exactly the kind of stupid, mean, nasty trick an NM would pull. Not only has she lost custody of her daughter, she has lost access to the child's earnings---and I will bet you a buck that is what is at the bottom of her behaviour.

      What she fails to realize is that her actions will not help her case with a family law judge, it will just make her look worse and reconfirm to the court that it made the right decision in the first place.

      Thanks for the head's up and good job spotting a flaming N in the news!

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  12. Your website is being a tremendous help to me. I'm just at the beginning of recognizing my mother as an engulfing narcissist and have just established boundaries for going LC with her. I did feel it necessary to write a letter to her even though I'm only attempting LC for now to state my boundaries and if they get crossed I will cut off contact. So far it seems effective, though I still get anxious when I see an email or phone call from her. It's not easy, but it's a lot easier than worrying what she'll do next. She'll follow my boundaries or I'll go NC, it's so clear - and relieving. Thank you.

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    1. You're welcome.

      I hope this works for you--some NMs are constituted such that it is just impossible to go LC with them because they simply do not believe you. Either they decide you don't really mean it or that you don't them...they will not leave off trying to find ways to rationalize doing exactly what they want to do. Others, like my NM, would take your declaration of LC as a challenge or an affront. "Just who the hell do you think you are, telling me what I can and cannot do? Have you forgotten who is the mother here?"

      So, here's hoping your NM is the kind who will respect your boundaries so that she can keep some thread of communication open with her daughter...that kind is rare, but maybe you are one of the luckier among us and have one!

      Hugs to you,

      Violet

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  13. My NM is 86. Sneaky vindictive back stabbing liar are a.few adjectives that come to mind. She has used me over the years as her spokes person because I actually trusted and believed her lies. I never knew how sick she was. Now however since my dad died she has no one to hide behind .
    I absolutely would love to have NC but I have power of attorney another manipulative move on her part that worked. So I placed her in assisted living facility with full time aid so lc is the way I have to go.
    One thing about her...as a child my mother was the ignoring one. When we got older my brother completely had NC and she turned to me as an engulfing one with certain traits like (making believe she cards about me and my family) in reality she was working behind the scenes to destroy my family.
    As I found out the extent of her envy and lying I began to hate her beyond belief. I also felt used and duped by my own mother.
    So now as she decomposes in her wheelchair I no longed answer the phone whenever she calls w I don't jump at her requests any more and since she has now turned my brother against me joining the rest of the family who hates me.....I will most probably not even tell him when she drops dead because he wont answerable my phone calls any more. That's life now in the family I once loved long ago when my grandparents loved me and life was wonderful.
    That love has been transferred to my current son and husband and I am e effect so grateful I knew the difference.

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    1. If you feel trapped by the POA, you can rescind it. Speak to a lawyer about having it transferred to your brother and let the two of them have a merry little caucus without you having to be involved.

      You sound very angry in this comment...anger is a corrosive emotion of helplessness that hurts you and often delights the person you are angry with because they feel like they are controlling your emotions. May I suggest a visit to a therapist who has experience helping people who come from abusive families? Letting that anger go and acknowledging and feeling the real emotions the anger masks can be both physically and emotionally healing for you.

      Best of luck to you

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  14. low contact is really easy for me. my NM lives around the corner with my dad and they are both in their 70's. my NM doesn't leave the house. she has never been a mother that bothered to ring or visit once i was out of the house. i am 44 with a 14yr old daughter of my own. i used to be quite hurt by her own lack of contact with me, but i now see it as a blessing. i visit occasionally, i still love my dad and want to see him, but i don't listen to any of her crap any more. i see her for what she is, a sad, sick, old woman. seeing her this way has given me the freedom to finally start being me. i was diagnosed with BPD, clinical depression and PTSD. a legacy left to me. i have been fighting just to live, my whole life. i have begun =) i am free and her opinion and her hurtful words, mean nothing now. i hope you all find peace xx

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    1. Sounds like you have an ignoring NM. Although that is probably the most painful type to have when you are growing up, once an adult I think the ignoring NM is preferable over the engulfing one. At least you do not have to deal with constant demands from the NM for attention!

      I hope, with your diagnoses, you have a good relationship with a competent therapist. That can make all the difference in the world!

      Hugs,

      Violet

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  15. Thank you for this post. I find myself in the situation where I have to remain LC. It's hard but I do it. The most difficult thing is when grandchildren are involved. You become torn between wanting NC for your sake but at least LC for your children's sake. My advice if you allow your NM around your kids is to stay nothing, allow no alone time with grandma and keep visits short. My mother is incapable of having a personal relationship with another human and my kids know that. Most NM's will lose interest in your kids within 5 minutes of the visit. However, when you see that time coming, it's time to leave. Do not have phone calls with the NM,and do not allow them over your home, if possible. My mother has a nasty habit of reading my mail and snooping around the house for any personal information that she can find on me and my husband. She will also coerce my children to steal items from the grocery store. Therefore, I will not let her in my home nor will I go shopping with her anymore. If you are going LC, you have to know the triggers and avoid them. Boundaries are so important when dealing with these adult toddlers.

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  16. Desperately tried LC with parents. My husband & I just said we needed some space. They freaked, started raging, Cut us off in a letter!! Then started turning everyone against us with their campaign smear and continue to play the victim!! MM even threw a drink at me when she hunted us down at a neighborhood cafe!

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  17. Oh, how I wish for an ignoring instead of engulfing mother. YES, the engulfing is impossible to manage with LC, though I am trying. But inevitably, after not talking to her for some months, I open the door again and try to have a relationship with boundaries. She tries to break past them immediately. Right away she is making me feel guilty for not giving enough, spending enough time, doing enough -- even when I am doing enough by any reasonable standards. But she will always move the bar so that I'm once again not giving her enough attention. It's an endless cycle and at this point it's just time consuming and tiring and I realize I have to really treat hr like a child or a mental patient, I just can't treat her like a normal person. It's so sad.

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  18. This site has been helpful, educational and scarey at times. My 8 yr old son has a nf and I dread the visitation days. I can and ready see the damage, effect on my son.

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  19. Hi Violet! Came across this blog after yet another disturbing email from a NM. I'll have to do more research into ignoring, malignant, etc (I think she swings between?). Anyways, long story short our childhood was riddled with emotional neglect, chaos and instability. My brother was violent towards me years ago (we are now early 30s), and I opened my heart back to my family at Christmas time.. Surprise, surprise just to have it happen again. He flipped the table over, had a rage and threatened me. My NM of course handled it inappropriately, and I have very little contact with either parent since then. As much as I love my Dad, tired of the enabling father BS.
    Long story short, my mom will still try and email/call every week (I never pick up
    Or respond), and just this past week sent me an email telling me my brother (one who threatenes me) has had emergency surgery, and I should really be praying hard. Does not state any details beside "it's very serious".

    I find this inappropriate. How many people are concerned with the health of someone who has assaulted them? Is she deranged??

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  20. I started therapy 7 months ago due to not understanding why I felt so bad about myself. Also my mother turned on me and started not talking to me because I quit a yoga class we were taking because it was hurting my neck. As things have unfolded I started facing my mothers abandonment of me and my two sisters (I now have 3 sisters but the youngest wasn't born yet). I was 4 yrs old the first time she left and had an affair. At the time I cried myself to sleep and smelled her clothes thinking she was dead. She came back and everything went "back to normal" as if nothing happened. She left my dad for another affair when I was 11 or 12. I went with dad because I was furious with her. I didn't know she had affairs until I was older. My dad took her back and they are still together! She would talk about her boyfriends to me like I was her buddy and I listened because I thought she would love me if I acted like her friend. It hurt inside to hear about because to me I was abandoned and deeply wounded by this. As I have been in therapy I have come to realize that I think she has NPD. Things have been very rocky since I started therapy. I have basically been very low contact. Considering NC but I have another sister that is either NPD or BPD in my opinion. She despises me, always has. She is the golden child and has four kids I used to be close with especially her oldest daughter. She has attempted and turned my youngest sister against me in the past but now I think she sees things aren't normal and I am not the enemy. (She has been scapegoated as well as my older sister at times)I am very close with her two children. All of the grandkids 8 of them besides the youngest ones that are 2, have been corrupted by the golden child and golden grandchild dynamics. It is so toxic to watch. I have no children and have been scapegoat my entire life especially now at 41 and have no children, which I am happy about! Basically this is such a long post and am just not sure about losing everyone by going NC. Have a very large extended family on moms side and don't know about the holidays. I feel bad to leave all the kids in this toxic environment with no role models that you can be an individual. That is NOT allowed in my family! (Except my mom she can do whatever she wants!) Thank you for this thread and for your time.

    ReplyDelete

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.

Not clear on what constitutes "rudeness"? You can read this blog post for clarification: http://narcissistschild.blogspot.com/2015/07/real-life-exchange-with-narcissist.html#comment-form