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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Empathetic Narcissist = Oxymoron

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 lack empathy. A lack of empathy means that they don’t know what it feels like to be human. They are oblivious to the feelings of others because they have none. They are incapable of seeing how they hurt people. They lack the underlying compassion for others that keeps actions or behaviours more or less in check. So when they find themselves abandoned because they’ve hurt everyone around them, the narcissist simply denies, dismisses, and minimizes the gravity of their actions. Hurt feelings? What does that mean? No big deal. Narcissists are coldblooded. I cannot stress that enough.

The only so-called feelings the narcissist understands are their own. For example; the sting of a bruised ego; the frustration that comes with not being in complete control; anger from not getting their way; envy from wanting what others have; jealousy from not getting all the attention; fear of exposure; hatred of all their inferiors; pity for themselves; smug satisfaction. defines empathy: “When you understand and feel another’s feelings for your yourself, you have empathy. It’s often spoken of as a character attribute that people have to varying degrees. For example, if hearing a tragic news story makes you feel almost as if the story concerned you personally, you have the ability to empathize.”

And says “…empathy—our tendency to ‘resonate’ with the emotional and physical states of other people. For example, if you’ve ever had a friend who’s both clumsy and culinary, chances are you’ve seen that friend burn himself on a hot stove accidentally. Watching this, you likely felt a pang of discomfort, and maybe even pulled your hand back, as if you, and not your friend, had been burned. My research and that of others has demonstrated that when we watch others in pain, we activate some of the same brain regions that are also active when we experience pain ourselves, suggesting that we really do ‘feel their pain.’”

Narcissists lack this ability. The may feel sympathy for someone, which is something that goes on in the head only, but more likely, sympathy from a narcissist is feigned. They simply do not feel anything outside their own selves, nor do they care to (part of the lack of empathy). Furthermore, their lack of empathy causes them to fail to understand empathy in others, mistaking it for stupidity or weakness or gullibility. It is beyond the narcissist to grasp the feelings of others.

You cannot teach a narcissist a lesson by “giving him a taste of his own medicine,” either, because he won’t get it. Either he will simply view it as being unrelated to anything he does, see it as a personal attack, or—rarely—feel the desired feelings but without any epiphany as to the feelings of his victims. He doesn’t care how his victims feel, he only cares how he feels, and if you make him feel bad, it could mean retaliation, making the only lesson learned your lesson not to antagonize a narcissist.

My mother was completely lacking in empathy. If there was any one trait that convinced me that she was narcissistic, this was it. Even real, physical hurts she downplayed to the degree of taunting or, if it was going to cost her money, rage. When I was six I fell off the jungle gym at school, whacking my chin on the way down. I needed stitches to close the jagged wound. She screamed furiously at the school for letting it happen, screamed at me for being clumsy, and told me to shut up and stop blubbering while she drove me to the doctor’s for those stitches.

I had a miscarriage at five months and was hospitalized with a massive infection—so bad that they put me in isolation. After several delirious days in the hospital I received a phone call from her, berating me for “gold bricking” in the hospital and telling me that the miscarriage was a good thing, that I didn’t need any more kids.

When her younger brother and his wife were found to be infertile, she decided my children would be better off living in their affluent home than in my poor one (she had the means to help me rather than steal my children, but declined to do so). She spent two years engineering a campaign to separate my children from me, gain a guardianship of them, and then turn them over to her brother for adoption. That my uncle's home state had failed them on the home study for a state adoption was of no import; that I did not want to be separated from my children was of no consequence; that the children did not want to leave me also did not touch her heart. She would be a “hero” in the eyes of the family if she could pull this off—a hero for rescuing those babies from the depraved environment she had convinced them I provided, and a hero for getting her darling baby brother that which he wanted most and nobody else could provide: kids. If she could have felt my pain, the pain of my children, or even related to the pain the rest of the family would feel once her lies and subterfuge came to light, she could not have possibly done what she did. But lacking empathy, her only focus was on getting what she wanted: the adulation that would come to her for her heroic deed.

My ex-Nhusband was no better. A malignant narcissist like my mother, he once told me he thought of himself as a single man who happened to have a wife. It did not occur to him that such a thing might hurt me—and if it did, he would not have cared. He was a minor executive at a major Silicon Valley high tech company, high enough in the ranks to decides on his own business travel rather than be dispatched by his boss. And so he chose to spend our tenth wedding anniversary in Washington DC, with some “hired companions,” a lot of champagne, and one of his juniors who happened to be both a friend and a neighbour, a young man who had a conscience and who came to me a few months after the event to tell me what went on and how badly he felt to have been a participant. “Drink up,” he told me my husband said to one of the escorts, refilling her champagne glass, “tonight’s my tenth anniversary!” I, on the other hand, sat alone at home waiting for the phone call that never came and he, once home, seemed baffled that I was hurt by his failure to call. “I was out of town,” he told me. “I was busy.”

Narcissists have an infinite variety of ways in which to display their lack of empathy. As I write this, Belvedere Vodka is under fire for putting out an ad that “showed a smiling man grabbing a woman, who appeared to be in fear, from behind…‘Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly,’ the ad’s caption read.” To their credit, senior management pulled the ad immediately and apologized, but obviously someone in the organization lacks any kind of sensitivity towards or empathy for women and their innate fear of rape. No one with an ounce of empathy could countenance such an ad and, if fact, would recoil from the very thought of it. A Turkish shampoo, Biomen, is currently under fire for running an ad using old footage of Hitler giving a speech as their “spokesperson.” Any kind of empathy for the dead, the survivors, and the descendants of Hitler’s victims would have stilled even the first thought of such an ad. Only people lacking in even a modicum of empathy could have gone forward and not only produced the ad, but aired it as well.

It is hard to figure if narcissists lack empathy because they don’t care about the feelings of others or if they don’t care about the feelings of others because they lack empathy. Personally, I don’t think it matters—what matters is that they don't care about anyone’s feelings but their own even though, intellectually, they comprehend that the society expects this of us. Courtesy and manners are based on empathy, and altruism and a sense of justice as well. How many people have you come across in your life who are rude, mannerless boors not because they were never taught better but because they don’t give a shit? Cut in front of you in the queue at the market, swoop in for the parking space you have been patiently waiting for, talking loudly in movies, smoking in non-smoking areas, making their cell-phone conversations matters of public consumption…they simply do not care how you feel, how they impact you, how you perceive them. They care only how they feel, how they are impacted, how they perceive themselves.

Lincoln told us “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” meaning that we must stick together, work together, care for each other, if we are to survive and prosper. The narcissist, in his selfishness, takes the opposite view because anything you get, be it time, attention, money, advancement, esteem of others, is just that much less for him. One could say the narcissist operates on the “finite pie” theory, the idea being that there is just so much of anything to go around and any bits you get are bits he cannot have, rather like the little kid’s jealousy of the new baby because he doesn’t understand that the love his mother gives to the new sibling is not love stolen from him. The narcissist has never emotionally matured to the age at which children begin to learn empathy for one another.

Have you read the story or watched the video of Fiona, the dog found blind and nearly dead in a trash heap in LA? I could not even watch the video, the story was enough to put an ache in my heart and tears in my eyes. A narcissist, however, would be unable to relate to the dog and her heartbreaking story—the narcissist’s heart would not break. Oh, s/he might be motivated to do something—to donate money, to help another dog, even to take a dog in—but not out of empathy for the dog but rather to get the Nsupply of praise for the deed, to get bragging rights, to feel superior to others or to make others feel inferior for their inaction. It wouldn’t be about feeling for the poor dog, it would be about self-aggrandizement for the narcissist.

I suspect Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, of being a narcissist based on her attempt to present herself as a saint for “saving” animals while, behind closed doors, the animals surrendered to PETA by unsuspecting owners are almost universally destroyed, sometimes in “kill vans” right outside the owner’s homes! By their own admission, in documents filed annually with the Commonwealth of Virginia, in 2011 PETA put to death more than 95% of animals surrendered to it, three times the kill rate of the public shelter only a few miles down the road. Newkirk, however, surrounds herself with an air of sanctimonious self-righteousness, believing her—and only her—beliefs about animals are correct and having no compunction about violating the beliefs and feeling of others on the way to bludgeoning them with her vision. She demonstrates no compassion, no empathy even for the animals she purports to champion for, instead of spending PETA’s $37M+ budget on rehabilitating and rehoming animals like Fiona, instead of cuddling and loving and healing the hurts of abandoned and unwanted animals, she just has them killed. Her bizarre vision, totally at odds with reality, is that animals would be better off turned loose in the wild than living as “slaves” of humans. Yah, right—my 15-year-old toothless, half deaf, arthritic Maltese who takes heart, kidney and arthritis medication daily would be much better off out there in the wild without his meds, his fleece jersey, his snug little house, and soft food delivered to him daily. Ingrid’s vision, her self-image as a rescuer of abused and enslaved animals everywhere, had nothing to do with reality, has everything to do with self-aggrandizement, and displays an almost-criminal lack of empathy where the animals themselves are concerned.

When my husband Charlie died, you would have thought his mother was the widow, not me. She made demands about his funeral and at the funeral she seized my place leading the rituals at the grave. In the first couple of days after he died, when I had had no sleep and was trying to make arrangements and still work, Charlie’s mother had to be tended. She was with me at the funeral home, at the hospital, picking out caskets, making demands about the eulogies, requiring me to dance attendance on her. I had to borrow money from Charlie’s millionaire brother, Alvin, to pay for the funeral because I did not have access to that much cash on short notice, and before he handed me the check, he narrowed his eyes and asked “when am I going to get this back?” He asked me again after the funeral. Neither his mother or his brother showed any empathy for my pain at the sudden and unexpected loss of my beloved, larger-than-life husband. In fact, his mother actually criticized me for how I told her of his death, and that I should have told her beforehand that he was “that sick.” (Even his doctor didn’t know he was “that sick!”)

I didn’t know about narcissists back then, but if I had, I would have expected this instead of being blindsided by what I took then to be abject boorishness. His mother did not shed a tear at Charlie’s funeral, dressed in black slacks and a bright lime green jacket, and simply behaved like she was the hostess at a party! Alvin tastelessly remarked “Oh, look, all of Charlie’s wives are here!” when he realized Charlie’s first wife had come to support their daughter and that I was burying Charlie beside his second wife. Because I did not expect this kind of thoughtlessness—the few funerals I had attended in the past were solemn affairs with the widow given due consideration for her grief—I was simply in shock, and when Alvin’s wife invited me to lunch after the service, I declined, went straight home, and slept for 20 hours.

One can argue that they were grieving too, as Charlie was a family member, and that we all grieve differently. What one cannot argue, however, is that my grief was not treated empathetically and after I has spent twelve years with the man, their behaviour was, at best, thoughtless. Had they had any empathy, had they been capable of it, they would have been no less solicitous than my and Charlie’s friends.

Empathy is that quality that allows us to identify with the feelings of another. It informs and mitigates our behaviour, not for gain or reward, but because we know how they feel because WE take some of that feeling ourselves. Narcissists don’t know how to do this—they don’t have the capacity and because of that, they find no value in it. They can feign sympathy, if it will help them get something they want, but to actually feel for another? Not bloodly likely!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandiose: What's that?

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 grandiose. They really believe they are perfect and there is nothing wrong with them. A prime example is my malignant narcissist sister stalking me on narcissist blogs, and reading about all the people who have been harmed by narcissists. Her response was, “Why should I have to act a certain way?! Why can’t YOU just be complaisant?!” The narcissist believes it’s your job to always please them. And if you don’t do your job and acquiesce to all their demands then the narcissist feels deflated and they must reinflate by diminishing, degrading and debasing you.

This one was a toughie for me. The definition of “grandiose” in my brain did not match with anything I had ever observed in either my mother or any of the other difficult people in my life. Rather than dismiss this symptom, however, I decided to research “grandiose” in context with narcissism—and boy! did I get a surprise!

Grandiosity, it turns out, is an inflated sense of self worth, a belief in one’s self, one’s abilities, one’s value, that is not borne out by fact. It can be expressed in a bewildering variety of ways from bombastic boorishness to what appears to be quiet withdrawal. But it all comes down to one common inner belief: the narcissist believes him/herself to be above reproach—and every one else, reproachable. One of the ways my mother expressed her grandiosity (which is intimately tied to entitlement) was assuming the mantle of neighbourhood arbiter of acceptable behaviour—and then setting up the poor neighbour woman, Mrs. McKenzie, as her foil so she could battle and vanquish the evil in our midst.

Another way my mother gathered NSupply was to hold herself up as the perfect loving mother of a dismally, hopelessly difficult child (me). That no one saw her rages, that she could explain away my bruises and lash marks in a way that “forced” her to use brutal disciplinary methods, that my brother (who was, in my grandmother’s words, “a little pill”) was held up as the example of the perfect child, all fed into her image as a long-suffering, well-meaning, sympathetic victim of a dreadful daughter who could, despite her travails, rise to the occasion and save the whole neighbourhood from poor Mrs. McKenzie and her daughters.

Yet another way my mother expressed her grandiosity was to become a stage mother (I was a cute little kid with a great big voice), dragging me to singing lessons, auditions, shows, subjecting me to costume fittings, tortuous hair settings, trowelling make up onto my little face, all in the name of making me the next Shirley Temple (in her own words). How is this narcissistic? Because she viewed me as a possession, an extension of herself, and I was going to make her rich—and the fame that came to me she could usurp, or at least share, in the same way the owner of a prize winning dog or horse takes glory simply through ownership. I was a thing, not a person, to be used for her own advancement and she knew better than everyone who objected, from me to my father to my grandparents.

Narcissists’ lives are one big exercise in cognitive dissonance. They hold others to standards they refuse to apply to themselves, believing themselves somehow special and those rules should not apply to them. At the same time my mother was beating me with a thin leather strap that left whip-like marks on my legs, she was calling the police to report Mrs. McKenzie for “beating” her daughters. This kind of cognitive dissonance would be obvious to a normal person, but to the narcissist, she is special, her reasons are special, her rationalizations and justifications make it OK—rather like Rick Santorum finding nothing wrong in his wife having an abortion, but not wanting you are me to get one because it is wrong!

One of the best definitions of narcissistic grandiosity I found on Sam Vaknin’s site, here: It is quite lengthy, but goes into great detail, including some examples of grandiosity: “The grandiose fantasies of the narcissist support his inflated sense of self, regulate his sense of self-worth, and buttress his False Self…The narcissist’s grandiosity is comprised of: omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence (fame and celebrity), and omnivorousness [sic].”

From another site: “Most observers regard grandiosity as the most important single trait of a narcissistic personality. It is important to note that grandiosity implies more than boasting or prideful display as such—it signifies self-aggrandizement that is not borne out by reality. For example, a person who claims that he or she was the most valuable player on a college athletic team may be telling the truth about their undergraduate sports record. Their claim may be bad manners but is not grandiosity. On the other hand, someone who makes the same claim but had an undistinguished record or never even made the team is being grandiose. Grandiosity in NPD is related to some of the diagnostic criteria listed by DSM-IV-TR , such as demanding special favors from others or choosing friends and associates on the basis of prestige and high status rather than personal qualities. In addition, grandiosity complicates diagnostic assessment of narcissists because it frequently leads to lying and misrepresentation of one's past history and present accomplishments.”(Emphasis mine.)

Wikipedia claims “Two types of narcissism: Those who have been diagnosed with narcissistic grandiosity express behavior ‘through interpersonally exploitative acts, lack of empathy, intense envy, aggression, and exhibitionism.’ Another type is Narcissistic Vulnerability. It entails (on a conscious level) “helplessness, emptiness, low self-esteem, and shame, which can be expressed in the behavior as being socially avoidant in situations where their self-presentation is not possible so they withdrawal or the approval they need/expect is not being met.” (Emphasis mine). It is important to note that those exploitative acts, the lack of empathy and intense envy can manifest in very quiet, subtle ways, too.

Joanna Ashmun  provides an extensive description of grandiosity and grandiose behaviours that few of us recognize for what they really are. I once had a boss who I thought was just a really bad micromanager until I read Ashmun’s description. I quickly realized that my boss undermined the work of her subordinates not because she was an egregious perfectionist but because the only way she could be a “star” was to rescue her staff from what looked to the outside as their own incompetence. She got a double dose of Nsupply from her management style: uninformed people felt sorry for her having to work with such an incompetent bunch, and admired her for all the hours and effort she put in saving their sorry asses. What these admiring outsiders never saw was that the boss gave instructions that meant a project could not progress without her specific review and approval and then she was never available for the reviews. Once a project was hopelessly behind, she would crack the whip, order mandatory unpaid overtime, and “lead the team” to victory, never seeing that the problems she was “overcoming” were those of her own making. And it was not like her review and input was essential: these were highly qualified individuals who could take a project to completion without anything more than regular progress reports. Her objective was not to get the projects executed on time, her objective was to make herself look like a hero…and if she had to undermine and demoralize her staff to do it, that was acceptable since there were always more people she could hire to replace the disgruntled who resigned.

She had an inflated sense of self, both with regard to her persona and her abilities. She overrode written company policy regarding signature authority of her staff—including senior staff—and caused a huge backlog of unpaid invoices that plagued the accounting staff for more than a year, because she was unwilling to give up control of that small part of her budget, per corporate policy. She knew better, she was the final word, and for a while it worked. Upper management didn’t see her subterfuge, just her successes. Her budget looked terrific because hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of charges against it had never gone through—the invoices sat on her desk, literally gathering dust, awaiting her approval. She was made an officer of the Board, and enjoyed the esteem and camaraderie of executive management until a new management team came on board and, in an audit, her subterfuge came to an end. Oddly, her staff, the people who worked with her daily and whom she abused, knew exactly what was going on and they not only talked about it among themselves, some of them actually complained to HR. But people see what they want to see and the grandiose façade of the narcissist is what they want to see if seeing the truth will make them “wrong.” Rather than admit they had been fooled into thinking this woman walked on water, they dismissed the complaints as the ravings of the disgruntled and promoted her!

Grandiosity is actually a kind of lying, a refusal to take the truth on board and deal with it. It is seeing oneself as bigger, better, smarter, more important, more entitled than anyone else. The grandiose are the masters of spin, the ability to make a sow’s ear look like a silk purse. They are susceptible to flattery for they flatter themselves. Narcissist’s believe themselves in superior terms and the rest of us as inferiors.

It is important to be able to distinguish pathological narcissism from the popular use of the term. According to Ashmun, “Sometimes [the term is] applied to people who are simply full of themselves—even when their real achievements are spectacular. Outstanding performers are not always modest, but they aren't grandiose if their self-assessments are realistic; e.g., Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, was notorious for boasting “I am the greatest!” and also pointing out that he was the prettiest, but he was the greatest and the prettiest for a number of years, so his self-assessments weren't grandiose.” But if some also-ran boxer, his face damaged from too many direct hits, were to make the same claim and also believe it and expect you to believe it, too…now that would be narcissistic. And there goes that cognitive dissonance again.

Not all grandiosity is manifested in boastful manners. Sometimes it is more subtle than that. The immaculately dressed, quiet woman in the corner who is silently judging everyone around her—and finding they do not measure up to her standard and therefore can be dismissed—is engaging in quiet but grandiose behaviour. Another site, Narcissist Victim Syndrome Survivors gives additional information: “devaluing others (even while hiding behind a guise of false concern or flattery) is the way narcissists aggrandize themselves, and grandiosity is the essence of narcissistic abuse: Narcissists puff themselves up by putting you down. They raise themselves by lowering you. They bolster their ego by diminishing your self-worth. Narcissists play the grandiosity game in every interaction. Of course, the narcissist’s grandiosity is just a game of pretend because they only identify with their image not their true selves. They don’t care about being good; they just want to “appear” good. They are vandals, liars and frauds and they go about glorifying their “image” NOT by developing virtues of their own, but by debasing others...This game of one-upmanship happens in every interaction with a narcissist… so beware. Narcissists do not relate to others as equals, they relate to others from a position above.”

Kathy Krajco, author of “What Makes Narcissists Tick,” wrote: “I have known narcissists that would strike you as anything but grandiose, vain, and haughty. They kept their immodesty well hidden behind a cloak of false modesty. You can still detect it though if you're observant, because covert and subtle grandiosity shows in the inappropriate way narcissists relate to others from above as their judge. Presumptuous expectations, however subtly expressed are sugared over with feigned humility. It shows in the narcissist's bragging, however subtle and left handed.”

Getting a handle on the grandiosity of a narcissist can be the most difficult part of determining if the difficult person you are dealing with is a narcissist or not. But through all the various ways of expressing their narcissism, from modest maiden to bombastic blowhard, there is a single common thread that identifies them all: the narcissist, in his own mind, is the superior being in all things that matters. And that is grandiosity.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Narcissists are Delusional

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 delusional. They refuse to confront reality. Like a child, they use illusions and distortions to maintain their fantasy about themselves and the world around them. And everyone is expected to play along. If you refuse to play your role in the narcissist's fantasy production then the narcissist child screams, cries, and stomps her feet declaring that something is wrong with you.

Narcissists are not delusional in the sense that they see little green men or hear disembodied voices telling them to kill the local sports team or have worms living under their skin. They aren’t schizophrenic or hallucinating. No, narcissists simply don’t deal in the truth. They have fantasy perceptions of themselves and the world around them (and the people in it) that they convince themselves are real. Rather like a child, they live in a pretend world. And like a child with an invisible friend, it is very, very real to them.

Narcissists are very good at projection. They are good at rewriting history to suit their ends. They are masters of taking a grain or two of truth and cooking up a huge messy pot of lies. And they are positively brilliant at making themselves believe it all, even to the point of trying to destroy those who would drag them kicking and screaming into reality.

James (my N-ex) was brilliant at projecting. I used to walk around the house feeling like I didn’t really exist, that when he looked at me he saw someone entirely different, someone I didn’t recognize, but someone he did. One day we were going to take the kids up over one of the local mountains to a valley park that had picnic tables, a small lake and riding stables. Since my car was too small, we were going to take his.

Because he was too busy with TV and some financial program he was watching, we were running late. If James had been obsessed with these financial programs and magazines as a way to grow some investments and wealth, that would be one thing, but James was focussed on “one big score,” to use his phrase. It would be too mundane, too ignominious of him to simply earn and wisely invest to make money. No, he had to find an edge, an angle, a way to make others gasp in awe at his brilliance in coming up with a viable get-rich quick scheme…that, or he had to find a way to do it illegally and not get caught so he could gloat over it. Knowing this about James, I had little patience with him sacrificing time with the kids for yet another foray into the fantasy of being a sudden zillionaire.

The plan had been for me to get the kids ready while he took the car out and filled the gas tank and, because the car had a slow leak, top up the radiator. He was then to stop by a sandwich shop and pick up our order. Meanwhile, I would be getting ready and gathering up the rest of the stuff we would need like blankets, hats, sunscreen, drinks, etc. He groused and mumbled when I insisted he turn off the TV and get going because we were almost ready. He left and came back in amazingly quick time.

With the kids in the back seat and the picnic in the trunk, we headed up the mountain. But only a third of the way up the car started to misbehave. It was making rattling sounds in the engine and losing speed. But James kept driving. After it became obvious that the car was definitely in trouble and I yelled at him to pull over, James gave me a sidelong glance and his mouth formed into a sly smirk and he did. I slid into the driver’s seat, only to see that the temperature gauge was pegged to one side—the car was grossly overheated!

When I asked him if he had put water into the radiator, he said he had not. When I asked him why, he said he had not had time, and since I was in such an all-fired hurry, he gave me what I wanted. When I asked if he realized that running the car dry could seize up the engine, he gave me a contemptuous look and said “of course.” I was so flabbergasted, I couldn’t speak.

My oldest son and I saved the day by getting water from a helpful nearby farmer and filling the radiator before we resume the chug up the mountain. Despite James’ effort to derail the day, the kids had a good time and we made it home safely. But I was still angry with James and still baffled as to what he was thinking when he decided to strand us on a mountainside with a car he had deliberately caused to malfunction. I got answers, but it was the shock of my life!

Once the kids were in bed I asked him what was going on with him that afternoon. He professed to not know what I was talking about. So I asked him point-blank why he had not put water in the car.

“To teach you a lesson,” he said with a completely straight face.

“Huh?” I asked. “What do you mean?”

What came out of his mouth next made the hair on my neck stand on end, it was so creepy. While he had been gone getting the gas and the sandwiches, he had had an entire conversation with me in his head! It was of the “if I said this, then you would say that, and then I would say this and you would reply that” variety, and I listened slack-jawed as he recounted his fantasy conversation. And it made him very, very angry with me!

“Who were you really talking to, James?” I finally asked him. “I would never say those kinds of things—that’s nothing like me. I actually asked you to get water in the car, so why would I get angry with you for taking the time to do that?”

“Well, that is what my mother would do to my father…” I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence—I didn’t need to. The alarm bells were going off in my head, epiphanies were falling like dominoes behind my eyes, realization was creeping over me like a cold chill. I was no more to him than a blank screen upon which he projected his mother. Every word I had spoken, every opinion or belief or value I had voiced in the previous six years were never heard by him, never taken on board because they were drowned out by his projection of his mother onto me. I did not exist!! He knew nothing about me or who I was or how I felt or what I believed because none of that could pierce that projection of his mother. We were together for another seven years and he never did find out who I really was.

My mother had her own kind of delusions. She was the neighbourhood paragon (pretty ironic, considering we had to leave our small town in Oregon under the cloud of scandal she had created!). Judgmental to the nth degree, mother took it upon herself to save the neighbourhood from the woman next door, Mrs. McKenzie. The war she waged on that poor woman was awful! Narcissists think that they way they think is the way we all should think, that their likes, dislikes, beliefs and values should be shared by ALL of us. But most of all, they think they are the centre of the universe and any attention given to others is attention taken away from them.

At the time we moved into our house (I was in the first grade), Mrs. McKenzie was the object of neighbourhood sympathy. A war widow with two young girls to raise, she worked nights as a registered nurse to support them. The girls were a couple of years older than I was and, like their mother, tall and rail thin. People on the block felt sorry for Mrs. McKenzie and, because she had no husband to do the work (and precious little income), her house was a little shabby and the front garden rather unkempt.

My mother, however, did not share the neighbourhood sympathy and went out of her way to blacken the woman’s reputation, spying on her and making up the most outrageous lies and spreading them up and down the street. By the time she was done, Mrs. McKenzie sold her house and moved away and my mother was basking in the glow of having saved our neighbourhood from what she had eventually convinced herself was a terrible danger.

In later years she convinced herself that my children would be better off in the custody of her brother, despite the fact that he and his wife had failed their state’s home study for adoption on three separate occasions. That I had a welfare worker investigate my home and write a letter for the court that my home was fit and so was I, NM convinced herself she was “rescuing” my children from me. She went to her grave believing herself a “hero” and the champion of those poor kids, even though the reality was her entire family stopped talking to her and the damage she did to those kids continues on to the present day, fourteen years after her death.

Narcissists do not see anything they do not want to see and when they can’t find what they want to see, they make it up. This can make the people around them crazy. Because they can be charming and glib, narcissists often bring a lot of people to their point of view, even professionals like therapists, social workers, judges, law enforcement. In the hearings I had in juvenile court, we drew a judge who could see right through her…and she knew it. The judge told me to return to court in three weeks with a letter from my local social services agency, attesting to my fitness, and custody would be settled in my favour…he had NM sussed out! So what did she do? She filed an emergency petition for guardianship in another (higher ranking) court before the juvenile court hearing was scheduled, and drew a judge who was taken in by her false sincerity and the perjured testimony of my uncle. (This uncle, BTW, apologized to me years later with the truth finally came out.) When she could not persuade the juvenile court judge to take up her delusions, when the judge required more than unsubstantiated accusations and asked for proof from a trusted source, NM knew she had to change the venue and find someone to corroborate her accusations (among others, that I was a drug addicted prostitute). By the time it was all over, eight years later and I had regained custody of my children, NM believed her own lies and, despite most of the family finally embracing the truth, my daughter continues to believe them. “Why would a mother lie about her own daughter?” she once asked me. Indeed…when that mother is a narcissist, she will lie about anything and anybody—and believe those lies—in order to get what she wants.

This propensity for creating and believing their own reality can make the people around them crazy. It alters the perception of reality and sucks people into things they might never have otherwise entertained. When practiced on children, it can interfere with their ability to trust, to apply critical thinking, to make good decisions. When a child’s life is based on and guided by lies, that child grows up unable to tell lies from truth and their ability to function is compromised.

Narcissists have no peers. In their delusional world, no one is equal to them. The world is made of entirely of inferiors (most of us) and superiors (those whom they aspire to be like). Narcissists, for all they are full of themselves, do have people they admire. James once had a boss he admired so much he dressed like him and angled for assignments that allowed him to travel internationally, like his boss did. Unfortunately (for James), none of his get rich schemes came to fruition so he was unable to be as rich as his boss and therefore was never able to relegate him to “inferior” status.

Narcissists truly believe they are above the law…and that they are so clever that they can fool the police and therefore are not in danger of getting caught. In the months leading up to our separation and divorce, James began leaving things around that were highly incriminating…but proved he truly believed that even his most outrageous scheme was “doable,” meaning he could get away with it. I seldom entered his home office—he was an egregious slob—but went in one morning to vacuum. Collecting dirty coffee cups and glasses from the desk, my eyes feel on some drawings and notes left on the desktop in his precise, draftsman-like hand printing. Basically, he was drawing up plans to turn our huge family room (larger than a two-car garage) into a marijuana farm and to use the neighbourhood teen agers as his sales agents! Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of me, causing me to wonder what his plans were: either he was planning to get rid of me or his delusion of wealth via drugs included me going along with the scheme.

James loved porn and simply refused to acknowledge that not everybody else did. It was his firm belief that everybody liked porn, he was just one of the morally superior who admitted it. We had dinner guests one night and he ended the evening by putting on an XXX rated video for the guests, one of whom was a female co-worker, to watch! They excused themselves early and never accepted another invitation to get together, and he couldn’t seem to understand why. When I told him they were probably offended by the porn video, he didn’t believe me, and if they left because of it, it was because they were hypocrites.

The ways in which a narcissist can delude him/herself are limitless. Because they live inside their delusions—these delusions are their “reality,”—any attempt to deal with them on a rational basis is futile. The delusions narcissists engage in are not harmless fantasies but dangerous to those around them, because trying to reason with a narcissist is like stepping through the Looking Glass—remember, Alice was the only rational one in there.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Narcissists feel entitled

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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arrested Development

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.

All Malignant Narcissists are a case of arrested development. They live in the mindset of a child. Like a child, they know the difference between right and wrong but choose to do wrong when they can get away with it. However, unlike a child, the narcissist cannot be influenced by authority figures. The narcissist believes they are the ultimate authority on everything. They are determined to remain children who always get their way. And like all spoiled brats who control everyone by temper tantrums and bad behaviour they only get worse with the more they get away with.

“…they know the difference between right and wrong but choose to do wrong when they can get away with it…” This describes my mother to a T. How do I know she understood that some things were wrong but chose to do them any way? Because she taught me they were wrong and punished me when I did them. She also taught my brother, the Golden Child, that such things were wrong, but when he did them, I got punished for letting him.

For example, she taught us it was wrong to lie. If she suspected I was lying, I got punished (and punishment at her hands was brutal!). And yet, she regularly and easily lied, and even forced me to be complicit. My father worked two jobs, one full-time day job and one part-time evening job. When he would leave after dinner for his evening job, MNM would dress up, put on make up, high heels and jewellery and go “bar hopping,” (her term) leaving us alone. Not only was I admonished not to say anything to my father about her nocturnal activities, I was expected to keep my hyperactive, undisciplined little brother (who was bigger than I was) out of trouble while she was gone…nice trick for a scrawny 7-year-old and a husky bruiser of a 5-year-old!

On one occasion my brother found our father’s camera and disassembled it. Unable to put it back together, he got a hammer from the kitchen drawer and used it in an attempt to force the front and back halves of the camera back together. I was unable to stop him (and, truth be told, I was afraid to try to wrestle the hammer away from him lest he clobber me with it!) and when my mother got home, shortly before my father was due home from his night job, all hell broke loose. I was punished for “letting” my brother break the camera and we were both sent to bed after being told to say nothing about this, that she would handle it.

The walls in our house were paper thin and my bedroom adjoined the living room. My bed was pushed up against the shared wall, so at night I could hear what was going on in the next room. Through that thin wall, I heard my mother tell my father than my little brother had damaged the camera while she was out at the wash lines…a blatant lie if I ever heard one!...and that he had already been punished for it.

She knew it was wrong to steal, and she taught us it was wrong to steal and even punished us for stealing. But, like all narcissists, the rules didn’t apply to her, only to us lesser and unfavoured mortals.

My father liked to fish and hunt. He and my mother both had jobs to support my mother’s upwardly mobile lifestyle, and my father had a second job as well. What my father wanted more than anything was a good hunting rifle. With it he could not only indulge his pleasure of hunting, he could provide meat for the table. And to that end, my father began saving money, secreting it in the closet, far back on the shelf.

My mother, however, considered such pastimes to be “low class” and did not support his ambitions. Instead of the hunting rifle he wanted, for his birthday she gave him a solid gold tie pin in the shape of a crab. My father was a Pisces, not a Cancer, and I doubt he had ever eaten crab, so the reason for her choosing that emblem was a mystery. And a tie pin? My father owned only one tie and wore it no more than once a year. But it was gold and it was a tie pin so that when they got dressed up to go somewhere, my father would look prosperous...God forbid my mother associating in public with someone whose appearance did not shore up her own.

So, knowing the rifle would never be a gift from his wife, Daddy started saving money from his night job. And then my mother found it. I know she didn’t ask him about the money, what it was for or why he was hiding it. I know this because I still remember hearing them, through that paper thin wall, fight about it. He demanded that she give it back and she very sarcastically said she wouldn’t even if she could—it had already been spent. He was outraged, she was completely unashamed…her tone of voice was superior and condescending. And a few weeks later a new living room suite arrived, a sectional sofa and chair and several blonde wood tables, all perfectly in keeping with the trend of the day. She even got a neighbour, who was a carpenter and painter, to come and paint the living room walls to match the rosy pink chair and intense turquoise bouclé loop sofa. Daddy’s savings were gone, but my mother had the trendy new furniture she wanted that leapfrogged her into the position of having the newest, most fashionable and enviable stuff on the block.

She knew stealing was wrong…she told her children it was wrong and even punished me if she suspected me (or my brother) of stealing. Yet, when she found it, she shamelessly and without remorse, stole the money my father had been saving for a hunting rifle, something that would not only bring him pleasure but would have the added benefit of putting meat on the table (he liked to go deer hunting and a single deer could provide us with meat for the table for the better part of a year).

While Lisette states that narcissists cannot be influenced by authority figures, like parents, I am not so sure this is entirely correct. My mother, for example, moved from the northern Willamette Valley in Oregon to San Diego to distance herself from her parents (and a scandal she created that caused the people in their very small town to shun her) and she seemed to dread their visits. She changed when they were there, she actually seemed normal. It proved to me that she did know how to behave properly because she did so in front of her parents. I got no beatings while they were around, no nasty, vituperative tongue lashings, and I wasn’t punished for my brother’s misbehaviour. Life seemed normal…or at least what I imagined to be normal…when my grandparents were there.

My grandparents had several big walnut trees in their back garden and when they came down to visit, they always brought a big box of walnuts with them. I can remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV, cracking and eating walnuts to my heart’s content—I was never hungry when my grandparents were around. But as soon as they left, those walnuts were gathered up and put away, with instructions that we were not to touch them without permission, permission for which I was too intimidated to ask. Eventually they would go bad and they would be tossed out with the trash. Once my grandparents were gone, so was my mother’s “good” behaviour.

My mother had a temper and I was terrified of her when she let it loose. “…like all spoiled brats who control everyone by temper tantrums and bad behaviour…” Yep, that was my mother. I was afraid of her in general, but when she got angry—which was often—I was frequently in fear of my life. For one thing, anything could set her off. I had to wash the accumulated breakfast and lunch dishes when I got home from school (even though I was so young I needed to stand on a chair to get to the sink). My brother was supposed to dry them and put them away, but because he knew that he would not get punished for failing to do so (I would get it for not making him do his chores), both the washing and drying fell to me. If I did not put them away “right,” if I stacked the pans wrong, if I put the can opener in the wrong drawer or mixed a big spoon in with the little ones, it was a punishable offense. I have been dragged out of bed by my hair, my mother screaming almost unintelligibly at me, and pulled into the kitchen where I was told to put a glass or cup in its proper place or pick up a piece of trash that had not made it into the sack, then whipped with a thin leather strap every step of the way back to bed. Did she know this was wrong? Of course—“if you tell your precious father about this, you’ll get twice as much tomorrow when he leaves for work,” she would tell me…like a naughty child, a schoolyard bully, who threatens you with more violence if you report his bad behaviour.

They never grow out of it. My mother remained mean and angry and punitive right up to her death. When she died she had two children and four grandchildren. She had inherited a lot of money from her parents and when she wrote her will, she wrote one child and three grandchildren out of it “for reasons they already know.” One of those grandchildren she had refused to meet for the whole of his 26 years—how could he know anything? But her last act was to put the cat amongst the pigeons and create conflict and hurt feelings among her children and grandchildren for years to come. I can just imagine her writing out the will, smiling and congratulating herself for turning one of her grandchildren into the next family bully and sowing a legacy of dysfunction into the next generations. Like spoiled little chidren, narcissists must always get their way.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Growing older…and worse, too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Malignant Narcissist

An elderly woman visits her doctor for a check up after a mild heart attack. While in the examining room she has a sudden stroke and the doctor immediately admits her to the hospital to which his clinic is attached. The following day her sister-in-law, a registered nurse who is the executor of the elderly woman’s will, calls the small family together for a conference. The hospital will not turn off the woman’s life support without the consent of her next-of-kin, who are the nurse’s two sons, the old lady’s nephews. One son votes to turn off the life support—oxygen and IV fluids—while the older son advocates waiting until his aunt regains consciousness and then ask her. Because the family does not unilaterally agree, the life support remains in place and when the old woman regains consciousness a few days later, she opts to keep it going.

At a family dinner two months later the nurse castigates her older son for voting against pulling the plug. The old woman is now in a nursing home and the cost of maintaining her is eating away at her (not inconsiderable) assets. “This is your fault!” the nurse screams at her son. “I should take the cost of this nursing home out of your share of the estate! She is using up all the money because she’s taking too long to die!”

Another malignant narcissist plotted for more than two years to steal her grandchildren from her daughter so that she could give them to her childless brother to adopt. She sends her son to the daughter’s house to spy on her and, after years of ignoring her daughter and grandchildren, she begins dropping in unexpectedly—laden with gifts for the children—and snoops in her daughter’s cupboards and rooms. She even calls Child Protective services and makes baseless claims so that there will be a record of the daughter being investigated. With her son’s corroboration, the woman then spreads false tales of drug addiction, prostitution, child neglect and other horrifying stories among the extended family, blackening the name of her daughter and turning the family against her. In a court hearing in which the young mother’s uncle (brother of the grandmother) perjured himself—he had not seen his niece in more than five years, yet testified he had witnessed events in the last few months—the judge gave the grandmother a one year temporary guardianship, admonishing the stunned mother that she had a year to “clean up her act.” Visitation was granted, but when the young mother arrived to see her children several weeks later, grandma’s house was empty and a “For Sale” sign stood in the front lawn.

The grandmother took the children to another state where she obtained a permanent guardianship of the children by telling the court their mother had abandoned them. She got around the requirement to notify the mother of a court hearing by saying she had no idea where her daughter was and publishing a notice of the hearing in a newspaper in a city in which her daughter had lived several years prior, calling it the young mother’s “last known address.” The court terminated the mother’s parental rights and gave permanent guardianship of the children to their grandmother whereupon she uprooted the children yet again, moved them to the state where her childless brother lived, and gave the children to him for adoption. The children’s mother did not know where they were for eight years.

Yet another malignant narcissist, on admitting her terminally ill husband to the hospital, lied to her brother and sister about the nature of his admission, knowing the word would get back to her estranged daughter: she said he fell off a ladder at home and injured his back. When the man died of his illness a few weeks later, his daughter was not notified and she eventually discovered the fact of his death through a cousin, weeks after he had been cremated: her name was left out of his newspaper obituary as well. There is no gravesite for the bereaved daughter to visit and his ashes, according to a family member who has visited, are kept in a plastic bag in the closet of the spare room of the widow’s home.

Another daughter worked for more than 30 years in the family business, side by side with her father. On the few occasions she considered going out into the general workforce, her father convinced her to stay. “I need you here,” he told her. “I can’t run this place without you.” When he died unexpectedly, her mother inherited the business and promptly fired the daughter without notice, severance pay or references.

At Christmas dinner a woman who was the executor of a relative’s estate thrust some legal papers in front of her son, one of the heirs, demanding that he sign them immediately. The son, who suffered from dyslexia and for whom reading was difficult, politely demurred, saying he would take them to a lawyer to review when the holidays were over. She began screaming at him in front of the assembled guests, saying that if he didn’t sign the papers immediately, he was “stupid.” This insult cut him to the quick, as she knew it would, because he had struggled with feeling stupid for a lifetime because of his dyslexia, even though he was of above-normal intelligence. The man’s fiancée stepped up and told his mother “He’s not stupid! Do not call him that!” to which the mother replied, eyes narrowed and mouth twisted triumphantly “I am his mother and I will call him anything I want!”

The man took the papers and immediately left the dinner with his fiancée. The mother loudly blamed the fiancée, screaming that she was a bad influence on her son. She ignored his wedding five months later, as did the rest of his family. Early in November, however, the mother called her son to invite him and his new wife to Thanksgiving dinner, as if nothing had transpired between them over the past year.

Another woman received a series of disturbing letters in which her mother threatened to go to a lawyer and have the daughter brought up on criminal charges for defrauding the government. She claimed she had proof and she was just waiting for the “right time” to instruct her lawyer to proceed. The daughter spend weeks in a state of anxiety, not knowing what her mother was talking about, but fearing that the police would be knocking on her door at any time. It was not until she conferred with friends and sympathetic family members that she realized that a private attorney does not have the power to bring criminal charges against anyone, and she was then able to write it off as yet another random, unwarranted attack by her malignant narcissistic mother.

Yet another woman began spreading malicious rumours about her mother, calling her a liar, after reading her mother’s blog. The blog contained some ugly truths about her own mother (the young woman’s grandmother), a malignant narcissist who had disinherited her daughter in favour of her granddaughter, guaranteeing continued family discord. The young woman told the extended family about her mother’s blog, saying it was nothing but lies (although the majority of the entries were about events that had occurred before the young woman’s birth and about which she could have no first-hand knowledge) and suggesting that the family cut ties with her mother. Not only did the young woman cut off all communication with mother, so did many other members of the family, fearful they would be recognized in the blog and be shamed or held up to ridicule or public embarrassment by her revelations. Nobody, least of all the young woman, stopped to consider that if the blog was a lie, as she contended (and no real names were used), nobody could be recognized since the stories would not be true. It was five years before the writer of the blog learned why her family had shut her out.

A man sat with his soon-to-be ex-wife, signing papers. “Why have you been so angry with me?” she asked. “You wanted this divorce as much as I did.”

“Because you stole my thunder,” he answered.

“I don’t understand,” she replied.

“I was planning to go out to do some late Christmas shopping,” he told her. “And never come back.”

They had separated in June—he had been planning an exit guaranteed to make her and their 13-year-old son frantic and ruin Christmas for them—and he was planning it more than six months in advance! Why? Because the first Christmas they were married, when the boy was just an infant, she had bought a Christmas tree, ornaments and gifts and he was outraged that she would not return the purchases for a refund. He did not want to spend money on—or celebrate in any way—Christmas, he considered it a waste of money. She refused, saying he didn’t have to participate if he didn’t want to, but she was not going to allow him to ruin the holiday for their child. He had waited 13 years for his opportunity to retaliate.

Malignant narcissists are the personification of human evil. Well-known psychologist and author, Erich Fromm, coined the phrase “malignant narcissism” back in 1964 and characterized it as the “quintessence of evil.” Psychoanalyst Otto Kermberg claimed that the antisocial personality was essentially narcissistic and lacked morality, indicating that malignant narcissism includes a sadistic element, which serves to create a sadistic psychopath. In 1984, Kermberg proposed malignant narcissism as a psychiatric diagnosis. Writer and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck (People of the Lie) identified malignant narcissism as “the primary root of most human evil.” Peck further characterized it as “militant ignorance.”

According to Wikipedia and Richard N. Kocsis in Criminal Profiling, “malignant narcissism can be described as ‘an extreme form of antisocial personality disorder that is manifest in a person who is pathologically grandiose, lacking in conscience and behavioral regulation, and with characteristic demonstrations of joyful cruelty and sadism.’

“As a syndrome, it may include aspects of schizoid and narcissistic personality disorder, as well as paranoia — recent ‘contributions have confirmed the importance of malignant narcissism and the defense of projection’ in the latter syndrome, as well as ‘the patient's vulnerability to malignant narcissistic regression.’

Malignant narcissism can be comorbid with other psychological disorders such as borderline personality disorder, sociopathy, even psychopathy. Malignant narcissists, however, cannot be helped by therapy. According to Jacques Lacan in Écrits: a Selection, “the patient attempts to triumph over the analyst by destroying the analysis and himself or herself.” The patient cannot stand the idea that anyone other than his own lofty self has the power to free him from his condition which, all too frequently, the narcissist sees as being preferable—even superior—to being mundanely normal.

In What Makes a Narcissist Tick by Kathy Krajco, it is stated that while a personality disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis, in the law the narcissist’s behaviour is viewed as “premeditated and volitional.” She later opines “…it is quite likely that psychopathy (Antisocial Personality Disorder) and malignant narcissism are one and the same. [They] go through life doing their thing by laying waste to lives in other ways like malignant narcissists do, as “love thieves,” parasites, gold diggers, climbers, slanderers, verbal abusers, child abusers, wife beaters, pied pipers (i.e., religious and political messiahs), and the like…leaving poverty, destroyed careers, ruined potential, lost nest eggs, psychological injury and even suicide in their wake.” I can personally attest to poverty, ruined potential, psychological injury, and even near-suicide as the result of relationships with malignant narcissists. These people are just plain dangerous. They are evil.

Peck says that evil has to do with killing, it is that which is against life and liveliness. “When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is also that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life–particularly human life–such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body.” Emotional abuse, manipulating and controlling another person, denying them autonomy and freedom: these acts, common to narcissists of all stripes, are acts of evil.

Evil, however (according to Peck) is not so much the sin itself but the refusal to acknowledge the sin, to admit you were wrong and seek to make amends. So while any person may do something that hurts another, like participating in the bullying of a co-worker, for example, the truly evil are those who refuse to acknowledge their wrong-doing. This is the difference between having a conscience, knowing remorse, and the narcissistic lack of conscience, even going so far as to blame the victim for his feeling hurt: “…he was asking for it, wearing those pink socks with yellow pants, dressing like a geek—we just gave him what he had coming…”

Malignant narcissists take it one step further: instead of waiting for an opportunity to ride someone, they make their own opportunities. They stalk, cyberstalk, harass, bully, and even plot against their targets for extended periods of time. There is nothing too low for them to stoop to, no behaviour too extreme for them as they pursue their goal of power and dominion over those around them. A malignant narcissist will do anything she thinks she can get away with in order to get what she wants. There is nothing they will not do to get their way, to create ways to get gratitude and admiration from others, to punish those who thwart them. From intentionally digging at someone’s emotional tender spots to stealing their children, to keeping a terminally ill man home until he collapses on the way to the bathroom and breaks a bone, then concealing both his illness and death from an adoring daughter (who didn’t so much adore the narcissistic mother), these people have no boundaries, no sense of shame, no limits to what they are willing to do to get what they want.

Malignant narcissists: they are the evil that walks among us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Narcissistic parents

Not all child abusers are narcissists, but all narcissistic parents abuse their children. They cannot not abuse them, for it is the nature of narcissists to see others, including their own children, as sources of ego gratification—otherwise known as “narcissistic supply”—regardless of the consequence to those suppliers.

Narcissists are supremely entitled individuals who lack conscience or remorse for the pain they inflict on others. They are the people who believe that if you get your feelings hurt as a result of something they did or said, that is your fault for either being “overly sensitive” or even for “choosing to feel hurt”—because they truly believe that you could have chosen not to feel hurt by their insensitivity.

But there is a class of narcissist, the “malignant narcissist,” who takes things a step further. These people actively seek to hurt others in countless ways, both large and small, for the sheer pleasure of “winning.” To the malignant narcissist, in any contest of will, in order for him/her to “win,” you must lose, and you must suffer in the bargain. Narcissists are the ultimate control freaks and the malignant narcissist must not only control but inflict punishment as well. Having a malignant narcissist for a parent is a terrifying thing…

My mother was a malignant narcissist. But in the Fifties, the time of my childhood, there was no word to describe personality disorders like narcissism. Society surreptitiously swept ugly things under the rug unless a situation was so bad it was impossible to look away. The mythology of motherhood reigned supreme—all mothers loved their children and children who presented with bruises and welts and other signs of abuse were deemed “troublemakers” for having provoked their mothers to such extremes in the name of discipline. Somehow, nobody seemed to pick up on the cognitive dissonance between the “innocence” of childhood and the ability of such an innocent to provoke physical violence in the person who supposedly loved the child more than anyone in the world: her mother.

Growing up under the rule of a narcissistic parent, especially a malignant narcissist, is a terrifying, emotionally agonizing, spiritually impoverishing experience. Lisette, of the blog House of Mirrors, describes what it is like to be in a relationship with a narcissist:
.    • Being rejected and denied value as a person
.    • Being degraded and having your self-worth and dignity as a person degraded
.    • Being exploited and used for the narcissist’s profit or advantage
.    • Being terrorized by intimidation, control, coercion, and stalking
.    • Being denied care, affection, and attention of any kind
.    • Being dismissed, humiliated, manipulated, and belittled
.    • Being violated by pathological envy, greed, and entitlement
.    • Being plundered, pillaged and systematically destroyed
Narcissistic abuse tears at a person’s self-worth and manifests in social withdrawal, anxiety, fearfulness, depression, self-blame and self-destructive behaviour. It results in feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy and powerlessness."

Narcissists come in both genders, every shape, size, colour, ethnicity and belief system. They are often charming and engaging when first met, and it is not until the narcissist has his or her claws deep into you that you begin to realize that there is something “not right” about the person. That usually begins to happen when you begin to deny the narcissist something that s/he believes s/he is entitled to have. It doesn’t have to be something big—it can be something as small as five minutes of your attention at a time you need to focus on something else—the narcissist is entitled and if you deny him or her, the narcissist will be miffed…and somewhere down the road, you will get punished.

Narcissists have long, long memories. They never forget a slight, real or imagined. And they feel entitled to redress that slight, over and over and over again. There is nothing rational about their perception of being slighted, either: a narcissistic mother may feel that the necessary tasks of motherhood, like paying attention to the needs of her children, are excessive demands on the part of the child, demands for which the narcissistic mother will ultimately exact revenge.

For the narcissist, it is “all about me!” When my first child was born and I was lying in a hospital bed after having a Caesarian, my mother, father, and his second wife came to visit. My stepmother commented on how pretty my new baby girl was, my father inquired as to how I was feeling, and my mother tried to engage my father, from whom she had been divorced for eight years, in reminiscences of her Caesarian when I was born, and how much worse hers had been than mine (I was able to laugh, her stitches hurt too much to laugh, etc.). My surgery, my new baby (their first grandchild) and all my mother could talk about was herself!

One of the favourite tools of the narcissist is called “gas lighting,” after the 1944 movie, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. According to Wikipedia, “Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.” Narcissistic parents use this tool to rewrite history, to make themselves look blameless, to even deny some events ever occurred. My NM abandoned me for adoption when I was 2, keeping my baby brother. Her own parents told me this and I lived with them for nearly two years until they were able to get my mother to take me back. When queried about this, however, my NM denied it ever happened. My father and my other grandparents, one aunt (on my father’s side) and an uncle on my mother’s side all support my grandparents’ tale, yet NM maintained the fiction that it never happened for the rest of her life. Today, 14 years after NM’s death, at least one of her “flying monkeys” keeps the lie alive, accusing me of lying about my abandonment! (Actually, she claims all 46 of the stories below are lies, even though she was not witness to any of the events and wasn’t even born when most of them occurred! Such is the power of a narcissist to hoover people to their sides and completely suck out their brains!)

I will explore the narcissist and his/her tricks in succeeding posts, and in particular I will focus on the Malignant Narcissist and the legacy of dysfunction and damage they leave behind. But first—46 stories from real life, a life shaped and distorted by a malignant narcissist mother…

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Sandwich

She was bored.

Her chores were done, her homework finished, the potatoes peeled, salted, covered with water, and sitting in a pan on the back of the stove. She checked the three tiny rooms of the little flat again, just to be sure…every thing was clean, dusted, vacuumed, neat as a pin. She was bored.

She couldn’t go out…she had to have permission to go out and she wasn’t allowed to call Mother at work except in an emergency. A real emergency, like somebody had died on the porch steps…and even then, she was supposed to call the police, not bother her mother, who couldn’t do anything about it from halfway across the city, for God’s sake and what was she, a goddamned doctor or something? No, she couldn’t go out...

Maybe she could watch a little TV? If she only watched until 4:30 the set would have enough time to cool down before Mother got home, right? But she’d been busted that way before, turning on the TV without permission and being naïve enough to think she wouldn’t get caught. But Mother had put her purse on top of the set when she walked in the door and the rising warmth told the tale. No, she wouldn’t push her luck again…she didn’t know how long it took the set to cool down, so she wasn’t taking any chances.

But she was bored. She pulled out the battered little cardboard box from beneath her bed at the end of the kitchen, the place where the table was supposed to be. She sat on the neatly made cot and put the box in her lap, quickly rifling through its contents. A tattered crossword puzzle book briefly caught her attention, but it didn’t hold. Neither did anything else. She shoved the box back under the bed and stood up, absently tugging the almost imperceptible wrinkles from the thin coverlet. “Give her no reasons…” flitted through the back of her mind, but she dismissed the thought as disloyal. She was bored.

She absently opened the cupboards, the refrigerator…a sandwich! She’d have a sandwich! She could sit on the stoop to eat it and if she left the window over her bed open, she could hear the phone if it rang. God forbid she should miss a phone call and the instructions it was certain to bring. Even being in the bathroom was no excuse… A sandwich!

The bread was stale and she had to pick a furry green dot off one corner of the crust, but it would do. She opened the refrigerator and took out the mayonnaise and cold meat, careful to spread only the thinnest layer on the bread and to separate only one slice of meat from its brothers. She wrapped the sandwich in a paper towel and cleaned up the evidence of her illicit snack, then took a bite from the top. Eh. She wasn’t in the mood for bologna. She worked the bite until she could swallow it, then wrapped the remains of the sandwich in the paper towel and placed it near the back of the refrigerator…she would take it to school for lunch tomorrow.

It was an uneventful evening. She sat on her bed with the old bread board across her lap, eating dinner while her mother and step father ate at the coffee table as they watched TV. The sofa was too small for three and there was no other seating in the living room, so she either had to sit on the floor to watch, or stand in the hallway near the bathroom door, where she was “always underfoot, goddammit!” She opted for her bed and the books she checked out of the school library during her lunch break. Heaven forbid she should go after school and end up late coming home and checking in…her ears would burn and her face would smart for hours from the tongue lashing such defiant independence would surely provoke. She’d rather spare herself that, so she would bolt her sandwich and spend the rest of the lunch period in the warm embrace of the library, savouring the fusty, bookish smell, browsing the volumes and following her literary whims. Mary Poppins this week, Aldous Huxley next, perhaps Upton Sinclair after that. After dinner, when the dishes were washed and the pots scrubbed and the stove degreased, she would shower quickly…there would be no hot water in the morning by the time her turn at the bathroom came…and climb into her cot with the latest borrowed volume, block out the TV noise on the other side of the curtain separating the rooms, and read herself to sleep.

Mornings were hectic, with the three of them trying to use the same bathroom at the same time, but since she didn’t have to leave for school until after they had left for work, she would invariably be the last one in. She actually preferred it this way, even with the lack of hot water, since she didn’t have to hurry, there being no one waiting on her to finish. She was standing in her bathrobe, just rinsing her teeth, when her nerves stood on edge at the sound of her mother’s screech. All three of her names…dear God, she was in trouble up to her eyetops! But what on earth for?

She dried her mouth on her sleeve as she rushed to the kitchen from whence the screams emanated, lest she linger too long and find herself summarily dragged there by her hair. She’d been too slow before and the consequence had made brushing her hair a tender affair for nearly a week. She nearly skidded to a stop in front of the refrigerator where her mother stood with the door open.

“Just what in the name of God is this?” her mother demanded, shoving a paper-towel wrapped object so close to her face that she couldn’t focus on it. She felt suddenly cold inside. Her stomach pulled into a tight, agonizing knot. She could feel the colour drain instantly from her face.

“A s-s-s-sandwich,” she stammered. “Lunch today,” she managed to add before she unaccountably found herself sitting on the kitchen floor.

“Get up, you smart-mouthed little bitch, and don’t take that tone with me!”

She got up, carefully schooling her face into an expressionless mask until she knew whether she should look frightened or stoic…the right facial expression could shorten this. Her left ear was ringing and felt hot and fat. She looked up slowly and saw the glower on her mother’s face that meant an explanation…a good explanation…had better be forthcoming or there would “be more where that came from.”

“I was planning to take it for lunch today…” she began.

“There is a bite out of it,” her mother said without even moving her frighteningly red lips.

“I…I know…I took one bite and I…I…uh…I wasn’t hungry so I wrapped it up to take it for lunch today,” she finished in a rush.

Suddenly she was sitting on the floor again, seeing her mother through a kind of red haze, her ear ringing so badly she could barely hear “…times not to waste food…never listen to a thing…incorrigible brat…stop snivelling…stand up here…” She struggled to her feet, feeling a little dizzy, forgetting her facial expression.

“Aw, gee,” came the nasal, taunting sneer. “Now you’re gonna blubber, for God’s sake, over a couple of love taps. You want to bawl? I’ll give you something to bawl about!” She heard it, the cracking sound, but she neither saw nor felt it. One second she was leaning slightly against the refrigerator for support, the next second she was on the floor again. It needed mopping, she thought absently, seeing something that looked wet and sticky near her mother’s shoe. I gotta mop this up before she sees it, she thought dazedly, or I’ll be in big trouble when she does…

And suddenly it was very quiet. She stayed perfectly still, knowing that to move when motion was not commanded could earn another blow. She looked around carefully with her right eye…her face was on the floor such that the left one had no vantage. Mother’s shoes were gone…when had she left the room? She waited a bit longer, in case she had just moved out of sight and was waiting for her to move unbidden. But there was no sound save the ticking of her alarm clock. Slowly, carefully, she raised herself to a sitting position, noting the small puddle on the floor. Embarrassment flooded over her…she’d had a nosebleed! Not exactly the best time for that since it probably splattered on Mother’s blouse when she slapped her…there would be hell to pay for that! Was Mother in the bathroom, rinsing out the blood, ready to smack her again if she interrupted before the storm was over? Slowly, wondering why her stomach felt bruised, she pulled herself to a standing position gripping the edge of the sink and glanced over at the clock. 8:45. Dear God! Mother was at work by now…so was Frank…and she was late for school! Now she was really going to catch hell!