It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Friday, July 5, 2013

It’s all about choice

I'm back after a hiatus involving a medical procedure on my spine, a lawsuit against some deadbeat tenants, and a much-needed holiday. I went on safari out in Kruger National Park and stayed in a bushcamp where we had no TV, no radio, no internet, and irregular (and very weak) cell signal. The nice thing about several days of that is that is forces you to turn back to yourself for entertainment...and one of the things I find most entertaining is thinking: I like to think and the peace and solitude of Kruger really facilitated that.

One of the things I began reflecting on were choices and our perceptions of choice. South Africa's legacy of apartheid has left many people, especially people of colour, thinking they have no choices, that they are doomed to live in poverty and their only opportunities to lift themselves out of it come from unlawful means. But these people have other choices and the guides and and workers in the park were a testament to what people can achieve when they recognize that there are other choices than to live in squalor in a tumbledown hut, begging or stealing to survive. It got me to thinking about choices in general, and our choices in particular.

One of the feelings we, the children of narcissists, share is the feeling of being “stuck.” Often we feel we have no choice but to submit to the narcissist, to endure her attacks and other hurtful behaviour. We may feel we cannot leave or, if already out of the house, we cannot stop her from continuing to hurt us. We feel helpless in the face of her behaviour, her expectations, her manipulations. And we feel hurt, angry, confused, powerless, trapped, even crazy, as a result.

Well, the good news is, you do have a choice! She is not in charge of your life, you are!

Let me repeat that: she is not in charge of your life, you are.

You don’t believe me, do you?

Well, believe it or not, if you are at least 18 years of age, you have the power to change your situation, whether your narcissist is a parent, a spouse, a boyfriend, or a boss. You have that power, even though you may not yet realize it. In fact, the distress you are suffering at the hands of your narcissist is the result of a choice you have already made…really!

If you cannot believe that you are capable of changing your life, that the narcissist in your life has you trapped, then you may be suffering from what is called “learned helplessness.” Learned helplessness comes from your beliefs: if you believe you cannot do something, that there is no way out, that you cannot succeed, then that becomes your personal reality, even though objective reality may be very different.

The Buddhist website, Unfettered Mind, describes learned helplessness thus: “One of the primary characteristics of learned helplessness is that the person feels passive with respect to the system [the family]. The passivity, however, is only half the story. Whenever we are subjected to abuse, physical, emotional or spiritual, two patterns form inside us: the victim and the abuser. Our experience of being abused lays the basis for the victim pattern. Our experience of how abuse can be meted out lays the basis for the abuser pattern. Both give rise to learned helplessness, though the learned helplessness manifests differently. In the case of the abuser, learned helplessness might manifest as “Something just took over; I didn’t mean to say or do that.” In the case of the victim, it might manifest as “I don’t know why I put up with it but I can’t seem to do anything about it.” In both cases, we are expressing passivity with respect to the patterns operating in us. In both cases, we are confessing helplessness.”

Can you overcome learned helplessness? Yes…but it is not easy. The Unfettered Mind says “The cost…is high. We can only undo learned helplessness by severing our internal connection with the system that gave rise to it…We must really want to live our own life and not one prescribed by our family, society, culture…We must be willing to endure pain, know from direct experience, act on what we see and receive what happens. We must yearn to experience what is without relying on anything to confirm our existence.”

What does this mean? It means that you are not helpless, you just believe that you are. And you must want to break away more than you want to stay. And that you must do something to make a change happen. As long as you keep doing, saying, thinking and living the same way, you will continue reaping the same reward, bitter and unsatisfactory though it may be. If you want something in your life to change, then you must do something to change it.

I know this is not what you want to hear…it’s not what I wanted to hear. When I was trapped in the learned helplessness of being the victim of narcissists, I wanted a magic key that would unlock the good, loving persons I just knew was trapped beneath the narcissist’s punitive exterior. I wanted the “right” words or deeds to bring them to the fore, to make my abusers realize how hurt I was and to evoke their compassion and empathy—and love. What I learned was that I was on a fruitless quest…there is no magic key, the narcissist does not have a loving, compassionate person trapped inside, fighting to escape into a loving relationship. Indeed, I discovered the narcissist doesn’t want to change except, perhaps, to become even better and more proficient at controlling the lives of their victims and getting what they want however they want it with no pangs of conscience or hint of remorse.

While there is no magic key to awaken compassion and conscience in a narcissist, there is a magic key to your freedom and happiness, and that magic key is choice. You have choices, even if you don’t see them. Learned helplessness can result in a kind of emotional paralysis and the way out of that paralysis is to simply make the choice you have been avoiding for so long: choosing yourself and your well-being and your happiness over that of the narcissist. Choosing to give up dreams of the impossible, like your narcissist will change and suddenly treat you with love and concern for your happiness. Choosing to see your relationship with your narcissist for what it really is; choosing to take the blinders off and look cold, hard reality in the face. Choosing to cut—and mourn—your emotional and relationship losses before they make you feel any worse. Choosing a new direction for your life and taking the necessary steps to realize it.

You have choices—but choices have consequences and right now, the life you are living is the result of choices you have already made and, in some cases, have made over and over again. Every time your NM hurts you, belittles you in front of someone else, puts you down, doesn’t invite you to a family dinner or tells your sister or your grandmother or your aunt “Oh, she wouldn’t want to be here…” and you continue on with your relationship with her like it never happened, you re-make the choice to let her do these things with impunity, to continue contact with her under those circumstances, to put yourself and your feelings and your right to be respected below hers. You make the choice to be your narcissist’s doormat every single time you allow him or her to abuse you and you not only don’t do/say anything about it, you don’t start making plans to do something about it, either.

You…and only you…may choose what choices you will make and consequences you will endure in life. Nobody else can make that choice for you because when you choose a behaviour, you choose the consequences. Let me say that one again:

When you choose a behaviour, you choose the consequences.

Right now, if you are enduring the slings and arrows of a narcissist in your life, you are actually choosing to do exactly that: endure the slings and arrows of that narcissist. That is your current choice…to endure. What is the consequence of your choice? The feelings that your endurance and his/her behaviour creates in you. You have other choices, but each and every one of them has a consequence as well. You may well be in the position of choosing the lesser of a host of evils, but you do have choice…it’s just that every one comes with a consequence, so maybe you have chosen, at least for now, to put up with NM and her nasty ways because the consequences of other choices, as far as you can tell, are worse.

If you are sitting there shaking your head and thinking “What other choices??”, then you just aren’t seeing them. Unless someone is forcibly holding you hostage, there are other choices you can make. If you live at home with Narcissistic Mom and Enabling Dad, you have other choices: first and most obvious, you can move out. “I have no place to go, no way to support myself!” you cry. Then start making a plan…get a job, even if it is minimum wage and move out, even if you have to move into a furnished room. If your comfort and cable TV and keys to NF’s car are worth the price you have to pay for them…NM’s abuse and your unhappiness…I am not going to sit here and tell you that you are wrong because only you can choose your life, only you can decide if living in the comfort of your parents’ home is worth the price they exact from you in narcissistic abuse. You decide what the value of living with them is, what it is worth to you…but you cannot make that choice and then complain about the price you pay.

If you are already out of the house, you also have choices: you have the choice of not communicating with her (see “No Contact pt 1” and “No Contact pt 2”), for example. “Oh no!” you object. “She’ll cut me off from my father or my sisters or my nieces and nephews…” or she’ll stalk you or tell lies to the FOO about you or a host of other retaliatory behaviours. You are right…she very likely will…which means you are choosing to put up with her abuse because you don’t want to bear the consequences of putting a stop to it…you think the suffering you are doing now is less than the suffering you would endure if you stood up for yourself and told her to leave you alone.

But what if maybe…just maybe…if you told her to stop calling you ten times a day and she did? My late husband Charlie had a dreadfully narcissistic mother who verbally abused him in front of me at Christmas dinner one year. I got up from the table (after yelling at her and telling her not to call him names), got my handbag and our jackets and said to him “I’m ready to go home. How about you?” We left…and we didn’t hear from her for eleven months…and when we did see her again, she never, ever said rude things to or about him in my presence again…and he refused to see her unless I came along. Sometimes it works.

Will it work on your narcissist? No matter how certain you are that it won’t, you cannot know for sure until you try. Remember, when you choose a behaviour, you also choose the consequences of that behaviour. When we sit silently through a narcissist’s tirades and character assassinations, when we smile weakly at their rude characterizations of others, when we follow the old dictum “to get along you have to go along,” we choose to be abused with impunity, to be disrespected, to be treated poorly. When we chose a different behaviour, we get a different set of consequences, among them what Charlie called “the most peaceful eleven months of my life!”

“But she will turn my family against me!” someone once said to me. Really? Has it occurred to you that that has already happened? When she abuses you, lies about you, assassinates your character, what is your family doing? Who is standing in your defence? Who is telling her “Stop that! That is rude and abusive and you don’t have a right to speak to her that way!”? If you have such a person in your life, how is your NM going to turn him or her against you, since this person is already championing you against her? And the rest of your family? Where are they? If they were on your side instead of hers, wouldn’t they be speaking up on your behalf? And if they aren’t, can you accept that they have already bought every ugly, nasty, lie and half-truth your NM has told them about you and they have already been turned against you? Because if you are going to be able to exercise your choices and get away from the narcissist in your life, first you are going to have to stare reality right in its ugly eyes and know who your friends—and who your enemies—are. If you choose to continue to refuse to believe your NM has already turned (at least some of) them against you, then you will stay stuck right where you are.

When you choose a behaviour, you choose the consequences.

Some may think this is blaming the victim. It’s not. It is making you look at and acknowledge a choice you have made…perhaps not consciously, but you have made this choice just the same. You have chosen to endure what your narcissist does because somewhere in your mind you have decided that the consequences…or your fear of those consequences…is worse than putting up with her abuse. And that is where learned helplessness comes in: your fear. You may be convinced that you cannot support yourself and therefore you must put up with the abuse in order to have a roof over your head. But that only means that your fear of independence—and the rigours of it—is greater than your fear of your NM: better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

But when you take that viewpoint, you choose to change nothing. You choose the miserable existence you have now…because it is familiar and you know what to expect…over the possibility that you can have more or better or both. Yes, it may also be a colossal flop…but if you choose the safety of your present, predictable life, you are choosing the abuse you live with and aren't even making an attempt to make it better. To change your life, you must change your choices, make new ones, head out into uncharted waters, do things differently. But first, you must wake up to the fact that the choices—to go or to stay, to tolerate abuse or not—are yours alone to make.

I hope you make the choice to spread your wings and fly…far, far from the abuse and into a life of your own choice and making.


  1. "We must be willing to endure pain, know from direct experience, act on what we see and receive what happens. We must yearn to experience what is without relying on anything to confirm our existence.” Violet, this for me is the key emotional challenge. Setting aside financial issues or any other material matters, the challenge to "know from direct experience" is about WHO gets to 'interpret' your experience for you. Who is in charge of interpreting what YOU live through? In dysfunctional, narc FOOs, your "interpretation" of your experience with these people is always invalidated. Alternative interpretations are foisted on you, by sibling enablers, by enabling parent--these are all about "good intentions," "well-meaning," or about your "hypersensitivity" or "misreading" of the situation. There's a politics of who's in charge of making sense of YOUR own life. This is really hard to wrap one's head around, because we live in communities and we do need others to help us understand ourselves. But narc FOO's abuse and distort this feedback mechanism, undermining every intuition or assessment you make about your OWN responses and feelings. Think about it: I experience something, but another FOO member insists on telling me what it "really was." This business of trusting our own judgements, our own experiences and the knowledge it gives us, without throwing that away, leads to the ability, I think, to make choices for ourselves. A wonderful and important post. Thanks for writing it. xo CS

    1. I hear you, CS and while I don't disagree, I must point out that until we make that first choice to step into the breach, to make some choice with respect to the Ns in our lives differently, no interpretation other than those foisted upon us by others are possible. As long as we choose to passively accept the interpretations thrust upon us by NParents and our FOOs, we will not look for others. As long as we choose to stay safely in our unhappy little cocoons, not seeing the choices we have or fearing them, we'll never strike out on our own, taking risks and reaping the rewards.

      A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step...but first you've got to see that there is a path or a step or a road to put your foot on.

    2. Agreed. We got a chicken/egg dilemma. To have the courage to exercise choice, I needed first to start believing in my right to the reality of what I experienced. And even that was terribly mixed up with other things. The belief that one will "die" without FOO is laid in early (and is true when we're kids), and deeply reinforced. The hardest thing to separate out is our motivation for going back to the poisoned well. xo CS

    3. I hear you...but didn't you see that you had choices first, and then had to find the courage to exercise one or more of them?

      I suspect you've hit a deep vein of truth with your " The belief that one will "die" without FOO is laid in early" comment. I think that is hard-wired into us as infants and small children, but we are supposed to outgrow that fear as we mature and become independent. And it is the purpose of our parents to help us mature and become sufficiently independent--TRULY independent--so that we do not fear abandonment and see it as the death sentence it actually was when we were small and literally dependent on our parents for survival.

      Narcissistic parents pervert this...even ignoring ones, like my that we are discouraged from achieving the kind of true independence that would make us no longer need them for survival...because they need US for Nsupply. It is our perceived need...our fear of abandonment and the long-submerged fear for our survival...that keeps us chained to them, a perception planted and fostered by the Ns in our lives. It not only keeps us going back to the poisoned well, it programs us to go to other poisoned wells, too, and be unwilling/unable to break away from them. Boyfriends, "best friends" who really aren't, husbands, bosses...we subconsiously seek out and/or most readily respond to the devil we know, the interactions that feel familiar, and so stay on the path our Ns put us on when we were too young to know better or to resist.

      I think recognizing that things CAN be different for us and that we can actually choose to make things different comes first...but finding the courage and motivation to actually make the changes and stick with them in the face of an N's formidable opposition is the next essential step in getting out and getting away.

    4. Wanted to respond to this:

      "Narcissistic parents pervert this...even ignoring ones, like my that we are discouraged from achieving the kind of true independence that would make us no longer need them for survival...because they need US for Nsupply. It is our perceived need...our fear of abandonment and the long-submerged fear for our survival...that keeps us chained to them, a perception planted and fostered by the Ns in our lives"

      I agree with this, we are set up often to fail. We don't even know the social codes or the HOW TO SUCCEED. I did manage to get through college and some semi-professional jobs, but it was far harder then for other people then I got sick. What gets me is how the family connections would be used for some to get them GOOD LIFE-SUSTAINING JOBS, and then others, they would be ignored, like they wanted them kept impoverished and under lock and key. Of course any ensuring poverty post-disability for me and after my husband's job lay-offs was used for more abuse and put-downs. What is the worse is really sometimes it feels like the world has massively teamed up with one's NARC parents to tell you that you don't deserve anything. I am glad this issue is brought up, because I had to make the leap even facing the fear of being in the streets. Seriously...:(

  2. Glad to read again from you, Violet. As always, profound insights and so eloquently put.

    "better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know."

    For example the above is amazingly spot-on as to the majority's response to N behaviours, moreover it points also at a truth far beyond family relationships. At present an entire society obeys the currently unfolding dictatorship lead by narcissists - definitely sociopaths - and their FFO's, and they keep serving the system upon above considerations and wishful thinking.

    It is also fascinating to read the above insightful response and dialogue. To me it seems that the truth is somehow on both sides. The effects of a life-long series of invalidations, projections, gaslighting and blaming by N parents can be so profound that in many cases it might take super-human efforts to overcome these.

    skywanderer (healing wanderer) from

    1. Wanderer, you are absolutely correct about our public institutions having fallen into the hands of narcissists and our society being currently shaped by them. But I have been around long enough to know that we are currently experiencing the extreme end of a pendulum swing (as the late 60s was as well) and eventually it will surely swing back to a more moderate position. Unfortunately, we are going to have to endure these narcissistic asses running our government and corporations and places of worship for a while longer before THEIR bubbles burst.

      If you like the way the above commenter thinks, I urge you to visit her blog. It is called Caliban's Sister and it is on the list of recommended sites in the right-hand column of my blog.

      Thanks for your comment. I always enjoy hearing from you.

    2. Violet,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I do hear you and do understand what you mean. Your reply reveals an an ever deeper layer of the issue I associated to when referring to similar challenges on a social level.

      I am not an alarmist and I have no reason whatsoever to devote as much time to this topic as I have. I used to study both politics and economics, in addition I have recently researched the recent history and current situation.

      Based on my findings re the recent status I should say, no, this time it is NOT the usual sort of "bubble" we used to observe growing and bursting. This isn't the usual crisis inherent in the flaws of capitalism. This isn't even crisis per se. It is the dire status quo we are intentionally lead into, and it will be exponentially worse if we choose to NOT act against it.


  3. (I post it again as "Anonymous" in case my posting through the WP account didn't succeed)

    Glad to read again from you, Violet. As always, profound insights and so eloquently put.

    "better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know."

    For example the above is amazingly spot-on as to the majority's response to N behaviours, moreover it points also at a truth far beyond family relationships. At present an entire society obeys the currently unfolding dictatorship lead by narcissists - definitely sociopaths - and their FFO's, and they keep serving the system upon above considerations and wishful thinking.

    It is also fascinating to read the above insightful response and dialogue. To me it seems that the truth is somehow on both sides. The effects of a life-long series of invalidations, projections, gaslighting and blaming by N parents can be so profound that in many cases it might take super-human efforts to overcome these.

    skywanderer (healing wanderer) from

  4. thank you. I'm still deep in grief - moving between acceptance and anger and fear. . . I am proud of myself that I'm no longer a victim. But I'm still sad.

    1. Sadness is normal in is only when the sadness is prolonged, when you cannot seem to get past it, is there a problem that needs to be addressed because the sadness has transformed into depression. You are correct that acceptance is the next step, but accepting that your parent(s) choose to treat you badly does not mean you cannot still feel anger and fear and sadness. When you accept that they are who they are, that no change is EVER forthcoming, that for them, you will always be expected to fill the role they assigned you in their dysfunctional drama, THEN you have true acceptance. Acceptance is giving up any and all hope of change, not giving up anger (which may well be justified), fear (which also may well be justified) or grief (which is a natural reaction to fear). It is when the anger, fear and/or grief has a prolonged and/or negative effect on you that you should be concerned...and then a good therapist with experience in helping people who came from abusive families can be of immeasurable help.

      I am proud that you have recognized and made the choice, and then taken steps to not be a victim any more. You have given yourself a whole new set of opportunities and literally changed the course of your don't let the past entrap you with continued grief. Just like in dealing with a death, we have to eventually accept that this is beyond our control, no change can ever happen, and move on.

      Congratulations on your success in stepping out of the victim role...that is SO difficult to do and you succeeded. YAY you!



    2. Melissa, I am feeling that grief too. Losing a whole family isn't fun, though in more lucid moments I sit back and think I never really had one to begin with. I'm very sad lately. :(

  5. That is a good point to make, "She is not in charge of your life, you are!"

    I have just RECENTLY gone NO-CONTACT, this means NO CONTACT with the entire family system which served as all flying monkeys and enablers to her. This means essentially I have no family.

    The only problem is, how do you recover your life, if it became a burnt out crater from earlier abuse, poverty and severe physical problems? What if you are MIDDLE-AGED and finally do the complete break away? Can a life be recovered? Maybe I need someone to tell me LOOK LIFE CAN BE MADE BETTER? I guess what I am saying, is I am facing severe deficients from the FOO> {I graduated college, found my "own life" but barely stay afloat financially and struggle to stay alive, there is so many physical problems} I spent years in the LC program, always living at least 75 miles away from any relatives, but now I had no choice but to go NC.

    You are right there is the thing where you CHOOSE what to do. SIT AND STAY AND SUFFER, or GET UP AND LEAVE.

    I do fear the result of my choices, I will be cut from the will--there were family rumors I heard where I was cut out anyway, have no help from my family even though I am severe disabled--I am not dependent on them on a monthly basis or anything, and well have LEAPT over the cliff and well I am kind of afraid, no make that VERY AFRAID.

    But I did it anyway. [had gone NC in my 20s, but illness and rest drove me back into their arms, this time it has to stick even for the sake of my health and well-being]

    I understand "learned helplessness" and depression. I do think sometimes learned helplessness can come about just from having too many bad things happen. Economically and health wise. These are huge barriers to overcome.

    IN my case I am depending on God to take care of me.{I am a Christian} and took that jump.

    You are right if you want something to change, you can't keep doing the same. Its like that old recovery adage about the guy walking down the street falling into a hole, and then doing it over and over and finally saying It's time to find a new street!

    I am glad you talk about the "magic key", I wanted to make them love me, listen etc, and kept thinking just the right behavior, thought, action, words would WAKE THEM UP, but it was all a DELUSION. It never was going to happen and at most one would get a false ACT.

    There is grief looking at the cold and hard reality. Tons of it. But better to face it then live in the lie any longer.

    I agree every time one takes the abuse, and I took it far too many years, sure I protested but it was like bouncing rubber balls off a brick wall, things get worse and worse year by year. I had no choice but to break away.

    You brought up good points, that MOST HAVE ALREADY TURNED THE FAMILIES AGAINST YOU...[even far before any NC] It happened to me.

    One can't trust a NARC or put their eggs in the basket of one. I got sicker, and just didn't want to take their abuse anymore. So I am gone, and cut them all off.

    1. You ask about starting over and mention a disability.

      I did it. I have a severe back pain issue due to physical damage to my lower spine. In fact, I just had a rhizotomy a few weeks ago to see if that will curb the far, only minor relief.

      Anyway, I have dealt with this pain and its effects--can't stand for long, can't walk long distances, sleep disturbances and more--literally for decades, most of which I was self-supporting, especially after my husband died and, instead of life insurance he left me a fat stock portfolio that lost 75% of its value due to 9/11, barely a year after his death: the dividends went from almost enough to make up for his missing wages to not enough to buy a packet of postage stamps almost overnight. So, I had to make my house payments and support myself on half the income I had had for the previous decade.

      How? Mindset is a lot of it. It is very common, when you have a disability, to focus on what you cannot do. You need to turn that around and start figuring out what you CAN do, and then reassess the things you think you can't do. I was an executive secretary, a job that often involved standing at the copy machine making large sets of copies, which took a long time. I found a way to sit while the machine was doing its thing and because I brought along something else to do while the machine was busy, I was seen as "multitasking" and therefore more efficient. I found a way to accomplish, in a different way, something I was unable to do in the normal way. I had to take pain meds...I learned to wait until I got to work to take them (so I didn't have to drive under the influence), and by the time 5pm rolled around, they had pretty much worn off so I could drive home safely where I would take my next dose. I learned to manage my disability without allowing it to control me or my life.

      When I was in secretarial school we had a student in the class who was blind and had been since birth. She was there to learn to type and operate a Dictaphone: she became a medical transcriber with those skills and self-supporting. Her strengths were nimble fingers and an excellent memory and really good spelling skills and she made a career out of them with just a few new skills to supplement them.

      You can do the same: start with a focus on what you CAN do, then reexamine what you believe you cannot do and try to figure out "workaround solutions." That is exactly what you did when you walked away from your N family: you found a way to make it work for you despite the obstacles you faced.

      It's all about how we look at things: as long as we believe we are stuck with out N family and there is no way out, that is our reality, but it is a reality we have chosen to accept. When facing a disability, if you choose to believe it keeps you from working, prevents you from having a decent job, then it will. When you choose to believe it won't, then you start on the path to making it so. Don't confuse "doable" with "easy," birth to a child is doable, but for most of us, it is far from easy!

      You are right, you can't trust a can't depend on them, either. They will help you if they see something in it for themselves and, each N being different, each one will see something different in it for themselves. One might get Nsupply for being a saint and taking in what she perceives is a "difficult child." Another might get off on having the power to let you stay or throw you out and keeping you off balance with it. Another might get a thrill from making promises you count on, then passive aggressively "forgetting." The source of Nsupply is as individual as the N, but where they are all alike is that they are ALL untrustworthy and cannot be depended on.

      I hope you can get it all together and find something you like for sucks to be in a job you hate, but it is, ultimately, better than being stuck in the claws of a family that hates you.



    2. First, Violet, I'm sorry that the rhizotemy is only giving you minor relief. Is it enough to take the worst edge off? I haven't talked to my friend who had it for a few weeks--time to check in with him too. Second, your advice above to anon who is middle-aged and physically disabled is excellent. We cannot stay in sick FOO systems simply because they might give us money. It will destroy our lives. I too have made the separation, not complete NC, certainly not with my father, who I'll visit in the fall; but with my NM, who is just unredeemable, and WILL not change. It does hurt to lose "an entire family," because flying monkey sibs are also involved. But it's never too late to realize that your life belongs to YOU, that no one else should be able to control your emotional state, or force you to put up with behavior that saps your energy and kindles depression. Contact with my NM for decades kindled, then reinforced depression in me, because she was just never really "there" emotionally. She was a vague shape, a neglecting outline, a disdainful bystander, in my life. Not a mother. For way too many years I gave her "second" chances because she'd hoover me back in by acting like she understood the problem and promised to change her behavior. But she never did. She never learned, she never changed; at best, she'd pretend for awhile. Then slide back into being the drip-drip of the permanently disabled faucet that passed for "love" with her.

    3. Well, its only been 3 weeks since the procedure and they told me it would take up to 2 weeks for the swelling and pain from the procedure itself to go away. I am still having pain, but there are already noticeable improvements: I can walk and stand longer, and several people have commented I look much less stressed, so obviously, some good is happening here.

      I think a pro-active approach to going NC is the least painful approach (I am not saying it is painless, though). I was NC with my NM for years, but it was HER doing...she took her long-standing neglect of me to the extreme. When I moved from California to Boston, she did not write or call or contact me in any way unless I initiated it. If I wrote, she would write back. I would write and tell her about her (only) grandchildren, she would write back long moaning and complaining letters about herself and her troubles (most of which were either in her head or of her own making). When she drove from California to New York to visit her brother, she could not be bothered to drive another 400 miles to see her only daughter and of them newly born. In fact, she didn't even call me from my uncle's house.

      I am NC with my Ndaughter, but in much the same way: she moved halfway across the country and didn't bother to tell me. She stopped responding to my emails and when she finally DID answer my queries (I was worried to death that something awful had happened to her) she simply wrote "I have nothing to say to you." (This was after she inherite a pot of money from my NM--the half of the estate that should have been mine.)

      So, there are actually two ways you can go NC...proactive choice or accepting the fact that the Ns in your life consider communicating with you to be some kind of onerous burden and just let them go. Either way, you lose the extended family, but I realized, the hard way, that those people had been lost to me for a long time before I recognized it. What I was really losing was the illusion that they were true family, people who cared for me, and I was gaining something very valuable: truth. And yes, sometimes the truth hurts, but I have long preferred a plain truth over a tarted-up lie.

    4. Oh Violet, god, your daughter became your NM's factotum. That's horrible. So she rejects you in order to justify in her head why it's ok for your mother to skip over you with the inheritance and bestow it on her. Wow. You have had it very very tough, sandwiched by pathology. I'm so sorry. xo CS

    5. My daughter was part of the FOO that was lost to me long before I realized it. Once she reached her teens, she became my replacement in NM's eyes...I ceased to exist for both of them. Oh, ND stayed in touch with me as long as I could do anything for her, but when I moved overseas, she dropped me like a hot rock (a week before our wedding she even tried to talk me and my fiance out of getting married, like a parent counselling a foolish young bride--and you should see her in our wedding pics--nothing but a sour face).

      I found out last year from her second (now ex) husband that this blog's precursor, the 46 memories, was the ostensible reason she stopped contact with me: she said it was "all lies," which I find an interesting assessment coming from someone who had not even been born when most of those events took place.

      It took my daughter stopping even token communication with me to make me sit down and assess things honestly and even then, I had to do it a little bit at a time because I was so heavily invested in my denial. Eventually I was able to see N behaviours she exhibited back in her teens, like trying to seduce her stepfather, my N (now ex) husband. I know that sounds like I am misinterpreting some kind of normal rite-of-passage of the hormone-soaked adolescent, but after I divorced him (and she divorced her first husband), he moved to her city and they moved in together. In fact, my divorce wasn't over yet...he was having to fly back to California for court hearings during the course of the divorce while he was living with my daughter in another state. She told me they were not sleeping together and I, still dug deeply in denial, believed her. That allowed me to keep in contact with her--and allowed her to keep the supply line open. When she and her second husband lost their jobs and were about to be evicted from their rental, they drove across country and moved in with me until they had jobs and could afford a place of their own...a place I and my new husband furnished for them (to be fair, he and I had combined households and had a storage locker full of excess furniture and things so giving it to her allowed us to close the locker).

      When NM told ND that she was disinheriting me in her favour, ND couldn't wait to call me and tell me. The barely restrained glee in her voice came over the phone lines loud and clear. Thinking about my two sons, (since ND told me NM was leaving her half of the estate) I asked "Do you think that's fair?" ND's reply was "Well, it's not like you and Grammi had any kind of a relationship in the first place..." Pure projection: in a similar situation, she would be thinking of herself only, so she presumed I was doing the same.

      So, years later, when I moved overseas and could no longer be of any use to her (surely she assumes my estate will go to my much-younger husband) and with my 46 Memories blog as a handy excuse, she cut contact with me. And I, after eventually figuring out exactly what she was, decided to just leave the status quo. I realize now that she was lost to me decades before this and for years I had chosen denial rather than face painful truth.

    6. Violet, I remember now reading about this from you last year, your daughter moving in with your Narc ex. Jesus, I'd forgotten all about that. My god, no wonder you were in denial. And to have a child who let's your pathological mother manipulate her must have hurt beyond belief. She must have NO relationship with her brothers, given her attitude toward "sharing." Some people are just born with something missing from their brain. It's a choice too, to be a malignant narcissist, I'll always believe this--but I think something has to be wrong with the wiring, too. I know you feel similarly. And you, being as smart as you are, must have struggled mightily through every cognitive process imaginable trying to make any other conclusion than that your daughter was like your mother. The mental contortions are incredible. The word "denial" cannot do them justice. We spend years using all our intelligence to make "sense" out of behavior that finally boils down to pathological narcissism and selfishness. What do your sons think about this?

    7. I remember reading the 46 memories last year. I'm going back now to re-read and catch up. This was maybe before I started my own blog, but your posts really resonated hugely with me before I worked up the guts to start my own blog. I'm going to go back through your archive to read over the coming weeks. love CS

    8. Reply Pt 1
      My youngest son had a lot of problems from infancy. He spent a good part of his first year in the hospital with something the doctors called "malabsorption." Eventually he was put on a special formula (one week's worth cost more than a week's worth of groceries for the whole family!) which he was on until he was almost 3, when he could finally tolerate milk (he could not even tolerate breast milk in infancy). At 3 he was showing some disturbing behaviour patterns and by the time he was ready to enter public school (after having been expelled from several nursery and private schools), I took him to a specialist who diagnosed him with 7 separate learning disablities ranging from mild to severe. At this time I was married to my NHusband who provided my son's male role model (BIG mistake, that). Over the years we tried everything from private residential schools to special education in the local public schools to group homes for boys like him. He had an aggregate IQ of over 140, but he was so incredibly manipulative that he actually had a bunch of special ed teachers and even psychologists convinced he could not learn to write in cursive (he learned from me over a single weekend) and in the fifth grade he bamboozled them into believing he could not remember how to do any math past second grade, just so he could coast through class and not have to put forth any effort to learn. But he literally did not get the social cues and was genuinely puzzled and hurt when a kid would refuse to play with him ten minutes after he had hit the kid and taken his toy. I remember telling the therapist (who had characterized me as a "non-nurturing mother," which made me go home a cry for days) that I would think he was autistic, except that he was verbal and had a high IQ--but his grasp of human interaction reminded me of autism. That therapist, who was supposed to be a specialist with these kids, said to me "well, he IS verbal and he DOES have a high IQ, so that isn't the problem, is it?" I marvel that "Aspergers" never popped into her mind...but she was so fixated on me as the problem she never looked any further.

      This boy grew up to be an N. He could not get along with anyone at school and was eventually put in a "home study" program. When he finally finished high school, a few months after his 18th birthday, I gave him the following options: 1) go to college full time: I will pay tuition and give you room and board but you have to get a part time job and pay for your personal items and your books; 2) get a job and pay me room and board at the rates shown in ads in the paper; 3) move out. He was outraged. I said "what did you expect, that you would just live here eating anything you can lay your hands on and play video games all day and night?" And with a straight face he answered "Yes!" I wouldn't back down, so he moved out---BUT he told everybody, including my daughter, that I threw him night, in the cold, (summer in California) with no money and no place to go... I am sure you are not surprised to hear that she believed him over me...and with her in his corner, he never spoke to me again.

      My oldest son had spinal meningitis when he was 5 months old and suffered some brain damage from it, primarily in his impulse control abilities. Then, at age 21, he was mugged in a parking lot and left for dead. He was in a coma for 3 months and emerged with serious brain damage. Again, his intellect was not affected, but now he speaks with no inflection, has a serious tremor in his right arm and drags his right leg. He is on SSDI.

    9. Reply Pt 2
      My daughter, when she inherited, lied to her brothers. She told them that Grammi had left the money to all of them, but she was to administer it. She controls them both by giving them dribs and drabs of money when they need it and ask her for it. About a year after my NM died, my oldest son needed a new car. When he went to his sister for some of "his" money to buy himself a second-hand sport truck, she refuse to give it to him. When he asked why, she said she spent it all--she had bought herself a 5 bedroom McMansion (three people in her family) and a Lexus. When he came to me to complain, I finally told him the truth about his grandmother's will. Then, I (who was widowed and working as a secretary and had very little money in the bank) gave him $10,000 to buy his truck. The next week I got a check from my daughter for $10,000...can't have old Mom show her up, right?

      Now she still dribbles money to the younger son (according the the older one) but she seized control of the older one's SSDI...he was in court to have it reinstated after he had to quit working and she offered to drive him to court. Then she came in to sit with him in court. When the hearing was going on, she stood up and told the judge her brother can't manage his money and he needs someone to take care of it for son struggles to speak and is not very good and thinking up retorts off the top of his head, so he couldn't really now she controls his SSDI.

      Interesting that you say "We spend years using all our intelligence to make "sense" out of behavior that finally boils down to pathological narcissism and selfishness" because, for my entire life, things have needed to "make sense" to me. My NM never made sense to me, my ex-husband never made sense to me, and my daughter made no sense to me from her teens onward...and my youngest son NEVER made sense to me--between his what I now can see is Aspergers and having a malignant narcissist as his same-sex role model, he was always a puzzle. I could not even anticipate his behaviour until I discovered that people with Aspergers are just as prone to personality disorders as the rest of us. (I kept thinking "He CAN'T be a narcissist...he has an autism spectrum disorder!" until I realized, like comorbidity in Cluster B disorders, a person can have both.)

      Small wonder I prefer my little Yorkies...they are all goofy but in a good way and not a one of them listens to lies before they make up their mind about a person...

    10. Violet, you truly have the family from hell. I too would have thought that having Aspergers would rule out NPD; interesting that they can co-present. Your daughter is a baroque piece of work. Your youngest son is astonishing. That you gave him $10K after his behavior toward you says alot about you, frankly. You do not and never did "abandon" your kids--they abandoned you. Of course you prefer your dogs. Who wouldn't, with kids like yours? Your second son, the mugging, that's just atrocious. YOu have a family full of traumatic emotional and medical hardship, and then, to boot, a daughter who CHOSE to become what she is. It's a tribute to your intelligence and spirit that you came to understand it, and to remain intact with your own personality. I wonder if your kids inherited sociopathy from your ex-N? what a nightmare. You are well away from all of them, as you now know. But I can only imagine the years of emotional anguish this has caused you. love CS

    11. Reply Pt1
      Actually I gave the 10K to my older son, the disabled one...and after telling him she didn't have the money because she had spent it all on her new house and Lexus, as soon as I give him the money, she suddenly finds 10K to pay me back so that SHE was the one who paid for his truck, not me. She controls him that way...first she lied and told him their grandmother left the money to all three of them but she had control of it and as long as they were asking for dribbles...enough for new sparkplugs or a bag of groceries, she could play Lady Bountiful to their supplications. But when one asked for a big piece of money, no deal. I tried to broker it with her so that she paid for the truck but she wasn't having any part of it. I told her I couldn't afford it--I didn't six-figures in the bank like she did and I suspect she thought it would end right there: I couldn't afford it and she told her brother "no" so that would be the end of it. I guess she didn't expect me to tell him the truth about Grammi's will and she surely didn't expect me to pony up the money...but once I did, she couldn't leave her brother's gratitude in my hands, now could she? Sorry that I was was unclear on who got the money (and the truck).

      There's nothing biological between the N-ex and my kids...he's the stepfather...and the one my ND shacked up with while I was in the process of divorcing him. But they are direct descendants of NM.

      Asperger's, which is now officially called HFA (High Functioning Autism) is no more understood than what most people think of as autism. But HAFs are intelligent, often have very high IQs, and are as capable of manipulation, projection, and other narcissistic traits as "normal" people. One neurological disorder does not necessarily preclude another. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a "symptom" is the HAF or if the person is manipulating you, but if you know the person well and are attentive and analytical, you can usually tell. My son suffered that awful entitlement we see in Ns...and he was outraged that I would not give him that to which he believed himself to be entitled. Interestingly, his sister supported his belief in his entitlement but do you think SHE was willing to feed him and give him a place to live while he lolled around and played video games all day and messed up the house? Not a chance! So, I was a bad guy because I wouldn't allow him to leech off of me, I expected him to either go to school or get a job, but she was not a bad guy when she wouldn't support him and his chosen lifestyle. Why? Because that is my job as his mother! Sorry, but I see my job is to prepare him to be independent and self-sufficient and after high school, the next step is college or a job, not holed up with the computer and a box of donuts and a pizza while your mother supports you!

    12. Reply Pt2
      I was blessed with a great therapist. Long after I ended therapy I retained the tools to deal with this kind of nonsense and to see clearly where I was at fault and where I was being manipulated. My youngest son is (or at least was...I don't know what he is like now) a miserably sullen, entitled, manipulative man--much like his stepfather, but actually willing to put himself in harms way in an attempt to force others to give him what he wants. Rather like the little kid who threatens to harm himself because then YOU will be least in his mind. When he was 10 and the older boy 17, we went to Hawaii. Every morning I would give the older boy $10 after breakfast and warn him to be back at the hotel by 6 for dinner, then let him go his own way (he had the option of coming with us, but hey--what 17 year old wants to hang with parents, especially in Hawaii?). After a couple of days of this, the younger one got mad and demanded his $10 and to be turned loose in Honolulu. He refused to accept that this was inappropriate and on one occasion, threatened to throw himself off an 18th floor balcony if we wouldn't give in. I told him I would send him back to the mainland and have his therapist pick him up from the plane if he didn't knock it off and behave...and he did. On another occasion, when he was in a group home, he opened the van door he was riding in and tried to get out of the van--while it was moving!--because they director of the group home wouldn't take them all to see the movie HE wanted to see. His expectation on both occasions was either he would get what he wanted or he would set it up so that NOBODY go what they wanted. Yes--10 years old (and he was 13 in the van incident). He set fires, tried to poison my cat (and then to suffocate her by putting powder up her nostrils), tried to choke his dog to death when I told him he had to clean up the poop in the yard (dead dogs don't poop)...this was a WHOLE lot more than HFA!

      I moved to South Africa 10 years ago with a new husband and made a new life...the old one was killing me! And after nearly 10 years of relatively no trauma, no job, and the time and freedom to decompress, I actually feel like I have started to be the person I always was inside, the person in hiding from all of the continual trauma and demands and stress and crazy relatives. It's a good place to be.

    13. A genuine saga. Thanks for clearing up my misreading. You are so lucky (finally some good karma) to find a good man to marry, and a place to live where you could breathe and start agin. When you wrote about being on safari I thought you'd traveled out there; for some reason I forgot that you lived in South Africa. Are you in or near Johannesburg, or elsewhere? Your youngest son's behavior was incredible. Pathologically sick.

    14. I live in Sandton, a Johannesburg suburb...when I first came to South Africa, I lived in Cape Town, which is an incredibly beautiful and laid-back city. Joburg is big and sprawling, like LA, and is full of self-important, impatient, mannerless types. I was peacefully, serenely happy in Cape Town and would love to go back.

      But guess what? I'd rather be in Joburg than in the US at this time...the anti-woman bias of the politics there just makes my sick to my stomach. Gender equality is written into South Africa's constitution and we have free equality courts for anyone who believes s/he has been discriminated against for any reason. Abortion is legal and if there are protests at the facilities that perform them, the media does not report them. Same-sex marriage has been legal here for years and I haven't heard of any objections, religious or otherwise. When homeless people make an encampment and put up shacks and shelters, the government come in and puts in chemical toilets and arranges for potable water to prevent disease--it doesn't bulldoze the camps and destroy what few possessions these people have, like I actually saw in California.

      For these reasons...not to mention my mostly awful family...I'd rather be here than in the US.

      I agree with you about my youngest son: he had held a grudge against me (nutured by his sister) since 1991 because I told him to sign up at the local junior college, get a job, or move out. He has not spoken to me more than three times in all those years. This is the kid I spent 18 years going to doctors and specialists, psychologists and special education meetings, one-on-one teaching him to supplement the schools and because I won't let him spend his adult life as a mooch, he won't speak to me. My daughter, when my father, stepmother, my first husband, and I ALL told her the truth about her origins and what my NM did, refused to believe us and chose to believe my NM and GBro, her flying monkey, instead. When NM's two brothers figured the truth and defected to my side and told my daughter how NM had hornswoggled them, she refused to believe them. I had actual proof--a huge envelope full of cards and letter sent to them in care of my grandmother during the 8 years they were gone, which were returned to me by NM--and she insisted in believing that I had abandoned her and her brother. Her reward for that was half of NM's estate that she lied to her brothers about to make NM look like she was rejecting me and embracing all three of them.

      The stuff I write about on this blog I learned the hard, hard, hard way. I take my own experiences and research them to learn more about what was behind the stuff done to me...then I write it up for others, so they at least have a chance to see what is really going on with their FOO and don't have to put up with decades of the kind of dysfunctional ba loneyI have had to endure. Somehow it feels incomplete to not put it out on the web for others to share...and it is amazing how much I get back from the insights, new reasons to be grateful for my life as it is, new reasons to keep thinking and researching and writing. My history is full of pot holes and precipitous cliffs, but my present is a blessing.

    15. It's funny you mention the anti-woman bias in the US. I almost asked what things were like for women in SA, but then I thought, which women, white or black? And then it got too complicated. I did not know that SA had anti-discrimination gender laws written into its constitution. I'd always thought of it as a mix of old colonial, new modern, racially tense but in transition. I was in grad school when the anti-apartheid rallies and "shanties" were being done on campus. Cape town, from photos I've seen, is breathtakingly beautiful, as is so much of Africa. It's such a magnificent and tragic place, so much life and death. It's very interesting to me that you've found life there more 'comfortable' culturally (aside from your FOO and kid traumas); I often wonder what it would be like to live outside of the US, permanently. If I had a husband who worked in another country, I'd probably gladly relocate, as long as I could find teaching.

    16. Violet, I find myself identifying totally with your outrage, having the proof and still, STILL, they accept the lie. There's a weird sick group psych that takes over in these situations. It's crazy pathological, and worth writing about I think as a "group" pathology. It's not the same as standard dysfunctionality--I think the logic of the scapegoat/sacrifice takes over.

      Your son, well, insisting he either go to college (which you'd pay for) or get a job was your DUTY as his loving parent. How could he never ever realize that?

    17. I lived in the US for more than 50 years and all I knew about South Africa and her politics came from the news. This skewed reality for two reasons: until the "new" South Africa in 1994, all information into and out of the country was vetted by the government, which was a macrocosm of narcissism. After that, news of South Africa was selective...selected by an American press that prefers sensationalism over factual reporting.

      We have, for example, more than just blacks and whites here. "Coloured" people, for example, are people of mixed racial heritage, usually with some black in the mix. Durban, on South Africa's southeastern coast, is the world's largest settlement of ethnic Indians outside of India...over a million people of Indian heritage (complete with the customs and much of the beliefs of India) live there. My husband is Indian and from Durban. The Indian people were oppressed in the same way the blacks and coloureds were during the apartheid. As an American and a liberal, my heart hurt for the non-white South African when I was in America...after living here for a decade, I have learned it was not as simple as I thought it was.

      You see, the white population lived under draconian proscriptions as well...yes, they were given priviledge over the people of colour, but they were by no means free. TV didn't come into the country until which time the government has acquired the technology to censor incoming signals. White people were restricted geographically as the where they could travel and live. If they spoke out against the government, they were subject to the same police brutality that was meted out to everyone else. It was, in fact, a police state and everyone who lived here suffered...some much more than others, to be sure, but suffered none the less. None of these things were known to most people outside of South Africa. It has created a legacy of entitlement in the whites here that is laughable to people from other Western societies...the local whites here are outraged that the police will not/cannot guarantee them 100% 24/7 safety, for example (in the police state, that was pretty much the case); when a black candidate for a job--who is just as qualified as a white candidate--is hired, white people mutter "unfair!" as if hiring fairness would mean hiring the white guy. White South Africans emigrate to Canada, the UK and Australia in droves, expecting "fair" and complete safety there, and many of them come back after a few years, their attitudes adjusted by the reality of life in a true free state.

      South Africa is much less regulated than the US, England, or Aus. It is possible to start with virtually nothing and grow a big, lucrative business--or, more commonly, a small business that supports you and your family. Many of my friends have just such a means of support. In the US, my late husband owned a printing business, a small one. The local, state, and federal government nickel and dimed him to death with fees, licenses, inspections, taxes and a host of other things that took a huge bite out of his gross profits. Here, my husband has a small company (it owns our rental property) and he paid R500 ($50) for the incorporation 15 years ago and has paid no fees since. He pays income tax on his profits. That is ALL. My maid, an intelligent but poorly educated woman, is not obliged to even file a tax return because she doesn't earn enough to require it...but she earns enough to support 4 kids and her mother and even build onto her mother's house last year. This is a place you have to see, where you have to be here long enough to meet the locals, watch news of the world that is not biased and slanted by huge corporations more interested in profits than truth, just immerse yourself in its unique culture, to really understand. The best news of all is that it has been almost 20 years since the hand-off the Mandela, and we have a whole new generation of young adults who don't even understand apartheid.

    18. As far as my "outrage" is concerned--yah, that is what I have felt for a long time about that. I not only had that bag of cards and letters that NM sent back to me, after NM's perfidy was out in the open and the kids were back with me, I asked their social worker to look into the original case because I could not believe what had happened was even legal. After a few months she came back to me and said if my mother had pulled her tricks now (1979-80) she would probably have been arrested but we had fallen through the cracks, legally, when she ran off with kids, got a guardianship by lying to a judge in another state, then took my kids to a third state where she gave them up for adoption to her brother...who believed her pernicious lies about me (according to her I was a drug-addicted prostitute and for some bizarre reason, NOBODY bothered to check it out or contact me!) To make what she did palatable to her "upright" brother, she told him (and he and his wife told the kids) that I had abandoned them. Two years later, when my daughter was sick with pneumonia and wanted me, my aunt (an N like my NM, BTW) told her I was dead!!

      My daughter KNOWS the truth. My NM got a restraining order against both of her parents so they would not tell me what was going on. Every letter I wrote to my grandmother, Nana forwarded to my aunt and uncle. In every letter I asked about my kids (still thinking they were with my NM), did she know where they were, where NM was? Apparently my aunt kept these letters as my daughter told me, when she was 15, that she found them. That is how she knew I lived in the same city in California as she did for YEARS, without knowing they were there (my uncle got transferred to my city); it's how she knew she had a new baby brother, that I bought a house, where I worked...and all this time I thought she was out in the Nevada or Arizona desert with my NM!

      But she conveniently forgot this and even bought into some really outrageous lies later on. Her biological father was my high school sweetheart. When I was 6 months pregnant I married a man whom I had know for 2 months...he was sterile due to a genital malformation and said he was happy to have my kid as his kid. My NM, however, told my daughter that HE was her father and if I denied that, I was a liar. He and I had been divorced since daughter was an infant and I am sure NM figured I wouldn't bring him into the picture. Well, I did. My father and stepmother, who planned and paid for my wedding and knew to the day when I met this man, told my daughter he was not her father...HE told her he was not her father. But Grammi said he was and daughter chose to believe Grammi: "why would a mother say such things about her own daughter if they weren't true?" ND asks. My question is why would she be so willing to believe such awful things said about her own mother?

    19. Good God. I don't even know what to say about your daughter and your mother's behavior, and the rest of that pack. It's beyond crazy. And it cannot have been legal, as you said. Good riddance, good riddance.

      Thank you for all that background and information about the real situation in SA. You're right, of course, US media filters everything, and as usual, we only hear about race in terms of black and white. I knew there were many east indian and other cultures there as well as Asian; but I didn't realize that whites also lived under police law. The Afrikaaners always seemed so incredibly entitled, as you point out; it's always seemed beyond evil to me that small minorities control huge numbers of indigenous peoples. It's fascinating to know someone like you who lives there, because all we ever hear about in the US is the atrocious crime. As if the US didn't have more gun murders per capita than any other first world country....

    20. The US also has a higher per-capita rate of rape and incarceration than South Africa...and guns laws here are even have to have a permit to buy ammunition.

      This place is not perfect, by any means. We have crime and corruption just like any other place, but we have a humane government and a society that believes it is the place of the government to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. We have free clinics and hospitals all over the country (not as good as private ones, but better than dying from something treatable because you are poor), the government has been building small houses for the disadvantaged for 20 years, and everybody gets a subsistence amount of electricity and water for free. Poor mothers get a child support grant, regardless of other income, poor elderly also get a cash grant. Nobody complains about a poor mother living on government money, nobody calls government supported elderly "moochers." It is not perfect, but it is as free a society as I have ever heard of and we have a liberal dose of socialism at work here...not enough to discourage people from working but sufficient to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

      We don't demonize people because of their politics unless they are unreconstructed racists from the apartheid era. But you can be a Communist and nobody denies you work or taps your phone or shuns you, nor are you and your party reviled from the pulpit to the presidency. Your body is your business, as is who you marry, and if you are from a culture that embraces polygamy, you can even have more than one wife (President Zuma has four).

      Living here, by and large, is a relief...I would be afraid to be a women of childbearing age in America right now.

      With respect to my "family," the thing that continues to puzzle me is why nobody could see how outrageous my NM's claims were and, most critically, why NOBODY--and I mean absolutely NOBODY--ever asked for my side of the issue. Not one person called me or wrote me or stopped by to say "this is what your mother is saying about it true?" Perhaps the most painful part of the whole thing, something that continues to hurt me to this day, more than 40 years later, is that nobody ever asked ME. And when a social worker came to investigate my home when my NM started her shit and he wrote a letter in my favour, the judge refused to allow it to be entered into evidence!! He wouldn't even let my lawyer speak and refused a continuance so that I could have time to refute NM's allegations. And I was too poor to press beyond that.

      She was given a 1 year guardianship and I was given visitation. And the day I showed up for my first visit, I found the house empty and a For Sale sign in the front yard. And I didn't see me kids again for 8 years...and nobody would tell me anything. In fact, one family member actually told me to "forget about it and start over"!! I can erase my children like chalk on a blackboard.

    21. This last two paragraphs are just heartbreaking. You were victimized, and everyone joined in. Of course it continues to hurt, and it must have seriously damaged your willingness or ability to trust. It would have destroyed mine. It's a tribute to your strength that you forged on with your life, a new(isn) marriage, a new culture. It's inspiring. And what you write about SA, I had no idea. It actually sounds much better than it is here, a country that becomes more divided, partisan, and frankly, stupid by the year. The blue collar Repubs keep voting in people who actively work against their interests. The Bible-thumpers, the right wingers, the super wealthy, all acting together, even though it only benefits a very few. Nothing has changed for the better. Nothing. When Obama was bullied out of even considering a national health care system, we went back to doing what we've been doing: making the insurance company executives wealthy beyond measure, while people drop like flies into bankruptcy over medical costs. Sickening.

    22. There was a period of time in there that I just shut down emotionally. I became cold and hard. I became an outlaw biker's ol' lady (not a mama--totally different thing) and I quite honestly did not care if I lived or died...but nobody got in my face without risking my fist in theirs--literally.

      It was falling pregnant with my third child that shook me out of it. I didn't want him/her to grow up on the wrong side of the law, so I went straight. I went to secretarial college to get respectable job, I married a guy with a decent job, we bought a house, he turned out to be a malignant narcissist. The saga continued...

      It was not until I went into therapy that I began putting it all together, figuring things out. My therapist had to draw the parallel between my NM and my then-husband, I was so stuck in denial (and sure I was causing all the problems between us, but I just couldn't figure out how I was doing it) that I couldn't see it myself. Therapy with a compassionate, clued-in therapist is the most wonderful thing in the world people like us can experience. For the first time in my life, the confusion stopped swirling and the pieces of my life began to fall into place. I was able to face just exactly how evil my NM was and accept that even I was taken in by her to a certain extent (even though I had known since childhood that she was not a normal mother). I learned a lot of good coping and analytical skills in my five years in therapy, skills I use even now, more than 20 years after my last therapy appointment.

      More than anything, it took away my fear. Today I asked my husband why he didn't do something (query for information) and he reacted with hostility, like I was criticizing him (we are under a lot of stress from a court case against some deadbeat tenants). The old me would have reacted one of two ways: 1) return the hostility and get embroiled in a fight or 2) be afraid to speak up in the face his hostility and feel picked on and victimized. But there is a third choice, one I once did not even know I had: when he got home from work I said to him "I need to say something to you so that we are clear on things and we can work together on this problem, not against each other. When I ask if you did something, I am not criticising you, I am asking for information because I don't know; if I ask why you didn't do something, it is not a criticism, it is because I don't know and I want to know what your reasoning was. If you already told me and I ask again, either I forgot or I am confirming. When I am criticising you, I will make it clear that is what I am doing, so please, don't read that into simple queries from me." He just leaned back in his chair and nodded and I could see the tension drain out of him.

      It's all about choices...

    23. I know you mean well Sweet Violet, but I am way beyond working now. I had a career path in mind if my health had recovered though and tried to make plans. My lungs and heart are both affected and I am housebound a lot. Even sitting up too long is adverse to my health. In the US one can do some side work if disabled, I've sold ebay before though that has massively slowed down. I have hoped for better health but that has been slow in coming even with physical therapy and seeking more help.

      I am in the socioeconomic class too where stock portfolios simply do not exist as part of my reality. Sorry yours lost value but I have struggled just above the streets for most of my life. Please don't judge me and tell me I haven't done enough. I certainly heard that from the family. Too many tell you that being positive, will conquer everything and it won't. I was told I would die soon in the late 90s and even in 2008. I am glad you can do many things and conquered your problems but if I had just pain to deal with, and I am not saying yours wasn't serious, I may have been able to press on. I am not "choosing" to believe it keeps me from working, it does. I have to admit that really bothered me because disabled people in America are in for it. I was college educated and working on a second degree before I got ill. Not every problem is doable. I can't even go outside now, does it mean I am lazy? No I would end up in the hospital my lungs are in such bad shape. I know you meant well but be careful with that stuff, some disabilities I agree people can work around but multi-faceted systemic stuff, no. I ended up almost dead in the hospital from trying to "push" things years ago for a volunteer gig.

      With the Ns you are right that you can depend on them. You really can't. Even if they are nice one day and help you it can be withdrawn at any time.

    24. I am sorry I was not clear enough in my response above that you were led to misinterpret what I meant. Until I married my present husband 10 years ago, I was also in the socio-economic class for which stock portfolios were not part of the picture.

      We couldn't even afford to buy life insurance and when my husband died at the age of 54, he had none. He inherited his stock portfolio from his auntie, but we lived on our earnings--that money was for our old age. Then he died and 9/11 happened shortly after, wiping out the value of the portfolio and leaving me with nothing except my wages as a income instead of two. Despite my back, I continued to work because I had no other options: I inherited a house that I couldn't sell because it needed $100,000 worth of work (money I did not have and could not get) plus there was no market for houses post 9/11. You are not the only person who has suffered with painful disability and a lack of funds--each of our stories are different but there are many of us who have shared the struggle with you. In my case, I was fortunate enough to fall in love with and marry a man who has the economic means to take care of me, and I was doubly fortunate to marry him before my disability became too profound to prevent me from working as a secretary. Shortly after we married my back deteriorated to the point that I would have been unable to work regardless of the necessity, and I would have had to think of some other way to survive.

      But there are always choices. I went to university with a man who had polio as an infant. He was a quadraplegic and no bigger than a 5 year old. He was in a reclining wheel chair that he could control with his chin, and had a portable respirator hooked up to his throat. (When I was a kid, this guy would have been in an iron lung.) And yet he managed to keep an A average in his classes and was looking forward to a job and a career. His choice was to not allow his limitations to define him...they simply narrowed his field of choices but did not eliminate everything save dependence and concommitant despondence.

      If my classmate, who was literally paralyzed from the neck down and unable to breathe without assistance, could see career and lifestyle choices ahead of him and was attending university to prepare for one of those choices, don't you think you have at least as many choices as he did?

      We get stuck in our way of thinking...we all do it...and too often we accept the limitations that others impose upon us to the point where we believe ourselves helpless against them. And this is where choice comes in: we can choose to accept those limitations or to think beyond them.

      You have, of course, the right to any choice you wish to make regarding yourself and your life. I am merely saying that there are more choices open to you than those you currently acknowledge and the life you have today is the result of choices you have made and continue making. If you want your life to be different, you have the power of choice to make it making some new and different choices. We all do.

  6. Violet,

    I want to thank you for your writing. I have been NC for 6 months now, and it has been “the most peaceful six months of my life!” I turned 40 last year, and decided enough! NM is 68 and getting worse, and her mother lived to 99. No way I can endure this for another 30 years! I made the choice after a particularly cruel Xmas where I was the only one in the family not notified that all were at GC brother's house 15 miles away celebrating, and when I called her I got called "Liar!" when I asked her if she got the plant I had sent over a few days earlier.

    I didn't know she was a NM when I went NC, but I researched, and found several sites that confirmed it for me. She is also a Licenced Therapist and has been for 28 years. Reading your 46 memories, I was horrified to hear her words in my head verbatim from your NM.

    It is a choice I can't believe it took me this long to make, but I'm so proud of myself for making it today.

    Thank You!

    1. Amy, I am proud of you, too...what you did is not easy and there will likely be repercussions from other family members when they figure out that YOU are not speaking to NM, not the other way around, because every choice you make has a consequence. Your previous choices gave you the consequence of being the victim of someone cruelly have now made a new choice to no longer be that person's victim and that is a strong, self-protective, wonderful thing!

      Some people think that because their NParent works in the mental health field, they can't be Ns themselves, but you--and I--know better. I know of at least two people whose NParents are licensed psychiatrists and many more whose NParents are psychologists and therapists. I suspect these people get Nsupply from their jobs but they remind me of the Biblical admonition "How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:4 ). I am sorry you had to hear the same destructive messages I heard from my NM from the person who should have loved you most in the world. I am glad, however, that you realized you had other choices and had the courage to chose to step away from her abuse. I hope your last peaceful six months herald a whole new life of peace, quiet, and self-nurturance.

      Hugs to you,


    2. Amy, my mother is a malignant narc and she writes self-help books about relationships. This is a particularly crazy making situation, when NP's or N spouses are in the "helping" professons. It takes much longer for us to realize that they can still be entirely pernicious to their children or family. In fact, often they "hide" behind professional (or religious) uprightness. It's a perfect cover for a narc, to be a therapist. congrats for figuring out a decade earlier what I wish I had. CS

    3. Violet, Calibans Sister,

      Thank you both for your touching words. I have been reading both of your sites for a few months now, but this is the first I've spoken "Out Loud" about who my parents really are. I have started this response a few times, but I'm having a hard time not shutting up and writing a novel, so here goes a bit of an intro for me.

      My Father is so far out there Narc that you know it after 5 minutes. They divorced when I was 2, and still really hate each other. Mother is much more high functioning and subtle in front of others, so she's got the covert plausable deniability factor going for her. Which from knowing Dad, was hard to put them both in the same bucket. On these ACON sites though, they really are just two sides of the NP coin.

      The fact that they both, along with en/possible N Step Mom (Hates SisterIL with a vengence with no probable cause) had Xmas at GC Bro's house without even telling me that Dad & Step were in the state just put me over the edge. At first I was amazed Step could handle being under the same roof as SIL, but when NM got to crowing about what a beautiful time was had by all, I couldn't take it anymore, and all the 40 years of pain came to the surface. Dibilitating. Non-functioning at both work and home through most of the first few months. I've been a top performer at work always, so I got a bit of slack from those around me, and managed to keep my job without reprecussions these last few months. Husband has similar parents, although MIL has passed on now, so he was helping me with how he worked through NC and detachment, but I kept thinking "I know Dad, but Mom's a Therapist, and should know better." Seeing who they are through other ACON blogs finally got through to me that it's not me, it's them! No matter what I've done in my life, 3 college degrees, married, self sufficient, it will never be enough to be considered a "good" person by either of them.

      VLC with Father and Step Mom 5 years ago after I told them that I had a right to vote for myself, but they at least told me previously when they would be in town visiting grandson. I've learned from Sister in Law and niece that I was disinherited back in '08 after the elections. He's always been very ultra conservative although athiest.

      Mother is 180 degree ultra liberal lesbian and also liberal Christian when it serves her purpose, although her moral standards for me and my nieces are 1950's puritan whore/madonna type that we are unclean if we let a man touch us. (Although I'm married 18 years to my high school sweetheart, I still get the WHORE as well since we didn't have children.)

      I think they are both nuts, but each one has used the "You are just like your (other parent)!" - meaning "Worst person on the planet" if I had ever expressed my own opinion that differed in any way from either of theirs.

      It amazes me the words that n parents use that are so totally routine to me, (and other ACONS apparently from the blogs/sites I read now) horrify those people with "nice" parents.

      Both of your blogs, Brave New Kitty, and Out of the FOG are on my bookmarks that I check when I've got downtime at work. You women have been a life preserver to me the last few months. Once again, a very heartfelt Thank You!


  7. Hi, Fascinated by this material having just left my npartner of 20 years and finally understood that my experiences as a domn kept me in this and previous abusive relationship. I read Danu Morrigan's book am ploughing through Karyl McBride's and have Nina W Brown's at my bedside! I have been hugely fortunate to reconnect with my first and truest love after 30 years, to find that she too experienced nabuse from her mother and subsequently from partners. My partner is well into the recovery process and I have moved across the UK with my 10 year old daughter to be with her and start my own journey into recovery. I am hurting a lot at the moment - doing what Karyl McBride calls "step 2" s agonising and a real challenge for our relationship as I battle with learned helplessness and resistance. Anyway, could someone just clarify for me what FOO is? Oh and how the bleep I bookmark your site on Windows 8 as I'm not feeling u to battling the "technophobe" construct my darling NM endowed upon me just now. Thanks for being there as inspiration. My partner and I intend to recover even tho I'm battling resistance and fear and grief as I type and we hope to provide some support to donms in our local area one day.

    1. Sorry, but I know nothing of Windows 8 so I can't help you. Maybe you can Google it?

      FOO means "family of origin." It is those people to whom you are related by birth (or adoption, as the case may be). Immediate family like parents and siblings, as well as extended family like grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

      The realization that signicant members of our FOO are narcissists can feel like a death. You could Google "5 stages of grief" for information on it...don't be surprised if you find your own feelings are mirrored by what you read.

      I wouldn't give two cents for anything Danu Morrigan (Tracy Culleton in disguise) has to see because I believe she is a dreadful N herself who exploits hurting and vulnerable women for her own financial gain. Dr. McBride is a good source, though, and you might find some insights in Dr. Susan Forward's book "Toxic Parents."

      You are embarking upon a difficult and painful path just now but take me word for it, if you stick it out, it will be truly worth it in the end.

      Best of luck to you,




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