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, September 4, 2013

Coming back from adversity

In a recent entry I asked you all to tell me what you wanted me to write about. I got some excellent suggestions and Caliban’s Sister came up with a doozy: “I'll start off by asking you how you achieved some emotional detachment, given your “sandwiched” situation between MNM, and ND. Any thoughts about that are welcome. Your posts are always so insightful anyway, but I think your resilience probably intrigues me most.”

It may not look like it at first, but emotional detachment and resilience are actually very close bedfellows: in order to gain resilience, however, you must first have emotional detachment.

First, though, you must understand that there are two kinds of emotional detachment, one harmful, the other helpful. When you are unable to connect to others, when the detachment is beyond your control or command, that is harmful. It keeps you isolated, damages your empathy and compassion, can prevent you from ever having a meaningful emotional relationship with another person. When you choose to disconnect emotionally from certain others, when you control the detachment and refuse to permit others to control or manipulate or otherwise affect your emotions and emotional perception, then you are engaging in a healthy, helpful form of emotional detachment. And once you have mastered the art of detaching from the emotional vampires in your life, resilience is actually the natural outcome.

WikiHOW has an interesting article on how to become emotionally detached. The six steps are outlined below:

1. Take a deep breath. If you are stressed out, your body naturally tenses and sends your thoughts racing. Breathe deep and slow to avoid a lack of oxygen that can add to the problem.

2. Don't think about it. If you are constantly being yelled at or threatened, block out that voice by not thinking about it. Changing our thinking is easier said than done because it requires taking positive action in a negative scenario that if repeated will lead to a change in attitude and behavior (your behavior). Instead of obsessing about the person who is hurting you, count to 100 in your head, count sheep, count the number of things in the room, think of the names of all the United States, anything logical and unemotional that will take your mind off the situation.

3. Take action physically. Go for a walk, a bike ride or any other cardiovascular activity. Aerobic activity is proven to boost endorphins and will help you be in a better position to monitor and change your reactions to emotional predators.

4. Practice crying alone. Crying in front of the one who is harassing you will only provoke them to taunt you more or continue with their harassment. Breathing deeply and thinking of something other than the situation will prevent you from fully processing their mean words and ultimately prevent you from crying. BUT it is not healthy to keep that sadness in. Try your best to wait until the situation has ended and for the antagonist to leave the room before you begin to cry.

5. Write things down. Just as it is unhealthy to keep from crying, it is also unhealthy to keep anger and confusion inside. Write down how you feel in a secret journal or diary.

6. Keep up the habit. Eventually, your mind will learn to store things away and you'll go into thinking of logical and unemotional things naturally when being harassed.

While I agree with all of the six points, I think numbers 2, 5 and 6 are the most important…and in that order. We sabotage ourselves when we refuse to let go of the hurtful things people say or do to us, when we dwell on them, when we pick ourselves apart trying to figure out what we did or said to “deserve it.” It is critical that you learn to simply acknowledge that the other person did something hurtful or wrong (which absolves you) and then put it aside. Refuse to think about it. Force yourself to think of something else.

It isn’t easy…but what have you ever achieved in life that was really worthwhile that was easy? I spent five brutal years in therapy to get the NMonkey off my back and not a day of it was easy: but I knuckled under and I did it…and I came out a better, happier, more whole person as a result. It was worth the work, the effort, the picking myself up from failures and stepping back up to the plate…and putting in the effort to train your mind not to dwell on the hurts people try to inflict on you will be worth it to you in the long run just like, 20+ years post-therapy, those five years were very worth it to me.

I have already gone on record with my opinion of journaling. One of the ways you can help put things out of your mind is to purge them by writing them down. Repeatedly, if necessary. Write. Rage. Cry. Express your fury and your hurt as if your tormenter were bound and gagged in front of you and had to listen. Use language you might ordinarily not ever use, if it feels right. Purge yourself of the poison their words and deeds have created in you and purge it as often as needed.

I have heard it said that it takes eight weeks to establish a new habit…eight weeks to root out an old one and put a new one in its place. So commit to eight weeks of refusing to dwell on your hurts and purging the poison: work at it, practice it. When you fail and find yourself picking at your psychic wounds, stop yourself, use one of your distracting behaviours, and resume practicing. By the time those eight weeks are up, it will be feeling familiar…keep it up. When you find your mind wandering back to pick at the scabs of your old emotional wounds, practice your distracting techniques again, don’t let yourself do it because if you do, you will be the one inflicting pain on yourself, not your abuser…you will be acting like her flying monkey, abusing yourself. Practice your detachment, learn to let the pain go, take the next step into resilience.

This is not the same as denial. Once you have mastered detachment and resilience, you will be able to return to those old hurts and injuries without being sucked down into the endless cycle of pain and self-doubt. Once you have that detachment, you can examine, explore, even pick apart the old hurts, see where they came from, what your part really was in them, where the responsibility really rests. To try to do this before you achieve detachment and resilience, however, just invites you deeper into the spiral of despair.

Just what does “resilience” mean?  has this to say: “Resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe…[It] doesn’t mean going through life without experiencing stress and pain. People feel grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions after adversity and loss. The road to resilience lies in working through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events.

“Resilience is also not something that you’re either born with or not. Resilience develops as people grow up and gain better thinking and self-management skills and more knowledge. Resilience also comes from supportive relationships with parents, peers and others, as well as cultural beliefs and traditions that help people cope with the inevitable bumps in life. Resilience is found in a variety of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed across the life span.” Gee, that sounds a lot like the “How to become emotionally detached” covered above, doesn’t it? That’s because when you master that detachment, when you have habituated the behaviour of not worrying those wounds, not automatically assuming you did something to deserve the emotional abuse, not falling into the N’s traps, resilience is what you get.

Key in the PBS definition, to me, is “…working through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events…” and “Resilience is found in a variety of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed across the life span.” This means your behaviours, thoughts and actions…this means what you choose to do with those unpleasant events and painful emotions : you can continue picking yourself apart over them or you can choose to distract yourself from them and refuse to play the N’s game. And this means, as I said a few entries back, that you have choices here, choices that can lead to resilience and choices that can lead to being stuck.

The PBS article cites supportive relationships with parents, peers and others as being instrumental, but in this I must disagree. Like many of us from narcissistic families, I had no support from my parents or even my peers: when I was honest about my mother’s predatory behaviours, even people who believed me were offended that I was disloyal enough to my own mother to reveal the truth about her, even as they agreed that what she had done/was doing was reprehensible. Even when they were clear that I was being victimized, I was still expected to put her first because she was my mother. So, support from family and peers was pretty much non-existent. But I did find immeasurable support in a couple of therapists who were not bound by the cultural taboo of “honour thy mother, even if she is a soul-crushing psychopath.” And that is where my own journey into resilience really began.

Up to that point, I had merely survived. And I didn’t do it well. I bounced from place to place, job to job, man to man, lifestyle to lifestyle. I reacted to life, to what life handed me and, being buffeted by the winds of chance, seldom even made an effort to put my hand on the tiller of my own life. Every time I did, every time I tried, some situation came along and ripped control of my life out of my hands and so I just gave in to it and drifted along with the vagaries of the current. Sometimes I managed to get a step ahead, but I sabotaged myself with behaviour that was not in my best interest, like getting involved with narcissistic, selfish, predatory men. On some level I knew that I was recreating my maternal relationship with these men, attempting to “get it right” this time, but that never happened. If anything, it just made things worse. Between the ages of 17 and 37 I made two suicide attempts and planned a third…the last time with a gun so nobody could rescue me at the last minute as had happened before. I couldn’t bounce back, only sink…and I became so depressed that I probably should have been hospitalized because I was virtually non-functional.

Chief in my despair was feeling helpless. Victimhood was so deeply ingrained in me that other people could see it. I tried to hide it with bombast: a formidable vocabulary paired with an equally formidable temper scared people off, made them wary of crossing me, exploiting me, victimizing me. It worked to some degree, but the really skilled narcissists could get around it by sussing out what I really needed and pretending to give it to me until my guard was down. One of the worst Ns of my life, the one who drove me to buying that gun, was just such a man.

Over the course of the 13 years we were together I came to feel absolutely helpless to change the course of my life, and the life I was living was so unutterably painful I could not see myself going on. I sent my son to spend a few weeks with his sister out-of-state—I could not bear to think of him finding my body or having only my nasty, malignant narcissist of a husband for comfort after my death (this was before I recognized the depths of my daughter’s pathology)—and I set about to kill myself.

I had the gun in a drawer under the bed. I took it out, checked to make sure it was loaded, and took the safety off. The thing about having a gun under the bed, though, was that to retrieve it I had to look down at the floor. And that is what saved me. Because on the floor was a newspaper with an article headline about a new kind of therapy for adults who were abused as children…and I put the gun back in the drawer, slid it closed, and picked up the paper. I must have read that article 25 times or more in the next days…it was Labor Day weekend so the clinic was closed. But I was the first caller when it opened and their very perceptive receptionist recognized I was in crisis and got me in to see a therapist within the hour. It quite literally saved my life.

So what is the resilience part? The part where I learned practical, real-world coping skills. The part where I learned that I had choices that I was not even seeing, the part where I learned to start sorting what really was my responsibility and what was not…and how badly I had that confused and turned around.

Resilience is really about choices…how we choose to view things, what we choose to believe, what we choose to do about it all.

But resilience is almost impossible to achieve without emotional detachment…and emotional detachment is all about belief and choices, too.

Resilience is also about expectations: I expected rescue. From what quarter I didn’t know, but just as I had expected my NexH to rescue me from a rootless, aimless life, on some level I was waiting for someone to rescue me from him. And as the time passed and no rescue came along, I fell into deeper and deeper despair.

As children we are helpless to defend and help ourselves. If we are able to get a reprieve from our dysfunctional parents and upbringing, it has to come from outside: a grandparent or teacher or neighbour or officer of the law. What little we can do…tell the truth, run away, act out…is all too often ignored, discounted, or even punished. We are forced into the passive position of waiting for rescue because we cannot take care of even our most basic needs: no matter how bad it is inside the family, it is almost always worse outside of it. And so passivity and the expectation of rescue is inculcated into us as dependent children and when we grow up it doesn’t change because our dysfunctional parents and families shirked their responsibility to teach us how to think and act like independent adults. Our bodies mature, but inside we remain passive, dependent, unhappy children waiting for rescue. Only now we need to be rescued from ourselves, from the internalized voices of our narcissistic, abusive parents.

What we need is to disrupt this is a healthy dose of reality, something that seldom comes about without some kind of epiphany. My epiphany was in a newspaper headline that opened a door to hope. And the next five years of therapy revealed one epiphany after another, not all of them easily achieved or willingly embraced.

Inertia tends to breed inertia. The longer you believe that somebody else should be fixing your emotional problems (because somebody else created them…why should you have to do all of the dirty work to clean up somebody else’s mess?), the harder it will be for you to accept that, regardless of how it was created, it is yours and only you can fix it. Once you overcome your own inertia and resistance, once you accept that, fair or not, only you can fix the problem, the first step is taken into the world of reality, which is the only place the fix can happen.

As I learned to embrace reality I began to see some of the choices that I had been blind to for so long. Part of embracing reality was to learn to put the brakes on my empathy, to put limits on it. I had to change the idea that I had to fix or rescue everybody else around me and start fixing and rescuing myself. This brought about an unexpected bonus: people who were just using me (but whom I had viewed with empathy and went out of my way to help) suddenly became very aggrieved when I was no longer available for them to exploit. Family, “friends,” and others—the real friends helped me while the not-so-real friends called me “selfish” or simply disappeared in a puff of resentment.

I became empowered with knowledge, truth, reality. With the support my therapists provided, support I had never had before because I had been censured every time I spoke the truth about my mother, I began to embrace the reality of my life—all of my life—and with that, I found even more choices. And somewhere in there, I discovered that the choice to be happy or unhappy was mine to make and the conditions I had put on happiness were so much bullshit. I didn’t need to have so much money or fine things or a perfectly clean house or an enviable job for happiness, I needed only to choose it, regardless of my circumstances.

I learned about growth…that you can be happy while you are growing rather that shunt it aside until—well, until never because the goal post for that kind of happiness is always moving. I learned to stop blaming myself but to take responsibility, a fine distinction but an important one.

One of the things I came to realize is that virtually everything I was believing and basing my hopes and dreams and expectations on was not mine. I was fed these beliefs and hopes and dreams and expectations by my society, my culture, my family…but none of them were my own. Raised in a dysfunctional household where NM came first and my wants and needs weren’t even on the table, I internalized that other people and their needs matter, but I and mine do not. Made responsible for my younger brother’s behaviour and punished when he misbehaved, I saw myself responsible for my husband’s behaviour and frantically debriefed him after work each night, putting the crazy to right so he could spend another day with sane people without doing something that would get him fired. All of the inappropriate expectations and roles dumped on me as a child I had internalized and responded to in my adult life, putting myself last so often and so profoundly that I virtually disappeared into my roles and became a faceless, suicidally depressed nothing. It didn’t help that I had a husband who came right out and stated that a good wife was like an appliance: did her job flawlessly with a minimum need for attention.

I had to relearn from the ground up, to create my own values and beliefs, to check my expectations against reality. I had to learn to be “bad” (under the terms of my upbringing) and learn to put myself on the list of priorities, and to put myself near the top. I had to accept that I was not responsible for other people; I had to learn that if someone didn’t like me or love me, my world was not going to come to an end; I had to learn that not only was I entitled to have my own feelings and likes and dislikes and they were ok, I had to learn that the same applies to other people: it is OK for people to not like me and I don’t have to turn myself inside out or think less of myself as a result. In a nutshell, I had to completely revamp my attitude about “caring,” and, critically, I had to learn how to not care: that was my first step into detachment.

But perhaps the most important thing I learned about was expectations and how we can poison not only others but ourselves with them. I expected my mother, my husband, my daughter to love me. I expected it like I expected the sun to rise in the morning. And when they disappointed that expectation, I beat myself up. But I didn’t beat myself up over having expectations, I beat myself up for somehow being unworthy, reasoning that if I had been worthy, they would have lived up to my expectations. Not healthy at all.

Resilience and emotional detachment came from learning and accepting that other people are separate entities from me and that they have an absolute entitlement to like/dislike/love/not love/agree/disagree independent of me and my feelings or expectations. Their validity of their existences have little or nothing to do with me, just as mine have little or nothing to do with them.

What I really had to do was to learn to not care, to set boundaries on my caring. That is hard, especially when you have been groomed from infancy to not only care, but to care for others more than you care for yourself. I had to learn perspective, where I really fit into the scheme of life, not where I was told to fit. I had to give up my own rescue fantasies, not only of being rescued, but my hero complex where I flew to the rescue of every wounded soul I came across, often crippling them in the process of saving them. With perspective I learned to harden my heart to those whose plights plucked at my heartstrings, to resist the urge to give and give and give until I had nothing left, and then give a little more. I had to learn to say “no,” to stop letting people take advantage of me because I was unwilling to take a chance that they weren’t truly needy. I had to start growing up, taking responsibility for myself and allowing…sometimes making…other people to take care of themselves.

Most importantly, I had to stop making my personal self-esteem rest on the opinions of others. I had to grow up and learn to discern when people were being spiteful and mean-spirited and recognize that they did not speak the truth, that they were intentionally trying to hurt me. This was difficult for me because I am not a person given to engaging in that kind of behaviour, so it was difficult for me to spot: I couldn’t relate to it, so it was hard for me to see it. I’ve never been a very adept liar, so I have a tendency to literalness and bluntness, both of which are rooted in honesty: I had to learn and to accept that other people are not the same way, that their cruel comments weren’t truths, they were barbs intended to wound. And once I knew that, I had to become sufficiently secure in my own positive view of myself that their negative opinions could be dismissed as mean or meaningless. I had to learn to not care about anything but the truth, and to learn to tell the real truth apart from those mean epithets hurled at me by those whom I had once held in high esteem.

That is not always easy and I don’t always succeed, but a defining part of resilience is that you always…always…get back up and get back into the game. You might acknowledge feeling defeated, but you never, ever give in to it. You get back up, you recharge yourself, you pick it back up. Your NM said something mean and it got through your armour and hurt you—choice time: do you wallow in it, pick at the wound, wonder what you did to deserve it, rage silently at her and allow her barb to take over your emotional balance? Or do you acknowledge that the barb got through, she won that round because she hurt you, but she is a narcissist and that is what narcissists do. Try to think of it this way: if a mosquito bit you, would you spend the next two weeks in angst wondering what you did, why the mosquito hated you, and rage inwardly at the beast? Or would you dismiss it as an annoyance, knowing that biting is what mosquitoes do and, in this instance, you were not adequately protected?

As I said before when discussing hoovering, some people use negative ploys to hoover you back into their spheres and those can include spiteful messages designed to cause you self-doubt, insults to hurt you, even indications that you have disappointed their expectations, as if they had a right to those expectations and your compliance in the first place. Reality—truth—honesty—can you ferret them out from the manipulative messages handed to you by people who want to control and use you? I couldn’t—and it ultimately made me suicidal and crazy—until I saw a competent therapist and spent five years on the couch.

In order to have resilience, you must have the emotional detachment that allows you to see past the obvious or superficial and down to the reality, the truth, of those around you. You must learn to believe in yourself so much that the attempts of your Ns and their flying monkeys don’t even dent you. When I came to the point that I could see right through my daughter’s lame attempts to dissuade me from marrying my present husband, when her apocryphal stories of other couples like us (younger husband) whose marriages foundered were so transparent that I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud at her, when I could see the wheels in her mind turning, the worry that her inheritance was in jeopardy and she was eager to talk me out of a marriage that is now approaching ten good years, I knew I was going to be ok. When you can see through the people you love the most, see what they are really about and not start wallowing in self-doubt, you know you have finally made it.

But I didn’t do it without help…lots and lots of professional help. And I honestly don’t know if I could have made it without it.


  1. Dear Violet, I'm sure that someone somewhere will ridicule my comment as "sucking up," or even cut and paste it somewhere, but guess what? I just don't care. This is a profound and riveting post. I can hear in it the years of thinking thing through, the ringing emotional clarity, the way that all (or most) of the pieces of a big horrible puzzle, one that made you suicidal, have been put in their proper place. The writing and tone and clarity and SENSE of this post will probably make it an "instant" classic for ACoNs and anyone who's been badly damaged by pathological narcissism. The way you, and we, are "trained" to take it; the way we enact the repetition compulsions because they feel so familiar, the compulsive trying/wanting to please or be needed, to "be there" to solve other people's problems, and the flip side of that--our often exaggerated yet disavowed expectations--are masterfully laid out here. There is a direct correlation between how much we bend over backward for others and how much we expect them to come through for us, and with that, a guarantee of chronic, repetitive disappointment. Always taken as us not being "worth it," or "good enough," or worthy. It's systemic. The waiting, waiting, to be 'rescued,' even if we don't realize that's what we're doing, is such a waste of years of life. Now I'm using the "we" here because this blog is about a narcissist's child; and also a narcissist's mother; so there are universals. Everyone's experience will vary in details and degrees--but I doubt that anyone reading this post won't find in it something that will bring comfort, some clarity, and wisdom. I feel I'm reaching the starting point for some authentic detachment from my FOO. Authentic rather than merely reactive. I've played out too many of the conversations, rehearsed too many of the slights and grievances, in a loop, trying to make it all make sense, and you know, these people just act like shits, and train us to let them get away with it. It's really pretty simple in some ways, although the road to genuine comprehension is long, hard, and offers no shortcuts. I too did several years in therapy, and while not as helpful to me, because I was too young, as it was to you, it motivated me to learn, look, read, and try to alter patterns in my FOO. I failed to alter those patterns in THEIR behavior. To this day, my NM and NF do the same things that made me feel like stink on stink, back when I was 18. But I am realizing that I can change my own patterns of feeling, I can just accept that I do NOT HAVE TO CARE about people who have made me feel so damn bad so many times. And getting over the guilt of that, allowing that, permitting that, accepting that, is epoch-ending. Thank you for this magnificent, beautifully written post, and for sharing yourself with such honesty. CS

    1. You know, that is pretty much the core of it: you do not have to care about people who hurt you. You don't care about people outside your family who hurt you, so why do you care about people inside it who do? Because you were programmed to, that's why. To achieve emotional detachment and resilience, you have to break that programming.

      The guilt we feel when pulling away from our abusive parents is not is the result of that programming, the result of brainwashing that was done to us by self-serving people who cared nothing for our emotional well-being, only their own. The guilt is an implanted control: you are programmed to feel guilt so that you won't stray from your role and giver of Nsupply. We need deprogramming in the same way the victims of cults need it because we are just as inculcated with false beliefs as they are.

      And that was one of my epiphanies on my way to detachment: realizing that those beliefs were not MINE...they were implanted in me and not for my own benefit, but for the benefit of another. Recognizing that much of what I believed about everything was not of my own choosing but planted into me for the benefit of my NM was wonderfully freeing and it set me on the path of examining what I believed, thinking it through and, one by one, either keeping or rejecting those beliefs. I kept the ones I independently agreed with and tossed the rest, creating new, healthier beliefs to take the place of the old.

      It wasn't easy and it didn't take place over night. In fact, I am still doing it. When I come across something I have "always believed" or something I feel some kind of internal resistance to, I stop and examine it. Sometimes that examination takes days and research, sometimes it just takes a few minutes of logical thinking...and a lot of times it ends up a topic for this blog!

      But learning to put rational boundaries on caring is perhaps a good first step...boundaries are a good thing!



  2. Wow, I've got goosebumps after reading this.
    There are parts of this I could have written myself.

    I'm only just beginning to practice emotional detachment (of a healthy nature) from the Ns in my sphere, and my experiences have been very similar to yours.

    I'm progressing by leaps and stumbles...*chuckle*, but I'm on my way.

    Your analogy about ruminating over the mosquito that bit you for two weeks was very helpful to me--I'm going to keep that in mind.I do still get 'stuck' more often than I care to admit.

    Thank you for sharing your insights.
    Best wishes... fs

    1. The rumination is a trap: it puts us in touch with self-doubt. That is why it is so important to have distractions from it. I chose the mosquito analogy for a reason: how insignificant is the beast, yet how large an impact it can have with that persistent itching constantly remind us of its bite. I think of Ns much the same way: insignificant little beasts that remind us of their presence with their bites. But we don't give the mosquito earth-shattering significance in our lives, we view them and annoyances...which is exactly how we should come to view the Ns in our lives, whether they are family members or not.

      That mosquito bites you for his sustenance, and really for no other reason. It chooses you because you are available, you are vulnerable, and you can give it what it wants. Does the N really have any further reasons for choosing you? You are there, you are vulnerable, and you have what the N wants: you have no culpability, you don't deserve it, and you don't owe it to the are just there, available, and you haven't protected yourself against being bitten. Period.

      When we internalize this, when we truly understand that the N is not more bonded to us than the mosquito, that the N opportunistically feeds on whoever is readily available and won't smack her as soon as the beak sinks in, we move into clarity and truth. You don't HAVE to let her feed on you, and any guilt you feel is completely you feel guilty putting of bug repellant before you go out into the garden or staying away from places you know have mosquito swarms? When you step into detachment, you understand that there is no difference and that the responsibility to protect yourself is yours...there is no obligation to offer yourself as a sacrifice. Disconnect from the ruminations, recognize that you have a RIGHT to protect yourself, then do it without the N-imposed guilt. It's amazing how much better you will feel!



    2. OK, I can't resist. Remember, mosquito bites can give you West Nile virus. The more mosquito bites you get, the more likely you are to get bit by one that can make you sick for a long time. So any one mosquito bite, meh. But you want to steer clear of getting a lot of them all the time. Hence the NC, the low contact, the boundaries/repellant. And sometimes you just gotta smack em right on your arm.

  3. Violet,

    This topic is very relevant to me today. DH & I were discussing detachment recently, and your post today really puts some recent thoughts into perspective for me.

    I have a coworker that has recently gained custody of her step children due to a very MNM. I have been giving her links and tools that I have found helpful in helping her get her step kids into therapy and back to functional teenagers (to some degree). I’ve given her some very (very) minimal backstory on My own and DH’s parents (All 4 of them N’s to differing M degrees). Her comment to me was that she couldn’t believe how “Resilient” I was as a person to be so accomplished professionally, and to have such a loving marriage knowing what kind of background we both had grown up with.

    I used to know I was Resilient and that my MNM was crazy, but after getting hoovered in when my Grandmother came to live out her final years in MNM’s home (across town), I lost that perspective for a few years. Grandmother moved in right after I finished Grad School (in my mid-30’s), and I thought the newfound respect and consideration I was being given by MNM was due to my being finally her equal in obtaining my Master’s degree. (From your other post on N’s not having equals, I realized how wrong that line of thought was a couple months back.)

    It wasn’t until after Grandmother passed that “real” MNM returned, and I realized I was duped because she needed my help in caring for Grandmother, and those few years I spent as GC were only a façade. That was the wound I have kept reopening for the last two years that I need to detach from. And the mosquito analogy is especially engaging as I’m a mosquito magnet for 5 months of every year in a state with heavy West Nile Virus counts, and can’t leave the house without repellant sprayed head to toe without paying for it for days later.

    I helped DH detach from rescuing his addict MNM several years ago, as her beliefs fed to DH were total BS to me, just as my MNM’s beliefs are complete BS to him. They had similar methods, but very different values and expectations. Both DH & I were the scapegoats that were supposed to fix everything our MNM’s messed up in their own lives, and while we were both riddled with fleas when we met, we were both in need of rescue but weren’t capable of moving on with our lives on our own. Lately he’s been calling me out on my own BS. A Lot!

    I keep reminding myself when her voice is in my head that she is ill and it’s not me. Without focusing on the detachment, I was just doing endless loops like you described, and DH was floundering in helping me find that “Resilient” woman he married almost two decades ago. I admit, I didn't know where she was hiding either, but I was hoping I could find her before I went farther down the rabbit hole myself.

    I was VLC for almost 12 years in early adulthood until the hoover with Grandmother and the resulting enmeshment, but somewhere along the line I forgot that most important step. Detachment was what gave me peace in my soul in those years, and what I’ve been forgetting to implement these last 9 months that I’ve been NC. I think I’m ready.

    Your gift of language is such a treasure for those like me that need another perspective. Please don’t be discouraged by Trolls trying to devalue what you have given of yourself to those that need to hear your words and insight.

    I’m now in month 9 of NC, and feeling better with each day.

    Warmest regards,

  4. Thank you for the quick response, SV. (nicetameetcha, BTW)
    You've got some great posts here.

    (Hi CS--hey can you toss me that can of "Off" when you're done with it?)A second layer of repellant never hurts...

    I hadn't even considered the blood-sucking aspect of mosquitoes--it makes the analogy even more fitting.

    And you have a valid point about transmitting disease through "the bite" CS. It can have long-lasting toxic effects if/when they break the skin.

    It IS an ongoing process, to "rewire" our brains, and knee-jerk reactions after being groomed by Ns during our formative years.
    I had to hit middle-age, before that realization really hit me.
    That not all of my thoughts/beliefs were really *my* thoughts, but years of almost Pavlovian training.

    I've gone 99% NC with the current N in my sphere, to the point where I will not converse with her, without credible, and unbiased witnesses present, and I know it was the only solution for me to maintain my sanity. The flying monkey hordes have been more trouble than anything, since I made peace with my decision. It's still hard to not fall into the JADE trap, and sometimes I still do.

    Which--- I think, is part of what's making harder to stop ruminating, and heal.

    (baby steps, baby steps... ) *sigh*

    That, plus the fact that this was a long-term friend, who was part of my inner circle of trust. I didn't think I needed boundaries with her. :( I thought I was safe, and believed that for a long time, years, in fact.

  5. "put my hand on the tiller of my own life."

    I am the daughter of a NF. My mother has severe co dependence on my drug addicted brother. I can't stress enough the severity of their issues. My mother is so codependent with him that she would actually have physical withdrawals (shakes, stomach upset, depression, panic attacks) when he would be trying to recover in rehab. She would sabotage his recovery every time he tried by sneaking money to rehab through care packages. She sometimes would even put my return address on these packages so if the counselors went through the package, they would think I had sent the money. The counselors finally told me that they could not compete with her. She needed treatment more than him. I tell that story in past tense because he is now in jail for murder. Back to the N. This is the outcome of a family emotionally abused by a NF. So, I understand the tiller analogy. My days feel crushed under the weight of all the problems. I have tried to distance myself from them, be my own person, have my own life. But some event always sucks me back. My brother overdosing and being on life support (which sent my mother into emotional chaos), my aunt dying of breast cancer (which sent my mother into emotional chaos), my brother killing his girlfriend (which sent my mother into emotional chaos)(Now don't misunderstand, she is not in emotional chaos because of what he did but because now she can't control him.) Now, the NF does not understand all these feelings of grief. His happiness and well being is what is important. He wants everyone to pretend that none of these events have happened. Because when his NS (my mother) is emotionally broken, he just steps over her crumpled body and moves on. 41 years of waiting for peace. No end in sight.

  6. "What I really had to do was to learn to not care, to set boundaries on my caring. That is hard, especially when you have been groomed from infancy to not only care, but to care for others more than you care for yourself."

    Yes! This parallels my own struggles taking care of myself without feeling guilty or selfish. It's one of the main reasons why I got into into a bad marriage with a needy man who required a big-hearted wife who would listen to his tales of woe and comfort him. I didn't recognize the 'danger signs' because I didn't have healthy boundaries on my caring. It took a few crises before Alanon taught me to "keep the focus on myself" and allow other people to do the same.

    As you can guess, the better and healthier boundaries I created, the more resentful my husband became (not that he'd tell me because it wouldn't look good for the New Age Man to resent his wife's autonomy). I still, even after recognizing how my childhood affected my adult life, I still 'catch myself in the act.' I still have to say to myself, "Stop, stop. STOP! You need to take time for yourself."

    There are times when I'm kinda down-in-the-dumps about having to do so much work just Getting To Normal. I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a family that allowed you to be your true self? What would I have done with all my free time if I hadn't been going to 12-step, going to therapy, reading books including 'how to parent', writing on forums, getting a divorce...ha...and let's not forget: dealing with "unrecovered" siblings who think I'm messed up and they aren't.

    It has been a huge burden in the middle of my life, undoing the damage done so early in my life. Finding 'meaning' in my recovery work hasn't been impossible. It's one of the reasons why I set up a forum and then a blog. When other people share their struggles and their joys,the sadness dissipates just enough to be make it through another day.

    Thanks for writing this, SweetViolet. It really touched my heart.


    1. Hi SV, CZ, Freestyle, et al,
      I'm writing this from the hotel, during first night of visit to father. He blew up at me within 45 minutes of getting me from the airport. A new record. I went back to my hotel, and this post on resilience and detachment is now really "in action" for me. I won't go into details here (posted about it at my blog); but I can say that as it was happening, although I was annoyed, mostly I felt like I didn't really care. He was acting like a big baby, throwing a selfish tantrum. I think what I'm going to take away from this final FOO visit is how much I really have achieved detachment these last few years. Blogging has been crucial in making this three-dimensional for me--talking with friends, sharing experiences, bouncing ideas. WE have all had to work WAY too hard in our lives just to even approximate 'normal' relations. But there is also, for me, deep contentment in coming to realize how many of us there are out there, to affirm each others' experiences with these broken FOOs. There are scores of us. What I saw, in the first 45 minutes of arriving at my father's, after travelling across the country, was that what he really wants,and has always wanted, is a robot named CS who will be programmed to be a "low key" mirror for him, regularly emitting admiring noises. Nothing else is welcome to him, or allowed. What a shame.

  7. Hi! Violet,

    This is my first time ever commenting on a blog on the internet. For the past three years I've been intermitently and passively reading about psychopathy, and NPD from others blogs. Just found yours today. I totally can relate to what you say in this article. I've been severely narcissistcally abused by my mother, sister, boyfriends,friends, coworkers...About two months ago I was seriously considering suicide, but then I prayed and God gave me the strength I needed to fight, I'm still fighting.

    When I read your stories my heart feels for you, for what you went through. But at the same time, you give me strength, and hope; you inspire me to keep going. So, thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

    God bless you!

  8. I turned 60 years old this year and I am just figuring all of this out! I am a daughter of a NM. I left home and then the country at an early age. I traveled and worked all over the world and never had a desire to come home. People used to ask me if I was home sick, I had no clue what that meant. This may have been my form of no contact. I never knew what was going on, I always thought there was something wrong with me. That is what my mother always convinced me of. My many years of travel eventually evolved in living a death wish with lots of risky living choices. I eventually slowed down an started to try and fit into a normal life.

    I spent so many years trying not to be like my mother, I end up marrying someone worse that her. I am currently in a very hostile divorce from him. I just started a blog and I am getting so much information from everyone else's posts. My blog is a cathartic journey that is helping me figure all of this out. I agree, it helps to write about it.

    1. We have a lot of parallels in our lives. We are about the same age, and although I did not travel the world, I was quite the vagabond the first 10 years of my adult life...and many of those years included some pretty risky living choices, too.

      I also tried hard not to be like my mother (which was actually her still controlling my my life but in a reacting way) and I also married someone even worse than she was. And my divorce from him was very contentious, very hostile. What I did, however, was find a therapist who was experienced in dealing with people who were coming out of an abusive relationship and through five years of therapy, I was finally able to stop choosing men like my mother and find a really good husband. He died some years later and I have remarried, also to a very nice man and good husband. You might want to give it some consideration...



  9. I am at the start of this journey. 40 years old and just woken up to the reality of a NM, possibly MNM, ND and separated from NH, from an awful N family himself. I have read NH's will highlight to you like a billboard your childhood wounds. For me this has been rejection and abandonment.

    Thank you for articulating so clearly what you need to do to get out of this hell. Every sentence makes perfect sense and gives much needed hope.

    To know that it is possible to quiet the self doubt and truly know and feel where the responsibility for warped behaviour belongs.

    One year into therapy, but good to know how you can feel when you come out the other side.


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