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.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rudeness—it can be a narcissistic tool

Since the inception of this blog more than three years ago, the following warning has been posted near the comment window at the bottom of each page: “I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.”

Silly me, I thought that was self-explanatory, but apparently not. The purpose of the warning was, primarily, to discourage trolls: if they know up front that they won’t get published ( and every comment, without exception, is reviewed by be before publication), they may not be willing to expend the effort to write something rude and trollish that they know will never see the light of day. There are some trolls, however…narcissists, really…who apparently see this as a challenge. And I have been dealing with one (possibly two) this week.

Rudeness is a tool in the narcissist’s bag of nasty tricks. Narcissists are well aware of the rules of polite discourse and know that we all expect that from each other. Deviation from the social script is what provokes shouting matches, fist fights, and worse. People hell-bent on winning at all costs can, when their ire is provoked, say and do ugly things. And nothing is more provoking than someone being rude for no discernible reason.

Narcissists use this to their advantage. If you can be provoked to losing your cool, the narcissist “wins” the competition going on in his head. The narcissist gets to walk away feeling superior for having taken control of your emotions and maybe even your better judgment, reducing you to a reacting, acting-out puppet. Some narcissists are so skilled at this that they aren’t even conscious of it…they blithely roll along, dropping little digs and barbs and spouting little zingers and skewering people with their sharp tongues, seemingly oblivious to the death by a thousand cuts they are inflicting on the people whose psyches are pierced by their unkind words. Other narcissists are keenly aware and use rudeness to hurt, control and/or punish others.

In the brouhaha with our visiting narcissist, James, there came some comments and emails from an anonymous writer purporting to not be James in disguise, comments opining that I should 1) apologise to James; 2) listen to James and 3) come to some kind of détente with James. I had to laugh because the author of these missives, if it wasn’t James, obviously missed the meaning of that brief warning near the comment window: “I don't publish rudeness, so please keep your comments respectful, not only to me, but to those who comment as well. We are not all at the same point in our recovery.”

So what was so rude about that, you ask? Well, rudeness does not have to be couched in offensive verbiage to still be rude. Think about it this way:

Suppose you held an open house with the objective of selling your cottagey little house and a person came in and started taking issue with the décor…with your choice of furnishings, throw rugs, knick-knacks, bedding. Suppose she criticized the colour of the sofa, the towels in the bathroom, even the bowl of fruit on the kitchen table. Suppose now, that you told her that since it was your house, it was going to be decorated to your taste, but all of these things would be going with you when you moved, and she should be focussing on the house itself, not on your sofa or towels.

Suppose, then, she told me you was incorrect, that the house should be decorated to her taste because your taste was wrong. Let’s say her taste was ultra-modern and yours was shabby chic and she is insisting that you must redecorate the house to her taste, not because it would sell better that way, but because she is right and you are wrong. Because her perceptions about your decorating taste are right and mine are wrong. Suppose, too, that she refused to stop criticizing your décor style, regardless of what you say about this being your house and that her taste is not appropriate to the cottagey architecture of the house while yours is.

This behaviour is what is known as “presumptuous” and presumptuous behaviour is the epitome of rudeness. In fact, Microsoft Word’s built-in thesaurus defines “presumptuous” as: arrogant, rude, presuming, audacious, insolent, bold, rash, and disrespectful.

Suppose now that the Critic, having been unsuccessful in winning your agreement, turns hostile and begins to engage in character assassination and ad hominem attacks at which time you politely steer her to the door and out onto the sidewalk and tell her she is not welcome back in your house.

What if another person has been observing the exchange between the two of you and she decides to now grace you with her unsolicited opinion…and that opinion is that you should apologize to the Critic and “work things out” with her? Well, in my opinion, this is no less rude than the original.


The purpose of the house being open in the first place was for prospective buyers to look at the house and decide if they might want to purchase it. The original Critic was not invited as a decorator or stager or real estate agent whose opinion about the décor was solicited: she was there as a potential buyer and her concerns about the décor were unwarranted because it would all be gone when the buyer took possession of the property. The initial Critic turned a visit to a home for sale into an argument over taste in furnishings and right and wrong: she created an issue that not only did not exist, it had nothing to do with whether or not the house would be suitable for her needs (remember, the décor would be gone when she took possession of it). As the discussion escalated, the Critic became more and more demanding, from taking issue with the décor to demanding that you agree with her viewpoint on the décor. This was extremely disrespectful as it demands a complete stranger change her views to suit that of the Critic for no other reason than the Critic believes she is right.

The Observer is transparently supportive of the Critic. The reasons could be anything: she is also presumptuous, she also prefers modern furnishings, she prefers to side with the attacker rather than the defender—but her reasons are immaterial. What is material is that she has also taken a presumptuous step: her opinion is unsolicited and it supports presumptuous, rude behaviour.

Everybody has a right to disagree with what I say on this blog…but you must disagree without being disagreeable. What you don’t have a right to do is to attempt to impose your viewpoint here by trying to make me wrong thereby dictating the content of my blog. You have the freedom to disagree and to express that disagreement and, if I agree with you—if I overlooked something germane and that oversight significantly affects my conclusions, then I will acknowledge that. But the person who decides whether or not your observation is germane is me, not you. And if I disagree and I write back and explain why I disagree, pressing the issue further is rude—on your part.

If you support someone’s disagreement, that is ok, too. But supporting someone’s rudeness is not ok. This is not a public forum, this is my blog. I write it to express my observations, my viewpoint, my discoveries and epiphanies; I do not write it to provide a forum for debate. Here, you are free to read and comment—even comment your disagreement—but you are not free to attempt to control the content of this blog. If you want an interactive forum or you wish to control the content of a blog, you are free to create your own.

If you think I am being harsh or selfish here, consider that the way our narcissists beat us down and kept us in check was to cause us to think that we have to tolerate their disrespectful ways, to make us feel guilty for even wanting to stand up for ourselves. A meme I saw on FaceBook says: “I have reached a point in my life where I find it is no longer necessary to try to impress anyone. If they like me the way I am, that’s good. If they don’t, it’s their loss.” Narcissists bank on people feeling the opinions of others are more important than their own opinions of themselves and narcissist use that as a way to manipulate them. I don’t play that game anymore…any airtime a narcissist gets here will be at my choosing and because it fits into my agenda.

So, if you have a comment here or you want to send me an email, keep it civil and polite. You can disagree, but if you are disagreeable about it, then you have crossed the line into rudeness. If I disagree with your disagreement, let it go—you had your say, let that be enough. To persist in trying to make your point and change my mind is disrespectful since this is not a public forum, it is the electronic equivalent of my house. It is a peek into my brain, my processes, my conclusions. Please respect that.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Real-life Exchange with a Narcissist

Sometimes the heavens just align right and what you need is served up to you on a gleaming, sparkling silver platter. And so it is with this blog post because not only have we had a visit from a real narcissist, he has gifted us with an object lesson in how a narcissist can go from appearing normal to showing his real self in the space of a few conversational exchanges. What is particularly droll about this exchange is that he did it all in context with the last blog post, which is about how a narcissist cannot choose his nature but he can choose his behaviour.

James, our narcissist, initially presents as a rational person who disagrees with my basic tenet that a narcissist can choose his behaviour. James further identifies himself as autistic and in passing, describes narcissists as not being neurotypical. This popped my first red flag. James said: I disagree completely that you, Sweet Violet, are capable of "making everything wrong in your life the fault of someone else rather than choices you have made." because you, unlike your mother, are not a narcissist. It has probably never occurred to you to engage in the blame game your mother plays; likewise it has probably never occurred to your mother to take responsibility for her own actions. You, Violet, cannot choose to be narcissistic. Your mother cannot choose to be neurotypical.

There is nothing in the literature that I have been able to find that indicates a narcissist is not neurotypical. In fact, a PsychologyToday article would seem to discount that possibility with the observation that, in a test wherein the subjects were shown pictures of facial expressions and asked to identify them, “only narcissists were accurate at recognizing anger. Therefore, … narcissists appear to stand out as having enhanced cognitive empathy.” This is the antithesis of the autistic, who has great difficulty in reading facial expressions, including anger. Autistics and narcissists do share some characteristics, namely difficulty with empathy. Additionally, both autistics and narcissists can get fixated on something to a degree that is astonishing to others and they have often have a lot of trouble with change that they, themselves do not initiate. Narcissists are opportunists and it would not be surprising for a narcissist to seize on these shared characteristics to excuse his behaviour: people make allowances for autistics, knowing they are incapable of certain things and what better disguise for a narcissist to slip under the radar than to pretend to be an autistic?

But, like narcissists everywhere, James took it a step too far when he implied that narcissists are not neurotypical because the science simple does not support that. Unlike the autistic, who is not neurotypical and commonly has trouble discerning the meanings of facial expressions, the narcissist has an enhanced ability to do so. A search on Google, PubMed and NIH revealed no peer-reviewed articles supporting the idea that narcissists are not as neurotypical as you or I.

I responded to James—you can read the entire exchange here—and reiterated my position using examples, closing with “That you don't grasp this very fundamental fact of narcissists, that they can show one face to you and another face to me, tells me that either you have no narcissists in your life or that you have them but are deep in denial. Either way, you are one of the ones who doesn't “get it.’”

James responded with what appeared to be an empathetic response but then reiterated his position. Another red flag for me. He is unwilling to give up…I suspected at this point that he would not give up until I agreed with him, that he would rephrase and reframe his position until he got me to agree that he was right and I was wrong. This felt very manipulative: first show empathy to soften me up, agrees with my basic premise—that narcissists can show one face to some people and another face to others—and then reiterates his position, which implies they have no choice in the matter.

Again I refuted his contentions, again giving examples, and his next response gave me the “aha!” moment I was expecting: he twisted my words to support his contention. I replied: “Sophistry doesn't work with me. When faced with my brother's misdeeds, my mother did not punish him, she punished ME for ‘letting him’ misbehave. Narcissism or no, she had a CHOICE in who to punish.

“Narcissists cannot change their natures but they are perfectly capable of changing their behaviour. If they can treat one of their children well, they can treat them ALL well. They simply choose not to.”

And the gloves were off. James replied “It's not sophistry, but a rational argument, something which you unfortunately lack. I'm not going to waste any further time speaking to you, not because we disagree but because, despite my best efforts to not offend you and apologising when I thought I had, you have been consistently rude in return. It's entirely your choice as to whether you publish this comment; just knowing you read it is enough for me.”

I replied, pointing out how narcissistic this exchange was, but giving James the benefit of the doubt just in case he really was autistic, and pointing out that when he did not succeed in getting me to change my position, he became rude and attacked me. I then said I would not publish any more correspondence from him because “If a person can’t get his point across without attacking, then they don’t get space here.”

And that is where it got really interesting!

I didn’t publish his next response, which was “Well played, very well played. If I am a narcissist, I am not the only one here.” Note that I had given James the benefit of the doubt in my previous comment. I had specifically said “Now I am not saying James is a narcissist… I am going to be generous here and write off James’ rudeness to autism and an inability to grasp concepts that do not support his personal perception.” So James’ response to this was to gaslight and take the position that I called him a narcissist when I most specifically did not. He then attacked me yet again, calling me a narcissist. And amongst all of this, he revealed that this was a game to him… “well played, very well played” he said, like a chess player admiring an unexpected move by his opponent.

Then, in an attempt to outflank me, he sent two messages anonymously. How do I know they were from him? Because they were gaslighting: they accused me of being rude to James instead of the other way around. They accused me of wrongdoing and tried to hoover me back into the game, a typical ploy for a narcissist who is smarting from being bested in a competition that exists only in his mind. James (as Anonymous) said: Sweet Violet....what I saw was you going on the attack first and tried to argue your point so vehimently that you didn't allow him to have his own opinion. He also reacted as did you. You both have the right to your opinion and I would welcome to hear more of how the two of you worked through this. It's not about black and white, right or wrong, it's about really listening to the other person's point of view and letting them have their own opinion. BOTH of you....all of us.

I didn’t publish it so, a few hours later another message from James came in (narcissists hate to be ignored), also under the Anonymous name: It's o.k. for you to attack him? Sooooo those that disagree with you have no "voice"? hmmmm just curious  Remember, my last published comment about James specifically excused his rudeness just in case he really was autistic…

Well, I didn’t publish that comment either and, true to narcissistic form, he was back this morning, this time with an email entitled: “Autistic? You wish.” The message said:

I lied about that, I'm a psychopath. I've written about being one: [link redacted]

You were a fun distraction for a little while, but your insistence on blocking anybody you don't like got in the way of that. Didn't the narc bitch who squeezed you out teach you not to get in a psychopath's way?

It's very interesting reading of your tales of scapegoating when you were a child. Have you ever wondered why Petey was the chosen one while all you got was blame and bruises?

As if you're going to answer, you'll hide away from me like the weak speck (though these days I read you're more of a blob) of nothing your mother always knew you were.

This, of course, made me laugh out loud. Talk about being butt-hurt and petulant! Victim-blaming, attacking, James came to the blog expecting to be a cat toying with a mouse and found a big dog who bested him at every turn. Narcissists don’t scare me anymore nor do they have the power to intimidate me. I will be generous here and answer the questions James posed in his email for you all:

1) Didn't the narc bitch who squeezed you out teach you not to get in a psychopath's way? Obviously if she did, that was not a lesson I cared to retain. Like a typical narcissist, you inflate yourself and call yourself a "psychopath" so you will sound more formidable but, like all narcissists, you are a weak person who creates a powerful false persona to hide behind. I was onto you in your first message…my red flag system works extremely well.

2) Have you ever wondered why Petey was the chosen one while all you got was blame and bruises? No, I never wondered at all because I knew why: she favoured him over me. And I knew why: because my birth caused her to have to change all of her plans for her future. And, instead of handling that fact like a mature adult, she childishly blamed me for it.

3) …you'll hide away from me like the weak speck (though these days I read you're more of a blob) of nothing your mother always knew you were. There is a difference between hiding and refusing to give an asshole a forum. Pity you don’t know the difference, James.

And so here you have it…an exchange with a narcissist from pseudo-empathetic beginning to truth-revealing end, complete with gaslighting, hoovering, sweet talk and attacks. A real smorgasbord of narcissistic interaction: I could not have given you a better example if I had created an illustrative analogy myself! Thanks, James!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Narcissists choose their behaviours

Two years ago I wrote an entry entitled “It’s all about choice,” an entry designed to show us how we make choices that keep us stuck on the end of a narcissist’s pin. What I didn’t address at the time, was the choices that our narcissists have.

All too often I come across people feeling sorry for their narcissists, excusing their behaviours with the comment that they can’t help themselves, they are mentally ill, they don’t know what they are doing. I call bullshit. Narcissists have just as much choice as you or I do.

To most of us, the term “mental illness” implies a lack of control or choice on the part of the afflicted. It is generally a term used to describe people who have a chemical imbalance in their brains that renders them incapable of having a functional grasp on reality. Many of these illnesses are treatable with drugs that balance the brain chemistry and return the patient to the condition of having the ability to recognize and deal with reality, should they choose to do so.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder, however, differs from the general perception of mental illness in that the narcissist never loses his ability to have a functional grasp on reality. Where the untreated schizophrenic might not recognize that the roaring dragon he just stabbed to death was really a barkng dog and it was wrong to kill it, the narcissist recognizes it was a dog, it is wrong to kill the dog belonging to his neighbour, and he doesn’t care because the dog’s barking annoyed him and that was all the justification he needed to kill it. The mentally ill may not have a firm grasp on the society’s view of right and wrong…the narcissist knows exactly what the society considers right and wrong but considers himself a special case…the rules don’t necessarily apply to him and he is entitled to get what he wants by whatever means necessary. The Mayo Clinic, in its definition of narcissism, carefully avoids the phrase “mental illness” and instead says “Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder…”

It is important for us to be able to differentiate between the kind of mental imbalance that the afflicted cannot help and the personality disorder in which the afflicted is completely capable of shaping his or her behaviour based on the same objective reality we live with. For one thing, recognizing that the narcissist has complete control of his behaviour relieves us of the perceived obligation for making allowances. This is significant because, relieved of that obligation, we no longer have to feel that we must take the crap the narcissist dishes out. The narcissist is not being rude to you because s/he doesn’t know better or because s/he has no control over his or her behaviour, the narcissist is being rude to you because s/he can, because nobody has set any boundaries, because we allow the person to do so out of misinformed and misguided compassion for an affliction we misunderstand.

If you truly believe your narcissist cannot control her behaviour, that she really can’t help herself, give thought to the times she has been sweet and charming, even loving and caring, to other people. My mother could transform into the Mother of the Year in the blink of an eye if there was somebody around whose opinion she feared or valued. She never hit me or went off in a rage in front of her parents, she never called me names and manhandled me in front of school officials, and when we went to court for custody hearings, she was the meekest, most pathetic loving mother who feared losing her child that the court had ever seen. She was a master at minimizing…when I complained that she made me into her live-in maid and baby sitter, she characterized it as “a few chores after school.” When I complained about being beaten almost daily, I was accused of exaggerating some “much-needed discipline” and having an overactive imagination. She was the perfect loving, concerned mother in the presence of anyone who had any power over her or who she felt she had to keep happy (like her parents, who took me off her hands for three months out of every year while she continued to collect my child support).

But behind closed doors, out of sight and hearing of anyone who could bring any kind of consequence down on her, she was a horror. If I had had the ability to video one of her tantrums, nobody who knew her would believe what they were seeing. She chose to behave in the way others would find acceptable and in doing so, accomplished two things: established a public persona that everyone believed and made a liar out of me. I could not tell the truth to anyone because refused to believe me. Their own observations did not match up with my tales, so I “proved” my mother’s allegation that I had an “overactive imagination.”

Mark Twain once said that it is easier to fool someone than for them to ever admit they had been fooled, and that is very much the case with the narcissist: nobody wants to admit they have been hoodwinked, so rather than take my word or even investigate what I said went on in my house, people just wrote me off as a liar…to take me seriously would mean admitting that my mother had fooled them and the only people I ever saw do that were people who incurred her wrath and got a taste of the real her.

My mother’s behaviour was completely volitional. She did what she perceived to be in her best interest at any given time. My N ex-husband was no different…he behaved like a rational professional in meetings at work, then came home and ranted and raved about the “sandbaggers” and “backstabbers” at work, his perception of anyone in the meeting who didn’t agree with him in everything. I would have to spend hours talking him down from his vengeance fantasies that, over time, I came to realize were likely to be more than just fantasies. In those meetings, however, under the scrutiny of his boss, a man he admired and sought to emulate, he was the personification of professionalism.

Narcissists see nothing amiss in this two-faced approach to life. In fact, being narcissists and prone to projection, they think we are all this way. This explains, I think, why my NM used to accuse me of behaviours and motivations that hadn’t even crossed my mind: it was how she behaved when she was my age, it was what would have motivated her. So, when my tiny 7-year-old fingers couldn’t adequately grip a slippery plate and it crashed into the porcelain sink in pieces, since because she would have broken the plate out of spite for being made to do the dishes, that was therefore the reason I broke the plate and deserved to be punished, both for the destruction of the plate and for my perceived defiance. That the plate was too heavy and too slippery for my little hands to hold it would never cross her mind because, since her behaviours were calculated to either advantage herself or punish others, mine must be as well.

Narcissists have a choice. They can choose to be empathetic or they can suppress the empathy. Narcissists consider empathy and compassion to be weaknesses that can be exploited by others…people like themselves. They don’t want to be empathetic because that might end up with someone taking advantage of them and they couldn’t take that. Instead, they shut down their own empathetic responses so that they can be the ones to take advantage. A narcissist lacks a conscience: it is part of their belief in their own entitlement. Racism is difficult to rationalize without at least a soupçon of narcissistic entitlement underpinning it. You are better than “those people” and therefore you are entitled to better than what they have and, to make sure they don’t encroach upon your entitlement, you will disadvantage them at every opportunity, all the while claiming to not be a racist. You are simply better than they are and therefore deserve better than they have…or can ever get.

The problem with this kind of entitlement and lack of conscience is that it can lead to criminal behaviour. If my scapegoat sister drives a BMW, then I am entitled to better than that…so I will commit some kind of fraud to get my hands on a Ferrari. Narcissists continually play this “one upmanship” kind of game, are constantly in competition with others, and refuse to take a backseat to anyone they have chosen to be part of their circle. So a narcissist might not envy Donald Trump’s money but he might envy the new Cayenne one of his co-workers just bought. But he has another choice: he can choose to be happy that his five year old Honda is paid off and he can spend what he used to fork out in car payments for something else, like paying down his mortgage or making some investments for a college fund for his kids.

Narcissists choose their behaviour. If your narcissistic mother is capable of being nice to anyone, then she is capable of being nice to you. She simply chooses not to. Why has she chosen not to? Because she gets something out of it. What? Well, that depends on a lot of things, but mostly it is because she has found a way to make herself blameless: if everything is your fault, then nothing is hers. My mother actually managed to make every bad decision she ever made my fault by virtue of the fact that I had been born (I was her first child): her reasoning was that if I had not been born her life would have been different, therefore the unsatisfactory life she was leading was my fault because I precipitated it with my birth.

Could she help blaming me? Could she have made another choice? Of course: all she had to do was to take responsibility for her own choices and behaviour. You choose to have unprotected sex, you stand a high risk of getting pregnant. How is that the fault of the baby that results from it? But, to make herself blameless, to make herself into my victim so that she could feel justified in penalizing me, she blamed me.

Narcissists have choices…they have the exact same choices you and I have. You have the choice of making everything wrong in your life the fault of someone else rather than choices you have made. And make no mistake, despite having a narcissistic parent, from the moment you were enlightened and you kept making the choice to maintain a relationship with your narcissist and allow her to continue her blaming games, you now bear some responsibility for your own victimization. If you throw your head back and remove your neck scarf and stand still for the man with the blade, it is still his fault for killing you but you are complicit when you didn’t run as soon as you spotted the knife.

We all have choices…you have the choice to permit the abuse to continue or to put a stop to it…and the narcissist has exactly the same choice…she can continue abusing you or she can stop. But you can only change yourself…you cannot change another person, no matter how righteous or well-intentioned you are. A narcissist will always make the choice that gives her either the greatest advantage or the least disadvantage and if you want to stop the agony of being in a relationship with a narcissist, you have to acknowledge and internalize that.

Narcissists have the same choices we do but, unlike us, the narcissist will always make the choice that advantages her the most, regardless of the fall-out others may have to deal with. The narcissist has no conscience and simply doesn’t care if anyone else gets hurt as long as he gets what he wants.

Source materials: