Adult Children of Narcissists have a tough go of it.
This is her story:
The following was a response I wrote on a message board about the topic of enabling, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ it happens, and how Narcissists and abusers get others to do their bidding. This was written from my personal experiences, growing up with a Narcissistic Mother and watching this scenario play out many times over.
Narcissists thrive on confrontation. They bully their way by having a tantrum anytime they don’t get what they want. They turn up the heat enough to obtain it. The heat rises until they get it. In short, they learn our boiling points, find our buttons, and study our weaknesses. They keep hammering away until they get what they want.
It’s pure ruthless persistence on a target they’ve studied for years, but they also come across tactics that generally work. When they don’t get what they’re after they commonly rage to scare you into giving in, or attempt guilt or sympathy ploys. Their purpose never wavers, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
Simply, a Narcissist or abuser will keep hammering and chiseling down until their targets are just plain WEAK. They do that by isolating the target from healthy relationships with anyone outside their control. And I mean close relationships, people that you’d bear your heart and soul to. People that would be out for YOUR good, that you’ve built a long-time trusted relationship with.
ACONs (Adult Children of Narcissists) often say they were forbidden from having friends, bringing friends to the house, and tightly controlled telephone usage. It is designed to create enough distance between you and others so such a relationship can never form.
Abusers detest anyone who may have more influence over you than they do.
If such a relationship already exists in your life, abusers will seek to drive a wedge between you and that person. Divide and conquer. The abuser creates enough stress on the relationships to create doubt in the other party. They swoop in to become the new ‘reality’ by inserting their perceptions on the weakened target.
My father is an enabler because he’s been trained by my mother to be. She hammers him by exploiting and over-blowing any little offense she can muster (creating conflict) to show how right she is, how awful she has it, etc. She hammers at him until he relents. She does the same thing to my siblings, through personal confrontation and phone calls. Wash, rinse, repeat.
I remember as a kid, we all knew it was just easier to give my mother what she wanted than deal with her rages. If an abuser does that enough, they are training us to just give them whatever they want, because we know what’s in store if we don’t. It’s cost/benefit analysis, isn’t it?
Welcome to the hammering machine. I knew that other people would take bad news better than my mother. So if I got caught in the middle of something between her and someone outside the family unit, she always won because even though I may lose greatly on something involving that person, it was easier than dealing with my mother’s rages.
There’s the birth of an enabler.
There comes a point where you just can’t deal with fighting them anymore, especially when you live under their roof. Even though we move out, that brainwashing has been reinforced for years, and continues into adulthood. Give your abuser what they want, or there’s hell to pay.
And even though we’ve moved out, Ns make sure they insert themselves in everything, don’t they? They appear to be interested in us, invade personal space, demand personal information, run amock over boundaries. The Narcissist is making it known that they have a right to everything about us, and will not stand for anything less than EVERYTHING. It’s so they can continue to insert their perception of reality into their target’s lives and retain control.
They continue forcing themselves onto the target, through phone calls or unannounced visits. If you’re never allowed to (or given the space to) think for yourself, how can you? Narcissists hinder this process as much as possible. It’s why they set themselves up as ‘always right’. If you control all the cards and all the information, it’s easier to manipulate things to your benefit. Thus how they move into the second stage of life.
It’s also important to note that everyone has a breaking point. Some much faster than others, due to the nature of the relationship (such as family friends, distant relatives). Others thrive on gossip and drama…but Narcissists know how to spot their targets and say the right things to obtain what they want.
In short, enablers are Narcissists’ servants. It’s like an abusive dog-owner. The abuser controls the entire environment. Some dogs will cower, some will fight back towards the owner. Dogs that fight back will be beaten more severely until they cower, are neglected, or are gotten rid of. But either way most will still protect the territory. They distrust everyone because of what history has taught them.
Once upon a time, I had a narcissism blog I never published. Mostly because it had a lame name and most of the posts were responses I had written on a message board where I was once a member. When the service was shutting down, I wanted to keep some of the things I had written, so I put them in the draft heap. There they sat.
See, to me blogging isn’t just a medium to get ‘my story’ out. While there’s a certain catharsis to that, it’s more the conversation and feedback I get from you guys, the readers, that I treasure most. There’s nothing more validating and healing than that. It’s where we learn that we’re not alone and the tricks our Narcissists used to make us believe they were so special and unique fall apart. We all have stories to tell, and countless nights I’d stay up way too late reading, commenting, and nodding my head in agreement.
There’s so much I don’t have to explain to you. You already get it.
Years ago, all I knew was that my parents weren’t normal. My mother was a totalitarian dictator who thought that somehow my life belonged to her. When she tried to ‘punish’ me for not adhering to her life plan, my husband stepped in and told her off. He gave me a choice…either it was my family or my marriage. In retrospect I don’t blame him. My mother is an absolute tyrant, enabled by my narcissistic father who fears her. But honestly, at the time I was scared to death. I understood that in going cutting all contact with my parents, it would also be with the rest of my family as well.
My mother would make sure of that. My husband did what was necessary.
What I couldn’t do myself.
What saved my sanity was a little tiny blurb on the sidebar of a crafting blog. It was a link to information about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). I hit it out of curiosity, and spent the whole night, and many nights thereafter, learning and researching. I finally had a term I could plug into a search engine that explained my mother’s behavior.
After 30 years, I learned it wasn’t my fault.
In our ‘real life’ exchanges, narcissism is like a dirty little secret. To explain it, most people can’t comprehend how a parent can be so predatory. They can comprehend it only on a ‘it-happens-to-other-people-they-don’t-know’ level, but not as it happening to someone in front of them. And certainly not to the kids that lived on the nicest house on the street, or the ones who went to church every Sunday. No, it’s much easier to believe the mother who complains about her ungrateful children who keep her grandchildren from her. It’s so believable after all, because they live in such a nice house and go to church every Sunday. The hypocrisy of it all leaves us silenced.
I don’t know the person who wrote the blog I happened across, but I am forever grateful to her. It was a small voice in a barren land of silence. It led to exchanges with others seeking the same healing we seek. A virtual hug of sorts, where we lean and learn from each other. We don’t share to play the victim card, we share to heal. We feel compelled to write for our own healing, to comprehend our past and somehow move forward from it. We lend our listening ears through our eyes and offer our experience to help others.
Compassion and courage.
It’s the people that have brought us to this place out of the FOG (fear, obligation and guilt), not the countless psychology articles we’ve read. We’re used to feeling alone and afraid. Together, we’re a beacon of sanity. It’s what our narcissists feared the most: people in our lives that can positively influence us. They sought to destroy any of our relationships, but didn’t count on the rallying cry of a rag-tag unit of strangers on the internet. Blogging is powerful because it’s real.
Real people writing truth the only way they know how: in their life’s experiences.
It’s a far cry from the overly produced stage we grew up in.
Discovered, after 40+ years that I am an ACON (Adult Child of Narcissistic Parent). I guess I knew along that something was wrong with our family growing up, at least, with my relationship with my father, I just never knew what it was. I guess I just never knew that my “normal” was not normal.
Happily married for 12 years with 2 wonderful children, there were so many episodes with father in my adult life. Episodes between him and my wife, episodes between him and me and then the deal breaker, the last and final episode when he started on my 10 year old son. It was like something inside of me let go, something changed. I was furious at him, I was enraged like I had never been before. I thrust myself into a quest for answers, to answer the ultimate question as to why, why is my relationship with my father a complete disaster, why can’t I have a normal relationship with him?
In my search I stumbled, by accident, across narcissism. As I read the definition and characteristics of a narcissist it was like I was reading about my father. The more I read, the more I was blown away about what I had discovered. It was all there, every bit of it, all the criticisms, the one-upping, the belittling, the obsession with money, the gambling, the down-talking, the tone of his voice, the disregard for boundaries, the fits of rage, the inability to take criticism, the ego-driven decisions, the lack of common sense, the lack of empathy, the threats, triangulation, the control of information, all of it was there…. and so, my journey to recovery began. I have much more to say, much, much, more….
Goodbye Mum and Dad I Love you.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I am writing to you to bid you farewell, I don’t think we will ever talk again nor will we ever share any part of our lives anymore. I know you will accuse me of being spoiled, ungrateful, sneaky, secretive etc. In your mind you believe you have done everything for me and that you have always been supportive but you know deep down that that is a lie.
I no longer have to justify myself to you or explain why I am make certain choices in my life. I am an adult and its my life, I work hard and I love my children. However, I know that if I keep in contact with you then I am unable to be the best mum I can be due to you being sick.
Let me explain to you what is going on and what affect this has had on me and my adult life:
Mum this part if for you: Mum I always knew deep down that there was something wrong with you. One of my earliest dreams as a young child was seeing you as two different people. One that was nice and nurturing that was able to meet my needs and the other that was more like a spoiled child, that if their demands were not met, would have a temper tantrum. I was always made to feel guilty for being unable to meet you impossible demands, being unable to sooth the brokenness you felt inside or make you feel better. It was not my responsibility and it is still not my responsibility.
As you have aged the nurturing part of you has disintegrated and all that is left behind is a cruel bitter person full of hate. I believe that you are suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder in which you display 100% of the criteria. I am not a medical trained person or anyone who can diagnoses these things I am just your scapegoated daughter who has always been a victim of your rage. You hate the fact that I can see you for who you really are, I can see behind the facade that you like to project. “You always said I was easy to talk around” not this time. I know when you are trying to manipulate me, I am also aware of the others you use to manipulate me. I am not stupid and worthless like you think, in fact I am an educated woman, with everything going for me who is going through therapy to heal the wounds you caused. As for you, you are the biggest coward I have ever known, someone who would stop at nothing to get there own way. Someone who is unable to have any insight to how there actions and words may affect another. I should have never let you get away with your cruel words. Here is a list of your favorite phrases which you have said throughout my life:
- “I despise you and everything you do but I am so jealous of you.”
- “If your brain fully worked then you would be dangerous” (this is in reference to my mild learning disability.)
- “I can vouch for your brother but not for you. You will need to ask your Dad about you I just take his word that you were the baby I gave birth to as I was asleep at the time”. “Perhaps there was a mix up at the hospital.”
- “If I would have known you would be born with a disability then I would of had an abortion“.
- “I bend over backwards for you, yet you are sneaky and always up to something”.
- “I fought hard for you”.
I am done. For my children’s sake and my own, I am done.
Let me give you a little backstory:
I’m now a forty-year-old Mama of two girls.
Back when I was growing up, my dad had then-undiagnosed bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and explosive episodes of narcissistic rage. My mother and I suffered much at his hands. When I was a twelve, same age as my eldest, my dad left. My sisters, luckily, were younger – the littlest was only a year old when he left my mother for another man.
He is now suffering the failure of a second long-term relationship with the man he’d left my mother for. He’s trying to blame his ex – someone who has been part of our family for many years now – for his own failures.
My dad is narcissistic; he never sees his own failings or faults. Instead, he blames his mental illnesses for his bad behavior. He’s now claiming that his former partner was “abusing him,” so he’s developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I want to say “yeah, whatever” because my Dad is clearly the bigger, tougher, meaner person.
For weeks now, he’s been sending me lots of emails full of smack-talk. Today’s email pushed me over the edge:
“It was not without anguish and sorrow that I came to understand I might not be welcome to color eggs with the girls.
Also, any shared celebration of the Easter Feast was unlikely to occur.
I would like to ask you to consider reviewing the issues between us with your pastor/counselor in light of the Commandment to “Honor thy Father….”
The issues between Marc* and I are complex and confusing to understand based on the surface details. You were only present in our household for a very brief period. You clearly recall that it was Marc’s position that we need not flush the toilet every time (in an effort to conserve water and save on expense ).
I did seek to preserve the relationship through multiple attempts at marriage counseling aimed at fair fighting rules, sexuality, household economics, chores, and any other relevant topics.
MARC always pointed to past failed attempts AS GOOD ENOUGH REASON TO BELIEVE WE COULD NOT SUCCEED IN A FUTURE ATTEMPT. TERMINALLY UNIQUE AND WHOLLY UNLIKE ANY OTHER COUPLE. (Not unlike that of an addict.)
I am finding good spiritual support through attending multiple twelve-step meetings within walking distance of my new home.
While sharing at one of these meetings, I was reminded by another person that
“I need not accept UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.”
Your branding me as a cheat and unworthy of consideration falls into this area.
I DO NOT ACCEPT YOUR JUDGMENT AS SOUND IN THIS MATTER.
Let us look forward to rapprochement/reconciliation in the future.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
I am only replying to the first two statements in your message, as I do not have the strength with which to argue with you anymore.
1) We were out of state for much of the week prior to Easter and did not color any eggs whatsoever; there was no attempt to exclude you from any such activity as it did not even happen.
2) I do not cook or serve the Easter meal at my home; it is held at the home of my in-laws.
Please be advised, your messages are causing me pain and distress. You are reaching out across the internet and causing my heart to race and tears to stream down my face, just like you reached out and grabbed me when I was a kid. In your words, I do not have to accept unacceptable behavior, and may choose to ignore or delete your messages out of hand. I have every right to protect myself from your venom.
Are you aware of the physical and emotional damage you inflicted upon ME when I was just a CHILD??? You have the nerve to say YOU suffer from PTSD???
YOU were my abuser. I have a very hard time accepting you as a victim. I DO NOT need to hear of all the ways you’ve suffered; all I or my sisters have ever wanted is for you to own up to your own UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR and APOLOGIZE. NO EXCUSES. It is emotional abuse for you to threaten me to HONOR MY FATHER when you haven’t shown honor for my personhood by owning up to the ways in which you hurt me in the past. Please. Just. Stop.
I am standing up for myself now. I am done allowing you to hurt me. I will forgive you once you seek forgiveness and admit your own failings, which is what God asks of us. We must admit our sins, and request forgiveness. He will grant it, when we come before Him humbly, and admit that we need Him. I am not claiming to be perfect, or to have led my life in some perfect manner. I am broken. I am a sinner. I am reliant upon God for His grace and forgiveness.
I think my tears right now are because I know that this message will not reach you in the manner I intend, but that you will twist my words and use them to inflict more pain. We keep trying and hoping fervently that you will hear us, but you never do. Some of this is grief, accepting that I may never get the father I needed. My prayer is that you will listen and hear.
This is my first visit to the Band. I looked for this site because, at 54, I am still struggling to understand why my father won’t acknowledge my professional successes. I sent him an email last week asking about his holiday plans and mentioning that I am having a book published (we live about 5 hours apart, driving). I’ve been working on this goal actively for nearly a decade, and dreaming about it since I was in grade school.
I’ve nearly raised two children (they’re teenagers), I have a good marriage, and I’ve supported my family financially through my husband’s 5 layoffs. Don’t I deserve a pat on the head (realize this is an infantalizing image) for also pursuing my own dream all these years, while still doing all that was “expected” of me? My mother died many years ago of cancer. In fact, she was 54, the age I am now.
I signed this book contract six months ago but never mentioned it directly to my Dad, even though we shared a rental house for a week in the interim at a family vacation. Last week, in an email, he praised my daughter for academic persistence in high school, and I felt as though I should point out that she was taking a page from her Mom (me). I’ve written 4 book proposals, each 50-60 pages of work, and finally I made a sale! But, this revelation was met with total silence from my Dad and step-mother. I’m pathetic to still care and need and want this acknowledgement. I shouldn’t even ever have tried!! I should just admit that I’m invisible and stay that way. Why do I keep trying for normal?
I have a lovely mother in-law who takes pride in my accomplishments, all around: wifely, motherly, writerly. My husband does, too, as do many friends. I should be grateful. I AM grateful. I still want to make my father normal! Oy. Hopeless. I am grateful that I woke up from this crazy relationship in time to raise my kids without a narcissistic or victim-mongering mother. But there are bits that won’t go away.