Saturday, January 31, 2009
Where to begin? After 20 years I went back to visit my mother, a year and a half after my father died. Within the last ten years, my parents couldn't find me.
Were my parents narcissists? I don't think so. But they were severely damaged people, thanks to a World War they endured as little more than children. Which means they suffered tremendous loss, displacement, and deprivation and had no adults to guide or mentor them. If there is a hell, they went through it. And they passed that unspeakable trauma onto me, secondarily.
As with most incidents of abuse, the target, the fantastical survivor, the carrier of the family's ills, is the scapegoat in the family, the black sheep. I used to kinda, sorta feel and think that way, vaguely, but without validation. And this used to puzzle me. Why do they and my sister dislike me so? I am not a killer, a thief, a liar, a manipulator, an abuser. There is no evil in me. So...why?! I'm a decent human being. So...why? They say they love me and yet they treat me like shit. They accept criminals, accept the skeezy, live with the crazy, yet I am persona non grata.
You would think that the answer would be easy and I would see it, but I was blinded by love and overriding loyalty. You would think that I would see that the disparity between what they said and what they did would raise a red flag for me. Yet, who wants to believe that professed love, especially by parents, absolutely calling up the primal compulsion of blood ties, could be called into question. Or assessed, dissected, viewed through a scientific glass darkly. After all, are they not gods to us?
In therapy I was shocked and appalled to learn that I was the subject of vital emotional neglect and verbal abuse. It was and is true. But it took me a couple of years to completely accept it. How does one wrap one's mind around a concept that, no, your life was not normal, that you did not have a normal family, that they were subtly and repeatedly undermining and abusive, and that yes, it did affect you terribly? But when I accepted it, I was finally released. I realised, for the first time, that I was not defective, that it, whatever it was, was not my fault. I understood why I was the way that I was. I realised it would take a lifetime to heal. I realised that that would be my job until I died. All because a couple of damaged people who couldn't help being damaged, with the best of intentions, inadvertently damaged me.
This is the difference between the character disordered, the narcissists, and damaged people- unlike diehard narcissists, etc., they had the best of heartfelt intentions. All around, it is tragic.
What does this mean in reality? Well, it means that when I visited my mother after 20 years, I realised that she hated me more than she loved me. I had always been alien to my parents. They were working class and I was extremely bright and self-aware, not a value they held dear. They didn't know what to do with me. I always went my own way, and they saw it as rebellion. What to me would be labelled integrity, they interpreted as selfishness and stubbornness. I never fit. I never fit into the class and I never fit into the dream. Where they succeeded at the American dream, I wanted a better life, which had nothing to do with achievements and monetary success. None of which is that bad, if you think about it. Until you factor in the abuse. My father had a Grade 6 education and my mother Grade 10. My granny who always lived with us had a Grade 1 education. I have a Masters. I was alien.
All my life I thought of my mother as beautiful. And brave. Before the feminist movement, she secured a loan from the bank and had her own business. I held onto this image of my mother all my life. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, with the most gorgeous singing voice. She had always been industrious, hard working, diligent, over responsible. So it was rather a shock to discover that this 83 year old woman, who lost her husband of 60 years a year and a half ago, was an abusive, manipulative, cold hearted bitch. I learned the hard way. The signs had always been there.
By the time I left this middle of nowhere town, I was a basket case.
My mother lacked empathy. She cared more about a dead guy than about her living children. Having lost all that seemed important to her, she revealed herself full blown: her motto seemed to be, "What have you done for me lately".To fill in the gaps, people might charitably say that she was so grieving her husband that she couldn't see straight. Dream on, suckers. It was all about her. She was scared and lonely and angry that after 60 soulmatey kind of years, he was taken from her. According to her, they had each other because they couldn't trust anyone else, not even their children. After all, I, in my absence, had abandoned them when my father got cancer. Even though that didn't happen until 10 years after neither of us had made an attempt to contact each other. Oh, cry me a river. The eternal drama.
What my mother wanted was something that I had in the past said many times that she wanted. Bring the body. Her version of 'family' was bringing the body. She hadn't changed. She threw money at me, knowing all along that after my divorce I am poor. She blandished me with heretofore alien endearments. She promised me the earth and then some. She promised me freedom. And when I visited her, I never rested, relaxed. I was her servant. Even when she made my bed, hung all my clothes in the closet, fed me 3 fabulous squares a day. I was at her beck and call, waiting on her, making conversation, listening to her endless diatribes and sorrow. Ye gods.
At a critical juncture, she said she needed me. And then she verbally abused me. Unwittingly humiliated me. Tried endlessly to control me. Raged at me. Professed her love for me. Was in turns pathetic and someone I wanted to murder. By the end of my stay, I felt destroyed. I was physically ill, emotionally terrified, mentally bent. Sick. On all levels, I was sick. She saw me shrivel and shrink over time and lose all vitality. No matter to her, really.
I love my mother. As my mother, this emotional 10 year old holds tremendous power over me. I was raised to honour my parents. If ever there was cognitive dissonance, this is it. All my life I was confused...you say you love me yet you treat me like shit.
So I had to make a decision. It helped that when I got home I suffered excruciatingly painful stress related illnesses for months. I felt destroyed. A huge wake up call. I already had written my father off after therapy, a man who had originally destroyed my sense of self and confidence. After he died I felt a sense of release. But my mother???? Not my mother. Anything but my beautiful mother.
False idols need to die so you can live. We can only see through childish eyes so long. Still, it's a struggle. Loyalty meant everything to me. To be disloyal? You don't think past that. It is grave, egregious. And so I struggled within myself, knowing that my mother was someone I didn't know, a perfect stranger. That is shocking, in and of itself. And she was the walking dead, with no interest in others that did not serve her interests. I dreaded a phone call from her which would take hours. Now it was worse because she had said and done unforgivable things, things that showed me that I was a utility to her, and hated more than loved, and how could I reconcile that? I felt repulsed by her. I cried for her. It was tragic.
It was a critical turning point. To make a decision. Should I stay or should I go? It gets that naked, that bald faced. You think you can outrun it but you can't. You have to face the question. Here is this little, feeble, old, scared and hollow woman begging for your life, and here is the powerful, almighty, pitiless tyrant demanding your life. Who is the real one? To whom do you answer?
After weeks of struggle and concomitant sickness, here was my answer. I was dismayed to discover that I was more mature than my mother. The fact is, she is still a 10 year old. A false god. Being my mother gives her a power that she does not deserve. So, for the sake of myself I cut off all contact with her.
I wrote her a letter, knowing full well that she would blame me and think that I blame my life on her. There is no reasoning with the likes of her. This is important to know. I had read Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward. It was tremendously helpful to me, because it shockingly validated all the behaviour I had encountered; I found myself underlining most of the book, identifying the abusive behaviours and recognising the power my family still had over me, especially the loyalty issue, although it was far less after these many years.
I wrote my mother 14 pages by hand, telling her for the very first time in my life what it was like for me growing up in that family- what they did, how I experienced it, how I felt, how it affected me, how it affected all of my life. It was good. It was not to blame nor in the hoping for a response (which never came anyway), or the worry about how she would twist it, but in the telling, in the standing up for myself. That was all that mattered. To be able to tell. Finally.
To get to the point of sending the letter...I was terrified that it would kill her. Such is the stranglehold of family. Even when it is deathly to you. Such terror. But I did send it. Afterwards, I anguished endlessly over my decision, about whether I did the right thing. I finally realised that she had her path and I had mine, and I had done all I could within my limited power without her killing me. I feel released. Still, it never gets better, when I think about it.
Within family, I find, there is an overwhelming power- emotional power. More so, there is primal power, the blood power that seems to override all other considerations. It is supported, aided and abetted by family myths and values, by an unrestrained imperative- loyalty. It is daunting to challenge.
So, there is a point to this story. And the point is, know your limits. It is very humbling to discover one day that you cannot take it anymore. That you're not an endless vessel of love and understanding. That in a crunch all that matters is your own survival. Blood ties be damned. That the universal attitude towards family may have a chink.
You learn you are not all understanding, all encompassing with love, all empathetic, etc., etc. Sometimes, you just want life and to survive. Sometimes you just don't get it. Sometimes it just doesn't work for you. And maybe it is a failing within you. Maybe there is something lacking within you. Maybe you've reached some limit within yourself, and you can't grasp more. Even though the entire world tells you differently. And it's okay. You act upon it.
And then the challenge is to accept it and to live with it. There are no happy endings.
~ © InvictaMA 2011-2013
~ © InvictaMA 2010-2012
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Free: Cleckley's "Mask of Sanity"(Pdf format)
"To my experience, a favored technique for Narcissists is to debilitate your identity [personally, I hate the term self-esteem] by levelling false accusations and/or questioning your honesty, fidelity, trustworthiness, your “true” motivations, your “real” character, your sanity and judgement.”
"He was the MASTER of saving up your most personal “confessions” and then using them to tell you why you are so disgusting and sickening.”
"It does take time for our hearts to get the entire message. I think there is a part of us that wants so badly to believe that another person will somehow see the love offered to them and be glad for it, to receive it and appreciate it”.
"I think that only God can forgive this, I don't think about forgiveness. And the hardest part for me to grasp even now, is that there was NO relationship! It never actually existed. There is nothing. Still, it's good to know. I accept it and that knowledge has helped me tremendously to move on."
Welcome Home! You are not alone.........
If you found your way here then you may have encountered someone with narcissism, narcissistic personality disorder, or someone who seems to exhibit some symptoms of a psychopath. [Did you know that pathological narcissism may be considered a less severe form of psychopathy? More here: Conscience Continuum
For some survivors it feels like an emotional holocaust. For almost everyone it is misery, a nightmare. Some say it feels like evil.
Sometimes angelic, more often, hell-on-earth, is the emotional rollercoaster due to bipolar, or personality disorders or other types of mental illness? Who wouldn't feel confused and looking for answers?! Especially when we feel the pull towards them, just when we think we might escape it
We may not always find the answers we hope for, but I believe our lives depend on asking the questions. For if we don't know what we stand for, we don't know what we're willing to live and die for. And then it becomes easy for anyone to persuade us of anything.
Know you are not alone in these singular experiences. And you are not alone in seeking answers to your questions.....~ Invicta (MA, Counseling Psychology)
More here: ThePennyDrops
R.I.P. Tony C. Brown
Welcome To Our World
This is a place for healing; a place for binding your wounds while binding the wounds of others. It all starts with questions, whether moral/spiritual/existential or practical, that relate to one's encounter with psychopaths or pathological narcissists. If you are in the midst of, or have left, a relationship with someone you suspect to be severely character disordered read carefully and thoughtfully. Objective psychological knowledge (NOT theory), and moral support, IMO, are the most important things, at first.
1) Discover if your encounter might be with a psychopath or character disordered narcissist.
2) If it sounds like there is or has been a psychopath/pathological narcissist in your life, learn as much as humanly possible about what you're dealing with; and it's a good way to emotionally detach. Links are provided and they lead to other links.
3) I have a Masters in Counseling Psychology* which helped me not at all in my encounters [and why should you believe me about the degree?]. However, I was trained rigorously to be discriminating in the psych articles I read- to read critically. Therefore, I cannot recommend certain sites while I can recommend others. This goes for books as well. I have a particular point of view which does not allow for the pathologising of survivors. Online, it is easy to trash survivors of abuse. I was targetted by a net psychopath which has given me some insight, and any views written by me, are strictly from my experiences and not from any books, unless stated otherwise.
4) I realise that informed consent is rare online, that most people just want a safe place. It can be difficult to assess the credibility of many psychological POVs unless trained to do so. Be careful out there, and don't believe everything and everyone you read.
5) Check credential claims of website owners and writers if possible when they present themselves as experts, even self-described survivors. It's easy to lie and to mislead on the web. And aren't you worth the best, not some 3rd rate guru wannabe?
My goal is to uphold the dignity of all wounded survivors wishing to recover who come to this site and/or visit others.
~ Invicta (M.A. Counseling Psychology), Manager
*Disclaimer: The mission of this site is stated clearly; it is a site for education, to provoke thought. All that is discussed on this site is derived from personal experience and insight unless indicated otherwise. The manager accepts no responsibility for any action taken by readers of this site.
Remember to exercise reasonable caution in perusing any site that analyses or pathologises the survivor of a relationship with someone pathologically disordered. Please seek legitimate counselling.Do not believe anything on the mere authority of teachers or priests. Accept as true and as the guide to your life only that which accords with your own reason and experience, after thorough investigation. Accept only that which contributes to the well-being of yourself and others.
It is natural to want to support victims, but supporting victims is not identical to arming a lynch mob with lack of knowledge and misrepresentation. ~ Anonymous
Over the time spent on the internet trying to make sense of what happened with my encounter with an online psychopath I came to realise that there was a load of misinformation out there, on sites and in essays I encountered. I had garnered information, ostensibly pertaining to those with narcissistic personality disorder, only to come to the realisation, in time, that the inner life of disordered narcissism described, was more indicative of a psychopath, a slippery term in itself,  rather than the other. What to do?
Moreover, my major disagreement with a lot of what I've read on the net is the role of the target/victim/survivor. Call it "co-dependence", call it "hysteria" or "histrionic or borderline personality type", call it "echo personality disorder", all pathologize the victim. Who blames us? Those who have not been through it. Nor is some bigtime pathological narcissist or psychopath going to be the one to tell me about the dynamics and my psyche OR even begin to describe to me what the aftermath is like for survivors; for one thing, consider the source.
NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER - PRIVATE FORUM
I am not a mental health professional, as I state very prominently on my Web site. The content of this Web site [SV's] is based on correspondence since 1996 with hundreds of people suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (narcissists) and with thousands of their family members, friends, therapists, and colleagues.[That does not make this scientific research- it merely consists of anecdotal evidence, which has no authority in the scientific community. See: Narcissism and Grandiosity]
I passed a "Counselling Techniques" exam, provided online by Brainbench.
Here are the results:[Counselling techniques without practice? Huh? I spent many many many hours with clients and with supervisors to assess my techniques and skills and abilities. And doesn't Brainbench use "open book" exams? This is so basic, to ask such questions.]
Results Without A Name or Description
Take care there. Sam
S Vaknin has recently moved on to become editor of emotional/verbal abuse topics on Suite 101. I find this to be the ultimate irony. That the abuser gets to tell us, the survivors of abuse what we are about. And what we go through. The man is self-described disordered. Can anyone doubt his lack of empathy and inability to understand the point of view of the victim? And he is writing about the trauma that we suffer from narcissistic abuse? He is now writing a book using posts by abuse survivors on the Internet, that is, from anecdotal evidence, where anyone can make up anything, and without prior consent.
This is wonderful news!! Congratulations. Your unparalleled resources, assistance and knowledge to survivors is exemplary. This is an exciting and innovative resource that will be most highly recommended everywhere!![It's called 'Spam' ~Invicta]
NO. His advice to survivors and anyone else, IMO, is far less than exemplary. And so is his continuing manipulation of the Internet and the discussion group 
From: Pathologizing the Victim by SV (2004):
Thus, an abuse victim who declines to have any further contact with her batterer - is bound to be chastised by her therapist for obstinately refusing to constructively communicate with her violent spouse.
Not only is there a narcissist or psychopath under every bush and beside every 'couch', but there are also inferior robotic 'Pavlovian' types in the helping professions, and the world is hostile and unkind- a breeding bed of paranoia and persecution. The author has no understanding whatsoever of the dynamics of abuse. Just a glib surface rendering.
Better to play ball and adopt the sleek mannerisms of your abuser. Sadly, sometimes the only way to convince your therapist that it is not all in your head and that you are a victim - is by being insincere and by staging a well-calibrated performance, replete with the correct vocabulary. Therapists have Pavlovian reactions to certain phrases and theories and to certain "presenting signs and symptoms" (behaviors during the first few sessions). Learn these - and use them to your advantage. It is your only chance.
Such advice is unconscionable, to suggest manipulating the therapist just like a psychopath might- to hold therapists in contempt, just like a psychopath would- to assert that therapists are prone to a conditioned response, reducing their responses to the likes of rats and pigeons and all other animals. Yet this too is supported by the groups mentioned above. And on the internet, neither he nor they will be held to account. All he has to do is say "he is not a mental health professional" [but I play one on the Internet]. Caveat emptor! Consider the source. This is all opinion, and a misuse of psychology as we know it.
....[The cyber narcissist], "' ever the intimidating bully" - is not accustomed to such resistance'" [by others on the net, in groups, I presume].This rather sounds like you can show no opposition , must play "nice", or be labelled a narcissist.
The Cyber Narcissist As Online Therapeutic Catalyst
The author absurdly suggests that therapeutic dynamics are at play in groups where cyberpaths play, which in my view is destructive, as well as adistortion of the concept and actuality of therapy. With the really disordered in the mix, the online group environment becomes toxic, illusory and tremendously damaging, not bracing.
Compare the above with Wendy Koeningsmann's brilliant analysis of Psychopathic Types At Play on the Internet (reflects my experience to an uncanny degree); and The FBI Profile Of the Mental Rapist
Both these assessments do not profile a cyber narcissist as essentially an argumentative, belligerent, obnoxious bully. No, these types are far subtler than that and that is why people can be manipulated and fooled. And to make psychopathic play in groups akin to therapy is to distort the meaning of true therapy. Again, it seems that the author has little conception of what really happens in groups where cyber narcissists play. Or perhaps he is trying to deflect from the true psychopathic types/narcissists that do populate the internet - the ones that on the surface display true narcissism in action, as Dr. Bruce Gregory so nicely articulates:
When the narcissistic defense is operating in an interpersonal or group setting, the grandiose part does not show its face in public. In public it presents a front of patience, congeniality, and confident reasonableness.For stories, hear one side- the story of a survivor, me, who not only had an encounter with my own personal sociopath, but a guru wannabe, Sam Vaknin, and his followers. An excerpt from his book sets that stage:
"The book was never intended to help anyone. Above all, it was meant to attract attention and adulation (narcissistic supply) to its author, myself. Being in a guru-like status is the ultimate narcissistic experience."