The why... abridged
When one becomes mindful and looks back, there is so much, where to begin…
From the Home page…
One may not be able to identify the exact date when, within their mind, an uneasiness was felt, that something was not exactly right. A contrary feeling to, as a child, your belief that you are loved and in a safe place. Though, at times, the uneasy feeling crept center stage and you questioned, perhaps, actions did not always bear out the spoken words. Reinforced by certain words coming across as a cutting or sarcastic comment, which, unknowingly to yourself, was calculatingly undermining your self-esteem and self-confidence. I certainly never believed, on more than one occasion, that I ever truly measured up. In my years, the early ones to my mid-forties, I trusted that I grew up in a loving home, a close-knit family that was looking out for one another. Well, that is what I was taught and, thus, led to believe. On the contrary, there were many occasions where that loyalty did not come through in my mother’s actions. Later in life, it also became clear that neither of my siblings would be true to their word. Actions do speak louder than words, and their actions were screaming at me. However, I was deaf to it all, as I continued to believe we were a family looking out for one another. All that was needed was more discussion, one more thing and it will all be understood. That old saying, “I wish I knew then what I know now” becomes 20/20 easy target hindsight.
Continued from the Home page…
My siblings and I grew up under a narcissistic parent. After my dad passed it became clear his presence masked much of my mother’s nastiest narcissistic behavior. His being there also cloaked the sibling narcissistic dynamics. What he had been absorbing now was directed at me. Unknowingly, my role as family scapegoat was now being reinforced. Over the years it became harder for mom to disguise her behavior. I for some reason came to recognize this, saw there were predispositions of growing up in such an environment, and, made an effort to become educated on the subject and adjust from there. My siblings not so much, their sense of entitlement, excuse and superiority screams as loudly today as it did when I was subjected to their unending blame, character assassination and threats. Humble people they are not. In retrospect, I was cognizant of the chronic lying, deception, deflection, never owning what they did or said, or honoring a promise they had made. I was ignorant as to the why, chalking it up to an innocent misunderstanding, something ‘I’ must correct.
My mother has since passed away, though about nine years prior I had an epiphany. Something went off in my head and nagged listen to your inner voice there is something not right here. This can’t always be me. Why did I always feel spent after visiting her? Why did I always feel, like I did as a kid, never measuring up quite enough, never being perfect and getting everything right? Something has got to be wrong with this picture, this just does not balance with a healthy relationship. I finally gave myself permission to find out if the guilt I felt for not being flawless was warranted or was being imposed on me. I googled the things I experienced as a child, things I experienced throughout my life, up to the day I started googling looking for information and, hopefully, some answers. Like many I was amazed at what I read, almost as if I wrote the words from my own life experiences. First there was relief I have some answers. Then thinking what a fool I have been, what a waste of time this has been endlessly trying to please and get it right. Then the shame as I should have known and recognized this. Hold on, wait, that is exactly how I was trained to feel all my life. Always what did you do to cause this? Never getting it right, always trying to make it right, never measuring up, never being quite good enough, always the doubt… Always playing the ‘omega wolf’ of the family and, thus, the unwitting scapegoat.
One of my siblings mentioned entitlement, the details as to why are for a later discussion, so I broached growing up under a narcissistic parent and the tendencies that may rub off onto the children of such. Not a very warm reception on the subject, so I asked if I could send them a book on the subject of growing up under a narcissistic parent. They both indicated fine. I confirmed no worries or problems if I do? They both said yes. Well, one would never acknowledge whether they had read it or even browsed through it. The other said they had read it, but it became apparent they were now using it as a playbook, another resource to refine their tactics. My mistake I guess. I later learned, all I was doing was stepping into the trap that had already been made. The more you try to get a fair balance, the more ammunition you are providing to be used against you. The ‘fool’ conundrum. After much consideration, I decided to write and discuss my experiences as I am not alone and the effect it has on one’s life has become quite evident. It is challenging for me as it is not easy to admit what I have been subjected to, admitting that it came from family I loved and trusted. Discarding the belief that I am the one who needs to make it right for everyone else, therefore it must be my fault if I do not. Take the blame, when any blame does not belong to me. The ability to open up, admit and confront such is a significant step casting off the shame, surviving and moving forward from any manner or source of narcissistic abuse.
The Spouse’s experience:
I grew up in a household where both parents were narcissists with the additional bonus of one also being an alcoholic. I do not remember my childhood as one filled with happiness and love. I remember being unhappy a good deal of the time, never quite knowing what to do to be in my parents good graces. Remembering my childhood as cold with the focus always being on my parents’ needs and wants. It was mostly emotional abuse, however, there was a degree of unacceptable physical abuse; such as, open palm slaps to a child’s face, with enough force to leave a mark and whip the child’s head around.
Like many, early on as a child, I thought this was normal, obey my parents, always be the perfect child, not be a nuisance, not upset them in the slightest, and accept blame even when I had done nothing wrong. Growing up I remember quite often living in fear of my parents. Degrading backhanded comments, constantly making me doubt myself, twisting words, telling me I misremembered, never honoring their promises, always having to try and negotiate and getting nowhere as the doublespeak and guilt would intensify. I was made to feel foolish, stupid and told I was a hypochondriac. Turns out I have a systemic life threatening chronic condition, which became evident shortly after we married. First evidence showed up a few years earlier and I was treated at the time, but my parents did not follow-up afterwards and labeled me a hypochondriac. They always found a way to minimize their parental obligations and impacts to their social schedule. They were/are masters of using people.
When I was around the age ten, my parents decided they were going to adopt a baby. Well, that turned into adopting twins. I remember being excited, as any child would be, at the new arrivals to the family. However, it quickly became clear that I was going to have a big role in taking care of my siblings. This continued into my early twenties. I was everything, except a wet nurse, to those kids. Childhood friends remember the twins always being in tow, whenever I wanted to do anything the kids were perfectly dressed, one on each hand to whatever event or if I was just going out. I confided in my high school guidance counselor as to what my home life was like. We practiced ways to approach and deal with my parents, though nothing was successful. Reaching driving age ushered in the duty of driving the twins to whatever my parents decided they should be involved in. It was my responsibility to make it happen. To this day my mother denies all of this and invalidates what I actually did and the parental responsibilities projected onto me. I remember constantly hearing how wonderful, beautiful and smart the twins were, while my father told my husband “that she tries hard but it is difficult for her”. I never received recognition from my parents, that I finished college in three years, while working several jobs and also taking care of the twins needs. I also was not allowed to go away to college. My parents take credit for paying for my college, though, we had a $14,000 (a lot for back then) student loan we paid off that proves they did not. Claims like these are not unusual and are stated as fact. They are very good at revisionist history at my expense in more ways than one.
My husband was warned by mutual acquaintances, do you really want to marry into her family? The reputation my parents had as to their treatment of me, amongst my peers, was obviously well established. He blew that off and stated he was marrying me, not her parents (He was polite and chalks that up to naiveté on his part). The evidence was there though, He just chose to ignore it, and, while my parents’ conduct has always been a displeasure to him, he has always made sure I know he has never regretted his decision.
My father had an arrangement with coworkers at his work, by which they would rotate clocking each other out at the end of shift. Allowing one or some to leave work after two to three hours and get paid for the full shift. This was a nightshift job, he would come home at 10-10:30pm after leaving for the shift at 6:30-7:00pm. What did he do when he got home early, poured a tumbler full of scotch and stayed up until early morning. My father was an alcoholic, a narcissist with an addiction. How is that in winning the lottery for a parent? Suffice it to say, I came to realize this was just one example of how the rules did not apply to my parents, only to everyone else. My father has also since passed away, allowing my mother’s behaviors to come forefront and be on full display without any filters. Bringing with it the constant reminder of my childhood, lack of parental boundaries and the perpetual feeling of a need to do one more thing that will get my mother to truly accept, appreciate me and make it right.
Even being married and out from my parents household for almost twenty years, their ability to undermine my confidence and self-esteem remained. Not anything like living in the same household, but the hooks were still present. At one point, I was unable to contact my parents, they were not returning calls, concerned I called a relative who informed me that my parents were, out of the country, away on a trip. For over two weeks no return calls or contact, then they show up, out of the blue, at our door step at 9:45PM, mind you it was a 6 hour car trip to get from where they lived to our house. They immediately begin to rip into me, saying they told me they were going away, that changed over the years to saying they told my grandmother to call me and let me know. Didn’t happen. They then stated they came up because they had left messages on our answering machine to make sure I was okay. They then told me, mind you this was done in an aggressive and intimidating manner, that I can call them when I am ready to apologize to them. Wait, what? My husband interceded and said let’s take this down a notch, not continue, calm down before something is said that will be permanently regretted. Well, after one final intimidating statement and claim it is up to me to contact them with an apology, they got in their car and left. It came out later, the first thing they did when leaving was to call my son-in-law and tell him it did not go well. Huh? Why was he involved? I pondered, as we all do, I wish I understood then, what was going on, like I do now. After much thought, I decided I had had enough, it was time for a break from my parents, their antics and protect our children from experiencing this behavior.
We now understand that to be ‘no contact’, though I did it then out of realizing it was in my best interests given the history. My gut told me enough was enough, as there is no basis for their actions and it is just not healthy for me to continue to endure such behavior. Remember, I have a chronic health condition. My parents have never unambiguously acknowledged the illness and did nothing, over the years, to relieve the stress they caused me. This period of ‘no contact’ lasted for several years, though they continually tried end runs to contact our children without our knowledge.
As everyone was getting older, I thought I would take the high road and reconnect with my parents before it was too late. Not knowing the ramifications of reconnecting with narcissists I mistakenly, with my husband’s blessing, reconnected. At first it was all bells and whistles, though a few early on comments by my mother and father were a precursor that nothing had changed and my mother held a grudge. After a couple of years passed, relatives expressed to me that my parents really had not changed. During this reconnection period is when my father passed and I was there for my mother, the one who could be counted on and there, when needed, over the year of my father’s passing. Not so much my siblings, as one of the twins was not having any contact with our parents, did not go to the funeral or give any acknowledgement thereof (we would soon find out why). On the second anniversary of my father’s passing, it was clear to me that my mother had not changed, if anything her narcissistic behavior, lack of sincerity or empathy were more unchecked. I decided it was prudent to limit my contact with my mother, to try and set workable boundaries. This was met with accusations that I “was not calling as much”, “what are you going to do disappear again”, “I care about you honey, you can confide in me”, etc. It brought recollections to mind, of times that I had reached out to them in hard times or in difficult situations, while growing up through to the present. Those memories are filled with being yelled at, belittled and ridiculed. Things I shared with my parents were used against me, used out of context and revised when discussing (gossiping for effect) with others.
The lack of compassion and empathy in my parents is so foreign to me, that the pain it inflicts is incredible. It turns out, my mother, to get even for the grudge she has evidently been holding since reconnection, was systematically undermining me (us), planting the seeds of doubt with our now adult children and projecting her historical behavior on to us, grooming them as a new supply. This was recently confirmed by a relative who witnessed conversations and comments my mother had been making to our children over the last few years. A heads up when it was going on would have been nice? Now that I was doing what we now know as ‘grey rocks’ with my mother, my mother’s behavior towards me ramped up, and, her efforts to destroy our relationship with our children became quite evident, her coup de grâce. All while stating to me she is “there for me”, “I love you”, “I would never do anything to hurt you”. Narcissists are quite the masters of deceit and believability! What kind of grandmother seeks to destroy the relationship between a parent and child? It has taken my husband and myself two-thirds of our lives to realize and become educated as to the narcissists among us, the pain and the devastation they wreak.
From an empaths perspective, when families (or anyone for that matter) are going through a hard period, difficult situation, you would believe a loving caring parent would want to come along aside and reassure the children. My parents, are selective with this. The twins (the golden children with one being uber golden) receive huge latitude with their behavior, expectations and events in their life. My role was the scapegoat. They use experiences, true or revised, to demoralize me and reinforce their belief in their own supremacy. They differentiate me and complement the twins privately and publically in front of me. My mother projects and lives through the twins.
After your shame softens a bit and you become confident enough to explain the abuse to someone who presumes they have never been exposed to narcissistic abuse, it is difficult for them to comprehend or understand it, as the abuse leaves no visible marks. An outsider often responds with comments like “she is your only mother”, “you should respect your mother (parents)”, it can’t be that bad, just ignore what they say”, “no one can be that bad”, etc.
Family Narcissistic Abuse, Narcissistic Abuse in all its forms is real, though awareness of it and the damage it causes is minimal. Our experiences and research confirm this, though awareness is on the rise as the abuse has become more documented. It is clear there are many individuals who have and are experiencing narcissistic abuse and that it is largely a mystery to the public and dismissed as impossible (it must be you). It is hard to explain to someone who does not understand, has not experienced it or is unaware that they have been subjected to it. It became clear that in order to spread the word, given the explosive growth of narcissism and narcissistic abuse in our society since WWII, that we decided to share our stories and reinforce those who have been abused as they are the real survivors.
For the time being, we have chosen to keep names, places and such private.
“The why…abridged” was written and reviewed by authors thereof.