Since learning there is a name for the woman that raised me, I've learned SO much about her and what she's done, does and is.
Narcissism. I kind of knew what it was, but didn't really know it was as deep and relevant to me as it is. It's dangerous, even, to be raised by a person like that. The denial and self righteousness is appalling and I really have no idea why I'm the only one in my entire family to realize this and furthermore cut off all contact.
There was an article I read yesterday that struck me. Generally, these days, any article on narcissist behavior and tactics really get me. I want to jump up and down and yell "YES!!! THIS!! ALL OF THIS!!!!"
I want to break down the article regarding my own personal experience with a narcissist. The article was written by Shahida Arabi and posted to the Thought Catalog online and is entitled 20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths Use to Silence You.
#1 - Gaslighting. Basically when you confront your narc about things that happened to you and had a huge impact (negatively) on you, they respond with “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?”
Yup. I've heard all three of those. One particular incident that happened to me when I was around seven years old was brought up in my adult life to my narc and the family member who did it. My husband and I were told that I didn't remember it right and that it didn't happen. I refuse to give that power to others. You cannot tell me it didn't happen. I can still close my eyes and be there. I can smell the room, taste the feeling and see the clock.
Another time I've been told to go seek help (ie therapy) was when I was confronting my parents regarding my adoption. My entire life has been wrought with questions. I first found out my narc lied to me about things when I was a preteen. Later, as an adult, I realized everything she told me was a lie. Why would an adoptive parent help you? I'd think it's their obligation to help. They think I'm insane, apparently.
#2 - Projection. Never holding themselves responsible or accountable. This is something used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else.
I remember as a kid, I was always accused of lying. If I did lie, it was learned from my narc. She'd lie all the time. She'd keep clothes in the trunk of the car she wouldn't want my father to see after a trip to the mall. She lied about everything from plastic surgery to small stupid things.
She constantly would project that on to me. Blame me for lying, even using lines like "We can take it to the police to find your dna on it!' I could slit my wrists in front of her to show her I can bleed, and she'd still accuse me of saying I had no blood.
Also, regarding lying, more than one occasion was produced where she would be yelling at me for lying, I would be crying and begging her to believe me, and she would be holding the telephone saying, "I'll call your 'real' mom right now to come and get you! We don't like liars in this family!" Yes. It happened. And I'm sure she'd deny it.
#3 - Nonsensical conversations from hell. Spend even ten minutes arguing with a toxic narcissist and you’ll find yourself wondering how the argument even began at all. Most of the time I'd end up feeling like a stupid moron for arguing because my point was never made, let alone accepted. In most arguments she'd go back to my childhood and talk about how fickle I was or how I was like an animal backed into a corner. Well, duh! Arguing with a narc is one thing that would make you want to put a shotgun to your own head.
#4 - Blanket statements and generalizations. Whenever I would get into an argument with my narc, it always ended the same. She'd go on about how “You’re never satisfied,” or “You’re always angry.” Any mention of logic or rationalization would send her into another tantrum. But while she was having the tantrum, I was the one who was made to look insane.
#5 - Deliberately misrepresenting your thoughts and feelings to the point of absurdity. Whenever my narc and I would have differing opinions or I would express my legitimate emotions and lived experiences she would call them character flaws or that I was irrational. I was always called irrational. My feelings, emotion or experiences were never validated. What's really scary, is my narc is so good at it...you honestly felt that she was right and you were irrational. As an adult, I know it's not true, but damn, that's scary.
#6 - Nitpicking and moving the goal posts. Constantly being told, not in exact words, I wasn't good enough. It went from the way I styled my hair...or if I didn't feel like styling it....to how I decorated my first home. It was her way or the highway. The cost of things were important too. She refused to learn another way of doing things, let alone allowing me to ever LEARN how to do things my way. It took me until I was about 35 to learn. She constantly was raising expectations and I never really got a "Atta Girl!" when I thought I accomplished something she wanted because she was constantly moving the goal post.
#7 -Changing the subject to evade accountability. My narc has never, not once, taken accountability or ownership at any time of anything that I have felt was wrong.
If I would bring up something in particular, she would digress to maybe something I did wrong then the conversation would end up me defending myself.
#8 - Covert and overt threats. If my narc was ever challenged or felt challenged, watch out. Threats came from all around. I'll go to something that today sounds so incredibly stupid but was made such a huge deal out of because of my defiance.
When I was around 13 or so and had started my period, my mother found a tampon in my bathroom trash can. This is a big deal because for whatever reasons, she didn't want me to use tampons. Which I didn't. Hell, she had me terrified of them!
My older brother's girlfriend was more than likely the culprit, she was the only other female in the house at the time. But none of that mattered. Instead, my narc blasted me with blame. Yelling at me, and had my dad join in (like that wasn't embarrassing me to death) about "WHY DID YOU TRY TO HIDE THIS TAMPON!?!?" and "YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THESE!" Constantly blaming me accusing me when all I could do was cry and defend myself. "It's not mine! I don't use those! Someone else put it there! I swear!"
None of that was good enough because they were breaking me. So it came to the police. My narc said, "You know, we can take this to the police and they can test it and PROVE it's yours!" I shot back, "FINE! DO IT! THEN YOU'LL SEE IT'S NOT MINE!!!!!" I was shut down and sent to my room, grounded and punished anyway. It's so stupid, but I could never win an argument with her. Ever. And when I really did lie, they knew it. But regardless, I was branded a liar and ornery and constantly called ungrateful.
#9 - Name Calling. This is a great one, because my narc was a name caller. She wasn't outright calling me Doodoohead or anything, but name called none the less.
She'd use words like 'fickle' and 'ornery'....words that a kid would have to look up to realize they're derogatory. Lazy was thrown around. If you weren't moving any time her eyes were on you, you were lazy. That's the worst.
I grew up with a sense that what I thought or said never mattered because I wasn't heard. I was just there to dance, put on make up and be pretty.
#10 - Destructive conditioning. I was conditioned to not have a voice. I was conditioned to know how to cook and clean. When I wanted to go to college, it was chosen for me....I was told I like to rearrange my room so I was going to get an Interior Design degree. While in college, I was told my sketches are not good...or I didn't color in the lines.....making a mockery of everything I did. I was never raised to follow my heart or my dreams. I was told what they were.
I was trained. And I was afraid to even open my mind to find what makes me happy to do. And now, as an adult, if I could I'd do a lot of things different. I'd travel and be a hippy and learn all the things I'm learning now. It's so sad that I was robbed of that as a kid.
#11 - Smear campaigns and stalking. The smear campaign for me came when I demanded my narc to be accountable. When she wouldn't, she told everyone I was crazy and a liar and nothing I said was true and that she had no idea where I would get such nonsense.
By this time, I was on my own two feet, no longer under her spell. I had no problem telling people what exactly happened to me in that house and who did it. I learned I had a voice and I used it. She, to this day, will pretend she doesn't have a clue.
When my little brother committed suicide, I was told the truth at first, but was sworn to secrecy by this person. When my middle brother called me, I was told something else. When more people would contact me, I got up to 4 different stories. My narc is all about keeping up appearances, heaven forbid people know he killed himself. But why lie to me? I get it, she doesn't want me to be a part of the family I suppose....or she knows that I will tell everyone the truth because I don't see a reason behind lying about something like this. Regardless....with all the stories going around, I had to purchase a copy of the police report.
That's right. In order to find the truth out about my own brother's death, I had to read the forensic truth in all of it's glory. I cannot unsee any of that. Ever. And, as I do, I blogged. It's how I deal and process. And when I told the truth, a sister in law told me to take it down because my narc told her to tell me that. They apparently lied to his daughter as well....but as I told her, my niece doesn't read my blog unless someone pointed her to it. I doubt she even know I had a blog. That made my sister in law stop talking to me. This one particular sister in law has been my heart through thick and thin. And it destroyed me that my narc (I'm sure) loved that she stopped speaking to me....and so did my niece. Smear campaign achieved.
#12 - Love-bombing and devaluation. I think the one thing I can put to this one is my divorce. When I divorced my first husband...who cheated on me and is just a horrible person...it seemed she didn't support me. She had stayed friendly with him and later would even have phone conversations with his wife over my children. She's certifiable.
#13 - Preemptive Defense. Basically, my narc always made me feel like I couldn't do anything myself. That I needed her. That she's the only one to trust. I don't know how she did that one, but hook, line and sinker I was caught.
#14 - Triangulation. She plays everyone. Always has. While she thinks she's true to you, she's talking about you behind your back to gain more information. She did this between myself and all my sisters in law.
#15 - Bait and feign innocence. False sense of security is the key. She would bait me into an argument regarding anything she knew was a touchy subject...or just nosing around in my room for no reason when I was absolutely up to nothing, just to start an argument. When I would be all up in a tizzy, she'd stand back and say things like she didn't start an argument or I'm such a hot head etc.
#16 Boundary testing and hoovering. Not so sure on this one. She has never tested boundaries...she's mowed right over them.
#17 Aggressive jabs disguised as jokes. She always took jabs at me, with a sly tone and giggled after, and encouraged others to as well. I was called the words I've mentioned....ornery, fickle, picky, hot headed etc. In her cool, calm tone. If I got mad, I had no sense of humor or 'too sensitive'. There were a lot of comments made in the same tone regarding my weight, posture, weight, looks, and did I mention weight? I was a slim kid. I was very active, but was never thin enough. Eating disorders that still haunt me only made her happy.
#18 - Condescending sarcasm and patronizing tone. This is another 'you're too sensitive' type issue. Belittle and degrade....those as well.
#18 - Shaming. Being beat, slapped, hit as a kid was always justified. "It was the 70s" "That's how it was then" No apology. I was hit until I was 18 years old. The last was a slap across my face for lying about where I was. I wasn't really allowed to date boys my brother or mother didn't pick for me. That slap made me piss my pants. Literally. It was my dad who slapped me. Hard. He only got into things when my narc would prod him. I always feel bad for him, he's the one with the least amount of a voice.
#20 - CONTROL. This one is by far the biggest.....to me. She is a control freak. She controls the fact that she will disguise helping you out with control. She'll help you, if you do whatever her way. She'll give you money at Christmas, but it's in the form of store cards so you have no choice but to use them at said stores....even if you haven't shopped there in years.
When I was divorced and on my own with two small kids, money was tight. The child support pretty much paid for child care and the bills, rent, food, clothes etc was all up to me. There were times that my power was cut off because I was late. When I'd ask my parents for a loan I'd not get it. Narc would say she didn't have the money. 60 bucks...really? But she'd say to come stay with her until I could pay it. Meaning, I would have to pack and make sure my pets were taken care of with no power until then. I would have to upset my kid's routine, mine, rearrange everything. She had the money, if you knew her you'd laugh too. It was her way or the highway.
When Christmas would come, when asked what I wanted...I'd say MONEY because I had bills to pay. I didn't want gifts, let my kids get those and enjoy the holiday. Instead of money, I'd get $400 in gift cards. Yeah, yeah, the though should count. Right? Again, if you knew her...you'd laugh. I had to spend $400 at a store that carried nothing for me because that's the only choice I had. Meanwhile, I'm still dying to pay bills.
She favors grandkids over others....there's one she will never claim and one that she completely has fawned all over. That's always made me so mad and hurt for that kid and the mom...and the dad. Just awful. I can't imagine a grandmother who does that.
Another time a brother asked for a loan for a medical procedure. I won't say why because it's a person deal, but she told him she didn't have the money. Afterwards, while he and his wife was outback, the narc told the rest of us what had happened and said she told him no because she didn't want that medical procedure to happen for him. With one of my sister in laws she'd babysit, my sister in law really hated that she needed it but she did. She felt the same way about the narc that I did, so I got it. The narc would hold it over her head, or not watch the grandkid when she knew my sister in law wanted to do something fun or just make things difficult for her. When she got pregnant, she wished a fall down the stairs on her to lose the baby because not only is she a narc, she's a huge racist.
The narc put a recorder on the phone.....she would say it was for a good reason, but for years all we knew was it was like being on a prison phone so we had to watch ourselves. I don't even know how many hours of calls she has...probably still has them.
When I got remarried in 2006, we eloped. It was just reasonable to do. We were both married before and didn't want a 'wedding' wedding. My narc never did acknowledge my wedding or husband. For our first Christmas married...she got him a $25 gas card. A gas card. That's the only gift she ever got him. She never acknowledged his kids. At our business opening, she all but ignored his parents. She's just an awful person.
She also hated that I had I had a loving, supportive husband and that I was happy. I didn't need her. I realized I didn't need her. My husband supported me and listened to me and it made me realize I didn't need her. That's when I confronted her and was met with denial and the gossip she did to anyone that would listen. In retaliation, she didn't allow me at my grandparents bedsides when they both passed. She lied to me about my little brother. She took those moments away from me as punishment. That's all she had. Now she really has nothing to hurt me. She's done all she could. With no apology and no ownership, there's nothing else I want from her.
She holds the keys to my adoption, but I'm ok. I'll continue to search on my own, but if I end up finding nothing, I'll still be ok because I tried. I did more for myself than she ever could. Now I'll just wait for her pass because that is one funeral I won't miss. I will be there just to make sure it's true.