Narcissistic Personality Disorder

claire_de_lunaSeptember 23, 2009

Does anyone have any experience with this?

I just found out that this is what my mother has. I am relieved to realize this behavior is actually a disorder (although I had a clue) and can finally say, ''OH. So THAT'S it.'' It's been very helpful to me to learn more about this and realize that none of it is my fault, nor am I alone.

Let's just say my mother was a major factor in my decision not to have kids. Fear of becoming her was a major motivation.

I always naively held out hope that things could be different, however the time has come to accept the fact that change isn't going to happen. Narcissists can be very charming when they choose, luring you into believing ''otherwise''; however, a lifetime of experience tells the true story. I suppose there is freedom in acceptance.

If you've had some experience with this, how do you best deal with that person, while protecting yourself at the same time? Currently, I am screening every phone call, as I've come to expect major drama at any moment. The last conversation 10 months ago, caused me to buy talking phones for every room in my house, so I would never pick up again, without knowing who was on the other end.

My mantra, repeated daily is: I am not available to hear your complaints, criticisms or drama. I recently shortened it to: I am not available. The entire sentence is helpful though in reminding me why I'm not!

I suspect we've all had some contact with narcissistic personalities, as it seems to be more and more common these days. What do you do?

Here is a link that might be useful: Narcissistic Traits

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I meant to post this on the other side, in conversations. Please forgive me, as it has nothing to do with cooking, even though at times my brain is often fried.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 1:43PM
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Sweeby. Go find her. She posts all over.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 2:11PM
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That's an interesting link in that it seems very personalized as opposed to a clinical, detached description.

I have known and worked for several narcissists. I think art and design attracts them. And they have little or no interest in changing, after all, they are wonderful. You're just jealous you aren't them! ;)

I feel your pain. My mother lives in the next state over. I like it that way. I don't know if she is a narcissist. I haven't analyzed her. But I know that I am healthier and happier living far away. I am cordial and polite and keep her beyond arm's length. She is no longer capable of pushing or even finding my buttons. I only tell her positive things about my life and my children. She is negative and toxic in an insidious way with any personal information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mayo Clinic

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 2:21PM
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I've Googled Mayo Clinic for many other things.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 3:11PM
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I work in a similar field as Barnmom, but I'm not much put off or affected by symptoms of this disorder. It was much worse when I was doing fashion design, and I noticed that disorder in almost all of the models. I got into cat fights with them constantly and finally decided to change careers, partly because of it. It exists somewhat in the furniture industry (especially the high end, which is where I work), but because I am in a position where people are dependent on me and my work, they pretty much have to be nice to me. Models were dependent on my designs when I was in the fashion industry, but they were too stupid to realize it.

Since you are dealing with your mother, I doubt there is much you can do to change the situation, unless she is willing to get therapy. If someone were bothering me with drama and problems, I would just tell them that I don't care. I doubt you can do that, but it does send them in a different direction - away from me.

Have you ever read Edward Albee's The American Dream? I think the character of Mommy has this disorder, but in the play, it's very funny. I got a copy of it on Amazon for 5, plus shipping, which was the main part of the cost.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 3:36PM
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Barnmom, And they have little or no interest in changing, after all, they are wonderful. You're just jealous you aren't them! ;)

You've got that SO right.

When my mother hung up on me, it was after she'd noted all my faults, told me I was giving her a heart attack (among many other things) and called me a jealous *dog*. Yes, I'm so jealous, I'm the only one she could depend on to show up for her when she ''needed'' something. My first words to her were, "Did you have a nice time with (my sister?)'' Her first words? ''Why do you disrespect me this way?'' She really must have needed to fight with someone that day.

Fortunately, because she is now required by me to apologize, (which will never happen)...I'm off the hook. It's been a peaceful existence so far.

I think my issues lately are grief-related. Considering my age, I wonder why since I know nothing would change. Acceptance makes it true, doesn't it?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 3:36PM
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Hi Claire & Jessy & All --

Yes, I've got experience with narcissists, having been married for 10 [very] long years to a man who was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It was rough! And I was young and stupid - naive really.

How to handle it? Well, not the way I did, that's for sure! I tried so hard to be the good wife - never to anger or disappoint him, always to accept his 'quirks' as part of his personality, and always, always to present an exemplary 'trophy wife facade' (because that was very important to him). It took me a while, but I eventually learned that the best way to handle him was to get him out in public, because then he would be charming and gracious and funny and affectionate. (And if I kept him out until bedtime, then I could usually avoid being torn apart for a whole day.) Fortunately, we were classic Yuppy Dinks at the time (it was the 1980's...), and could afford to go out most evenings.

Of course, having a child changed everything... Since I was the one who had initiated the "Let's have a baby now" conversation, taking care of the baby was 100% my job. (In addition to my regular day job.) On the weekends, if I asked him to hold the baby long enough to take a shower that was cause for complaints and contempt. (He was busy! There was a ball game on TV and he was watching it!) But getting him out in public still worked -- because then, you never saw such a doting father... Good thing our son was CUTE and engaging! A real attention magnet for Dad.

Well, it was watching Dad run 'hot and cold' with our baby that finally hit home with me enough to insist on marriage counseling. Of course there was nothing wrong with him! but he agreed to go since I'd given him an 'or else it's over' message and a divorce would have been 'an embarrassing public failure'. And counseling was an eye-opener! It was our marriage counselors who diagnosed him with NPD, and finally things began to make sense. Finally, all of his narcissistic behaviors had an 'official' explanation that jived with what I knew to be true. It really wasn't my fault -- ('It' being everything he had always blamed on me.)

I was already at the absolute end of my rope with that marriage, so finding out the general prognosis for treating someone with NPD (about 10 years of treatment, beginning once they accept the diagnosis and genuinely seek help -- and he was nowhere near that point!) gave me the push I needed to end the marriage. And by then, I was absolutely sure that was what I needed to do.

Since the divorce, I avoided him to the extent possible - which was never enough. (And you won't be able to totally avoid your mother.) I hung up on him fairly frequently when he got abusive -- which I had never, ever done to another human before. I threatened taking him to court when he went way over the line, but never had to actually follow through on that. I dragged him back into 'parenting counselling' a few times to resolve parenting issues (the counsellors always agreed with me) -- until he realized that all of the counsellors were nuts... I manipulated him at times. Hate to do that - hate to admit it. But if honest and fair never works, what choice do you have? Anyway - the only tactic that worked reliably for me was to present a set of facts that clearly pointed to a certain conclusion - but then for me to 'just not be able to decide...' Then he would be the 'strong, decisive man' and tell me what to do (with contempt). But if I suggested the conclusion, he'd ALWAYS veto it and insist on something else, or had I actually made the decision he'd rant, rave, throw a hissy fit and undo it.

The BEST thing for me was when he remarried. His new wife is really a very decent and reasonable person, and has been a good 'co-parent' to our son. Once he delegated all of his parenting responsibilities to her ('women's work, after all' -- and even before they got engaged), she and I were able to get on a single page about most issues and reach agreements that worked well for our son. Then SHE was able to deal with him.

After my son grew up, I asked him how she did it. Apparently, she doesn't bother staying logical. She'll go through the logic in round one, and when that doesn't work, she'll get right back in his face and say "You're Wrong! Just because you won't admit it doesn't mean you're not. You're just wrong! That's dumb and you know it, and I don't care WHAT you say - You're wrong!" Apparently, that works! ;-)

After being divorced for 15 years, I can honestly say he doesn't bother me anymore. I've gotten over it nearly 100%. And now when he makes one of his contemptuous 'withering' remarks, I truly know it's a 'him thing' that has absolutely nothing to do with me. (My husband hates it, and still hears and feels Ex's digs.) But I've developed near-total immunity.

So Claire - For your Mamma Drama -- It's going to take time for those raw wounds to turn into impervious scar tissue. (Took me more than 10 years.) Counselling might help - at least move you through the anger phase a little more quickly. (I spent a lot of time there - but needed to.)

I'd try to keep your emotional distance. Try to decide how much contact you should have, balancing your emotional well-being with her advancing age (I'm assuming you're around my age, which would make her elderly?) Talk to her every once in a while -- you decide how much -- and REFUSE to be guilted into more. Know that she'll rave, rant, blame and bad-mouth you to all, so you may want to do a little preventative maintenance on some relationships so they'll hear your side while you still have some credibility... (Then, the worse Mom raves, the more reasonable your stance will become.)

But most important, just know that
How she treats you --
What she says about you --
The things she does to you --
NONE of that is really about you. It's all about her and what SHE needs.
The narcissist doesn't really see other people -- not as equals with feelings equal to their own. What they see are things, tools, pawns on a chessboard. More like pets in a sense. The way dogs come running to greet us at the door? They way they look at us with adoration? The way they wag their tails when we give then a little pat, or grovel when they think they've displeased us. The way they always do what they're told. But when these 'pets' don't do what they're supposed to do -- well Look Out!

Look up 'narcissistic supply' for a real eye opener.

I've got to get back to work now --

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 3:38PM
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Interestingly, I have 2 friends who I believe have this disorder. We get along well, because I have learned how to keep them at arm;s length.
That's hard to with your mother because there are so many other dynamics and expectations going with a mother daughter relationship.
My mother was an increasingly lii alcoholic and that presented different problems.
I'm sorry....but you seem to have found a way to co exist.
Linda c

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 3:46PM
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Yes, yes, many good things here. I just love Sweeby's:

"NONE of that is really about you. It's all about her and what SHE needs.
The narcissist doesn't really see other people -- not as equals with feelings equal to their own. What they see are things, tools, pawns on a chessboard. More like pets in a sense. The way dogs come running to greet us at the door? They way they look at us with adoration? The way they wag their tails when we give then a little pat, or grovel when they think they've displeased us. The way they always do what they're told. But when these 'pets' don't do what they're supposed to do -- well Look Out!"

But then I totally relate to everything she writes. I just love you and your insights Sweeby!

Yes, yes, yes. Keep calm and don't let her ruffle you. The more you do, the wilder she'll get and soon everyone will realize exactly what's going on. And you'll get stronger after every idiotic blow. You will get impervious once you accpet that it is totally her and you've done nothing to bring on the anger. Be strong and know there those of us who related. Come update us later on and in the meantime, we'll listen.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:02PM
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Thank You ALL for your support. I appreciate it so much.

Barnmom, check yes to all! The link I posted was one I could probably relate most to, since it IS very personal. Oh my.

Sweeby, your story is Oh So Familiar. (Interestingly, MammaDrama is the name I programmed into my phone, should it be from her. It plays a most obnoxious tune.) Out of us all (I have three other siblings), I am the one who tells her the truth, which doesn't go over well with her, but it does stop the rants. I never lie, though she often does, nor have I ever hung up on her because I do have a certain amount of respect for my elders, you see! I usually get hung up on because the truth is too awful to bear. Oh well. Sweeby, I'm so glad you got out!

Lars, I haven't read that, but I'll look into it. I could use an amusing antidote. There are funny moments at times, however they don't outweigh the dramas.

Linda, Arm's Length is the safest way, isn't it? I have no doubt that at times, your friends can be very charming, which is probably why you can still maintain a friendship. There is no doubt in my mind you fulfill a need they have for you to help them out in some way.

Rob, So True! It sounds like you have some first hand experience yourself.

We all refer to my mother as a Vortex, who sucks the energy right out of a room. Unfortunately, her complaints about all of us seem viable to people who don't really know, since ''how it looks'' is truly what's most important. I seem to know a lot of people who may not have a disorder, but have many narcissistic traits...those who don't care about me, but only what I can do for them. I'm on strike with all of them!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:20PM
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Sweeby. You have no idea how much you are one of my heroes. Thanks for posting. You can see you help more than just the OP. Always.

Barnmom, love the 'jealous you're not me'. How true!

'Vortex' - LOL. Also called 'emotional vampires'.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:29PM
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Thanks Sweeby for this; it's Very helpful:

Narcissistic Supply - This is the statement that struck home for me:

One should be careful not to romanticise the narcissist. His remorse and good behaviour are always linked to fears of losing his sources.

Narcissists have no enemies. They have only Sources of Narcissistic Supply. An enemy means attention means supply. One holds sway over one's enemy. If the narcissist has the power to provoke emotions in you, then you are still a Source of Supply to him, regardless of which emotions are provoked.

It finally makes sense to me why it doesn't seem to matter to her that she is so very often despised. And why she circles back around to try to p*ss me off once again.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:53PM
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Yes, Sweeby, thanks for posting. Because before you did I could not believe how uncharacteristically rude Jessy was, calling you a narcissist like that. LOL! Now I get it of course.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 4:57PM
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Here's how I handle similar issues with my family. When I am in the mood and can be the happy puppy and supply that to the narcisists, I do it. If I'm not up for that, stay away as much as possible. Of course not always possible. Scar tissue works for the emotional part, but sometimes with family there are practical issues at stake that need to be solved, (like Sweeby's custody issues) so scar tissue while helpful for your emotional wounds, doesn't get the problem solved. That's when I get SO AGGRAVATED and frustrated. Sometimes these problems just go away though, when you refuse to play games and the narcissist isn't getting what they need so looses interest. Very, very tragic. And almost impossible to cure seems like. Person must really go through a spiritual journey and be "born again" as the saying goes, and is really not likely to happen in most cases. The person ends up kinda sad and alone, in their own personal version of hell. Just don't let them take you with them. That is your spiritual quest. It's work, but the world has blessings to spare as well as curses.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 5:17PM
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Pink, that's good advice, and some I've followed myself in the past. There have been times when I was the most able to manage, more than anyone. Of course I had not been so viciously and repeatedly attacked before, since I was the most readily available supply. When I stopped, I got the full frustrated wrath. Interestingly, she started the conversation, stirred the pot, and ended it just the way she wanted to. I feel completely absolved from any responsibility for any of it. It's going to take an act of a Republican congress before anything changes, so I'm prepared to wait it out in relative peace and quiet for quite a long time.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 5:55PM
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"Narcissistic Supply - This is the statement that struck home for me: "

That's when my marriage turned from bearable to unbearable -- When I stopped being a reliable source of narcissistic supply for him.

Of course, when we were dating, I was all "You're so wonderful" and he was all so "You're great" [which is amazing since I consider everybody else to be idiots!] and I was thrilled that he considered me worthy... Told you I was young ;-)

After we got married, I tried to increase the level of emotional intimacy between us. (she says, beating head against wall.) Of course, to a narcissist, this is intolerable and grounds for doing whatever they have to do to keep themselves safely insulated. They simply can't let anyone see their inner selves, because deep down, they know it isn't pretty. And he knew no bounds in what he would do to push me away... But of course, he stayed charming enough on the surface to keep me from leaving.

Well eventually, I stopped being so stupidly adoring. I didn't carp or criticize, but I didn't do the 'puppy dog wag' either. I had to put up emotional walls of my own just to survive, and ended up building a pretty decent emotional life (with friends from work) that simply didn't include him. But I'd play the adoring wife for him at his professional events -- which was all he really wanted anyway...

Until one annual sales convention in Florida. I had spent the morning with our then 2-year old playing by the kiddie pool while he had his meetings. Of course, Sonny had plenty of sunscreen on, but I couldn't reach my back - but then it was very overcast... Well, 4 hours later I had a blistering sunburn on my back. Really, really painful. Hard to move my arms painful.

But the big corporate cocktail party was that evening and Hubby had people to impress. So I pop some Tylenol, put on my cocktail dress and my 'isn't Hubby successful?' jewelry and down we went. Hubby put on his 'Good Ole' Boy' personna and we're off to work the party. See a Big Fish - greet, chat, then Hubby sees a Bigger Fish, so with a quick slap on the back to me -- gasp! the pain! -- and a cheerful "We've got to go now!" to the now-dumped Little Fish, it's off we go. I whisper to Hubby - "Please - my sunburn!" to which he replies "Oh yeah - forgot about that." Lather, rinse, repeat with the next Fish. By this time, I'm only moderately dense, so I begin positioning myself across from him to avoid the back-slap that I know is coming (he's in the Back Slapper Personna tonight, after all), but he steps to my side (that's where a Good Wife belongs, right?) and keeps on slapping my back as he exits each conversation. I keep gasping quietly and reminding him, but after about the 5th slap on the back, I turn to him and this time, I don't whisper! I let him have it loud enough for the people around him to hear it: "Can't you remember my sunburn for five whole minutes and stop slapping me on the back!?"

Oh, the icy venom dripping from his eyes as people turned to look at us... I had embarassed him in public -- the ultimate crime to a narcissist! Truly, the Unforgivable, Ultimate Crime. I'm fairly certain he's never forgiven me for that one, and ended up leaving the company a few months later.

Of course, now I was 'defective' as a wife (a.k.a. source of narcissistic supply.) But at least I was finally mad enough not to give a flip!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 7:07PM
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Because before you did I could not believe how uncharacteristically rude Jessy was, calling you a narcissist like that. LOL! Now I get it of course.

ROFLMAO FOAS (you might want to hang out on some other forums.....)

FWIW someone I know dealt with her NPD ex-hubby by smiling sweetly and AGREEING with everything he said. 'You're a mean b-tch!' answer: oh yes, I am. 'You are a useless mother!' answer: yes, you are right! 'I'm a bad person' - sorry you feel that way. It defused the attempt at picking fights and didn't 'feed' the supply.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:02PM
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I don't know how anyone could claim that an acquaintance has this disorder unless there has been a medical diagnosis, except that article and description was my husband's brother and mother to the letter!! The sad thing is, there are no medical observations diagnosis and/or interventions. The rest of the family has to deal with the disorder and the individual's wrong-doing and their lying and stealing and unethical behavior -- jealousies and pumped-up egos, like it's normal behavior! Then the family members "back off" because they don't know how to deal with an ego-narcissistic-lying fool.
Thanks for posting -- caught you on the cooking forum by mistake, but I was hoping to see you here again so I could comment.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:26PM
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(((Oh Sweeby))) Well it's too bad he wasn't worthy of you, since we all know what a treasure you really are! Yes, I know about public embarrassment quite well, and what criminal behavior that is to a narcissist. After all, appearances are everything.

My husband's first experience with his MIL, was at the Christmas dinner table at my brother's house. We had quietly gotten married, and shared the news when we got there. Nothing was said until dinner, when I heard...''How long do you plan to keep working?'' (Heavily implying I was pregnant and had to get married. I'd never been promiscuous but I suppose for her it was an effective dig. After all, I was 26 and had been self-supporting since 17! I have never liked weddings and didn't require one, since it was just between us anyway; no one else was invited.) I said, ''What's that mother? I don't think everyone heard you.'' Nothing more was spoken.

Jessy, that's good, I need to remember it. Except the comments directed at me are usually delivered to someone else, behind my back. My sister taught me that when my NM had one of her hissy fits, the best response was to say, ''I don't want to stress you out by being here, so I'm going to leave.'' Then DO.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:36PM
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Annie, there's been no real medical diagnosis for my mom. That would require that she admit there's a problem and she might have to make an effort to change. Some things are quite self-evident often feels like an exercise in the self-help bookstore aisle! It's really hard to deal with people like this; coping isn't always easy, especially when they are in rare form.

I did take an on-line personality test however, which was quite revealing. First for myself, then for my mother. I know it's not supposed to be a diagnostic tool, but when certain things are self-evident, it's hard to ignore. I've linked to one.

I've learned with my mother, that if I really want to know what's going on, I don't ask many questions. Instead, I just let her talk. (It's kind of like having little kids in the car, and by being quiet, you find out what really goes on with their days!) She reveals so much about herself this way, it's how I usually find out what's really going on. If I ask her directly, she will lie, so I never act too interested.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:51PM
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I'll share a light moment, altho I feel for those of you who have to deal with such people daily and personally. I'm fortunate to not have to deal with them that much.

But we have one woman in the close dog-show community. She always wants to explain why her dog didn't win (poor handling, bad weather, nearsighted judge, gopher holes in the ring, anything but the lack of qualities of her dog) and never says pleasantly, "and how did your dog do today?"

So we are all used to her, and it pretty well runs off the rest of us, we don't live with her, and her husband is a saint.

So at one major specialty show, my friend Laura's 10 yr old female took Best of Breed from the Veteran's class over a couple of dozen of the big winners in the breed at that time. So, when all is over and Laura's struggling back to her car with a two-foot long rosette, the giant silver perpetual trophy that the club gives once a year, a silver tray trophy and a monogrammed "Best of Breed" director's chair, and she passes this friend, who says, "did you see my dog today? He should have won today, what was that judge thinking putting up that other dog?"

Happily, we don't live with her and now we can laugh about it....

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 8:55PM
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Yes, sushipup, it's always someone else's fault. And God forbid they ask about you, or Especially Someone who won the Best of Breed category. Recognition never comes.

My sister was grieving the fact that our mother does not acknowledge her husband, who is one of the sweetest people in our family. I think my NM really only recognizes meanness, like herself. (Never mind that she's always been intimidated by his education...he has a doctorate degree). That would be the Envy trait. Narcissists are often envious or jealous of others. It's harder to think so highly of yourself when there are others who are more accomplished.

Does anyone remember when I got all tweaked about people telling me, ''I'm so jealous of your kitchen!?'' I finally understand why. Envy was something I had to deal with on a regular basis, and it never turned out well for me. Instead of seeing it as a compliment, I thought they were turning it back into all about them! Many of those who were ''jealous'', wanted to come over and let me take care of them while they enjoyed my new kitchen. And sadly, I don't remember them inviting me for dinner while I was kitchen-less! Is it any wonder?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 9:34PM
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I want to add my thanks to Sweeby also its been about 5 years now but this same discussion came up on the kitchen forum and she opened my eyes on what I had been dealing with my entire life. I always felt it was just me and my sister just didnt like me. In my case it was easy because I had such low self esteem, dyslexia, and been constantly told by my sister how stupid I was when we were growing up. I always walked on egg shells around her and kept my mouth shut because I learned that the aftermath just wasnt worth standing up for myself when it came to dealing with her. Aftermath would last for weeks if I ever dared to speak back. Weeks of blubbering phone calls crying about how I must be wrong. Telling anyone who would listen that I was so mean to hurt her that way on and on she would go until after a few months she would have to see me at some family gathering and she would come up to me and say she had FORGIVEN me.

I always said I would never do anything to upset my parents and as long as they were alive I would continue to walk on egg shells and do the hallmark family thing. It went on like this until my mother was diagnosed with cancer. About the same time as Sweeby gave just about the same advice she has given here. My mother was dying and all my sister could do was try to make it all about her. I finally cracked and had a yelling screaming rant that lasted for 20 minutes in the driveway of my parents house. My dad cried my sister cried and I left them standing out there while I went in to sit with my mom. My sister left and my dad came in and told me how proud he was of me, made me cry, but I knew dad understood completely. This time there was no aftermath no blubbering no anything from her. I think she finally realized the game was over and I wasnt playing anymore. I think I scared the living He@@ out of her.

Needless to say my family life has changed. I gave it a lot of thought kept going back to Sweebys words and finally ended my relationship with my sister. Its been hard for my dad he has never wanted to talk about and I wouldnt do anything to hurt or upset him. I know he hears all about it from my sister or anyone in town who knows here. I am nice to her when I have to see her I even call her and report how dad is doing and what his doctors, lawyers, accountant have to say. I have already been told by her that I will steal his entire estate so I try to keep her in the loop even though I realize she is so busy with her fulfilling life to hardly ever stop by and see dad. Did I mention she lives 3 houses down the street from him?

Thats the short version I could write a book. I usually just lurk around here and grab your recipes and enjoy your stories but I really wanted to say THANK YOU to Sweeby and let her know how much she helped me free myself.

Oh... and my kitchen came out just beautiful thanks again to some of Sweebys advice!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 12:15AM
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I don't know if this is a part of it Claire, but my husband (still! maybe in another 90 days it won't be so), would often point out his faults in me. We went to marraige counseling at the end. One day he told the counselor I yelled at LF in the morning... when I never did. It sure hit the fan when I went to LF, who knew he could talk to me about anything even if I had wronged him horribly, and said, "LF, I want to be the best parent I can be for you, so I have to ask you something and I want you to tell me how you honestly feel (he knew I meant it). I heard that I yell at you and if I do, I want you to point it out so I can stop...." and before I could say anything else, he reacted strongly saying, "But daddy is the one who screams!" (in the end, he was terrified of dad, but is much less so a year later.).

So every time he told me I did this or I did that, I'd chalk it up to his hidden agendas. Maybe it was out of guilt or not that he did it, but it was really interesting to watch when I figured that one out. I also figured out, when he treated me as though I'd act a certain way, it was because that's how he'd react. So watch for the fears and insults because she's actually describing herself. The fear part comes in really handy when you're trying to reassure her of something, next time. Mind you, it won't make a hill of beans difference this time because she'll be in denial.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:07AM
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Oh - Thanks Claudia! I'm so, so happy to hear that your life is going better now and that I was able to help in some small way.

That's funny about the dog show Sushipup! I bet she didn't even notice all the trophies your friend was carrying -- just imagining that she was being looked down upon for not having won...

Interesting Rob, about your husband's pointing out his faults in you! That's a classic for narcissists called 'projection' and my Ex used to pull that one on me all the time! (I was a control freak if I called him around 7:00ish to ask if I should hold dinner for him or if he was planning to grab something else.) And a great and very useful tip about spotting their hidden agendas, motivations and insecurities in what they accuse you of...

I wish I had known about pathological narcissism earlier, because it's SO easy to recognize once it's been pointed out... Before you know what's going on, you just feel crazy and stupid and confused, but once you understand narcissism, their behavior and motivations are SO much easier to understand. They're totally fear-driven! And the primary fear seems to be of exposure -- being exposed as a poser, a fraud, a scared, weak little person. But once you realize that's what they truly are -- scared, weak little 'broken people' -- well, then they can't hurt you anymore.

It's funny really -- We're all scared little people in some way, and it's only by admitting that to the people we love most that we can form the bonds of love and trust that truly hold us together and make us less scared and less vulnerable. My new husband (15 years and counting) understands this so well, and that's one of the main reasons we're so happy together. He doesn't 'pose' for me and I don't pretend for him either. He's got my back and knows to his core that I've got his too. And with that kind of support, what is there to fear?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 10:35AM
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There is wisdom, strength, and liberty in acknowledging that these very difficult people whom we can not avoid because they are family or otherwise inextricably connected to us will not change. Note, I did not say "acceptance" as that implies passive acquiescence which is not appropriate when the behavior causes such distress and disruption. There is freedom in that one ceases to be frustrated by unmet hopes and expectations that this person will behave in a way that does not wound or is even in the realm of normalcy.

For me as a young adult I felt deeply conflicted about my mother. I felt duty bound to love her but had a difficult time reconciling that with her very unlovable behavior. She was capricious and cruel. After a year of talk therapy I came away with the understanding that I was not obligated to love her. It created an entirely different relationship. Suddenly I had the power position and I can't even explain how that happened. Perhaps I stopped seeking the approval I would never have.

I simply no longer respond, either emotionally or verbally, to her barbs and slights. I know without question that she will NEVER behave in a way that is consistent and kind. In time I came to understand that she is a deeply damaged person. Eventually I forgave her. I still keep her at arm's length, though. I'm no fool.

My sister isn't there yet. But she was also the favorite and had a different experience as a child than I did. She still allows our mother to irritate her and gets into spats with her. Sis told me that one day they had an argument and our mother stomped off and slammed a door saying, "You yell at me just like Eileen!" Surprised, I said, "I never yell at her." Sis said, "I KNOW!" I laughed. She's just nuts.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 12:23PM
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Claudia, I'm so glad that things have changed for you. I can totally relate to ''being Forgiven'' for something that I never did, and walking on eggshells. My first response was always to ''check the temperature of the room'' before I walked in, to see how long I'd be staying. I also relate to the screaming matches. My sisters prefer avoidance, whereas I share the truth of the situation with her. In my last conversation, I told my mother when she faked a heart attack (actually her words were ''You are giving me a heart attack''), I told her no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make me feel guilty. I had nothing to feel guilty about, so that wasn't EVER going to work on me. It must have had some value, as I haven't heard from her since! I realize they Really don't like to hear the truth about themselves.

Rob, ABSOLUTELY. That is exactly right, about the fears and insults describing themselves. I have been accused of screaming (I don't) and hanging up on her. I have never hung up on her, but she has me...often. She berated me for screening my phone calls with one sister, which I did once, after she arranged my holiday agenda for me (to spend with my mom because she didn't want to. That holiday also included my wedding anniversary. Does anyone really wonder why I didn't want to include my mother for that?) The part of story that never gets told is that I invited her three times for the holiday, which she declined. I had moved on and made other plans. I feel perfectly fine about screening all my phone calls now.

Sweeby, Thank You for reminding me about their fear of being exposed. It's completely true they are fear-driven. Part of the conversation that brought all this to an ugly head, was her need to name me as her primary contact for her health care. I said I would do it long ago, so I didn't understand why she kept grinding away at me about it. When she wouldn't stop, I realized once again that her own health was far more important to her than than mine. There were other issues that also came up at the time, reinforcing her favoritism with other siblings, and I realized it was time to ''hand-off'' any responsibility I may have felt for her to someone else, and suggested that she let someone else do it. After all, she does have four adult children (none of whom want to see her.) I did remind her that I had done A LOT for her (and myself that there's no reward for doing it.) My mother cuts off all communication when it's obvious to her that I have her number. And yes, having a loving relationship with a spouse is truly a saving grace. Posing or playing games is never on my agenda!

Eileen, You are absolutely right about there being wisdom, strength and liberty in acknowledging they won't change. I love that you define the difference between acceptance and the freedom to cease to be frustrated by unmet hopes and frustrations. I admire your strength and ability to forgive her; I'm not there yet. I'm grateful that because of your therapy, you can share with me that you are not obligated to love her. It's impossible to love someone who is only interested in their own agenda; which manifests in such a mean, hateful and abusive manner.

I appreciate all of you for talking this through with me. I have much better understanding now. I was truly hesitant to bring it up, but am so glad I did. What I like about this place is the thoughtful, intelligent insight that you bring. There are far too many of us, but I can see I'm in very good company!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 2:08PM
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Wow! Thanks to everyone for posting here. This has been an eye opener for me.

I believe I've been living with this for the past 20 years(it's not me).

I read the link Claire provided and it's unbelievable the traits my husband has. It has been awful for a long time. Everything above is so true about his behavior.

quote from sweeby
"I wish I had known about pathological narcissism earlier, because it's SO easy to recognize once it's been pointed out... Before you know what's going on, you just feel crazy and stupid and confused, but once you understand narcissism, their behavior and motivations are SO much easier to understand. They're totally fear-driven! And the primary fear seems to be of exposure -- being exposed as a poser, a fraud, a scared, weak little person. But once you realize that's what they truly are -- scared, weak little 'broken people' -- well, then they can't hurt you anymore."

In the past week I've been accused of of being afraid of everything, that I live my life in fear. I believe he lives in fear(thanks for posting that). I don't believe I've ever shown I'm afraid except for the normal bats, mice my children getting hurt.

For the longest time he has tried to make me feel stupid. He denies saying things. He tells me I'm lying and making things up.

I don't think I can even get all of my thoughts down. My head is spinning. I probably didn't make any sense in what I posted.

I just want to thank everyone again. This disorder would never have crossed my mind but it's all coming together.

Now to just get out with my kids and myself in one piece.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 2:50PM
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I'm sorry to hear about your problems with mom, Claire. My mom and I never got along - she's not narcissistic, I'm not sure what kind of personality she has. I just know that I can't be around her or speak with her much. Asking about the weather is about all we can talk about.

It's painful to separate yourself from a family member, no matter what age you are. It is a process and grieving is part of it. Grieving for the good relationship you never had, and more importantly, will never have. Letting go of the whole notion of normalcy and not feeling bad or guilty anymore about being the one pulling away.

Yes, Claire, acceptance makes it true and real, and is the biggest step you will ever take.

I was also in an unhappy marriage for 5 years. My ex is not a narcissist either, but he has lots of "issues". I realized early on that I could not help him be happy, that he was not making me happy, and most importantly, that I was not responsible for his happiness but I was responsible for my own. So I cut and ran. I know that divorce can be much harder for the person instigating it. I felt so bad and I had nightmares and crying jags for a short period. But I always knew it was for my own sanity and for the best, and I moved on. To anyone in that situation, keep your head up and believe in yourself.

I'm currently pulling back from a friendship with a narcissistic woman. I don't know if she has a disorder, but she exhibits many of the traits in the articles. She is not stingy - au contraire, she uses generous gifts and money as the carrots to win friends and influence people. She needs to be in control at all times and appearances are everything to her. I was starting to pull away because I noticed she was never interested in my life outside my interactions with her, and I think that in order for friendship to get to the next level, both parties need to have genuine interest in the other. When I saw that she was not that way, I felt disappointed but accepted that's how she is.

On another note - I think many politicians are probably narcissists, disorder or no. Look at Gov. Sanford of SC. --
From an opinion piece in the WSJ (bolds by me):

"Perhaps the year's most flamboyant spectacle of regret was delivered by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford after he was caught canoodling with his Argentine mistress. He apologized to his wife and children. As far as public displays go, that was more than plenty, but he wasn't even close to being done. He wept his way through an apology to his staff. "Good friends" also got an apologetic nod. And then, "let me throw one more apology out there," Gov. Sanford said, "and that is to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter across the nation."

And here we see the extraordinary self-regard that fuels the more expansive sort of apology. Mr. Sanford seemed to think that "people of faith" had some sort of stake in him, that his indiscretions could shake the nation's religious beliefs. Even in his moment of self-reproach the governor was impressed with his own importance."

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 3:30PM
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It was the holiday agenda that finally did it for me. My sister had been hosting thanksgiving for several years. Thanksgiving was the one holiday were everyone, about 35 of us, had to show up. She always complained about it but would never take any offers of help. I was always assigned the task of making the gravy and to bring pies. The thanksgiving after my mom passed away I called my sister in late October to ask how many pies she wanted me to bring. After many phone calls over several weeks, she was always too busy to talk and never called me back, I decides to just stop calling. Never heard a word from anyone about thanksgiving. I planned on staying home with just my DD and family. I decided to let her game playing backfire on her and see what would happen. I knew she counted on me to cave and play the game after all we had been playing the same game for years.

The day before thanksgiving my nephew called and said "my mother said to invite you guys to thanksgiving" What the He@@ I never needed an invitation to thanksgiving before. He was just lucky that DH answered the phone and not me. It was the last time I let my sister hurt me. I have no idea how she explained to my dad why 8 of his family member were not there.

Thats when the light bulb really went off in my head and I decided regardless of my dads feelings I had to cut myself off from her. Dad comes to my house on thanksgiving and christmas I think he goes to her house also. He never says anything about it I just plan dinner later in the day. I think the reason he doesnt talk about it is because he doesnt want to have to agree with me or take sides. Like I said Im not even mad at my sister Im just done. Holidays are so much nicer now without all the drama.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 3:30PM
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This discussion has really been an eye-opener! I really think that my ex-husband may have borderline narcissistic personality disorder. I didn't know that such a thing existed, but he certainly has many of the traits. Just recently on two occasions he exhibited the "it's all about me" mentality. Stopped me in my tracts -- and then in the next breath I thought "thank God I'm not married to this jerk any more!"


    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 4:40PM
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I've read through the comments rather quickly, but I don't see any answers or solutions to living with or coping with a family member with this disorder. Is the only answer to pull away and stay away and avoid confrontations (that's pretty much what we've done with my brother-in-law, the mother died a few months ago). Do these people EVER come to recognize that THEY are the problem and therefore seek help?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 5:04PM
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Whew, I just took the test and thankfully I am NOT a narcissist! Actually I think I am the anti-narcissist. The average person's score is 15.3, and I am a 4! I personally think that test is a little wonky, in a lot of cases I didn't like either option one bit, so that probably explains my low score. Just beause I didn't choose A, doesn't mean I wanted to choose B.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 5:06PM
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Annie, I am sorry to tell you, but what the counselor told me was, the odds are completely against an NPD changing, as they would have to admit they were defective in any way... and that is the crux of their problem. Don't hold hope for change, but do understand and have compassion for him. Best wishes.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 5:26PM
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No Annie I dont think a narcissist can ever recognizes that they have a problem. It would be like trying to explain to someone that they are really an a@@ hole. They are a a@@ hole so they could never understand what you are talking about. At least thats what DH says about working with several a@@ holes over the years. LOL


    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 5:37PM
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As to narcissists realizing they are the problem? As Claudia and Rob already said -- almost never. It's not impossible, but it's pretty rare. If the narcissist could actually admit they were so deeply flawed as to have NPD, then pretty much by definition, they wouldn't have it! The counsellors Ex and I saw said the average time in therapy to reach a meaningful improvement is about 10 years -- and that's starting after the narcissist acknowledges a problem and feels a true desire to change.

"I've read through the comments rather quickly, but I don't see any answers or solutions to living with or coping with a family member with this disorder. Is the only answer to pull away and stay away and avoid confrontations?"

I've read and heard that recommendation (pull away) many times, and never read any other recommendations anywhere...

You could pull away emotionally if it's impossible to pull away physically. In other words, let the narcissist's words and actions run right through your ears and off your back. (Of course, that's easier said than done...) Though if they're a person you really can't avoid - like family - they may notice that you disregard them and turn on you with a vengeance (since they're insulted at being ignored). Maybe a short span of feigning superficial interest (with admiration) followed by a quick exit to the kitchen?

Now if you're in a romantic relationship with one?
All I can say is Exit, Stage Left - the sooner the better, because they will damage you in so many ways.

As to avoiding confrontations --
My Ex's wife seems to be handling Ex reasonably well. There are some things she does that are clearly intended to avoid conflict, but in other ways, she definitely holds her own ground. Her first marriage was physically abusive, and she asked me about Ex before marrying him -- and I told her about his diagnosis and encouraged her to do her own research and draw her own conclusions as to whether or not it was true or I was just bitter. After getting to know her over these past 7 years or so, my thoughts are that she knows her boundaries, knows he's a pig-headed bully, and decides in advance whether or not she'll give in. And when she decides not to, she'll aggressively stand her ground -- not quietly and politely, but in his face telling him he's a stupid jerk and that refusing to admit he's wrong doesn't make him right. And honestly, I hope she's happy with him and manages to keep him in line - because she's been a wonderful buffer between Ex's worst impulses and our son.

Now as a mother, having to share custody of a son with an NPD father?... Well, you can all imagine how much I worried. What to tell Son? If anything. When? How much? How to 'take the high road' and not badmouth Ex, but also to prepare Son and help him learn to protect himself? To judge right from wrong? Asking for help or favors versus using people?

That was a tough one, and I'm sure I made many mistakes along the way. But I did my best, and the results at this particular point in time look to be pretty good (Son is 18, freshman in college, happy and kind). Son realizes his Dad 'has issues' (his words). I've told him the name of the issue and said he could ask me any questions, Google NPD - or not - his decision. We've had a few discussions about it over the years, mostly initiated by Son when Ex did something particularly infuriating or hurtful. He knows I can't fix it. Knows he can't fix it. Knows Dad can't even help it. And seems to have matured prematurely in some ways. I'm particularly encouraged by the way Son is learning to take risks - even when 'failing' may make him look foolish. That kind of self-acceptance has to be the best armor against developing NPD -- at least I hope so.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 6:22PM
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If you MUST live with someone with a weird personality who makes you unhappy, well, Gee. I don't know what to tell you. The individual situations would have their own solutions and your methods of coping would vary widely.

I had a family member visit recently. He is toxic and has been that way all his life. Over the phone I can shorten the conversation or not call him, but face to face, I coped by not letting anything negative come out of his mouth without calling him on it. Calmly. I would just state that he was being negative again. To which he responds that he is "just being honest" to which I reply that there is something wrong with his thought process if he looks at everything negatively and he needs to work on that. He got defensive and went on and on about telling the truth, yadda, yadda. I felt sorry to see him squirm so, but he is cognizant that I won't put up with his negativity, and he is less negative with me and tries to be on his best behavior with me, while the other sibs haven't figured out how to do that yet. Because he also knows that I will hang up/walk away/not put up with it/not get emotional. He can't push any buttons. I think that's it. The other sibs are still getting their buttons pushed, LOL! Once you have no buttons to push and the pusher knows it, well their game is up. (Well, after trying harder to find and push the buttons! In Behavioral Psych this is called an Extinction Burst. See Operant Conditioning for more about Extinction of a behavior.
Actually, if I didn't give a hoot I would ignore all his negativity, but I do care about him and want him to do better since he's my brother.

Yes, it's behavioral. If you recognize the behaviors, habits and interactions that make the game, then you can look at them objectively and start changing at least your end of the game. If you don't know what's happening and haven't been able to analyze the situation yet, then that's your first step - recognition. Setting aside emotions is critical to this, and the hardest thing to do. And you can't set them aside easily - it takes practice.

It's not really fair of me to spout here about how I deal with these issues. I have the benefit of having a rather detached personality to begin with.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 6:48PM
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Claudia, that explanation for Annie made me grin! And Forced Family Get-Togethers make me shudder. (Being considered for jury duty kind of reminded me of that, but then look where I come from.)

Annie, the problem is since they never accept responsibility for their own actions, it's always someone else's FAULT. Narcissists are fault-finders for everyone but themselves. What do you think? Can someone who never admits to having any kind of problem ever really be helped? Personally, I've never known my mother to have a moment of true regret for any kind relationship pain. She would have to have some self-awareness...or empathy for that. What she truly regrets, if there is any, is not having someone available to do her bidding. And of course, the pain other people cause her. She only regrets how truly ''disappointed'' she is in them. Therapy for a Narcissist. That seems like a mutually exclusive concept!

Rob, I'm having trouble having any compassion for the abusive person my mother is. Some days are better than others; it only depends on who she's focusing her laser beam of complaints and drama onto. That could happen, but frankly I'm having trouble imagining it.

Pink, according to that test, I'm 6. I took it for my mom, according to the way I thought she'd answer...a solid 35.

Teresa, I'm glad you're not either! Now that we're more aware of it, I think all of us know someone who has traits, if not a solid NPD.

Gina, I'm sorry for you. At least you and your mom can talk about the weather. Mine is only interested as long as it relates to her! (In other words, if it keeps someone from doing something for her that she wants to have done.) Yes, run away screaming from your ''friend''. She will only be a friend as long as you can meet her needs. I'm glad you got out of your marriage. I think people can hide who they really are for long periods of time when it serves their interests. Regarding Gov. Sanford...well, I think the public has his number. I would daresay most politicians have a healthy narcissistic score. (I was going to say Republicans, but then I thought about John Edwards, whom I used to like. No longer.)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 6:55PM
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Clair, It took months before I got to the place where I could just let it go. I agonized over it, tried and I mean really tried to see any time in my life that she was a good sister to me. I honestly couldnt find one time. It was painful to go over my life with her I wasnt in a very good moon for a few months. One storey she, still to this day, likes to tell is how I put her doll in a mud puddle when I was 2 years old. Its been over 60 years but she still takes great pleasure in telling everyone just what a bad sister I am. Its not so much the story its how she says it. I dont even know if its true. Ive always said she just never got over the fact that I was born. I was grieving for my mother and she just wouldnt let up then all of a sudden it was like grieving for my whole family. I have DH, DD her family, and my dad thats all. The rest of family is still walking on egg shells. WOW this has been good for me it just reinforces that I did the right thing.


    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 8:01PM
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I have no idea whether or not my mother is a narcissist. All I know is the attempting to have a mother/daughter relationship was destructive and painful. Excuse me while I readjust my emotional armor.

Narcissists are pretty easy to spot. "Enough about you, let's talk about me!" They can be mildly amusing from afar. Having a close relationship is another matter. Even more difficult is a bipolar personality. The target changes constantly. It's narcissism on steroids with a mean streak.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 9:38PM
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Rob333: I think I do now have an understanding; but I have no compassion for what my husband has had to endure over a life time with family members with NPD and I am also angry as hell over having to watch him endure what I now know is a disorder that families and friends, over years of wasted time, choose to ignore or have no means/method to confront. I just want to SLAP somebody!!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 10:40PM
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Annie, thanks for the grin. I just want to SLAP somebody TOO!!! Your husband is lucky to have you at his side, supporting him.

Claudia, I'm glad just talking about it has been helpful. Of course you did the right thing.

Eileen, well I still think that describes my mom...narcissism on steriods with a mean streak. We did wonder if she was bi-polar for a while, as she sometimes has what I think of as manic phases. NPD describes her perfectly however, just WITH a mean streak. Do you know someone who is bi-polar?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 11:35PM
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I won't say that my family member has NPD since she has never been diagnosed. But this person had a most of the personaltiy traits of NPD.

One day it was like a light turned on for me. She was in the middle of playing rear admeral to the Guilt Trip Cruise Line, going on and on about how her life was awful because she's given SO MUCH for everyone else and we were all ungrateful, yadda, yadda, yadda. Suddenly, I was finished with her, just like that. I told her that if she was unhappy with her life, that was her fault and no one else's, that it was obvious that she fed on making others miserable, and that I had no place in my life for someone who was hell-bent on feeding off others. I hung up the phone and felt better than I had in years. Phone calls were not returned, letters were marked "return to sender", any interaction with other family she tried to recruit to guilt me into complying with her wishes where nipped in the bud with "this is not a topic of conversation". Best decision I ever made. Haven't regretted it for a second.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 12:44AM
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Claire, thank you for posting this. I'm so glad you're getting informed and gaining insight. Good luck in future dealings with your mother. It does seem that maintaining detachment is one of the keys.

I was wondering -- have you ever seen the TV show "The Sopranos?" Last year I watched the entire series on dvd from the library. Tony Soprano's mother was a classic narcissist (apparently she was based on the creator David Chase's mother). I have never had a stronger, more negative reaction to a fictional character. She was chilling to watch. She's only in the first couple of seasons because the actress who portrayed her so skillfully passed away.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 3:23AM
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beanthere dunthat, great description! I will add ''This is not a topic of conversation'' to my list. Interestingly, I had sent my mom a small package of jewelry findings; things like magnetic clasps that would make it easier for her to put on her necklaces, bracelets, earrings. The package was sent right before her last phone call to me. I received it in the mail, ''Return to Sender''. Fortunately, I was able to take them back to the store without a receipt, as the tag was still on a couple with the store's name. I told the ladies there was ''a death in the family'' and these were in my mom's estate. They allowed me to return them, after they sat in my drawer for 9 months. I realized she killed the relationship, so it didn't feel like a lie. I think I kept them for so long to remind myself that I had nothing to do with that entire conversation. The time came when it seemed very important to rid myself of the presence of those things from my life.

Carnelian, Yes I recognized Tony Soprano's mother instantly. It was very interesting to note the differences between the relationships with the daughter and the son. It's much better for the boys, but that isn't saying much. The Sopranos had the ability to creep me out in so many ways!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 12:06PM
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I have known a few people who were diagnosed as bipolar and a few who probably would be if they decided they needed help. They tend to be grandiose, dismissive, and argumentative among other things.

One friend who is mildly bipolar admits that her career improved immensely when she got onto her meds. Her poor interpersonal skills with coworkers were causing work problems. I knew another man who was insufferable when he went off his meds and delightful when he took them. When he was off, everything I said was cause for an argument, as in how could I be so stupid as to buy that bicycle seat post. He also became inappropriately hyper-focused on sex.

I used to be close to a woman whose husband had two nieces who diagnosed as bipolar. One was extremely violent in her manic phases and had many scrapes with the law. The other niece was less overt. After knowing my friend's husband over a long period of time, I realized he was probably also bipolar but not diagnosed. Their son was no picnic either. But I am not qualified to diagnose anyone. Her husband's unpleasant behavior was the reason I chose to distance myself from her.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 2:38PM
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Guilt Trip Cruise Line

LOL, Renee!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 4:03PM
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Let her go, Claire. Life is just too d@mned short to turn yourself inside out for someone who is incapable of appreciating anything. You'll be happier and healthier, and you'll have more energy to devote to the people who can reciprocate in a positive manner.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 5:55PM
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beanthere dunthat: I agree 100% with your comment -- but easier said than done. Wouldn't we all love to just disengage life-long baggage and say it's over. The hurt and memories never go away -- but time does ease the pain -- some.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 8:08PM
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I'm with Annie on this one. Although letting her go wasn't my decision (but hers), my life has been more peaceful for it.

One of the things I would tell her whenever I'd hear the inevitable lament, ''Why can't you kids get along?'' After a lifetime of her pitting one against the other, I comment:
''Because you set it up that way.'' That stops her dead in her tracks every time.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 8:46PM
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I don't think it is possible for us to cut ourselves off from all the people in the world who are narcissists or bipolar or all the other ego dysfunctions present in the human race that cause so much suffering. Cut yourself off from a narcissistic parent or sibling and you end up with a narcissistic boss or co-worker or boy/girlfriend. Or end up with a narcissistic child. Or a narcissistic brother or sister-in law, etc., etc. End those relationships and another one appears. I know there may be some lucky people who have never had to deal with people like that much, but I have had to deal with this in my immediate family and also with several bosses and co-workers. I think the boss/co-worker part stems from me being in a field where good jobs are few and far between, so if a narcissist gets in with one of these organizations in a position of power, there is never a shortage of fresh employees to provide "narcissistic supply." Since I'm so often looking for jobs, I can follow these organizations' history--they have constant job openings, and if you look at their staff, it is overwhelmingly female, the gender that has been socialized more to feed and stoically attend to narcissists. So "just cut yourself off from them" is not the do-all end-all solution. And not everyone is a totally incorigible narcissist. It seems to be a spectrum in my experience. And also, sometimes parents become more narcissistic as they age, I've heard from more than one source that old people often act in adolescent ways, which has also been my experience. This stems from a loss of power and control. Adolescents are just beginning to learn to deal with power and control, old people are having to deal with it diminishing. Imagine how difficult loosing the looks, power, prestige and control that goes along with aging is for the narcissist. Their pain increases and so does the pain they inflict.

Frankly, I don't think confrontation is a very successful strategy in the long run, for a narcissist that you have to deal with over the long haul. You will never win an arguement with a narcissist. You have to learn to change the conversation and let go. This is really a spiritual challenge. Narcissists are addicted to power and adulation, or the semblance of adulation. Dealing with them is like dealing with an alcoholic. You cannot control the acoholic, you have to learn to control yourself and your reactions to the alcoholic. So it's let go and let God. These are things that have helped me.

I have been lucky enough to find close friends and mentors who offered me a whole different way of seeing myself and my interactions with the world. They do not put people down and believe in themselves and believe in human potential. This is the antithesis of the narcissist, who deep down are in terrible psychic pain, because all the bad things they suspect and accuse you of thinking are really what they are thinking about themselves. The bad karma they project is constantly hounding them. They project it on to you in a vain attempt to get rid of it. But it always comes back which is why these people are emotional vampires. The first narcissist was the devil who got thrown out of heavan and cast into hell for wanting to be just like God. So I think people have known fundamentally all along since humans have been living in groups, that this is a fundamental spiritual illness we all have to deal with in one form or another.

The tools, in my mind, are faith in a higher power that includes a strong desire to connect with the powers of light in this world. A supportive community of kind, compassionate and loving people. The cultivation of detachment. Always being sure that you can operate independently of the narcissist. Do not rely on the narcissist for anything. In a work situation, that means focusing on doing the tasks of your job, not the politics. Steadfastly focus on the task. One must constantly meditate on letting go and detaching to function in a work setting like that. Find a sounding board to let off steam with, and better yet, get you involved in other thoughts and activities. Art and music and physical movement are healing for this. Join a quilting bee or a choir or bike club or the equivalent!! Never allow yourself to get pulled into the drama of the narcissist. Focus on tasks.

Compassion for these people is not the same thing as putting up with their abusive behavior or buying into their guilt trips. Compassion can only come for them when you have emotionally detached yourself from them fully. When you have done the spiritual work that allows you to be in the world but not of it. It's awfully hard in our society to go on this spiritual quest. We are a society that worships the devil in so many ways. We want to be infallible gods, and we worship the narcissists image of perfection--the superficial gods of outer beauty, material wealth and power over others. It is smeared all over television. All these "who's the best" shows and who's the last great one standing--the conquerer. And yet we are all hungry for "family" and unbearably lonely. Not everyone, but for a lot of people. Lonliness is the hell of narcissism. I practice detached compassion for narcissist, when I can, when I am truly able to detach, which is not always. I think they respond to this. If you have an aura of self love and self assuredness, it is soothing for the narcissist and they pick up on your vibe and will often settle down. But it has to come from your gut, they will smell any hint of insecurity and pounce on it, since they so hate that quality that lies deep within them. This only works if the narcissist has no power over you. And if they are not addicted to using actual violence. Those kinds of people cannot me "managed" only escaped. But for the rest of the "walking wounded" if you radiate love and self assuredness, it is soothing.

I once worked in a place ruled by a narcissist. I saw many coping styles. Many people just left, which is one strategy. We formed a supportive work team where we could get the job done "around" the narcissist. I saw several people try and confront the narcissist and get them to realize what a bad person they were, and those people just got angrier and angrier and it was deliterious for their character. They wasted their psychic energy in endless pissing matches with the narcissist. I was told several times that I was a wuss for letting the boss walk all over me. But I tried to practice detached compassion. I was loyal, did my job, never badmouthed, focused on tasks, and expressed genuine appreciation for the few good qualities my boss had. I survived. And got out of there as soon as I could, lol! Luckily back in those days the job market was better and it only took me three years to find another job.

The worst situation I think is to forever try to one up the narcissist, to be forever trying to prove their accusations are baseless. Anyway, once you let go of your psychic attachment to the narcissist, all kinds of spiritual power comes your way. But it is as hard as heck to do I think. I think you need faith and friends. Without those two, I don't know what you do. Meditate I guess. You can train yourself to be your own support team mentally. Or so I've been told, lol!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 10:16PM
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Wisely spoken, Lpink.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 10:40PM
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As I said above, I work in an industry that attracts narcissists so I have dealt with my share of egocentric bosses who not only required adulation for their own creative work but shamelessly took credit for mine as well - their name was on the sign, after all or their title outranked mine. Like you, Lpink, I am the anti-narcissist, designer version. I found those personalities so repellent that I have pushed my personal pendulum in the opposite direction and over compensated. My work is what I do, not who I am. In dealing with narcissists my lack of ego involvement works neatly. I do have an inner diva but I usually keep her under wraps. :)

You are so right in your observations about aging narcissists. I had a long time friend who, as a young woman, was stunningly pretty. I knew her for about 15 years. In her late 30s she was obsessed with every new crinkle. Her prettiness which had worked so well for her was fading and she had no inner resources. Her narcissism which had been a source of mild amusement became nasty and vindictive.

Detachment works, though it is sometimes hard won. Giving up hope and expectation is liberating but is coupled with loss as well. I make an effort to appreciate that BEING the narcissist is probably much worse than my experience of them.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 11:17PM
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Love the cruise line. Another one I came across is 'I'm getting off the Bipolar Express'.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 7:47AM
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I feel so bad for you. My ex-MIL has narcissistic personality disorder, but I have no advice. She succeeded in screwing up her children - they never speak to each other and learned some very destructive behaviors from her.

We just kept our distance, mostly to protect the grandchildren. She thought she was too young to be a grandmother - so she spent almost no time with our kids, thankfully, even though she lived 20 minutes away. And they keep their distance, too, to protect the great-grandchildren but now she lives thousands of miles away. Good riddance.

Here's a link to a timely article.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 10:24AM
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Pink, Thank You for your well-written thoughts on compassion. I see much truth in what you say, and only wish I were as highly evolved. I believe I have practiced detached compassion in the past, but menopause has sharpened my edges. Perhaps what I thought was compassion was only compliance, with very defined boundaries. It doesn't matter really, since the low tolerance one feels during the ''change of life'', has actually been more of a Freedom Call. It makes sense, as the last time I felt this way was when I left home during adolescence.

The last bi-polar person I knew hid a pregnancy and killed her baby. Her family has been devastated by her actions. I know they've tried to get her help in the past. The public is ready to crucify her, without knowing anything about it. I don't know if the family will ever recover, but I hope so. Mental Illness reaches too far beyond the person afflicted.

I was watching the two hour premier of House with new understanding, and finally ''got it'' in a way I never have before. It should be interesting to see if the character will make changes, after going through therapy. It's nice to have hope for someone, even if it's a fictional television personality, as there's none for my mother.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 2:38PM
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Detachment is hard won and I am not able to pull it off. It is also IMHO, almost impossible to detach from a narcissist if you are dependent on them in any way, particularly difficult in a work situation. A narcissist can turn on you with high test vitrol if they suspect you are on to their imperfections. I have seen narcissists go after people in work situations and attempt to ruin them. They can be charming and manipulative and can make the person they are going after look like the crazy one. The only way to fight this is to have your team that knows the truth about the narcissist and is loyal to you. That's why some workplaces are like war zones. I have worked in some places like that, and some places that just flow, because all that energy is not spent protecting egos. Most places I would suspsect are someplace in between.

I have always thought it best to avoid working in places ruled by narcissists, due to a very bad experience during my first job right out of college. But I have found that since it is almost impossible, I have had to work at developing this thick skin. Really, I don't have wisdom on how to do it, because the narcissists in my own family have a way of cutting at my heart like a knife sometimes, even though I know intellectually that it is their problem not mine. I care even though I know I shouldn't. Of course I don't meditate, and it is hard to find a supportive commuinity sometimes. I am very lucky, I have the most wonderful friends and work colleagues right now. And this forum can be a great source of support. All I can say Claire is I hope you find some comfort in knowing that you are in a big boat with this and many of us have felt what you're feeling and know how emotionally difficult it is.

That's one reason I like cooking--a couple hours in the kitchen and I have the satisfaction of control and accomplishment, something that in the personal realm is much more difficult. The hardest thing for many of us is when we are sincerely trying to help or get along with our families and the result is that we end up getting the brunt of the carp. You try to do the right thing and it ends up being a nightmare instead. Reminds me of a movie BTW, "The Weatherman." It's a very arty piece, Nicholas Cage and Michael Caine. It's a black comedy, or maybe I should say a grey comedy. It's about this poor schlub of a middle aged guy who no matter how hard he tries just cannot "fix" anything having to do with his relationships with his family. It all ends pathetically. It's only funny when you look back on it.

It's easy for me to talk about detachment when two weeks ago I sat in a chair for a whole day too depressed to move because my brother (who lives in another country and I hardly ever even see) took yet another opportunity to tell me all my faults and foibles and then accuse me of harassing him because I was upset and was trying to get some support for my sadness over a family issue, and then hang up on me and screen my calls and refuse to call me back. I knew I had to detach, but I just couldn't. But as I said, LUCKILY I have a good network of friends who are NOT like that. But sometimes they probably think I am a little paranoid. The things these narcissists do are hard to believe . . . until you meet one and experience it for yourself. Also, I think compassionate, kind, decent people can be a MAGNET for these people's abuse. If I hadn't cared about the family issue, I'd have been out partying with my friends in the first place and never would have called my brother. He's not a true narcissist BTW, but very self centered and therefore insensitive. Fairly devoid of compassion himself. And yet I know he tries to be a good person. He had some very poor and damaging role models growing up, but then so do a lot of people, so I dunno. Seems like people who are children of narcissists end up on one end of the spectrum or the other. They either develop their own narcissism as a defense mechanism, or think EVERYTHING is their fault! (That's me, I apologize for excessive apologizing!)

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 6:45PM
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Understanding thats its not YOU, detaching, compassion, acceptance - all are good healthy stepping stones to psychic healing.

As lpink said, detaching isn't always easy or even possible - like sweeby, who had to coparent with her ex.

But the next step in this discussion can be how to maintain the necessary but distasteful relationships. There are ways to to set boundaries, deflect the attacks, defuse the situations and react to the triggers in such a way that you are left unscathed and centered. I'm taking a break from cooking a big dinner so I can't go researching, but there are great books for the how-tos. For example one time I saw someone, subject to a series of bullying, shaming, abusing all in one conversation - say 'I don't talk to you that way' and it stopped the NPD in his tracks.

Sweeby, got any gems for us?

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 2:27PM
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Jessy, that's a great idea. Putting them all together here would be good for future episodes, and anything I can turn to is much appreciated. Just so we can scroll down the page from here, a couple of things that have worked for me in the past but are worth repeating are:

When the inevitable (abusive) questions of wondering WHY something is the way it is (Why can't you get along?) and you want to stop it...''Because you set it up that way.''

When temper tantrums begin...''I don't mean to cause you any stress, so I'm going to leave.'' Then DO.

When hateful bashing (abuse) starts...''You should hear yourself and how hateful you sound.''


''I don't talk to you that way.''

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 3:48PM
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This is not a topic of conversation.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 4:14PM
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I don't know about this. My husband's brother is too volatile. The lying and jealousy and false accusations and rumors and denials and verbal abuse is just overwhelming when it erupts. I can't envision disarming the episodes. I don't have compassion -- I think it's pathetic and deliberate, because he and "mommy dearest" got away with that pathetic behavior for decades. I'm really sour on this whole subject right now; it's making me sad and angry. I hope you all can find a way to work peace and understanding into your lives with the NPD's in your lives, but I just want them to go away!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 7:19PM
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Hoa boy! Well, I'll have to caveat this by saying loud and clear and right up front -- I really didn't succeed. I survived. I somehow managed (I think) to protect our son from the worst of the affects. But it's not like I ever 'won' any arguments... ;-) Some things that did work to some extent:

"You're a bully! And I'm not going to allow myself to be bullied on this." (Being called a bully was clearly unpleasant for him, and unavoidably close to the truth.)

Seeking his advice instead of seeking his agreement. (But carefully tailoring the facts to engineer his advice.) Clearly, this is a very manipulative tactic -- but for those times when we needed to reach an agreement, this tactic did work pretty well. My Ex was prone to snap decisions 'on instinct' without a lot of research. (After all, he just "knew" what was best...) I'm more inclined to research and consider several alternatives before deciding. So by knowing the facts, presenting a few minor ones that go against my wishes and several facts that would appeal to him that support my wishes -- then pretending not to be able to decide. Then he'd almost always "rule in my favor" -- so long as he didn't know he was agreeing to what I wanted.

Offering to "take care of the little details" was another tactic that sometimes enabled me to get my own way without a fuss. So long as the decision was viewed as a time-consuming but ultimately 'unimportant' task, then it was OK for me to handle it. (This is one tactic his wife and I now use regularly.)

Her approach of yelling back "You're wrong! I don't care what you say because you're wrong and you know it!" also seems to work for her.

As to the many horrible things he's said over the years --
Well, my best armor is simply remembering that because it's true is simply NEVER the real reason for what he says. IF it's true, that's incidental and a total coincidence. The REAL reason he says it (whatever the particular 'it' is) is to make himself look better to another person or feel better about himself.

A quick and slightly-cheerful, faux-thoughtful "hmmm" or "could be..." followed by a quick change of topic seemed to take all of the wind out of his sails. Just making it clear that you were pretending to consider his comment but that it really didn't affect you at all --

Looking forward to more ideas --

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 7:55PM
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Annie, in my case peace (not necessarily understanding) only comes when the person with NPD isn't in my life. In a weird way, I feel very fortunate that my last contact with my mother was so heinous that I can easily disengage from any further connection. Like you, I also think it's deliberate, and I don't feel any need to support the behavior in any respect. If they won't go away, then you need to. It's my personal belief that I may never see her again, and that's OK. I still believe I have nothing to feel guilty for. With my mother, even when the conversation was going no where, I still needed her to hear me even if she wasn't listening. At the very least, I feel better about defending myself.

I'm striving for understanding (without contact), as I'd like some spiritual evolution to take place. I don't know if or when it might, but I have to be hopeful about something!

Both my BIL's have narcisstic traits, as did my FIL. (I firmly believe it's probably why/how my husband and I found/recognized each other.) My husband can have as much contact as he needs/wants to with them, but I personally have none. I don't feel a need to attend family get-togethers (after 29 years) nor take care of them any more. I've had too many instances of them coming to my home to use me for what I could provide, without anyone feeling a need to engage in any conversation or act interested in us in any way. I won't personally engage them in any conversation, as they look for things to use against me. Even when nothing is said, there are always ''hurt feelings'' which they enjoy discussing among themselves. They don't ask me about myself, nor is there any conversational ''give and take''. I can't win for losing, so it's better not to try. I am very respectful of my MIL, who is a sweetie, so she is the only person I concern myself with. My biggest problem lies in spending time with her, as all she wants to talk about is her family. I don't talk about them to her, and she's seems oblivious to the fact that none of us have any relationship. It gets old very quickly.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 8:11PM
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Good for you Claire! And it sounds like you're doing what is right for you and your situation.

As for understanding -- All I can really offer is that your mother is 'broken'. She has a central core break, a total malfunction that she cannot acknowledge and you cannot fix.

Imagine a vending machine that occasionally gives you what you ask for, sometimes gives you something else, but most often, just takes your money and considers you a contemptable fool for continuing to feed it.

That's the narcissist.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 9:46AM
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Wow, Sweeby, you just described my last relationship! He had other problems, too. But the vending machine metaphor is spot on.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 12:29PM
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Sweeby, I think I need to frame that sentiment. I learned long ago however, not to ask for anything. It's probably why I still have problems sometimes asking for things.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to battle the distortion campaigns? I tend to give up and retreat...consequently I don't have many family relationships any longer. (Somehow, it doesn't seem worth it to me.) I do feel sad I don't have much in the way of family; yet everyone is so overly-focused on themselves, I don't ever think of family as a viable support group.

There is a common belief between my sister and myself that my aunt really knows the score, while she remains in denial. We probably expect contempt from her, which is what my mother is so good at instilling. Contempt passes so easily from one to another, especially when one doesn't want to acknowledge the NPD, or even know what it is.

So...Is it worth a battle? Or is retreat the best option?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 3:18PM
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At some point, I started treating my family members like anyone else in my life, and expected them to do the same. In other words, treat each other like people first, and family second.

Families tend to take great liberties with each other that they would never take with any other person - friend, co-worker, acquaintance, teacher etc. I don't accept that.

This is what worked for me -

I am respectful with each of them, but if they start with any behavior I don't like, I will draw a line for them - "You are not allowed to go over this line with me. Please respect my space. Please don't criticize XXX to me. Please stop dwelling on this past subject. Please recognize that our family grew up in negativity and you are mindlessly perpetuating this. If you continue in this vein, I will leave (or hang up)." This warning is always given calmly and nicely.

Then follow through. Repeat yourself. Hang up the phone. Leave the room. Start talking to someone else. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

One sibling (who just visited) is prone to "throw bombs" - verbal grenades that are meant for nothing except to get a rise out of you. I used to ignore them, but now that he's a little better behaved and "trained" to what I expect, I will engage him by asking why he said what he just said, calmly, nicely. I found that he will defend and defend his verbal bomb, but facing my calm questioning, he will back off. The verbal bombs are coming much less frequently with me. He still uses it as a primary communication pattern with other siblings though. Again, these siblings still react the way he wants - emotionally. Giving him satisfaction and reinforcing the behavior.

Believe me this is not easy. I have a temper that flares up if I am attacked or treated unfairly. I will not stand for being attacked in any way, and when I was younger I would deal with this by not speaking to people for years (mom). Calming my own incendiary feelings was the first step - the detachment I guess. Time and distance helped with that part.

Personally I can't be around these people for my own sanity and for peace in my life. If I had to live with my mom or brother - I might have to do drugs!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 4:04PM
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I keep coming back here and almost post but dont but the generosity of sharing on the part of all of you has me deciding to share something that is difficult for me as I prefer the river Da Nile. Lol But this is timely as I am confronting this lifelong destructive relationship now...finally.

and (((Claire))))I think it must really be a special kind of torment to have a parent with this disorder and wanted to say since personalities show through even on forums that you stand out as a very kind and generous shining spirit and I still remember your kitchen drawer that charges lol is u right? Everybody else here, too you have great strength and courage and it really helps reading your stories.

My tormentor is my older sister and it is only this past summer that I have severed ties for what I think is for good because, like in your case Claire, an act so heinous that for the first time I am confident in my resolve to move forward even as each holiday and birthday brings a new challenge and also added strength. and guess what? For myself I feel fantastic! Oh, sweet freedom from negativity and walking on eggshells and deflecting and wondering when the next attack will come. The difficult part for me is my young childrenone too young to know really but the other extremely attached to cousin and aunt. It breaks my heart.

I should say my sister is not diagnosed and I always in my head thought her to be a pathological liarbut reading here it is nail on the head! I was in shock and nodding my head as I read paragraph after paragraph. She is a chameleon and takes on the persona of whoever she is with at the moment and agree with everything you say and the moment that person gone will say the most horrible things about them. She will lie about everything, from the most trivial to the dangerous. She will take things that happened to me and retell t hem as if they happened to her even to me. She will deny, deny, deny. I am the mushball in my family and an easy target for her. The happier I am, the more I deflect, the more vicious she becomes. The last straw? She transferred her jealous hatred to my children. The first time, at the insistence of my father and again believing that yes she loves my kids really I had to bury the pain to mend the fence. The second time, she said the most vile thing imaginable about my child that I could never let pass my lips and I swear I never felt such violence in my life the mother lion I guess. Later I found out she has been telling other family members the same hateful thing but now has since denied, of course to other family members that question. I literally see the change come over her before an episode of course you all are probably familiar...with the pokes trying to get a reaction and then like another look comes across her eyes and in her case drinking multiplies her attacks by a thousand always at me I didnt grieve our mother enough, Dad loves you more, she cant talk to me (because I question the lies), etc.etc. The sickest thing? I moved to gete away from her. She waited a few years a bought a house in walking distance to mine. I live in fear of what lies and horror she will tell neighbors. The number one thing she tells people is that I moved here after her lol. That I followed her. I have always covered for her, made excuses, told myself that down deep she has a good heart. It is not true. She was always very pretty and popular in school and I have noticed as she ages it gets worse. She also will spend weekends in her bedroom not talking to anyone. She is the most charming around people, of course - Sweeby that hit home. With her friends, she will do anything and actually does things outside the realm of what a friend does - she literally can't do enough. If they have a death in the family, for example - she will be with the family for "family only" things and will grieve as if she lost her own family member and tell everyone how she suffering. Not saying these are sad, sad situations but her behavior is not normal. Family members know, of course. They know she lies, etc...they just laugh it off or ignore. It is me who has been the target and I realize now, how just like Gina is saying, I always give her the emotional blood she wants. No more. Is over.

This may sound horrible, but maybe you all here can understand. I truly dont think there is any help for this, it seems a sickness of the soul. I know many mental conditions are successfully treated with medication but I just cant see it here.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 8:11PM
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I'm so sorry about your toxic sister Maggie. It's clear how much pain she's caused you, and to follow you! (my Ex did that too) and then go after your children. My goodness, she's broken! I wonder if her "Dad loves you more" complaint is somehow at the core of things?

"For myself I feel fantastic! Oh, sweet freedom from negativity and walking on eggshells and deflecting and wondering when the next attack will come."

Beautifully written Maggie -- and so True! I vividly remember dreaming of open windows and wonderful fresh breezes, and waking up each morning refreshed and Happy and Eager to start the day.

I hope you can hold onto that wonderful feeling and make it last for you -- The more you can write about that feeling -- now while it's fresh -- the more easily you will be able to capture it some day down the road when you may need it again.

As to the neighbors, I'd just tell a short but sweet version of the truth -- That for years, you tried and tried to keep the peace, but as Sis became increasingly irrational and vitriolic, you simply found it too painful and had to sever the relationship. You wish her well, but can't envision making peace...

The kinder you are about it, the less they'll be able to believe Sis's ranting. And if a neighbor ever asks you about some outlandish allegation, you just look surprised and gasp "You mean you believed that?" (To which, they'll have to admit that of course they didn't!)

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 10:07PM
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Maggie, I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to post. Congratulations on taking the steps necessary to protect yourself and make your well being #1.

This thread is a real eye opener.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:32AM
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Thank you Sweeby and that really touches me - your dreams of open windows and fresh air. I am so happy your dreams came true:) A feeling of breathing...ahhhh exhale, like I have been holding my breath for so long. Is good. I am also sure I can keep it because life is still good, isn't it?... and I have so much to be thankful for and I never forget that.

Something I think makes this very easy for me is something I learned long ago. Since I suffer from anxiety (might as well put it all out there - lol), I learned that for me I cannot dwell on the past - it makes me...well anxious - lol, and I cannot think too much of the future because that makes me worry. I live very much in the present an find my happiness in my day - a great cup of coffee, my daughter's laugh, my son's joke, a nice bottle of red breathing on the counter - lol. I know it sounds cheesy, but truly is the key to happiness for me because I don't think there is any grand thing waiting for us called "happiness", it is in the moments and the little I know I know sounds hokey but is true for me. Music is another biggie for me. Soothes the soul:)))

The very difficult thing that pains me so is my children because I have just been making excuses - we busy, etc...but I will have to say something else? The problem is they just around the corner, so constant reminder.

When talking to friends or neighbors I don't say anything about it because truthfully I feel very embarrassed. As far as neighbors go I just worry about her saying untrue things about my son and since they would not know the truth like family members, what if they believed it? But, you know what? I think you right that it is time for me to speak he truth, in a short sweet way but time to speak. I am very private this way and even with years of hearing the horrible things she would say about me from others, I always kept my silence.

Mitch, thanks so much for that:)

So - is there help for this?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 6:55AM
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"This may sound horrible, but maybe you all here can understand. I truly dont think there is any help for this, it seems a sickness of the soul. I know many mental conditions are successfully treated with medication but I just cant see it here."

You've hit the nail on the head ((((Maggie)))). We cannot treat it. There is no surgery, there is no medication. And even if there was, there is no getting them into the operating room or taking the meds. And that is what is so horrible about it. There is little doubt, they don't want to be this way, but there is no way out. That's how I find my pity. Doesn't make me want to slap him any less, but I still feel sorry for the dude. Sure wish I could go back in time and keep him away from my son and having had his input into his life, but it's too late to lament the wasted years, so I too will look at the red breathing on the counter or enjoy my son's embrace to make me happy.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 9:21AM
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How old is your son Rob?
And is the NPD his father? Or an avoidable mistake? ;-)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 10:29AM
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He's almost ten. The NPD, officially diagnosed, is his father. And unavoidable curse ;)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:22PM
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Maggie, I'm so grateful you decided to share this with us. You know, I'd been thinking about ''putting it out here'' for quite a while before I finally posted; once I did, I was so happy to find there were others who actually understood. (Thank you for your kind words, which I appreciate so much. You know, I cleaned the charging drawer out last week, so it would be easier to use. It got very cluttered, but is no longer. Aaaaahhh, peace reigns once again.) Anyway, I believe Sweeby's right about sharing your short version of the truth. If people are aware that you know what your sister has, it deflates her balloon when she decides to blow. It's also the kindest thing to do for your kids, so they know that whatever they hear, really isn't true or about them or you. In fact, that's probably the best answer to the question, about knowing how to battle the distortion campaigns. It's why I've tried to learn more about this disorder, and helps me more competently detach. Maggie, it's a true gift that you have learned to be in the present. It's all we really have, isn't it?

Whether it's your mother, sister, father or brother who has NPD, this dysfunction is difficult, since we can't legally divorce them as family...only emotionally. We can really only help ourselves, and don't always have known coping mechanisms available to us. I think that's why it takes so long before we finally decide when we've had enough. I think the reason it has wounded me so much is because I tried so hard. To be a good daughter and do the right thing, and provide loving care even when it didn't come back to me. It doesn't matter. There is no reward. No loving relationship, no concern or care for me personally. It's been the most difficult thing to accept, but accept it I do. Finally!

Sweeby, I relate to open windows and fresh air. Quite literally in fact, after a visit by both my parents to my home where my Dad had a stroke, and my mom decided to take to (my) bed for the six weeks they were here. After I drove them home and turned around to go the other direction, I felt like a free bird.

Rob, I'm not entirely certain they don't want to be this way! But knowing they can't help themselves helps me. I completely agree it's a soul sickness. I just don't want them to suck the soul out of me.

And...D*mn, I wish I could drink wine right now. It used to help until my face starting breaking out into a rash and my eyelids would scab over and take three weeks to heal. Menopause bites.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 12:47PM
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Hugs back at ((((Rob)))) and also Partst, I so relate to you since it is also a sister and I have the exact same relationship with my father. I don't want to hurt him and we not discussing it and I do everything I can not to make him feel not pressured or anything. Is still all new and just last week had to reaffirm to both him and bil that this is permanent as she still thinks I will cave like I always do and she now denies what she said of course, etc...the more she realizes this the more vicious she is becoming but I believe my husband has put a stop to that.

I do know from other family members that he has said she needs help but like I said we never talk about it. Although I have happiness within myself, it would be so great if one day he told me that he saw me and understood what she has done to me my entire life. I don't expect it or need it or anything - just sayin it would be great! I completely understand what you say about you just being born was enough. I have no doubt my own sister has a deep seeded hatred for me. I never said that aloud because, of course people would tsk tsk it but I know it to be true.

So much more to comment the pointing out of their faults in others, etc. Wow. Everything that has been written here fits my sister to a T. So sad there is no help for this. I still don't know what to tell my son. He so little and he keep asking why he is not seeing them. Is such a shame because the kids truly love each other but because of the nature of what she said this last episode, I cannot allow them together ever again.

Claire, that sucks about the wine.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 1:20PM
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Maggie, can you tell your son simply that your sister is sick and you don't ever want her to hurt him the way she's hurt you? Even small children understand about meanness, and his loyalty to you might be surprising...even welcome! After all, you are his mom. He's going to learn about her soon enough, it wouldn't hurt to start explaining now. ((Good luck. It's hard to think we can't protect them enough! Sadly, it's going to be her kid(s) that will need protection.))

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 2:02PM
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Here's what I think about this distancing with the narcissist. You want to "extinguish" the behavior/disarm it, so you have to not feed it however you can accomplish that task. The best tactic is to ignore the narcissistic behavior and the narcissist. This is the most difficult part, because narcissists thrive on drama centered around them, even if it is negative drama, they are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I wouldn't go out of my way to announce that I was cutting off my sister. In fact, I would try to avoid the subject of my sister and change the subject of my sister whenever it comes up in conversation. Just say, "I don't know" or something of that nature. For example, my parents often ask me "Have you heard from your brother" which they know would be very, very unlikely given our relationship, and I always reply, "Nope." and change the subject. If they want to know more, I say, "If you want to know something about him or talk to him, call him yourself." and if they press further, "I have nothing to say on this subject, I don't want to be involved in this conversation/topic." I don't go into the reasons I am detached from my brother AT ALL, EVER. I have set my boundaries and I just try and reinforce them as consistently, albeit gently as I can. Firm but non-confrontational and don't go into the details because that gives power/feeds the narcissist, that you spend time and energy on them AT ALL. The pain needs to be expressed, it is true, but unfortunately, NOT to someone still involved with the narcissist, not to family members. And best not to total strangers either, lol!! I think therapy and support groups are invaluable for dealing with this kind of thing. I was once involved with a group therapy situation (very short period, due to some work issue, long story). Anyway, I was so struck by the common thread of pain everyone in the group was experiencing as the result of having to deal with a very negative, emotional vampire situation. The person and circumstances was different in every instance--co-worker, father in law, stepson, ex-husband, sister/brother, etc. But the toll it took was remarkably similar. I think that's why Al-Anon is so helpful for families suffering with alcoholism, the group support is invaluable. I don't know much about alcoholism, but I would imagine that the two are related, because doesn't alcohol make you feel less accountable, more invincible? I dunno, alcohol makes me feel sleepy after a few drinks, and I've never gone much beyond that!

As for your son, I would add that I might tell him that not being able to see your sister makes you sad too, but sometimes we have to do sad difficult things in life. I agree that he can understand about not wanting to be around people who are bullies, etc. To me, that's a common and sad thread in all this, the grieving we all go through at the loss of our loved one, the loss of "family." That's why I sat in the chair the whole day, it was grief. The "if only . . . " or the "maybe this time . . . " because they are not dead, they are still alive. And seeing them suffer as time goes by. Seems very similar to what friends and family of alcoholics go through. I think narcissists are addicted to the adrenaline rush of power and success and adoration/being a big deal. And they have zero resources for dealing with any kind of emotional pain, so they pawn it off on others to deal with. But both of these ways of coping, the rush and the pawning, become more and more difficult to maintain as time goes by, just like the alcohol addiction becomes more and more difficult to manage. Which then requires more and more detachment on the part of the alcoholic's loved ones to bear experiencing, when total separation from any involvement whatsoever is not possible. In a family, if it is one sibling or parent that is the narcissist, it is often not possible to cut yourself off from that person entirely. Even if you don't see them directly, as others have attested, you HEAR about them. Still, let your other family members vent briefly, say, "Yes, I know, it is a painful shame that it has to be this way" and then move on to another subject. Keep your life busy with other ways of being in this world. Of course, I know this is easier said than done! And if another one of my family who was still involved with the narcissist on a daily basis came to me for help/support, I would insist that they get counseling from an outside party. Me trying to intervene would just unfortunately drag me into the drama once again, feed the narcissist, (because now I'm spending time solving problems they create) and set back the detachment process. Sad but inevitably true. I would listen impartially, sympathize briefly, then recommend detachment and counseling. That's all that can be done. I come from a whole family of narcissist, I repeat the "get counseling" statement like a mantra. I've given both my parents the contact information for counselors. But to no avail. I'm sure many children of alcoholics have similar stories, how year after year, time after time, the alcoholic refuses to get treatment or give up the drug, no matter what the personal cost.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 2:59PM
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Maggie -

I'd agree with Claire's advice about discussing the NPD person's illness with your children. Of course, you need to modify the message and strength to their ages, but NOT doing it leaves them completely vulnerable. It'll take a while to find the right words, but I'm sure you'll find them.

Maybe something along the lines of: "Aunt Susie has a sickness which makes her feel so bad about herself that she has to tear down other people so can feel better than them. (This is something most kids have seen on the playground and can probably relate to.) Sometimes, this means Aunt Susie tells lies or says things that really, really hurt other people, and this is why we're staying away from her for a while. It's really sad that Aunt Susie has to live like this, but until she can get better, we need to stay away from her."

For your situation Rob, it's a little tougher... But since the diagnosis was 'official' and all, I'd be inclined to share it. Small bites, delivered as needed, maybe holding off on the name of the disorder until your son is capable of researching in on his own? You know your son best and the kinds of tactics his father would pull.

What do you think he will do that will be harmful to your son? Bad-mouth you, certainly. Demand perfection? Absolute obedience? Spoil him completely to win his imagined 'Parent Popularity Contest'? Ridicule him for his shortcomings? Model bullying and using behaviors?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 3:51PM
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Maggie, do whatever is necessary to protect your children. Whether it is NPD or some other disorder, the people who have these personalities have no boundaries - including boundaries around children. They will exhibit the same nastiness and manipulation around children that they do to you.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2009 at 5:18PM
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Maggie, I could have written every single line you did about MY sister. When DH and I decided to move permanently up to the mountains it was mostly to get out of the city but part of it was to be closer to my parents. I was always very close to my mother. DD was married and we really wanted out of the city and had a house that we used for weekends to move into. My sister went nuts telling everyone how stupid we were. We moved built a house to flip so we would have the money to build the house we really wanted. My dad, a contractor, had the plans drawn for the second house and of course my sister saw them. Long story short she moved and built my dream house exactly down to the exterior colors across the street from the lot we were going to built it on. I never did build that house and was somewhat happy she did LOL because I could see every design flaw in it after the house was done.

I had the same issues you have with friend and neighbors and like you for years didnt say anything because it was embarrassing plus my parent were in the same neighborhood. I was always the peace maker and she played me like a fiddle, knew what buttons to push, knowing I would never come back on her. I heard all the horrible things she said about me from others and I never said anything back.

After my mother passed away I was trying to help my dad cope with all the legal, business and property issues that needed to be taken care of and my sister, who had never been involved or cared about it before, just wouldnt let up on him. He had given her copies of all the wills and trusts years earlier but she never read them. It was hard enough for dad without having to explain everything to her and listen to her rants over every little thing. She wanted anything and everything and she wanted it now. I had another yelling screaming with her and tried to explain that her father was still alive and she couldnt have or take anything.

It was hard at first but now 5 years later I am much happier. I quit having bad dreams after a year or so and I just dont really even think about her anymore. We moved to the other end of the lake 30 miles away giving up a beautiful house that was paid off and bought a really old house that we have been remodeling every since. Taking a big hammer to a wall can be very therapeutic.

With young children you must be much younger than me. Please do what you have to do to protect yourself and your family. I took me years to do what I always wanted to do but was afraid to do. You are doing the best thing for your little ones even if they dont understand. My DD said to me after that first thanksgiving that she always wondered why I put up with my sister and she knew what a bully she was since the time she was 4 years old. Of my sister three children one lives out of the country, has only been back twice in the last 30 years, her daughter is just like her and they sometimes go for years not talking, and the oldest, the nicest guy you would ever want to know ,is close to her and for whatever reason they get along fine. I gave up trying to understand it you could drive yourself nut and it wouldnt change a thing. The thing that helped me the most is finally realizing it wasnt anything to do with who I am it was always about who she is.

Again my thanks to you Sweeby I cant tell you how many times I went back and read your words. They gave me strength and hope so I could keep going.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 2:25AM
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What do you think he will do that will be harmful to your son? Bad-mouth you, certainly. Demand perfection? Absolute obedience? Spoil him completely to win his imagined 'Parent Popularity Contest'? Ridicule him for his shortcomings? Model bullying and using behaviors?

Sweeby, if you mean me, I dodged a bullet mostly on these. Yes he bad mouths me, but LF doesn't agree with him or like it at all. Does he demand perfection, yes he does and it causes the boy great heartache. All I get to do is listen, but he knows I will and he feels heard. He used to try and bully and using behaviors, but figured out last year that it was not a good tactic. Whew. I really dodged it on that one. He's really a grounded guy and must've gotten enough information and head on his shoulders that he already "gets it". He knows dad is sick, but wishes he could give him pills. Believe it or not, I have to remind him dad isn't all bad and I am not all good in the popularity contest. Dad does care and I do lose my temper, but he knows. Kid know best, especially when you use something gone awry and say, "That didn't feel right to me, did it to you?" "No! He shoulda said he was sorry! not justified it." They know right and wrong.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 9:27AM
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Wow, so many of your experiences hit home with me! I too have a sister that for the longest time, I never understood why she was just so nasty, mean, and untrustworthy. She was sweet as pie to outsiders (until they saw through her), but I always knew her true colors, even when we were kids.

I cut off complete contact with her over 7 years ago, with the occasional holiday or birthday card. I have nieces and nephews that I've never even met and it is hard to think about that sometimes, but I have to say it is worth it.

Basically, my sister committed a very heinous act that I have not forgiven her for to this day. And truly, my life is much more peaceful and drama-free without her in it.

I've been doing a lot of research into my family tree this past year or two and I've been able to understand some of the roots to my family's dysfunction. I can "kind of" understand why my sister is the way she is, but I know I can't change her, and my ultimate priority is the safety and sanctitiy of my family.

I've had to develop VERY strong boundaries.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 1:28PM
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Claudia, I prefer old houses anyway, so I'm glad that worked out for you. I'm also glad you've found a measure of happiness, even if it meant moving across the lake. I can imagine that having a large body of water between you can be very healing! I believe houses have spirit, and you can usually tell, especially with the older ones, which are inviting and those that aren't. They may not have everything that people expect today with new homes, but sometimes that promotes closeness in a way you wouldn't expect. For example, we don't have a master bath, so I call our main bathroom the ''Family Master''. It has all the amenities for everyone to enjoy, and was less expensive to remodel one bathroom.

Gardengrl, it's good that you've looked into how the dysfunction happened. (I'm not sure I want to know.) At least you know what to avoid! Yes, very strong boundaries are so important, aren't they?

You know, it's funny but I told my sister once that I thought our family was very normal when I was growing up. It was the loving families that seemed abnormal to me, since I didn't know that many of them. Not having come from one, made me certain I would change all that once I became an adult. I can say I am happily married, and expect to remain so. Having respect is very important to me, and it's a two-way street.

It's not a huge number, but I am struck by how many of us have had to deal with this. Do you think this is more common than we realize?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 2:01PM
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I've been doing some more thinking about this thread. I do think that, looking at people I know, it seems that there are a lot of freaked-up individuals out there. It may be because we live in little family modules, away from other people. We are not raised by "the village" or even extended families.

In a situation where more familiar adults and lots more children are around to gauge a child's behavior and actions, it could be that aberrant behavior is caught and helped/stopped early on. But that in our nuclear family world, there are only mom and dad, and they may not have the time or the experience to equip them to right a straying child. And I also believe that aberrant behaviors are more widely accepted and children in the nuclear family era have been extremely coddled and isolated. With mom and dad both working, fewer children to interact with in the family, and no one else around, more children grow up with bad behaviors that were never put into check, and turn into adults with full-blown cracked personalities. (And schools can in no way take the place of family.)
This is the analysis I've come up with to answer the question of why it seems that there are so many screwed up people out there - but I may be totally blowing wind, LOL.

Anyway, kids can't always make the determination between "right" and "wrong" - they can be affected for life by being around a parent or sibling with an abusive personality. I believe that children go through a quiet personal hell in these situations. The people they instinctively trust and depend on are the ones treating them in not so nice ways. It can twist the psyche and soul of the strongest child, and manifest itself at any time and in many ways.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 4:36PM
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Wow - this has really been a great place to come:))) Thank you all, I am reading all the stories, comments and advise and is very helpful and I am very appreciative.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2009 at 6:58PM
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It does not hurt to recognise that you are the victim of abuse and have wounds to tend to. Shutting the door on our abusers is a great first step but the road back to health is a long sometimes lonely one.

Watch your back. Abusers don't like to see their playthings "escape". Beware of strangers that seem to "know" things about you. For years I was confronted by strange people that would berate me. At first I assumed it was mistaken identity or somebody with a couple screws missing. Now I know it was lies my mother told people to control me. I found myself fired from jobs on the very first day, job offers revoked, and dates shut the door in my face and only much later figured out only my mother had access to the detail of my life that would allow such sabatoge. I will probably sleep with a loaded gun for the rest of my life... which is part of the wounds that I have.

A narcissist will be the center of attention or they will burn the place down. Probably does some to explain the current state of our national economy?

be safe...

: )

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 2:25PM
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Michael, you too? I'm amazed at how many of us there are. I don't wonder that you're right about the state of economy!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 3:42PM
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Annie, I agree it probably is easier said than done. It just depends on the personalities involved. I guess I'm lucky that I have a crusty personality. :) I wouldn't put up with physical abuse from anyone, so I certianly won't put up with emotional abuse from anyone. And when people came back with "But she's your mothre, you HAVE to love her!" my response is "No, I don't."

Frankly, though, I don't see much difference between what is now called NPD and just plain meanness. I'm really not surpised that it's so common. Modern society as a whole has become more narcissistic and power hungry.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2009 at 5:18PM
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I would say my sister has it. The world revolves around her. She really can't see it any other way. I am glad we live on two separate coasts and only see each other every couple of years.

I have another question. I took the quiz that claire_de_luna posted and I got all zeros (0) for everything. So what is the opposite of Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 6:45PM
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Clare, I looked at that quiz. It's weirdly skewed to reflect one extreme or the other. There is no middle ground. I wouldn't worry about it!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 6:59PM
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Im really curious are all of us who have sister with NPD the younger sister? I am and I was always the bigger target for her than my younger brother.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 7:13PM
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My sister who has it is my fraternal twin. She has always had it as far back as I can remember. I was always in her shadow until I got married and moved to the West Coast. She demanded all the attention.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2009 at 7:50PM
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Yes, younger here by 4 1/2 years. Lyra, I am learning the truth of your post presently and is not pretty.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2009 at 2:10PM
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One of the symptoms of NPR is a lack of empathy. They don't care how you feel so they would kill you without remorse. Family members are often the closest people to them and the people they most want to worship them. When a family member has it the very person you expect to trust and protect you wants to damage you so they can be "better" then you. LOL!... if that bit of crazy makes any sense.

If you are in that spot consider alternate cell phones and mailboxes for your important communications. A simple thing like throwing away a credit card bill can cause you all kinds of grief... that you might mistake for your own failure. If you are a spouse/dependant and then have to ask them for money to cover "your" mistake they then own you. One of the things that will make the NPR most angry at that point is if you somehow earn the money to pay the bill... their victim is escaping. Jessy's term "emotional vampire" paints a very accurate portrait... they will kill you but prefer to feed for awhile first.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 2:32PM
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The lack of empathy is a huge deal!

I remember vividly in counseling how our therapist tried to get ExHubby to understand my feelings about some of the things he had done. She'd ask him how he thought I felt, and he'd answer with his own thoughts, justifications and rationale for his behavior. The public-consumption version of why he did it. (Picture Mom asking 6 year-old Bobby how Baby Sister felt when he snatched a toy away, and Bobby saying defensively that he didn't want her to slobber on it!)

She'd clarify -- "No, I mean how do you think your wife felt?" He'd look genuinely confused, sense a trap. (Bobby knows Mom isn't happy...) Then "Well I think she probably thought" and then something about my intellectual interpretation of his actions.

She'd try to clarify again "Your wife's feelings, not her thoughts. Do you understand the difference?" and he could never get anywhere even close!. Couldn't even really understand the distinction between thoughts and feelings or why it was meaningful. His emotional vocabulary was 'happy, sad, angry and jealous' -- that's about it...

Years later, in "Parenting Counselling", the counsellors again tried to get him to understand and acknowledge the validity of another person's viewpoint with the scripted beginning of: "You said 'X Y Z' and this makes sense to me because..." He couldn't even force the words out of his mouth! He'd start with "You said 'X Y Z'" (getting it twisted) and that's completely ridiculous because..." Could not even force the words out!

I suspect it's probably pretty rare to even get an NPD person into therapy and thereby get a tiny glimpse into their inner workings. But if/when you do, it's eye-opening!

In a rubber-room sort of way ;-)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 10:37AM
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The NPRs that I know have a way of blaming others for their problems. One of my huge mistakes in life was accepting some of that blame. I thought if somehow I did well in school and worked much harder at my jobs that approval and comfort would be had. NPRs sabotage the compromise method of resolving interpersonal conflicts. NPRs treat a relationship like a battle to be won rather then a home to be built. Normal methods of being social like extra effort and compromise simply become weapons at the NPRs disposal.

I don't think there is any cure. NPRs are often aware that they are selfish greedy people but simply don't care. The only time I've seen an NPR cry is when their victim has escaped. Not a cry of pain by one of frustration from not having someone to worship and obey them.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 1:59PM
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So true Lyra the only time my sister cried was in total frustration when I dared talk back to her. She would go on for weeks telling anyone and everyone just how I had hurt her feelings. She would go on and on to me about how I couldnt possibly have said that to her and couldnt I just say I was wrong until finally she would say she had forgiven me because she knew I didnt mean it. She never could except that maybe it was her who owed me an apology. She wanted her victim back!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 3:19PM
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Yes, they need a victim but they also always the victim too because it gets them attention to be the wronged one.

...and I'm feelin the empathy thing;) lol Seriously, it is so true. This is why I call it a sickness of the do you fix that? You can't teach people to be kind and have feelings and be caring to others.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 5:02PM
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Well, HERE WE GO AGAIN. This time, it's the in-law side of the family. You know, the traditional narcissistic male. (There's two of them, out of three brothers.) DH's oldest brother is in town, after driving over 700 miles to attend an uncle's 90th birthday party. He only called his brother to ask directions to two different places, and without providing much information. (It's time once again for us to bail him out, provide or take care of him.) Never, ''Let's get together'' or ''I'd like to see you'' or ''Let's have breakfast''. We stopped the expectations long ago of showing up at our home without calling first, or providing a free bed and breakfast for three days at a time without any expectation of engaging in conversation. (That's right...I forgot...we don't have conversations. Instead we listen to him talk!) We also stopped driving three hours one way to provide transportation for his mother for her trip from our airport to his house. OH, and picking her up again to take her home! (All while she talked about her wonderful family who lives elsewhere.)


I'm resentful that he has shown up for the distant uncle's birthday party, when he didn't show up for the 80th birthday party we gave his own mother. (Nothing was required but his presence. No excuses were provided either.) I'm tired of my MIL being the family's ''messenger'' of all the hurt feelings. (I do not choose to disrespect her by sharing with her the burden of my feelings!)

I no longer attend the forced family get-togethers. I'm sorry for my DH, who has to put up with the behavior, but he's managing it the best way he can by making his own choices when/where to attend and for how long.

Now that I have more knowledge of what narcissism really IS, it's helpful, but Still So Frustrating. I really hate this ''family'' time of year. Blaming me for the problem is fine; I'm used to it. Ignoring my husband though...that is inexcusable to me. I still get mad; he's accepting. I wish I could be more like him but I'm not.

If his family would talk TO each other, instead of ABOUT each other, everyone would have better relationships. What I have come to understand is that it isn't ever going to change, is it?

I should know this already, but please remind me again why we are the family pariahs. Refusing to be used is truly the mortal sin, isn't it?

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 3:21PM
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Just wanted to thank you all for this thread. I have a good friend who has always had problems with his mother. At first, he thought it was the religion/gay issue, but it seems that there is more to it than that. She is so controlling and devious and almost seems evil... very selfish. I forwarded this thread to him and let him read it, and he said he knows for sure that his mom has NPD. I mainly forwarded it so he'd realize that there are other people that don't have a perfect relationship with their families, but he got so much more out of it than that! He knows what to call her "problem" now, and he can look for ways to research it. He dealt with it today by turning the phone off and downing a bottle of wine, but he doesn't do that often LOL He thinks avoidance is going to be the best way, so he doesn't have to deal with stress. She sent him money in a birthday card, and he actually mailed it back to her!

So, just wanted to say thank you to everyone who posted here. Your stories and advice have helped a good friend of mine more than you will ever know. He has also clicked on the links and found them helpful too.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 6:56PM
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vacuumfreak: I'm so glad your friend could find a bit of information and insight into what some of us have had to deal with -- putting a label on it is a good first step. Good on him for returning the money (that's one of the NPD's controlling tools); disassociating is a good technique but I think you have to be either committed to it or willing to deal with personal associations and confrontations. It's either one or the other/ no half way, I don't think. It hasn't worked very well for my husband and me with his brother. For now we must have associations with him; when we're done with the parents' will and trust issues and finalizing their affairs -- we will never have contact with the brother again -- done! A sad but very real story about NPD and how it affects family members.
Good luck to your friend!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2009 at 10:12PM
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Wow all I can say is that this post has been a real eye opener. I know that I have talked about my problems with my brother and could never figure out what was the problem. He verbally attacks without any notice and the attacks are viscious. I decided this Thanksgiving that we would stay at home and have our own holiday with the DH and the kids and I can honestly say that it was the best holiday ever. No hollaring, no bickering, and best of all no rude comments. My brother will bring up things from the past 10 years and harp on them. Will call names and thinks that he is the perfect one. I have taken the first step in trying to avoid him, but the hard thing is that I am also missing out on the rest of the family. Reading everyones posts makes me realize that I need to work on getting stronger and standing up to him. My dad exhibits similar behaviors and this last week when he ranted at me, I told him that I didn't need to listen to him and hung up on him, several times.

My question is how do I deal with family events without completely cutting my self away. It is only the two of them that seem to ruin everything. The rest of the family just ignores him. I used to think that by ignoring him then they were reinforcing the behavior. I am starting to see that they aren't going to change and I need to do what I need to do. Any advice would be appreciated. I have been going to therapy for a year now because of dealing with their nastiness and now that I am starting to see that I am not the only one dealing with this it is easier, but what can I do to stop the hurt??


    Bookmark   November 27, 2009 at 8:08AM
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Stacie: That kind of verbal abuse turns from hurt to sadness, but probably won't go away. For as long as you can remember, you will have memories of the painful side of dealing with NPD's. But you can control how you react from now on and don't allow yourself to be hurt by their nastiness. Be prepared to just walk away, hang up, drive off -- and know that it's not because of you. It's because of their disorder. I know what you mean about the ranting and name calling and dredging up old issues (and lies). Personally I would not allow my children to witness such behavior. Unfortunately, with NPD's you never know what's going to set them off. Because you can't predict their behavior, the best thing to do would be to stay away. I don't know you, of course, but I think you would be happier by doing so.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2009 at 11:34AM
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stacey, I think you're on the right track, avoiding your brother and telling your dad you won't allow his behavior towards you. You can't change these people, you can only change how YOU react to them.

vacuumf, how amazing that this thread helped your friend....

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 6:50AM
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Vacuumfreak, I'm grateful to know that it's helped. Knowing I'm not alone in this has helped me immensely! I know when I was able to put a name to the problem, it helped me see things more clearly for what it is (which truly isn't about me).

Stacie, I don't do family events. I refer to those as Forced Family Get-Togethers, which are never good for me. The NPD's will never get enough attention when the entire family is there, and will continue to act out. Instead, I choose to deal with those I can actually have a relationship with. If I'm feeling strong enough, I'll have contact at some point with the NPD, but only briefly, and completely on my terms.

I try to remember I am only required to take care of myself, in the best way I know how. (After all, that's what they do!) You can still have family time, just without the disruptors. Then you can say, ''A lovely time was had by all...''

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 12:31PM
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AKK I posted a reply and then it said I needed to log in so here it goes. I want to thank everyone that posted, I could swear you were talking about my dad and brother in each and every post. I am doing my best to try and stop this before it affects the next generation, my kids. My mom even surpisingly made the comment that by avoiding and confronting and not having my kids around this that maybe they won't grow up thinking this is normal.

When I was in treatment I had to wear a shield where everyone put strengths on it so that I could stand up to my family. I knew for a while that was going to be my biggest struggle. We went to my folks for Thanksgiving yesterday and no hollaring and no bad words. I just avoided my brother and after telling my dad off and not going to the official Thanksgiving I think he might start to see that I am not putting up with that behavior. If they don't see it, then they won't see me and I will either leave or call them on it. It is hard because I grew up thinking that this behavior was normal. My husband has been helping me see that not all families belittle, hollar, fight and try and verbally attack each other. My hope and prayer is to stop this cycle and that my kids won't have to grow up thinking this is normal.

aka the Warrior Princess

    Bookmark   November 29, 2009 at 7:34AM
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Narcissists aren't just "difficult";
they're abusive, & they're brutal, & if you don't reflect glory on them & keep yourself in the background, they'll become enraged & annihilate you like you're an alien invador.

"the very person you expect to trust and protect you wants to damage you so they can be "better" then you."

My mother would brutally sabotage me in secret so she could "rescue" me-
always in a very public way where my aunts, teachers, & others would praise her for being such a good mother!

We learn sick coping mechanisms when we live with narcissists, especially if they're powerful figures in our lives from the time we're babies-

& everybody, every small critter in the world, expects to be protected when he/she calls for "mama".

When your mama hates you for
1) outgrowing the baby stage when you earned her a lot of attention ("oh, there you are with your brand-new baby") &
2) garnering some positive attention for your own self ("oh, Sylvia can speak in whole sentences"),
& the only way you can survive is to
be submissive,
give her credit for everything you achieve,
& be constantly alert to her changing moods & deflect her rage onto something else...
you grow up with deformed "coping behaviors" that make you vulnerable to being used, being victimized, & having stress-related health problems.

& bunny's right, they'll be the center of attention or they'll burn the house down.

My mother's version of burning the house down was to destroy my father, to nearly destroy me, & to drive lifelong wedges between me & my brothers.

She once told her sister, with satisfaction, that "those boys are going to keep on until they run Sylvia off".

& they did.

My mother died a couple of years ago, & I never confronted her;
when she was in her right mind, I was terrified of her, & by the time I realized how thoroughly she had abused & terrified me & how much damage she had done, she couldn't recognize me.

& even then, the last time I saw her, when she was tied into her wheelchair & couldn't have "gotten" me, I didn't sleep that night.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 1:14PM
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Wow Sylvia, you are so right and communicated that very well.

I feel for you (and me) and anyone who has ever dealt with NPD. It's too bad they can't see that their meanness isn't serving them well.

Mine has since apologized, asked forgiveness and is currently acting normally. Sadly, I don't trust that won't change, and when I least expect it.

I no longer rush to aid. I refuse to feel guilty about it. It's time for me to take care of myself.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 1:22PM
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Thanks, Claire.

"I no longer rush to aid."

I wonder if that's part of it, too, that anxiety to fix everything, to smooth things over.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2009 at 4:32PM
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just read a true-crime book called "Murder in Little Egypt" (I often read old books, get 'em at the thrift shop or library sale so I always have something to read).

The murders were in the 1980's, & I guess that was before NPD was a recognized condition.

which, I think, makes the portrayal of the father even more riveting;

the author described something for which he had no name, but he described it meticulously.

He also described the wife & children in heartbreaking detail;
this is what happens to people who live with this.

good book to read if you want to scare yourself, make yourself angry, get a devastating insight into the dynamics of what happens to a family when a spouse/parent has this condition.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 3:45PM
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I found this interesting article on Body Language and Disorders. I had asked eariler what was the direct opposite of NPD and here is what it said, "For instance: people with Avoidant Personality Disorder and patients with its diametrical opposite, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, comport themselves differently."

Just FYI.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 12:16PM
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