Saturday, January 07, 2006

The "Doting" Narcissist

Because the mentally ill are so complex, opposite behaviors often stem from the same root cause. We see this often in narcissists.

For example, to the same self-aggrandizing end, a "doting" narcissist does the opposite of the ignore-ant narcissist by showering attention on his child. But I don't think he should not be called a doting narcissist, because he is not fond of his child and takes no interest in the inner person of his child. He should be called a "scrutinizing narcissist," because all this attention is critical attention. Critical attention is the only kind a narcissist gives, because it plays the Teeter Totter Game.

So, if possible, he attends every tennis tournament or meet, no matter how far away. Every concert. Every play. He even shows up at practices and at the prom. And he delivers his detailed critique after every performance. He lives vicariously through his child, because that child's success improves his image and wins him attention. He invests an inordinate amount of time and effort and money in his child's talent. And a truckload of critical attention, because he is never satisfied. Which makes that child, no matter how successful, feel inadequate and inept. As one poor young rich kid put it to me: it torments him with the haunting fear that he's "a loser."

If he is a she, she may not be satisfied with her daughter's face and want plastic surgery to fix it. She may color her little child's hair. She may dress the girl like a Hollywood movie star. With the same result.

The children of narcissists are just objects to exploit for the parent's aggrandizement, whether that narcissistic parent is an ignore-ant narcissist or a scrutinizing one.

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At 5:17 PM, Blogger kendra2 said...

You are right on with this post. My narcissistic mother groomed one of her many children to be the chosen one. My brother could get a pimple and was rushed off to the Dermatologist. She was mad when the Orthodontist refused to put braces on his straight teeth, because they needed to be perfect. The rest of us were lucky if we were offered a trip to a doctor for a broken bone. And this brother is the one that ended up being a narcissist.

At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Kathy for writting this website. For the first time in my life - I am finally free to be me - as cliche as that sounds. Your insight has allowed me to see why the relationships in my family are the way they are. For instance, your mention of plastic surgery made a remarkable difference in my life. My whole life my mother would scrutinize my nose and its profile on my face. I suffered from severe cystic acne and she was fixated on how I appeared in public and what others would think of our family if she didn't take care of the problems immediately. By the way my family were doctors and highly powerful people in my town - at least thats the impression my mother always like to feed me and others. By the time I was 14 my nose was fixed and my acne was being treated. It wasn't until I read your website - I finaly realized why I was so hard on myself both on my physical appearance and how I could never mentally keep up with others. My mother convinced me that others wouldn't like my appearance esp men and how by not getting it fixed would be detrimental in pursuing any form of career. SHe told the doctor that she wanted it fixed because I couldn't breathe right, but I knew the real truth. She decided for me that I wasn't right and she had to make it right. Her obsession with making me perfect - destroyed my relationship with my younger sister. It took me quite sometime to realize why my sister hated me so much. Your words have allowed me to see my sister and brother's views of me. My mother's only attention to my sister was her daily critisim and beatings for when she "really messed up". I never got that type of abuse. IN my sister's eyes, I was the perfect child and only sucking up to my mother by doing well in school and priming myself to make her happy. IN reality, I only did well and took care of myself so I did not get the same abuse she had to deal with. I never knew that this patern developed until now. And so now my relationship with my sister is nonexistent because she is the golden child. She is now the golden child because I began to stick up for myself and moved out to make it clear I was not going to put up with my mother's antics any longer. When I did this - my sister started getting more money,clothes and attention. So now I can only hope that she will believe she is worth more than that and I can only encourage her to see that she is too worth more than that. At this point I am happy to finally know I am worth loving for just who I am but I am still struggling with understanding how to have a relationship with my sister when it hurts so much to witness the manipulations and control.

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so true, the opposites of mental illness. There is also a weird sameness to some of it. Certainly not all narcissists are pedophiles, but are all pedophiles narcissists? I don't know, but pedophiles seem to do the doting thing in a sick way. I've seen is where narcissistic parents train up their children to be excellent little sources of narcissistic supply which results in the children being terribly susceptible to sexual predators. I have seen it more than once that the parents, although not *sexual* predators themselves, train their children to basically feed predators with their own little selves, and sexual predators are aces at picking up on it. The parents not only failed to teach the child proper boundaries, which is one vulnerability, but they also train the child up to ignore their own feelings and to expect to be fed upon. Recipe for complete disaster. In one family I know. when the parents learned of the child's tragic experience with a sexual predator, it was made clear to the child that he/she was broken and the problem. They had a strong sense that this tragedy reflected poorly on them and it was her fault they looked bad, and no sense that their child needed love, support, real help. . . . Not to mention they wouldn't report it to anyone who needed to know and wanted to hush it up as much as possible. Nasty business, narcissism, nasty cycle.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

I've seen something similar -- grandparents refusing to even consider that their grandson may have been abused by a priest they introduced him to and had him serve daily mass for. When other victims from a previous parish came forward, none of the people in this little town would even hear of it, though his behavior was extremely suspicious -- especially the way he was known for taking already troubled kids "under his wing." Think what that tells the kid!

Think also what it means about how "good" many people really are. When put to the test by something like this, many thus flunk the "good person" test with flying colors. The kid can just go die if it's in their social interest to look the other way.

It's no fun to be disillusioned, but I'd rather be disillusioned than forever illusioned.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! This comment is right on target with my very recent ex-husband! I must say that during my horrendous divorce (finalized Christmas week) I read and re-read your entire website to comfort me. It has done wonders to help my self-esteem and to learn to move on. I wish I had read it several years ago. You see, I raised my ex-husband's daughter from the age of 3 to 16. She came to live with us full time just 3 months into our marriage. Recently, they moved out of my home (while I was at work) only 4 days after she obtained her drivers' license. Poof! - He didn't need me to mother his child any longer. Does he think anything about the fact he took my only child from me? Nope - I was just a tool - I have no feelings. Does he think about the fact his child has now lost 2 mothers within 16 years? Nope. But, the thing that hit the nail on the head is while he so blatantly ignores the emotional needs of his daughter, he makes darn sure he travels to every single athletic event his daughter is involved with - even those 100 miles away - where his daughter must ride the bus home. He even films some of the games so he can "go over" her mistakes. I used to tell him that watching the game once was good enough. Why re-live it if he wasn't happy about it? I feel sad for my stepdaughter - but I have no control. Although I raised her for 13 years while he worked 75 hours a week (I worked also), he never offered me the opportunity to legally adopt her. I can only hope that she is strong enough to move on in a couple of years.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this post sounds right on. My father excessively worries and calls me three times a day I can't go on trips would do anything without thinking how he will react. It's like a virtual prison where you're tethered unable to escape the constant gaze

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Not Available said...

Me again love; I have to say here, that there is something addictive in its way about reading all about narcissistic pathology...over, and over and over again. Strange, no? But like this last comment from a person I send deep love to, "Over and over again" is how people discovering a "new normal" post abuse is like a comforting friend, over and agin, to learn that you are NOT crazy, NOT alone, and were never imagining things. I can literally spend hours and hours reading about narcissism and...I dunno, there is something weird (in a healthy way) about how fixated the victim becomes on that whole internal, "YOU SEE??? You SEE???" that reading on this gives. I could spend hours here, and I do. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so thankful for this website. I too, cannot get enough information on the effects of narcissism. My brother was diagnosed with NPD w/antisocial tendancies and from that diagnosis I learned about my mother too. I just had to get honest about my relationship with her. I was out of contact for 3 years and in therapy. I did not receive her phone calls. The best decision I ever made. With a lapse of memory and buying in to guilt feelings, I made contact again. I am regreting every minute. She has made her attack on me and turned the tables, as always. I hope I have learned my lesson...I will not feel guilty for taking care of my self! For any one with an ounce of guilt, get rid of it! The narcissist is not worth this pain. Even if that narcissist is your mother...she was only an egg doner, nothing more.

At 4:25 AM, Blogger jules said...

I relate to many of the things I've read here, though somehow I still question whether or not my mother is a narcissist, and why I have so many problems now, as an adult. My mother was always interested in our appearance, and she seemed to always identify herself as a single mother with two small children who had asthma. When she would say these things, it always seemed as if she was proud of us being sick, and that she wanted us to be sick. She is on her second divorce, and put us thru a lot with the two men she married, and now wants my support going thru this one. She calls me over to do her errands etc., and tells me I was so great to help her. Then she finds a way of criticising me. The thing that confuses me is that she compliments me a lot, and puts me down in subtle ways. I gave her a copy of a book project that I took the pictures for. It was published, and I gave her a copy. She complimented me on it, then I noticed that she shoved it in a basket with a lot of junk. I don't know what to think of my mother.
I don't know if she is on my side or not. Somehow, I always want to believe that she is, but at the same time I kind of hate her. I don't know if I should feel this way.

At 8:49 AM, Blogger Kathy said...


The only thing I know is that you just feel the way you feel. Feelings aren't right or wrong, they just are. You can't change them. You can only lie about them, repress them, which is bad for you. Repressed feelings are still there (in the subconscious) and motivating your behavior without your realizing it. So, it's better to own them. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about feelings. No feeling (including anger) is a sin. CONDUCT is, feelings aren't.

As for your mother, why not just let the matter settle a while? If she has NPD, chances are that you'll remember something so peculiar that turns on the lights and you'll just know it. Otherwise, if you have any doubt, she probably isn't. People can be narcissistic without having the personality disorder.

Those things you told about do mean something. When your work is published and she isn't bragging all over town about it, something is wrong. You don't have to keep allowing her chances to do that to you. You can often find a safe distance, one that keeps you in contact but isn't near enough for her to exploit.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the post. i can totally relate. but do you have any suggestions as to how a child can tackle this problem? it's stressful and exhaustive. no matter how much i argue against my mother who suffers from it, it's like she's from another planet and speaks another language. it's driving me crazy. Thanks!

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I wish I had the answer, but I just don't. I don't think you'll get anywhere with her without leverage. Can you talk to your other parent or some other adult in the family you know you can confide in? Or maybe a school counselor you trust?


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