Monday, April 17, 2006

A Dumping Ground for the Toxic Waste of Narcisisstic Pathology

More from Narcissistic Pathology of Everyday Life by Nancy McWilliams and Stanley Lependorf:

The repeated experience of being pathologized is typical not only for the children but also for the spouses and other intimates of narcissistic people.

They cite the example of what happens to child who seeks the narcissist's attention. I have a slightly different take on it than they, because in my experience narcissists are seldom really "busy." They go to great lengths to seem busy though. They busy themselves hectically with unproductive busy-ness. I think they do it to distract themselves, to keep their minds occupied and thus ward off unwanted thoughts that might occur in a moment of quiet reflection. Busy, busy, busy as they are though, despite the reputation for being hard-working that they manage to carve out for themselves, those I have known were all remarkably lazy.

A narcissist will deny a child attention just to do it. She is a child who has never learned to share. Attention is her her pain killer, so it might as well be heroin, because she must it all: she can't spare any, even for her child. Note how incongruous that behavior is with the role of a parent, especially a mother. The children of narcissists don't really have a parent.

The narcissists I have known actually act as though it would kill them to give you any attention. Deep down inside they seem to feel that it would! I don't think they're faking that. I think they really feel that way. Insist on any attention from them and they act like you're tearing off their right arm.

Notice that this is just another in a long list of narcissistic behaviors I've mentioned that is normal only in a little child. We see it when a child refuses to share a toy. She must have it all to herself. One should think it would kill her to share it with her sister. She really feels that way, because her personality is at the emotional developmental stage of a three-year-old, where having to share that toy would be a CATASTROPHE!

Funny, in children. NOT, in adults.

So never -- not for one minute -- forget that in a narcissist you have a little child dressed up like a grown-up.  That's the mentality you're dealing with.  Telling a narcissist to "grow up" will do as much good as telling a three-year-old to grow up = no good at all. They can't grow up. They're a case of arrested child development.

Williams and Lependorf point out that a negligent narcissistic mother who witholds attention from her child defends herself against the guilt she incurs in that through denial, substituting a fiction for the truth with a fantasy of being the exact opposite -- the model parent. She will put on an Academy Award Act of being the model parent and have the whole world convinced that she is.

It's kind of a shame that so many people are fooled by narcissists. We all instinctively know that people who put on a show of anything are trying to look or sound or seem a certain way. And there can be but one good reason for that -- to look or sound or seem different than they really are.

But, while we're still naive, we prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. I no longer do. Whenever I see anyone putting on a goody-two-shoes act a little too thick, I know they're just gobbing make-up on to hide a big zit. So, if they're acting exceptionally kind, I know that they're mean. If they're acting honester than Honest Abe, I know they're a liar. If they're acting religious, I know they're a hypocrite who has no faith to lose. But I had to learn this lesson the hard way, as most people do.

Little children need the affectionate attention of their parents like they need the air they breathe. The narcissistic parent is inadequate, because he or she is too weak and needy to spare any for their child. How does mother react to her child's need for attention?

A real mother tells the child she is busy at the moment. A narcissist tells the child he wants too much attention, that he is immature, too demanding, or whatever. And with those magic words -- presto-chango! -- the inadequate person in this exchange has somehow become the child, not his lousy excuse for a mother.

That's what the children of a narcissist are -- a dumping ground for the pathology of the narcissist. They grow up thinking that they're the one who's inadequate, that they're the one something is wrong with.

The repeated experience of being pathologized is typical not only for the children but also for the spouses and other intimates of narcissistic people. A woman who, for instance, expresses hurt when her husband defensively criticizes her, may be glibly accused of "oversensitivity." An employee who tries to convey his distress to a hypercritical boss may be told he is "overreacting." People generally feel quite helpless in the face of such defensive operations, which shift the focus of attention from the defects (as unconsciously perceived) of the narcissistic party to the alleged neuroses of the target person. Narcissistically motivated people who possess psychoanalytic insight are particularly skilled at this tactic.

Naive objects of such processes frequently don't know what has hit them.... A woman in treatment with one of us reports that when she broaches a marital problem to her spouse, a psychiatrist, she is labeled a masochist and told to work on her "martyr problem." She came to therapy convinced of her severe character pathology, and she is not without masochism, but she is hardly the picture of pathology her husband has painted. This propensity for fault-finding, or critically "interpreting" to deflect attention from felt imperfections in the self, seems to us a process very close to projective identification, in that the object of the narcissistic attack ends up affectively owning a sense of badness .... It is thus destructive to both the object and the initiator of the criticizing defense, since anyone except possibly the most sociopathic of narcissists would accumulate unconscious guilt, and defenses against it, over misusing another person.

Ah, they keep that corpus delicti buried by shoveling more shit on you. That's what all that hectic busy-ness is for, too -- to keep their mind on distracting trivia so that subconscious guilt doesn't surface to consciousness on them.
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15 Comments:

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Not Available said...

You know Kathi since discovering this web site, a wonderful dimension has been added to my healing, in that for the first time in many years I am able to really own my feelings of hurt and anger without JUDGING those feelings, without perpetuating any more discomfort in my physical body for the guilt I feel for exposing their real natures to themselves, the grown men who should call them into accountability and to have done it publicly, too. "Anyone can stand up to Little Big Man and live to tell about it", right? It just takes courage.
Now, it's messy and I don't recommend it; but the sweet taste of freedom, of knowing my garden is MY garden makes everything I said and did in righteous indignation worth it. Thank you for the work you're doing.

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Thank YOU.

The irony outrages our sense of justice. The guilty come out smelling like a rose, and the victimized one is thus re-victimized by being framed as the the bad guy. That is an outrage.

And then to get condemned for FEELINGS, natural feelings, on top of it all. That's abuse too -- an insult heaped on the injury.

I hate that.

Anger is dangerous when its repressed. When we own it, we are perfectly capable of not letting it rule our behavior and of tempering it with good judgement. The very idea that that feelings could possibly be morally wrong is just plain irrational.

I really do wish that everyone abused by a narcissist would get off the guilt trip. That's what does all the damage.

 
At 10:05 AM, Blogger Not Available said...

The trouble of course is, Kathi that no amount of support or succor from intelligent and understanding people changes one bit that my life, and the lives of others such as myself will never BE the same; your work is reassuring but punching my wee fist in the air going, "Yessss!" doesn't change that I am a pariah, an outcast in a community where not three years ago I had many friends...not only that bad guys win, but that for the rest of my natural life part of my solemn duty, as a musician, a performer and now probably a teacher is to incorporate what I know and how passionate I feel about exposing narcissism INTO WHAT I DO, see? It's going to get a lot worse for me because I will NOT let it go. I will never accept what happened. I will have to take the slings and arrows or more and more people, in their abject ignorance, and sneering and stupidity asserting, "Look who's talking about being a narcissist, always assusing others of this thing that SHE is", society being totally in the dark about what the PATHOLOGY looks like, vs a natural talent and decent person claiming her birthright from those who stole from her, derided and abused her while remaining totally in the dark about the ubiquity...the unimaginable ubiquity of this phenomenon, and that they congregate in PACKS.
I read somewhere yesterday, probably in one of the articles your blog links to, that pathological narcissism should be called, "Lead guitarist disease". LOL. Nothing could be more accurate; especially what you write about them putting on a big show of working hard, while parasitically attaching themselves to anyone with a life force.
Thanks for letting me include my two cents here, though I do go on...people, it's just so darned conplex and infuriating...
...and no-one believed me. Why should they have? Who wants to go through the horror of absorbing that ALL your "colleagues" are messed up sociopaths? Not some...not a few...ALL of them?
It means taking a stand.
Like I did.
I'm still mad about it, but am healthy and happy on a soul level and know there's a better life around the corner, thanks to people like yourself and the survivors who add their strength to the "pile", to our work and beliefs.

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This site is absolutely amazing. Your "Essence of Narcissism" is remarkable. All of it is. To your great credit you do not delve into what "happened" to you personally which resulted in your interest in the pathology and although it is none of your readership's business, might you qualify, apart from the episode of Law and Order if there was, say, one person who hurt you or set you on this path?

 
At 1:20 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

There are quite a few reasons why I don't do that. I don't even want to. Though it makes me feel good to help others feel better about it, to help them throw off the opprobrium a narcissist dumped on them, this isn't therapy. It's professional writing, though in a qualified sense, because I don't have the time to organize and proofread and polish it as I normally would for publication. That means it's all about the reader, not me. You bore people to death faster in writing than in speech when your talk is about you. Also, I write under my real name.

 
At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy

I've just finished reading 'The Sociopath Next Door' by Martha Stout. She states that narcissism and sociopathy are 2 distinct pathologies, the narcissist being defined primarily by a lack of empathy, the sociopath by a lack of conscience. This is an interesting book but to separate these pathologies using this distinction seems to me to be splitting hairs. How can one know whether someone is incapable of feeling guilt or is simply keeping it repressed? The narcissists I have known simply rewrite history (i.e. tell lies), so that all their actions, no matter how vile, are justified in their own eyes. Whether this means they've got a conscience or not, I don't know. They are chronic responsibility avoiders, I know that. My father's comment to me on my brother's suicide at the age of 24 was that he (my brother) had always been lazy and that he had taken the easy way out.

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Though my opinion counts no more than anybody else's, I have to say I agree. I have often asked myself whether a certain narcissist knows the truth about their lies. Finally, it dawned on me to ask instead, "What's the difference?"

It reminds me of the passage "You have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, a heart but do not know." Is it willful blindness, deafness, and ignore-ance? Yes. But it's real.

I have witnessed convincing evidence that, in this state, people really do not see. Once I tested someone by elbowing her and asking if she saw something going on right in front of her face. She gave a little jump, her eyes wideneded to let me know she saw, and then -- boom -- her face fell again as though someone had knocked her unconscious. I had to pinch myself! She was THAT determined to unknow what was going on. Literally had herself under hypnosis or something.

People can be aware of guilt or have stirrings of empathy one moment and have repressed all such consiousness again the next moment. So, the answer to the question of whether they have a conscience or empathy depends on which moment you ask it.

The example you give is a perfect example of rationalizing-away guilt. But it's also absolutely devoid of empathy. I don't know how anyone can have one without the other.

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Not Available said...

Great point, that "What's the difference?" It's gets boring as hell disseminating this s### after a while in regard to the narcissists in your life and their motivations. Who really cares? They're just no longer with us, and one can shut the door.
Tricky world we live in; it's just so much safer knowing this stuff. It's like having a secret ingredient for a peaceful life, like holding the keys to heaven in your hands. You CAN choose what energies to allow or refuse into your field.

 
At 9:15 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Right. At first we're so perplexed by a narcissist that we're plagued by such questions. Then, at some point in our understanding, we realize, "What's the difference?"

What they're aware of varies from moment to moment. All awareness of truth is repressed but does tend to surface to consciousness on them now and then -- before they quickly repress it again.

It's like the question of whether they're "evil." They do evil to others because they like doing evil to others: it makes them feel good. But they don't do evil because they like evil itself and like doing evil for it's own sake. But why split hairs? It may help to understand the difference. But it makes no difference in the end result.

Eventually, these questions themselves become meaningless. Yet, till we understand, they haunt us.

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

For 6 years I've been trying to get away from this distructive life. I have tried so many ways, but not managed. His violent character makes it harder. And.. I always feel sorry for him even though I know in my heart I'm being played. It is a big comfort having found this site. Thank you!

 
At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I asked him once, "how did you get attention when you were a child?", a guest in my home, disrupting my life, he was demanding all of mine. He would effectively turn every conversation into an attack on me, so issue's weren't resolved. Like what are you doing in my home, when are you leaving. It sickens me remembering how I let myself get sucked into this. It was a no-win situtation for me, so why didn't I have the police remove him. The first couple of days of his 4 day visit, I was in charge of my life. As it extended, I seem to have developed amnesia, forgetting everything I'd learned. Why was I patiently trying to explain stuff to him, as if he would listen and understand. Been there/done that, I'd tell him. Why was I even in that position. Even saying that, didn't seem to realize he was a Pathological liar, and how it would negatively impact my life. Truthfully, he didn't know I existed, except as a thing to be used.

 
At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonder if I'm a MNP? "I'm basically lazy", I told a friend one time. That's why my cabinets, closets, desks at work are super organized. Don't need to waste time looking for things. Learn how to cut corners and still produce quality work. If there is an easier way to do something I'm going to find it. I'd rather be out playing.

Busy, oh yes, I'm a busy person. My volunteer activities "will look good on a resume", keep a young Mom's skills updated, and keep me out of the home when he's there. Yes I keep busy so I won't have time to think. About getting thrown on the floor, sat on, choked and punched. So I won't have to thing of what's going on in the Congo, Iraq, Mexican jails, little girls getting raped by fathers and grandfathers. Not much I can do about it. Better to keep busy, to read. To force my mind to stay on pleasant things, like the flowers or birds or trees.

 
At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have no idea how reassuring it is for me to read this today. i have been with a narcissist for only 7 months but during that time he managed to convince me that i am the crazy one. he used a constant system of wearing me down, targeting my weak points and exagerating them to conceal his many inadequacies.
he told me that i am oversensitive (whenever i express hurt at his behaviour), suspiscous (whenever he gets called on his lies), and totally incompetent at dealing with people (hmmm, basically whenever i confront him with anything)
the painful truth is not that he says these things but that i started to believe them, and drove myself crazy wondering if he may be right!
i tried to break up with him so many times, and he keeps coming back

 
At 4:37 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

Discovering that others are like him, that there's something wrong with them, and you're not the only one it happened to kinda turns your world right-side up again, doesn't it?

That's because it validates your world, the real world, and invalidates his fictional one, which he tries to suck you into.

Since they can and do control their bahavior when it would be risky to let Mr. Hyde out, I think they should be legally accountable for the pain and suffering they cause and for the psychological injuries they inflict on others, especially children. Time for these big babies to grow up and be burdened with THEIR responsibility.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read an e-mail recently from my NPD mother written 3 years ago and I was horrified at the way she twisted my words, the situation, took credit for my efforts as her own. I always knew that she was manipulative, but having it in writing is just another way to affirm that I have to stay away. I did stay away from her for 3 years, but I started to feel guilty and that led to a phone call. I made contact very infrequently for 6 months and now she has cut me off. You mentioned once in your writing Kathy that one of the best ways to have your heart broken was to tell a narcsissist that you love them. Just another lesson

 

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