Monday, March 26, 2007

Bye Bye Dahlia: Access Denied with a Twist of Lemon

Sam Vaknin in The Selfish Gene: The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism:

Is pathological narcissism the outcome of inherited traits - or the sad result of abusive and traumatizing upbringing? Or, maybe it is the confluence of both? It is a common occurrence, after all, that, in the same family, with the same set of parents and an identical emotional environment - some siblings grow to be malignant narcissists, while others are perfectly "normal". Surely, this indicates a predisposition of some people to developing narcissism, a part of one's genetic heritage.

Ohhhhhhhhhh, what a groaner! But he is innocent of it, because he is a narcissist. So, he thinks the abusive parent CAUSES the NPD of the child, that the child cannot help it, so that all the abused children in the family should have NPD unless genetics is a factor.

It never occurs to The Narcissist that there is another possibility: that the other children might turn out normal just because they CHOOSE to. Just because they chose not to hurt others. Because they chose to grow up and think straight. Because they chose to have integrity. Let's not give them any credit for overcoming the pain and abuse, eh?

That's what you do if you deny that choice has anything to do with it: you deny the abused children who didn't become narcissists the credit they deserve for that. You make them all just machines.

It never occurrs The Narcissist that the narcissistic parent might be but an influence or tempter (demon) to the child and that the child may resist and overcome that influence/temptation, choose his way of life, and therefore bear responsibility for what he is. But The Narcissist wouldn't be a narcissist if he accepted his responsibility for himself. Or if he gave credit to others for overcoming a hurdle he didn't.


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17 Comments:

At 4:33 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Woops, I originally clicked the wrong button. All fixed now. :)

 
At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Children can grow up in the same home and not be equally abused by a narcissistic parent. In almost all dysfunctional families I know, one child was manipulated or abused more than the other children. For example, if a woman was abused by a husband or father she may unconsciously heap more abuse on a son. It can also be that inborn personality traits may attract an abuser. For instance, a narcissistic parent may target a more clingy or needy child instead of a more independent one.

 
At 9:02 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I'm glad you brought that up, because I have seen that in several families. But guess what? The results aren't predictable.

Except for one result: the narcisistsic parent (being a predator = one who targets the easiest prey) will target the most sensitive and vulnerable child to take the brunt of the abuse - THAT you can count on.

But that child does not always turn out to be a narcissist. And I have see another child in that family, even the one least abused, turn out to be a narcissist, or (in one case) narcissistic but not pathologically so.

One more thing. What is worse? Getting the abuse or watching a little brother or sister get it? And then when a sibling becomes a little demon on top of it all, the other children are getting it from two directions at once.

Those who survive this deserve massive credit for that. It wasn't their fate. They overcame tremendous temptation and pain. They chose to be decent people. They are responsible for that good thing about themselves. And so, by the same the token, the narcissist is responsible for what he or she is, too.

 
At 1:58 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

I believe it's a matter of inborn temperment combined with environmental factors (which includes creating an enviroment that encourages them to make the right choices).

My daughter always required a lot of attention, and had trouble soothing herself from the time she was an infant. Things were worst when she was about 11-13 years old, when she went through a stage of aggressiveness and hostility towards her brothers, combined with blaming and distorted thinking. I can't tell you how much that freaked me out (I thought she was turning into my mother), and how relieved I was when she outgrew it (she is now 16, and a totally different person in the above regards).

Her brothers, on the other hand, were mellower from the beginning, sleeping through the night sooner, and being less quarrelsome overall. They are now 13, and although they are sometimes rude and talk back, I've seen nothing of the behavior that worried me in my daughter.

As for the environmental influence and the matter of choice, there are things a parent can do to help children make good choices. I spent a tremendous amount of time and energy talking with my daughter during her difficult phase, trying to balance empathy for her without being manipulated, and emphasizing consequences, her effect on others, and that she could choose a different way to act that would make things work out better. Her distortions, blaming, and denial seemed impossible to get through, but I just kept repeating the themes, all the while being supportive of her feelings (largely legitimate, as a result of her N-dad favoring her brothers).

In contrast, when I had to discipline her brothers, they would interupt me to tell me they knew what they had done wrong, and they were sufficiently contrite and changed their behavior (mostly). With each skirmish between them, I might spend up to 30 minutes talking to my daughter, whereas it was more like 30 seconds with my sons, because they understood things right away.

Obviously, there will be some kids that, even when you pave the way, still end up making the other choice, including psychopaths.

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow what timely stuff here. this morning me and youngest child had a pretty straight forward talk about what brats some people in our family are (2 are adults!) how hard it is to be around them. how ungrateful and argumentive they are and how we (the "nice" people) always are the ones to make the accomadations. i was telling her how we need to modify the behavior of the second to youngest child before he gets too much like the 2 adults! i was trying to coach her on something i haven't even gotten a handle on yet, but this is so urgent sometimes! dealing with brats is too frustrating- i think i may have told her (yuck!) that we have to some how find a way to conduct ourselves with grace but- BUT- we don't have to tolerate when they turn into bullies. any feedback? jt

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

We all know that if you spoil a child, you are going to end up with a spoiled child. It's the same with certain breeds of dogs. Like Jack Russel Terriers and to a lesser extent Cairns. They will test you. You must win. You must establish your dominance over them in no uncertain terms.

If you don't, you will have a dog that rules you with surliness and growling. He ain't doing that because he's inherently surly: he's doing it because it works. It makes him top dog in that house.

That's the level he operates at, because he's amoral, operating at the mental maturity level of a five-year-old. You must realize that and know what does, and does not, get weighed in his decisions.

In neither case should you frighten or or yell or insult or beat = bully. In fact, doing that has consequences too, and they are all bad. But this doesn't mean that you aren't hard as nails with them. And stubborner than they are, no matter how stubborn that requires you to get. In fact, stubbornness is the key. (It's hard to be stubborner than a terrier, but you must be.) You must never, never, never let them win that way.

If you do, you are training them, teaching them that choosing to do wrong brings rewards. Most children (and dogs and narcissists) won't choose to do right under those circumstances.

Reward appropriate behavior, punish inappropriate behavior: it's as simple as that. That gives them a REASON to choose rightly. Then the demon at the door isn't driving down the wrong path all the rest of the way through life.

I think it's safe to say that every victim of narcissist has the same experience: once you see your abuse for what it is and has always been, the next thing you see is how you asked for it by tolerating it. By always thinking that you should "rise above it" and pay no attention to it, by always thinking that you "must turn the other cheek," that you must not "stoop to being as childish as they are" by punishing offenses against you. You see that you were treated like a doormat because you laid down for it.

In other words you betrayed yourself, just as the bystanders betrayed you. That makes a person feel abject. That leads to self hatred.

In general, the victims of narcisists need a little healthy narcissism. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." What does that mean? That the cruel should be sympathized with?

I think not. And I don't know where any air-headed preachers got that idea.

Me? I felt let down by religion on this. Once I started running logic checks on some of this stuff I could see that it is absurd and flies in the face of common sense. I discovered that it is based on twisted interpretations of the NT and on anonymous edits of anonymous writings many decades and sometimes even centuries after the fact. AND that it contradicts much scripture that the "turn-the-other-cheek" crowd conveniently never mention.

So, I threw all those stupid rules out of my life. I have more moral sense in my little finger than most of those parrots have in their whole body. I am quite capable of knowing right from wrong, thank you. Obviously way more capable than any mere preaching parrot is.

So now, when I a encounter a narcissist crossing the line with me, I make sure he slams into a brick wall. I don't argue. I don't listen. I get hard as nails. AND I teach him a lesson - that I bite back.

That's basically what they say you do to a great white shark on its first "tasting" run at you - whack it. Right in the nose. Hard. Beat the sh*t out of it with your fists and knees and elbows and feet.

It goes off then in search of easier prey.

Notice that you are not controlling the predator. You are just fighting back and showing him that you won't be the only one hurt if he attacks you. If you don't do this, you might as well offer yourself up as a sacrifice to him.

It's as simple as that. Because that's the level the child-minded are operating at. Whether they're 3 or 33.

I wholeheartedly agree with those who say our principal duty is to punish a narcissit's transgressions. It reminds me of a place in scripture where Moses rants that when a town finds the body of a murdered person, God will be furious with them if the men of that town leave any stone unturned in finding out who dunnit and hanging him for it.

Why? Because if they don't, they are consenting to the crime. That is a form of participation in it because knowing that people won't do anything about it is a TEMPTATION to commit that crime. That town will soon have dead bodies turning up everywhere.

In my opinion, children should never be told that they have no right to defend themselves. That they have no right to yell back at a brother or sister screaming at them to drown them out. That they have no right to hit back when being beaten. That they have no right to stick up for themselves or object to insults. Those are inalienable HUMAN RIGHTS.

And they should never be told that their very anger over this abuse is some kind of sin. Indeed, it's the other way around. Their anger is appropriate. Anyone who witnesses the abuse has a RESPONSIBITY to be angry about it.

But telling kids they must defend themselves or even feel their anger forces them to bend over for abuse. How degrading.

They need at least one parent who will hold them accountable for their conduct BUT will acknowledge their right to their feelings and their right to self preservation and self defense.

Now of course, you don't want the situation to get to the point that the victim child must hit back. To prevent the necessity of physical fights and screaming arguments, that parent must accept their responsibility to TAKE ACTION in the victim child's behalf so that they don't have to take action themselves with the limited means at their disposal.

That's what I think, and that's why I never turn the cheek when a narc attacks. I let him have it with both barrels. And then I turn a deaf ear to all his crybaby whining afterwards. I don't even let it/him connect with me, because as far as I'm concerned, he doesn't even exist anymore. That's how I teach him to buzz off in search of easy prey, someone who will let him abuse them, and leave me alone.

Because I bite back.

 
At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

playing referee is a normal part of being a mom. having a narcissist adult in the house takes it to a whole new level!!!!!!!i think the one is "mini me" in his defensiveness which he learned from N dad picking on him. can't blame him. or can i???teaching kids boundaries is a part of life. but having such weird examples of it in your house is definitely a strike against you. didn't even know you were in the batters' box and people are throwing stuff at you!!!teaching team work is a necessary part of functioning family life.i'm good at it til N blanks it up. oh well right? my job just got harder- so i have to find a thicker play book and this place helps a LOT. man i guess his household was way more messed up than i ever would have imagined. i think his mom was an excellent N. in sanctuary of the abused there is a long article on N mothers that probably describes her. if she ruled the roost and the kids were powerless- that could explain why he won't take a lead but will interupt mine and resent me for it all at the same time. the passive aggressive stuff is sooooooo annoying. i mentally drew a line this morning thinking 'we seem to have to put up with brats(everywhere in life) but we don't have to tolerate abuse'. but that doesn't help because abuse can be so subjective- what feels like abuse to one may not to another. and some of this abuse is so covert it's hard to define until you find sites like this one.i wish there was a meter we could install that would flash a red light when boundaries were definitely crossed and a big arrow would flash pointing to the one that fouled so that there could be no denying.(although they would still argue it cuz hey- none of us like to be singled out as the bad guy) but still- one set of rules for everybody would be great.and help defining who screwed up would be too. you know there really are a lot of contributing factors and no total conclusions- just theories and observations. my N is from a big enough family and we are a big enough family with all sorts of people with different reactions to the same old crap. some are cool some are jerks and why? why are some and not others?sensitivity issues? some did get singled out to pick on and get dumped on? some are naturally kind? some are more aggitated easily? if i called everyone on their bad behavior i would be a constant nag. if i let stuff go i'm being too complacent.where to draw the line and when to call foul is soooo time consuming. i accept the responsibility for raising my kids- mainly so that others don't have to tolerate innappropriatness from them. but my kids would have a very valid point if they were to speak up and ask hey why don't i get away with it when you let dad. well because dad isn't acting like a grown up and is deciding to act like a bratty little kid and i'm not supposed to (have to) treat him as though he is on a level so much beneath me in the heirarchy of discipline and teaching.he was already supposed to have learned that either with his parents teaching him or not! enough time has passed that at some point along the line he should have picked up more of the information somewhere!!!kathy- what can i do with this resentment i feel at feeling like i'm having to retrain this old dog when he had inadequate training in the first place and is sooo stubborn. he doesn't want to learn! (can i take him back to the pound?!)it's also getting too easy for me to use him as an example of bad behavior. i used to avoid that cuz i didn't want to undermine his authority or validity and i also wanted to avoid allienating the kids by whining about or criticizing him when they still need to love him And i don't want them in a position to have to pick sides and split their loyalties.i can tell i'm starting to slip.jt

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man i'm blabby again today. sorry but thankyou. i just had a more simple thought ' it's just as wrong to throw little rocks at someones window as it is to throw a brick through it'. course we don't need to be told that- they do.they probably would shrug that off anyway huh? ugh. thanks for letting me vent. jt

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

A comment on the idea that abuse is subjective. I don't think so. In other words, I think that a thing either is, or is not abusive. I think that everyone will feel abuse and that feeling abuse means that abuse occured.

Now, some people are more sensitive to it than others, meaning that they are more pained by it. An analogy is burnt skin - very sensitive. A person who has suffered narcissistic abuse all their life will probably be more hurt by little things.

But they are not imagining abuse when it occurs. Kinda like emotional fibromyalgia - it just hurts them so much more than it does people who haven't been given that sore spot.

There are people who convince themselves that they have been abused when they haven't been. Narcissists, for example do that all the time. If you don't act the part of peon unworthy of anything but waiting on them hand and foot, they claim you are abusing them.

Baloney. They are patholigical liars who lie to themselves about everything. So, it's foolish to believe them. I don't believe that they really feel any abuse in that. That's just their lying excuse for flying into a rage at you whenever you depart from their script.

I mean what do healthcare professionals expect? That an N is going to admit he flies into his rages for no reason but to stomp on you just because it makes him feel good? Let's get real. He is going to lie to invent an excuse and pretend that you are hurting him and that he was striking out in defense.

So I think that if a person truly feels abused by some action, it WAS abuse.

We should listen to our instincts. When we feel burnt, it's we've burned. We didn't just imagine it.

 
At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thankyou kathy. you know, i wonder how come it takes us so long to embrace what you said. i know it's true but it's hard to believe.truly almost everything he says can be taken as an insult. i think sometimes i might be too keen to it- but it's there- even when he laughs and camoflauges it- i hear it-it's definitely there. how come other people don't (seem to) recognize it? he spares no one. it's always these little petty subtle diminishing remarks. he doesn't "dump" but once in a while but he's got a leak and it sprays a continual fine mist. why doesn't anyone else acknowledge that strange odor? jt

 
At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thankyou kathy. you know, i wonder how come it takes us so long to embrace what you said. i know it's true but it's hard to believe.truly almost everything he says can be taken as an insult. i think sometimes i might be too keen to it- but it's there- even when he laughs and camoflauges it- i hear it-it's definitely there. how come other people don't (seem to) recognize it? he spares no one. it's always these little petty subtle diminishing remarks. he doesn't "dump" but once in a while but he's got a leak and it sprays a continual fine mist. why doesn't anyone else acknowledge that strange odor? jt

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

The stinker gas a "leak"? That was the perfect way to put it! I'm jealous. I wish I'd thought of that one :)

 
At 6:32 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

What about banter? Trading little barbs back and forth CAN be a signal of affection and trust. It just depends on if both people are participating and enjoying it, and being aware and respectful enough to avoid the sore spots. We've all seen this in action, and it's a fun way to interact.

There have been times recently where I wonder if some proportion of N-husband's many little put-downs are failed attempts at banter. He just glows when he manages to get an exchange going (i.e. our kids laughing and throwing insults back at him). Where he fails is that he doesn't know when to stop, because he lacks empathy. If he doesn't get an encouraging response, he ups the ante and gets meaner.

I have to note, though, that this is separate from the really hostile jabs he makes when he's angry.

 
At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dandelion- i know what you're talking about- the same thing happens here-but what has me is i see an absence of good things here- if there was good i could better take the bad- but he does not historically say nice things. there is no healthy sincere exchange. it is missing and our kids are starting to seem convinced that is adequate. i'm not willing to settle anymore.
our dinner table is where most of the covert attacks have taken place. it was getting pretty bad but now the older ones are busy and gone a lot so it's just me dad and the younger ones. me and the kids are restoring health and nurturing when dads not there but when he is i'm pretty tight lipped. it's noticeable. i actually hardly speak to or even look at the man unless i absolutely have to. now keep in mind that we have been together for 24 years and i can't remember-really!-the last time he gave me a sincere compliment, apology, thankyou or asked me how my day was unless it was just a segway so he could talk about himself. we are at the table,not talking,i scratched my ear and i hear this most thoughtful concerned voice asking "are you okay". it surprised me because usually that question is meant as a put down(really) plus i had no idea what happened that he would say it but this tone was so genuinely concerned. i just stared right at him waiting for a sign of what he meant by it and it was a freeze frame and w/out looking away i said real plain "i had an itch. so i scratched it". and we just stared at each other. it was incredibly weird.
when the kids were younger he would play with them on their level and then abruptly pull rank on them and turn into scolding adult- confusing! now he relates to them thru sarcasm and private jokes cuz mom can't take the cuts and they all yuk up the put downs- yea i know it's normal for teens and older kids,but it still hurts and still harms the young ones and me, especially coupled with the lack of kind things and the fact that dad is an adult but no longer converses like one. he does the john wayne know it all crap but dialogue is inept and immature.he ups the ante as you say. he starts crap but then will pull out the mr. rogers voice (which is his newest imitaion) and say now now - god it's sick! me and the youngest ones actually finally just refer to him as a brat(not within his ear shot) because he really is one at best,sometimes he turns into a bully and i will always be on the look out for that monster he became last summer.it ruined whatever trust was left.jt

 
At 3:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like to share my thoughts on this in my case. I posted on the genetics subject under Gerard. My parents had 7 children. Maybe you better read that post first..
I know from early on the 2 sisters and one brother (and the one in between more or less)who looked like my narcisstic mother never resisted her. They never had big conflicts with her. They didn't critisize her. Never took a stand in any matter. This was from very young age untill she died and till now.
This behaviour was not only to my mother but generaly everywhere.
So they never got the abuse from her or anyone else. They stayed out and never took responsebility when it was nescesary. There character was and is just like that. When something was wrong it was never their fault and isn't till this day. Their concept of wrong and right is beyond any doubt and everything they do wrong in others eyes are just right in their eyes. And when they admit they did wrong it was nescesary to teach the other a lesson or something like that. He or she deserved it. They feel above the rest. Never any doubt.
This is the red line. From very young age they were like this and being like this avoided the big abuse me, my father and my other sisters had to suffer.
I know they are aware cause they choose to stay out when their help or responsebility is needed in very consious way and this is when it's not in their advantage or by their contempt of persons.
So we had the abuse for we didn't liked this ways and didn't become narcissists. They had non or very less abuse.
I think this can be a point cause it makes sence that narcisstic people are not able to hurt each other that much.
And it's known that basic characterstructures as brainstructures (for instance deseases like shizophrenia, manic depression and others)have a genetic factor.
There is one big differance. They are aware and calculating. They know what they do. They have a choice but choose the other way cause they feel great about- and entitled to abuse anyone they see as weak. That's their choise but also the sick part of it. At least that's what I think till now.
I think the genetic part of NPD therefore deserves attention.
If you want to conquere your enemy you have to know him in all possible aspacts.

greetings, and Kathy, thanks for your effort on your great site.

 
At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Barbara said...

There's one really good way to show Vaknin again - gets it wrong.

I am the Adult Child of an Abusive Narcissist.

I am NOT a Narcissist though I attract them like flies to @@@@.

Did my parent make me an N? No. Did my parent make me an N-magnet? Highly probable.

Yet some children of Ns somehow escape unscathed.

Shoots a lot of holes in his theory.

 
At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought my Step Father was a narcissistic parent and we suffered so much pain under him. I was the oldest of 5 siblings and the only one that was never abused by him was my youngest sister Karen.
I remember as a child I had so much hatred in me because I watched him abuse my brother and sisters. I think my brother had the worst of the abused. None of them were narcissistics they all have empathy and love their children in adult hood and all seemed to be in normal relationships. It seems I was the only one that has been in abnormal relationships. I am not sure why and wondered if I really attracted those men into my life somehow.

 

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