Saturday, March 17, 2007

Narcissists: Troubled Cases of Arrested Child Development Part 2

Continuing with the theme that Narcissists are troubled cases of arrested child development, we have only to close our eyes so that we are not prejudiced by the figure of a grown-up standing there, and we will see the behavior of a six-year-old:

Narcissists have normal, even superior, intellectual development while remaining emotionally and morally immature. Dealing with them can give you the sense of trying to have a reasonable discussion with a very clever six-year-old -- this is an age when normal children are grandiose and exhibitionistic, when they are very resistant to taking the blame for their own misbehavior, when they understand what the rules are (e.g., that lying, cheating, and stealing are prohibited) but are still trying to wriggle out of accepting those rules for themselves. This is the year, by the way, when children were traditionally thought to reach the age of reason and when first communions (and first confessions) were made.

Having a narcissist for a mother is a lot like living under the supervision of a six-year-old. Narcissists are always pretending, and with a narcissistic mother it's a lot like, "Let's play house. I'll pretend to be the mother and you pretend to be the baby," though, as the baby, you'll be expected to act like a doll (keep smiling, no matter what) and you'll be treated like a doll -- as an inanimate object, as a toy to be manipulated, dressed and undressed, walked around and have words put in your mouth; something that can be broken but not hurt, something that will be dropped and forgotten when when something more interesting comes along.

That was Joanna Ashmun. Reading that passage was one of those "Twilight Zone" moments for me, because what Ashmun here says about how a narcissistic mother relates to her "dolly baby" child reverberated in my mind with the memory of an adult narcissistic child of a narcissist I knew. When her narcissistic father suddenly became helpless (upon his wife's death) and dependent on her in his old age, their relationship changed overnight. Now he sucked up to her - all abuse of her instantly stopped. And now that she knew she owned him, she suddenly had never hated him.

Which makes sense. Being a narcissist herself, she knew narcissists are just bullies, that they just hit on people who can't do anything back to them. Besides, he needed a new Mamma, so he would surely suck up for one.

She got the deed to his home and knew that Daddy would be a good boy from now on.

She began pretending that they had (and always had had) a loving relationship. Why? Presumably because her ego needed a doll baby and because then she could go around showing off to everybody how kindly she cared for her aging father. In other words, she just capitalized on the new situation.

Bizarre enough, eh? Which proves what thorough hypocrites narcissists are. But it gets more bizarre. He became her baby, and she became his loving mother. She would even talk baby-talk to him, such as now it was time "for us to go wee-wee." Just way out there in the land of bizarre. He was her doll baby. In fact, at the time even, I was saying that.

Now I read this echo in Ashumun's words.

I am constantly struck by that - how alike narcissists are. Strange, even bizarre behaviors like this that seem to make no sense and seem to be unique are not at all unique. Other people pipe up and say, "Hey! My N did that too!"

The only difference is the circumstances. For example, there is a difference between a narcissistic mother using her child as a doll baby and an adult narcissist using her aged narcissistic father as one. But both need a doll baby.

Ashmun continues with Selected Characteristics of Normal Six-Year-Olds to enumerate the qualities of a six-year-old that persist in an adult narcissist.

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At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost feel like vomiting when I read dad has always called my mom his 'mommy doll' and now he is truly her infant. I don't want to go into all of the details but she coddles him just as the rest of us do a new born baby or toddler. I've seen my dad knock something out of the refridgerator and stand there saying nothing while my mom rushes over to clean up after him.

Before I asked my sister to take a turn caring form them, she was always realistic about who and what they are and then suddenly everything will be interesting, I guess, to see how she changes once they have been in her charge for awhile. There is no money so the only reward would be in public admiration. I hope I'm being too suspecious of her and she proves me wrong.

At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a chilling passage! The N who was in my life actually has a life-size baby doll that she alternately "loves" and tosses to the floor. She was raised by a N, and raised her own son the same way. Three generations (at least)of nature/nurture narcissists.

So many things snapped into place after I read this article. After a year of no-contact, there continue to be so many "ah hah" moments. Thank you for your work on this blog. It brings many breaths of sanity to what was a dark, distorted friendship.

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

This almost freaks me out . . . when reminiscing about my childhood, my N mom always says "You were like a little doll."

And right after we had our huge blowup around the holidays, and I've gone no-contact since, my brother says my mother pulled out all the old baby pictures of me and began to reminisce . . . which makes me realize that I was infinitely preferable as little doll than as a thinking, independent middle-aged adult.

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankyou for this website - in the last months it has provided me with solace as I have had to gain understanding about my situation.

I totally agree that NPD is effectively arrested emotional development - what's more my experience leads me to believe that it is genetically caused. My husband is an N and so is one of my grown-up daughters. My despair at finding her not growing out of the excusable youthful traits that have always characterised my husband's behaviour has been overwhelming. Wishful thinking is very powerful in relation to your children and it is easy to deny your instincts.

At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Narcissists are pathetic. My (former) N mom used to tell me that when I was a toddler, she was crying one day, and I came up to her and told her 'it's okay, I love you, and I'll take care of you'. So, I've been the one kid that has to take care of her all these years. She expected a toddler to take care of her! Absolutely disgusting! I moved away from her and my 2 N sisters in January, and didn't give them my new phone number or address. I never want to ever see them again. N mom has sabotaged all my friendships, and stolen countless things from me. She is evil to the core.

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was the perfect little girl doll too. Then, one day I got a personality and my mother has never accepted that.

For various reasons, I have cut her out of my life. Although some days this makes me proundly sad, I also know its the most sane route to go for me.

I just want to let all of you know out there that I understand why you've removed yourself from an "N" Our society say its acceptable for you to cut off your your parents if they have physically/sexually abused you. Unfortuntely people dont recognize emotional abuse and just think its "subjective". Its so damaging. Don't let anyone ever try to guilt you out for cutting these people out of your life.

At 3:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:47 you are absolutely right. It has taken me 50 yrs. to finally excise the lies and secrets that my N-mom and N-brother have wrought upon myself and our so-called Family. I still feel pangs of guilt but thanks to this website and others like it I am realizing that I was conditioned from an early age to think that the exhortation "I'm the parent!" meant I had to conform, my opinion didn't mean anything.I have come to the realization that there is no way to make the situation work and therefore I must remove myself from it for my own preservation. I am slowly learning that self flagellation is wrong and TOTALLY undeserved."Walk on, you've got to leave it behind".

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found this blog three weeks ago and my mind and heart have just exploded as I read and cried, read and cried. Whew!

I was the typical "good girl" of a N mother. We never fought (turns out because I was so accomodating). Except once. I was engaged and (didn't know it at the time) fighting an epic battle to separate from her and establish my own independence. From out of nowhere, 8 words came out of my mouth with intense, quiet savagery: "I'll. send. you. cards. in. the. nursing. home."

Only now, 15 years later, do I realize that I had been her caretaker all my life and that with those words I was ripping up that contract.

It is such a relief to finally learn about NPD, and the victims of Narcissists. Now I can finally begin to see what the hell was going on (and to understand the fallout that is still affecting me to this day).

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

My mom used to recite to me, "There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forhead; and when she was good she was very, very good but when she was BAD SHE WAS HORRID!" This was coupled with never having any praise from my mom except for my looks, the rest of me was simply bad and horrid. I was also a sickly child and I know that grew into my way of getting any affection from her. It is really the same. She also would cry to me with her problems and was angry with me as a teen as she told me that she always fantasized that we would be friends and spend all of our time together rather than me having friends and a life of my own. As I said before, this article and now also the comments that follow it are almost too much.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it hurts a lot to admit that the people we give significance to in our lives maybe don't love us as much as we assumed they would. that may sound harsh but believe me it is said with the utmost compassion. i have been struggling for a long time. i have discovered that the closer i have come to the realization that they don't really love me (my Ns), that my world isn't really falling apart after all. i'm very very sad about it, but i'm no longer trying to deny it. at first it hurt and it was scary- i didn't want to know- but now i'm not going to hide from it anymore and i'm just going to learn how to deal with my sadness and sorrow, and not expect them to help me with it. sometimes truth and reality hurt but trying to deny and change a reality we can't, can just be too exhausting. looking fear right in its face sometimes makes it smaller.i can do sorrow- it was confusion that was draining me. jt

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as far as my NH is concerned i really do think his Nism stems from his childhood. it is more apparent to me that in a way in his head he has turned me into a represention of his parents so that he can punish me for things his parents did or didn't do because he didn't/doesn't have the courage to stand up to them.which probably explains the passive aggressive stuff that takes place in our relationship. he really was rendered helpless in his childhood. all that rage and disappointment and fear and loneliness could not be expressed by that little boy. i feel sad, for the childhood and child, but i am angry at the adult he is. and that doesn't feel convoluted as it once did. i can and do feel both very distinctly and at the same time and that is finally ok. jt

At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I go back and forth with thinking it is bad parenting to it just being the way they have chosen to be. I know people change sometimes, but I can't picture my grandparents mistreating my dad. I can picture him mistreating them as a teenager and adding extra effect to the hurt by blaming his parents for his behavior. The thing is they don't want to face their own behavior and change it. I too as an abused child picked up many bad traits and ways of coping with life but when faced with my shortcomings, I have worked to change. My dad, my mom, and my sister don't want to change. My mom and my sister paint their childhoods as almost ideal while my dad blames his mother for what is missing in him but never makes effort to face his own wrong doing and change his behavior. When he was no longer able to blame his mom, he began to blame me...such as blaming me for his drinking from the time I was six years old. Now when there is something one of the three of them do wrong, they all blamed me and that is the only reason they have anything to do with me. I am the receptacle of family shame but no more. It has taken all of my life to understand but now I understand. Just as I have worked to correct my own thinking and behavior, so too will I work to change the way I allow others to treat me. If my birth-family doesn't love me the way they should, that is their deficit and not for me to try to fix for them any more than I should have ever made myself willing to carry their shame for so many years. I am getting well and I'm sad that part of that seems to include leaving them behind but that is the reality of it.

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's sad. but it's okay :) jt

At 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just started reading this blog tonight, and coming across this post I'm like 'Oh my God, yes!' I think my N mother - who was always kind of personally affronted that I turned out to be a bookish tomboy - really wanted me to be one of the childhood dolls she loved playing with: look nice, let her endlessly yank my hair around (I said it hurt, she said of course it didn't) and never, ever talk back or express a differing opinion. And that view of how I should be didn't end when I grew up. I've had evil fantasies in the past of getting her a dolly for Christmas ;) ...other people might get the point, but she, of course, wouldn't.

I've only in the past year or so realized what I've been dealing with all these years - thankfully, other family members also admit to seeing it now - plenty of guilt to spare now she's in a nursing home, but as my husband points out, just being a frail old lady hasn't actually made her any nicer!


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