Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Art of Mothering

Fellow blogger and kindred spirit, Claire wrote a short post today containing quotes about motherhood. I really loved the following quote, because it fits perfectly with the concept I've tried to put into words about what I feel a mother's job is:

The art of living is to function in society without doing violence to one's own needs or to the needs of others. The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.
- Elaine Heffner


I have told DH things like this:

A mother's job is to teach her children how to be in the world. And being pertains to how they relate to other people in their interpersonal relationships, how they see and feel about themselves, and how they can achieve happiness.

I am sad for Claire who, like so many other ACoNs and children who have been abused, never knew what it was like to have a loving mother. Motherhood, by its very nature, is a powerful thing. Like many people do in positions of power, mothers can abuse the power they have been given.

I strive everyday to be the best mother I can be, and I know that my mothering skills can always improve. I want to show my children how to be in the world, I want them to live, learn, and love. I want them to know true happiness and be able to work through all the struggles that life will occasionally throw at them. I was given a great start in life because I had a wonderful mother, one who is as loving and devoted as they come. Is she perfect? No, of course not. But she is one of the few people on this earth who I know I could trust without any doubts, who I can turn to when I'm in need, who taught me that truth and sincerity are the only policies by which to live. I know depth because of what my parents showed me. They are not responsible for who I am or what becomes of me, but they were responsible for making me feel loved, nurtured, and appreciated as a little Jonsi. They did their jobs.

Now, it's my turn.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Dear Friends and Cherished Readers!

DH and I had a spectacular Christmas this year. It was beautiful, in every way. There was no nonsense or worry. No anxiety or doubts.

Just us and our beautiful children, surrounded by those we love and who love us in return. Ours is a no-strings, everlasting, unequivocal kind of love. DH and I talked, only briefly, on the way home from my mother's house last night, about how its amazing that anyone would be willing to give up on what we have. When I opened up the conversation, I told him, "I can't believe that anyone would be willing to give this up," and I gestured to the back, where our beautiful, perfect babies were happily chirping and laughing off the last of the sugar and spirits of the day.

I know DH and I are not perfect: no where near. I know that we will make mistakes: in life, in parenting, with each other. But I also know that the love and respect we have for each other is something that few others have or will experience in their own relationships. I know that we are not willing to settle for mediocre: not in ourselves or in our relationships with others. I know that our children mean more to us than anything in the world, and that we will do everything we have to to give them the best possible chance in life.

I want for my children to be happy, as I am.

I want for my children to feel an overwhelming sense of love and understanding from their parents.

I want for my children to look back on their childhoods fondly and learn how to "be" in the world so that they are confident in their abilities and in themselves.

I want for their memories of Christmases past to be like every Christmas that I can remember from my own childhood: warm, fun, and full of the most genuine kind of love in existence.

This Christmas was a beautiful one because DH and I were happy, because it was not marred by contact from miserable people, because we got to spend it with people who love us unconditionally, no matter our faults. This Christmas was beautiful because it was not about the presents - not for the givers or the receivers, and because the most amazing gift is getting to watch my little ones enjoy the bounty of the day.

I called my mother late last night, after we had cleaned up the house from the day's festivities, and told her it was a wonderful Christmas. She said my father asked her if she got everything she wanted. When she asked him, "Well, what did I want?" my dad responded, "To see your babies." (She calls all of us - her children, and her children's children - her babies). My mother smiled and my dad finished, "Yes, you got everything you wanted."

It was a beautiful Christmas, Dear Friends and Readers. I hope yours was too, and that, even if you couldn't escape all of the drama and nonsense that this particular holiday can sometimes bring, you were able to enjoy at least a part of it. Merry Christmas!

Love,

Jonsi

A Wonderful Life

In honor of this beautiful holiday, and one of my favorite **Christmas movies:

Bread... that this house may never know hunger.
Salt... that life may always have flavor.
And wine... that joy and prosperity may reign forever.
Enter the Martini Castle!


I love this quote. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd say this is it. My mother has a tradition that she started several years ago whenever a loved one buys a new house. She enlists the aid of two others, and when they enter the new home for the first time, each person says one of the lines above, and hands the accompanying object to the new homeowners. My mother did this for one of my aunts, a very close family friend, my brother and sister-in-law, and DH and I when we bought our house at the end of 2009. I still have the sachet of salt that my mother made. It sits in my glass cabinet in the kitchen. (She replaces "Martini" with the last name of the person/couple who own the house). For that reason, I'd say it's a particularly meaningful quote for DH and I.

Mr. Emil Gower: I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, dear Father.
Giuseppe Martini: Joseph, Jesus and Mary. Help my friend, Mr. Bailey.
Ma Bailey: Help my son, George, tonight.
Ernie Bishop: He never thinks about himself, God, that's why he's in trouble.
Bert: George is a good guy. Give him a break, God.
Mary: I love him, dear Lord. Watch over him tonight.
Janie Bailey: Please, God, something's the matter with Daddy.
Zuzu Bailey: Please bring Daddy back.


Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well in my book, my father died a much richer man than you'll ever be!

You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider!

George Bailey: Now, will you do something for me?
Zuzu Bailey: What?
George Bailey: Will you try and get some sleep?
Zuzu Bailey: I'm not sleepy. I want to look at my flower.
George Bailey: I know-I know, but you just go to sleep, and then you can dream about it, and it'll be a whole garden.
Zuzu Bailey: It will?
George Bailey: Uh-huh.

George Bailey: [the staff celebrates closing the building and loan company with only two dollars remaining, to stay in business] Get a tray for these two great big important simoleans here.
Uncle Billy: We'll save 'em for seed.
George Bailey: A toast! A toast! A toast to Mama Dollar and to Papa Dollar, and if you want to keep this old Building and Loan in business, you better have a family real quick.
Cousin Tilly: I wish they were rabbits.

Little Mary: Is this the ear you can't hear on?
[whispering in his bad ear]
Little Mary: George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die.

Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.


Credit: It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'Tis The Season

I stumbled across a new blog a couple weeks ago titled ACONography, where Claire writes about her struggles as the daughter of a narcissistic mother. In her post, "The Demons of Doubt and Disappointment" she talks about one of the many ways that narcissists attempt to circumvent an order of No Contact: They use gullible and easily-manipulated family members as pawns and aim their attacks at the most unsuspecting targets - your children. Claire has given me permission to use her post as a talking point here on my own blog, which I consider a privilege because her post was heartfelt, well-written, and extremely relevant to the goings-on in our struggles with DH's FOO.

Here is the post I referenced above, highlighting/italics for emphasis mine:

The Demons of Doubt and Disappointment
by Claire
Posted: 12/1/2011

At this point, my mother's refusal to respect my request for no contact with me, my husband, or my children is more of an irritating mosquito buzzing in my ear than the crazy-making depression sparker that it would have been before, but it still pisses me off when she crosses the boundaries I have defined. This time gifts were sneaked into my car after a visit with some other relatives. She had apparently given a bag of items to them, knowing that they would see me. They didn't tell me what they were putting in the car. I knew this might happen, but I'm disappointed that it did.

I'm disappointed that my relatives allowed themselves to be used as mules, even though I know it was probably easier for them to just take the stuff than to stand up to my mother.

I'm disappointed that the relatives probably don't think I have a good reason to have divorced myself from my parents, and probably feel sorry for those poor people, robbed of their rightful relationship with their grandchildren.

I'm disappointed that I didn't step up and say "whoa, what are you putting in my car? Nope, won't accept it." Not confronting it is probably the kindest route as far as my relatives are concerned - why make them uncomfortable? - but still, I feel like not standing up for myself is "losing" somehow.

I'm disappointed that my mother disregards my request. Not surprised, but still disappointed.

I'm disappointed that once again, I have to find a way to deal with these unwanted gifts. I'm disappointed that once again, I've been put in the position of either giving my kids gifts that I said I don't want them to receive, letting the kids be aware of the gifts but disposing of them, or preventing the kids from ever knowing that the gifts arrived.

The disappointment kicks off the demons of self-doubt. Am I being a jerk? Should I try to preserve/rebuild a relationship between my parents and my children? Is it horrible that I try not to let the kids know when cards and gifts arrive? Is it deceitful of me? Is it wrong not to give a child a gift that was sent for him? But I told the giver not to send them! I don't want to see clothing she sent on my children's bodies or in the laundry, or toys she gave them scattered across my floor!

Every time this happens, I feel like writing a letter or email message telling her to CEASE AND DESIST. I said NO and I meant NO. I feel like telling her, "anything you send will be recycled, thrown out, or donated - the children will not see them. Your money is being wasted." I suspect, though, that the gifts aren't really for the kids - the toys are poor quality, the clothing is deep-discounted, and nothing is wrapped nicely. This last bunch was put into random paper shopping bags with sharpie marker inscriptions. She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot. I suspect that she knows that the kids don't receive the gifts - the "we love you and we miss you" notes are for me to read and the gifts are being given so that a) she has the toddler-ish pleasure of defying me and b) so that she can look like a good grandma to the rest of the world. So I don't write a message to her, because I feel like then she would be succeeding in getting me to engage with her. And the first rule of dealing with my mom is DO NOT ENGAGE. It won't change anything; it'll just give her the satisfaction of getting a rise out of me.

If she/they really loved their grandchildren, they'd respect their mother's wishes. If she actually missed them, she'd work hard to figure out what to do in order to reestablish a relationship with me, so that she can see them. She wouldn't be trying to work around me by sending token gifts.

I wondered what the wording of my no-contact email message to them was, so I searched for it in my Sent folder tonight, expecting to hate what I saw, but it was actually a great email. It was clear, it was well-thought-out, it didn't attack, it made polite requests, it showed sympathy for what they're feeling. Why do I doubt myself for preventing my kids from receiving gifts sent by people who cannot engage with me in a respectful manner consistent with how I want to be treated? It's ridiculous.

This blog post is all over the map. Ugh.

Tonight I got home with the kids, dodged a question from the eldest about what was in the bags (he rightly assumed that it was gifts), and took the stuff straight up to my bedroom. While the kids played, I took time away from them to go through the bags quickly, so that everything could be taken care of before they found it. I threw away the packaging immediately, recycled the maudlin birthday card for the youngest, and grabbed an AmVets bag for the gifts. Took it up to the attic. Done. But I'm frustrated that she continues to put me in this spot, and I'm tired of feeling like an asshole.

Bleah.


Upon reading this post, I felt a pang of sorrow and a deep sense of camaraderie with Claire: My do I know well the feelings that she has described! I, too, have felt the "loss" of not standing up for myself (or for others) in situations where I wanted to, needed to, should have. I too have questioned whether it's right to withhold cards and gifts that are sent to my children from ill-meaning and manipulative relatives. I too have made the realization (many times over!) that any relative who continues to send their strings-attached token gifts in lieu of actually doing the work required to change their behaviors and make honest amends for the wrongs they have committed is not loving, considerate, kind, or honorable. And, though I have not felt the disappointment Claire describes (since NMIL is not my mother, I haven't the history required to feel disappointed in her behaviors) I have witnessed it firsthand in my husband.

The behaviors of Claire's NM and FOO as described in her post above seem to be so typical in the world of narcissists, as is continually evidenced both in my personal life and in the snippets of lives I see here in our blogging community. But my main reason for wanting to re-post Claire's recent piece was not to discuss the similarities between her story and mine, it was so that I could attempt to tackle some of the questions DH and I have been forced to ask ourselves in recent years: 1. How do you eliminate narcissists from your life when they refuse to acknowledge your boundaries, specifically during the holiday season? 2. How do you deal with the flying monkeys who act (either knowingly or unknowingly) according to the narcissist's evil plans and 3. What do you do when they attempt to use your children as a means to attack you?

Common problem when dealing with a N: N uses unsuspecting pawns to do her dirty work for her. In Claire's case, in this particular instance, her NM had family members sneak gifts for Claire's children into her car while she wasn't looking. Heinous, I tell you Dear Reader. Heinous! First of all, I find it sickening that family members would follow-through on this so-obviously dark deed. No matter how her NM painted it, sneaking presents into Claire's car against Claire's knowledge is fucking shady and downright nefarious. The act of sneaking denotes a kind of sinister behavior, and not one that I would want to be associated with, personally.

NMIL is sneaky. EFIL and L are sneaky. Sneaky is not good. And when one has to resort to that type of behavior, it tells me that they KNOW they are up to no good. According to dictionary.com, one of the definitions of this term is a rather fitting one for how Claire's family members chose to act, "to behave in a cowardly or underhanded manner."

And then Claire brings up two really great points: "...my relatives allowed themselves to be used as mules, even though I know it was probably easier for them to just take the stuff than to stand up to my mother...the relatives probably don't think I have a good reason to have divorced myself from my parents, and probably feel sorry for those poor people, robbed of their rightful relationship with their grandchildren." Ah the juxtaposition: we have these cowardly people who act in such a way that illustrates their gutlessness and paints them as accomplices in an abuser's games, while still managing to appear human insofar as they are able to empathize. The problem? They are empathizing with the wrong fucking person! They are empathizing with the person who wishes to use their blind faith as a means to torture others. They are empathizing with the person who is asking them to continue destroying her chance (and theirs!) at having a loving, meaningful relationship with someone who genuinely wants it.

While I realize that the post I have copied represents only Claire's feelings and interpretations of the events that occurred, and that there are as many perspectives to the situation as there are people involved, I also firmly believe that she is right: I think that the relatives who so readily did the N's dirty work were taking the easy road, rather than the right one. I think that they probably sympathize with Claire's NM, rather than empathize with Claire. I think that they are willing to put Claire, Claire's husband, and Claire's children in the direct line of fire to save their own asses. It could very well be that I am only applying my personal experience to someone else's and that her situation is different. It could be that my perception is off, and that I don't know what I'm talking about.

But I can't help but feel that anyone who is put in these kinds of circumstances, as DH and I have been, as Claire has been, and as countless others have been, must find a way to save herself from them, lest she forever be bombarded by the narcissists and their flying monkeys. Unfortunately, the method I have found that has been most successful involves cutting ties permanently with every single person who chooses to be a pawn in the narcissist's game. Whether the pawns are dirtying their hands knowingly or unknowingly has never really mattered to me, what matters more is that as long as they continue acting in a way that is physically, mentally, or emotionally damaging to myself or my loved ones (especially after it has been brought to their attention) then I can not allow them to be a part of my life...not even a small part.

Okay, so I have already noted how dastardly it is for the pawns to be doing the N's dirty work. But doesn't that notation speak to the exact plans that the N has laid out? If we're so focused on what the flying monkeys are doing, how can we properly address what the wicked witch is actually scheming behind the scenes, right? At least that is what the narcissist is hoping for. I find myself getting so angry at these flying monkeys - and don't get me wrong, I think they deserve every last bit of that anger - but eventually that anger MUST lead back to it's main source: the narcissist.

Claire is not fooled. She says, "I'm disappointed that my mother disregards my request. Not surprised, but still disappointed." I suppose the disappointment comes from having high expectations. If you don't expect much, it's less likely you'll be disappointed. But, oh, how well I know the sentiment! My DH has expressed much the same feeling about his own NM. He has told me on so many occasions that he is "not surprised" by her behaviors, "but still disappointed" by them. And, where the disappointment stems from having hope, the lack of surprise stems from a lifetime of having his voice diminished, his needs unmet, and his relationships destroyed.

Common problem when dealing with a N: They attempt to use your children as a means to attack you. Claire writes, "I'm disappointed that once again, I have to find a way to deal with these unwanted gifts. I'm disappointed that once again, I've been put in the position of either giving my kids gifts that I said I don't want them to receive, letting the kids be aware of the gifts but disposing of them, or preventing the kids from ever knowing that the gifts arrived." Oh Claire! Again, I am reminded of NMIL and her wicked deeds: Sending flowers to our DD on her first birthday, giving meaningless gifts or none at all. Every gift had thousands of strings, every offer was an elaborate ruse to win my husband's allegiance so that she could have him back where she wanted him: under her thumb.

NMIL and EFIL & L are still up to their dirty deeds, just as Claire's NM is up to hers. And I would say that, no matter the circumstances, their pitiful attempts to use our children as pawns in their games are nothing more than obvious and pathetic failures. Claire is so right when she says, "She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot. I suspect that she knows that the kids don't receive the gifts - the "we love you and we miss you" notes are for me to read and the gifts are being given so that a) she has the toddler-ish pleasure of defying me and b) so that she can look like a good grandma to the rest of the world." She goes on to say, "DO NOT ENGAGE!"

Claire, I too know the feeling of wanting to say, "Stop! I said no and I meant no damnit!" And I've also had the realization, like you, that the best way to say no is with your actions, rather than with your words. And not engaging is the way to go. Not engaging sends the "no" message better than any words you could ever speak, or letters and emails you could ever write. Especially because you've already said "no" with your voice, and your voice went unheard.

Narcs aren't interested in true reconciliation, nor do they truly envision having loving relationships with their grandchildren while they are busy sending out token gifts. Instead they are, as Claire so aptly pointed out, merely putting on a show for the rest of the world while simultaneously making the attempt to win back their favorite old sources of narcissistic supply. Luckily for DH and I, our children are very young and we have cut NMIL and her mindless followers out of the picture long before she had a chance to inflict any long-lasting damage. Others are not so lucky and have children who are older and much more aware than our one and two year old. I have read so many blogs in our community where ACoNs are struggling with the question, "What do you do when they attempt to use your children as a means to attack you?"

Well first of all, if you are asking that question, then you are already on the right track in my opinion. Because if you're asking that question, it means you are already aware enough to know that ANY attempts to have contact or communication with your children (particularly if it's in direct violation of your requests, needs, or wishes) is merely an attempt to hurt you. It also means that you recognize that, when someone is being used as a pawn, then that person is seen as being disposable...and when someone is disposable, it means that they will eventually be discarded, manipulated, or destroyed. This of course signifies that not only is the narcissist seeking to destroy you and any boundaries you've managed to enforce, but she is also seeking to destroy your children in the process.

Here are some of the answers I've come up with to answer this really tough question:

1. Be honest, but age-appropriately so. What you can tell your sixteen-year-old is more than likely not appropriate to tell your three-year-old.
2. You are the parent and it is your responsibility to protect those little ones. You have the right to control the controllables, especially when it comes to keeping your babies safe from the harm that an abuser would inflict on them. Don't let your children be used as pawns.
3. Keep records! You can keep a file of any cards or letters sent to your children, and jot down notes about what crap was sent to them and the date. And then you have the option later, of sharing that information when you feel your children are old enough to comprehend the situation. That way, maybe it will feel less like you are keeping things from your children - because in that case, you would be able to present them with the facts at a later date.

We all know it's not about the stuff they send. It's about the message behind it: and once again, Claire hit the nail on the head: "She doesn't want to actually give nice gifts, presented nicely, to my children. She wants to get a dig in at me. She wants to put me on the spot." Yes, that is exactly what she is doing! That is what NMIL is doing too, and EFIL & L, and any other narcissistic parents out there. Those birthday gifts and holiday gifts they are sending are not being sent out of genuine love and kindness - they are sent to maim, to hurt, to attack. Whether poorly wrapped, or prettily packaged, whether embarrassingly cheap or over-the-top expensive, the message is still the same: I want to crush you. I want to cripple you with guilt. I want to put you in a hard spot. I want to make you look like the bad guy. I want to buy your love. I want to show the rest of the world that I am not the evil person your estrangement has painted me to be. I want to force you back on hands and knees. I want. I want. I want.

And to those messages I say what my dad says, "How does it feel to want?"

You can't stop them from wanting. But you can protect yourself and your loved ones. You have the power. You have the intelligence. You have the courage. And if you stop engaging, they'll eventually stop too. When their tactics no longer work, when their crummy gifts don't accomplish what they were sent to accomplish, those narcissists will give up. They'll move on and seek other targets.

So let them want.

A Holiday Note From Freckles

Yesterday, DH and I received a note from Freckles. Though both the envelope and letter were addressed to the both of us, Freckles was really writing directly to me. I believe it was her attempt to get me to engage and to...get this...feel badly for her husband.

The letter was short, just the front of one loose-leaf lined piece of paper. In it, Freckles wrote about what she imagines we are doing now and that she hopes we are well and happy. She also chose to share some of their recent big news, most of which I would like to keep private out of respect for Freckles. There is one part I'd like to share with you, as I found it to be of particular significance to our estrangement from them. Freckles wrote:

"Double Agent's Uncle passed away last week after a six month battle with cancer. This is DA's first experience with loss (other than losing [DH's name]). So it's been hard on him. He still hopes and waits for someday in the future when there can be reconciliation between the two of them."

I take up several issues with this:

1. We have been set up to equate the loss of DA's uncle with the loss of my husband's friendship. It seems clear to me that we're to assume that DA was close with this uncle, and that the loss he feels in losing this uncle to cancer is supposedly on par with the loss he feels in losing his friendship with DH. This equation seems far fetched to me. DH is not dead and their relationship was ended by choice, whether DA wants to see it that way or not. I think that it is insulting to lump the termination of my husband's friendship in with the ending of a loved one's life. I also think it was Freckles' attempt to get me to feel badly for her husband, because she still thinks that if I sympathize with him, then I will interfere by pushing my husband towards reconciliation with her husband.

2. "He still hopes and waits for someday in the future when there can be reconciliation between the two of them" smacks of inevitability. Freckles has made it sound as though reconciliation between her husband and mine is a matter of "when" rather than a matter of "if." She can see it that way if she wants to, but I choose not to. In particular because reconciliation doesn't just "happen." Reconciliation would require that DA's allegiance be with my husband, rather than with my husband's NM. Reconciliation would require that he learn how not to be a pompous asshole and treat everyone else like they are below him. Reconciliation would mean he would have to offer his genuine apologies to myself and my husband. Reconciliation would require many, many things, that I am pretty sure DA is not willing or capable of doing. So the fact that Freckles writes about DA's "hopes" for the inevitable reconciliation means little more to me than that she and her husband subscribe to the same patterns of belief that they did when we decided to add them to our list of No Contact. Nothing has changed and they are still just a part of my DH's toxic past.

Overall, I'm saddened by the letter from Freckles, more than I am angry or annoyed. She is someone who I would have liked to have been friends with, under different circumstances. I feel that she is being genuine when she says she wishes us well and that she means no ill-will. But, as it stands, I will not engage. There is a choice to be made, and as I have done many times before, I will do again: I choose my husband.

Every time, I choose him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Creepy

So.

NMIL recently changed her profile picture on Facebook.

It's the same picture that her daughter has on HER profile for Facebook.

And it's a picture of her daughter.

Not her daughter and her.

Just her daughter.

Now I know that some people set their profile pictures to be pictures of their children, and quite frankly, that is a practice that I find to be pretty unsettling,in general. But, specifically, right now, it's just fucking creepy. Like, sending-chills-down-my-spine-nightmarish kind of creepy.

No, I mean, really. There is something so horrifyingly disturbing about googling NMIL's name and having a picture of her daughter pop up instead. I feel like I'm in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

It's not even a candid photo of NSIL. It's one that looks like it was taken by a professional photographer, and it looks as though NSIL was, quite literally, modeling, though I don't think that she's a model by profession. If I had to guess, NSIL either took advantage of the services of some family-friend who happens to be a professional photographer, or else NMIL paid someone a butt-load of money to take pictures of her daughter for the sake of presentation and for her own narcissistic self-preservation.

I've been waiting for the right time to tell you this, Dear Reader, and now seems as good a time as any:

NMIL and SIL have the same name.

No, not similar names.

It's the same name.

Like, if NMIL's name is Christy** then NSIL's name is Kristy**. See what I mean? It's the same name. And however much NMIL claims that she wanted to name her daughter "Kristy" because she always wanted a daughter that she could call "Kris" the fact of the matter is that she gave her daughter the same damned name.

NMIL mostly goes by a nickname that is a derivative of her birth-name, but it really doesn't matter. On her checks, she goes by her first name. You can google her full name and still find her public records. I first realized she and her daughter had the same name when we received her check for our wedding and I started laughing. I said to DH, "You've got to be shitting me. She named her daughter after herself?"

Sheesh, talk about starting off life with NO chance to be a separate individual from one's mother. We don't live in a society where it's considered normal, at all, to name a daughter after her mother, so that's not what's going on here.

No, what's going on here is that we have a full-fledged narcissist who is so methodical in her manipulations and well-thought out in her long-term schemes, that she has practically ensured that this girl has no chance of escaping the severe dysfunction she was born into.

And this whole, "I'm going to use this beeeeaaaauutifulllll picture of my daughter as a representation of myself on this public profile" thing is absolutely one-hundred percent connected, no further proof necessary.

It's completely mind-boggling to me...that anyone could get away with this. That others can be so easily fooled by it.

No doubt, NMIL's "friends" who see that picture will think, "Oh, how sweet, she loves her daughter sooooooooo muuuuuccchhh that she put up that beaaauuutttiful picture of her darrrlinnnnngg daughter! Oh, she's such a good mommy. She's so proud of her daughter." And that is precisely what she's hoping people will think. In some weird way that I have trouble wrapping my mind around entirely, she is exploiting this photograph of her daughter, as she has exploited her entire existence: She is using her daughter as a completely inaccurate representation of her Self. It's as though she wants people to see HER when they look at her daughter, and vice versa.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: NSIS is NMIL. But now I'll add this: NSIS is NMIL with the power of YOUTH, which NMIL is rapidly losing her grasp on...And we all know how scary AGING is to a narcissist.

Holy hell if DH's poor sister hasn't been given the shittiest lot in life...to be unwittingly chained, since the dawning of her very existence to a monster like NMIL?

I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

**These are not NMIL and SIL's real names. I have chosen these names as a means to illustrate reality while still protecting their identities.

I'm In A Celebratory Mood

December marks several reasons for us to celebrate every year. Of course there is Christmas, my favorite holiday. And last year, about a week before Christmas, DS was born, giving me yet another reason to look forward to December every year.

But I have also found another reason to celebrate this particular month, and that is due to the fact that December marks our one-year anniversary of being NMIL-free. Even though we didn't officially go NC until April of 2011, the last time we physically saw her was in December of 2010, the day after DS was born. It's true that there was some very superficial and limited contact with NMIL in the few months following that day, before we officially went NC, but I still feel triumphant about the fact that she has been physically gone from our lives for almost one year. And, there is definitely a sense of pride knowing that the physical distance we've maintained has been our personal choice, held fast by a steadfast resolve on our parts to keep our healthy boundaries in place. DH and I CHOSE this route, to be NMIL-free, and there is a sense of peace in the decisions we have made to lead us here.

In about a week, it will be official: One year NMIL-free.

I wanted to take some time in this post to reflect on that last meeting with NMIL, because it was markedly different from the one we had with her when DD was born, and even though I consider it a success in terms of maintaining our boundaries, I am happy to say that we won't have to repeat it as our family continues to grow.

Prior to DS's birth, DH and I decided that we would not inform any of DH's FOO when I went into labor, when we were on our way to the hospital, or when I gave birth. I knew that I would only be comfortable telling his parents that DS was born when I was in my hospital room, showered, and prepared for them to visit. It had to be that way because of how they behaved for the birth of DD one year before. These same rules did not apply to my FOO because they would have been unnecessary and unwarranted.

It's called Cause and Effect, the definition of which is, "Noting a relationship between actions or events such that one or more are the result of the other or others," according to Dictionary dot com. In other words, our rules (or boundaries, or limits, call them what you will) were a necessary reaction to the actions and events that had taken place previously. What's more, this whole "cause and effect" notion can be seen in a larger context, when you look at how our estrangement from DH's entire FOO has panned out. But on the lesser scale, the boundaries we put in place for the birth of our DS last December had to be invoked for the sake of our own emotional and physical well-being.

I think it is terribly unfortunate that DH does not have parents we could safely share that information with. Just moments after DS was born, I was on the phone with my own mother, telling her that "We have a new baby boy!" She already knew I was in labor and had been put in charge of DD for the duration of our hospital stay, so it came as no surprise to her that DS was born. She relayed the information to the important people and everyone made plans to come and visit us.

I can not say that NMIL wasn't surprised about the birth of DS, nor would I say that there isn't some satisfaction in the idea that we took her off-guard. Once I was out of the delivery room, had taken a shower, and the first round of visitors came, DH asked me if it would be alright if he called his parents. He asked me because he was protecting my rights and my privacy, something he knew his parents would not do if given the opportunity. By the time we got to our room, which was several hours after DS was born, it was very late and I did not want to see his family, or deal with their antics. I told DH that I was okay with him calling to let them know that DS had been born, but I wouldn't be comfortable with them visiting until the next day. There was a part of DH that wanted to call his parents sooner, that desperately wanted them to be involved in the birth of our new baby, even in some small way...but by December of last year, that part of him was shrinking and making room for reality: Whatever hopes he had for a relationship with his parents were much less important than creating a safe place for his new, growing family.

First, DH called his EF, who (true to form) did not pick up his phone and did not respond until the following day.

Then he called NMIL. Although the news that we'd had DS could not have been all-together shocking since she did know our due-date, I have always imagined that it was still a surprise for her to hear the news without having had even the slightest hint or pretense. People like NMIL always think that they are going to be kept in the loop because they believe that their targets are too stupid and too easily manipulated to act any differently. Narcissists assume that they will be included, invited, accepted; that their abuses will be tolerated. NMIL probably thought that we wouldn't dare keep her so far on the outside that she wouldn't even know I was in labor, especially given how DH had informed her the year before for the birth of DD.

But last year was different, and she had no idea that I was in labor. Again, I feel a sense of satisfaction just knowing that DH was strong enough to fight against his NM's intense training in order to protect me and his little ones when we needed him the most. Had he been weaker, he might have caved and called his mother against my desire that she not be informed. But he found in him an inner strength and resolve that he probably never knew existed and was able to fulfill the emotional and physical needs of his wife, daughter, and newborn son.

It was beautiful.

So DH called NMIL and told her we'd had DS. She asked to come and visit and DH told her that we would call her the next day when she'd be allowed to come and see him. She didn't ask questions and didn't press for more, as she had when DD was born, and I attribute some of her lack of aggression to the fact that she was taken off-guard. It is not often when you get to surprise a narcissist, but when it happens the results can be very powerful. If I had to guess, I'd say she'd gotten the wind taken out of her sails just because of how we chose to handle telling her the news, and she didn't quite know what to do.

She got a little pep back by the next day, and called DH in the morning before he called her: a pathetic and obvious attempt to gain back some of the power she probably felt she'd lost the night before. Why is the fact that she called DH significant? Because a mother who truly respected her son and daughter-in-law and saw them as being deserving of rights and consideration would have waited for them to call her. She would have respected their time, their needs, and their clearly-stated boundaries ("Mom, I'll call you tomorrow and let you know when you can come and visit) without question. DH did not catch all of this and I did not point it out to him at the time. Quite frankly, NMIL and her power-plays were just not important enough for that. DH told his NM that he would call her back when we were ready for her to visit and followed-through.

I have mentioned before that when NMIL and NSIL came to the hospital, they only stayed for a short-length of time. She stayed long enough to make an underhanded comment to DH about his weight, give us some thought-less gifts, and take a bunch of pictures of DS (all of which I'm sure she showed off to her hundreds of "friends" in her ongoing attempt to appear the doting grandma...we know how that goes). NMIL became obviously uncomfortable when my aunt arrived fifteen minutes into her visit and therefore didn't stay much longer after that. In terms of meetings with narcissists, it probably couldn't have gone much better than that.

And then, we never saw her again.

And we have no plans to because we know she'll be the same NMIL fifty years from now that she was the entire time we knew her. DH can hold out hope that she'll change some day. I'm lucky in that she isn't my mother, so I don't have to. The most important thing to me is that DH and I protect ourselves and our babies from her and others like her. I fully respect DH's right to feel some hope in his heart that his NM and EF will change someday, and DH fully respects my right to feel that those people do not have a place in our lives because of the reality of how they have behaved. I do not believe that it is altogether impossible for those people to change...I simply think it is unlikely.

So DH and I have found another reason to celebrate this December: We're bringing out the old and ringing in the new. We're celebrating the acceptance of reality and the blissful feeling of peace. We're rejoicing in our right to maintain boundaries and our strength to do so. We are sending up cheers to freedom and new life. December holds promise and love for us, and we'll carry that into each and every new year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where Am I?

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week, Dear Readers. Although I have gone longer stretches without posting, this is the first time I've really felt anxious about not writing. Maybe it's because of the rapidly approaching Christmas holiday and New Years that I feel a particular urgency to write and I feel a little like I'm letting my readers down by not doing so.

Never fear! I have a few posts up my sleeve and am just waiting for some longer stretches of time to create them. DH and I are re-doing our upstairs bathroom - the whole shebang! My husband gutted it last week and it looked like the inside of an old cabin. It was also completely unusable, which is not fun, but we're lucky enough to have another full bath downstairs that we can use for the time-being. Anyway, by the time we're done, it will have been a two week process and the whole thing is exhausting, even though I haven't done any of the work myself. (Consider me the director in this particular project).

It's been tough not having the use of our main bathroom and I've had to spend a lot of time at my parent's house - which isn't a bad thing, it's just tiring lugging our babies back and forth by myself all day and never really catching a break. (DH has been working long days and well into the night to get this project done, so he's been here but can't afford the time to help out with the babes - all totally understandable...and fine with me since I'm getting a brand-new bathroom out of the deal!)

Anyway, I'm going to try and churn out a couple posts in the next couple days, as I'm itching to write and share my thoughts with you.

Thoughtfully yours,

Jonsi

Friday, December 2, 2011

Enough About Me, Why Don't You Talk About Me?

I just stumbled upon a fantastic blog, where author Merrill Markoe has several ongoing discussions about narcissism.

She writes, "What is a narcissist? Any time you find yourself living inside that classic New Yorker cartoon in which two people are dining together and one says to the other, ‘Well, enough about me. Let’s hear what you have to say about me, your narcissism alert bells should be ringing. A friend of mine explained the credo of the narcissist as follows: I’m the piece of shit the world revolves around.’" I think she sums up Narcissism quite nicely in this descriptive article, the entirety of which can be found here.

I haven't read any of her books, but after reading articles from her blog, I find her writing to be humorous, truthful, and intriguing and I am considering taking a gander at her books. If I do check them out, I'll be sure to report back to you on my findings. In the blog post I linked to above, Merrill talks about dealing with her NM during Christmas every year. Her illustration of the Narc's patterns of gift-giving is right on the money and I think it's worth a read.

She also wrote a post asking her readers to submit examples of "great memorable quotes" by the narcissists in their lives. (And by "great memorable" she means "the quote that makes your head spin and your mouth hang open with its egomaniacal cluelessness.") She posted the piece in late 2009, but the commentary is very recent and she seems to reply to anyone who posts an example. That one post of hers generated over four hundred comments and there are plenty of good examples in there of "great & memorable" narcissistic quotes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stalemate

Unsurprisingly, we have been invited to EFIL and L's Christmas party this year. Before I get into my analysis of this particularly heinous invitation, I'd like to bring some things to your attention:

As I have mentioned before, EFIL and L operate under the delusional mindset that THEY are in fact the "bigger people" because they choose to continue "reaching out" to others who don't "reach back." In essence, they view us as just one of their many obligations. During a quasi-conversation with them once several years ago, DH and I learned that EFIL is essentially estranged from several of his own siblings. We believe that his sister, who was described by him as a sort of "crazy person," is nowhere to be found, while he explained to us that he is, for all instant purposes, LC or NC with several of his brothers. He does willingly keep in limited contact with at least two brothers that we know of, but he does not seem to have a relationship with the rest.

Now, that's all an interesting tell-tale sign about the level of dysfunction in his FOO and how he has learned to cope with communication issues. Now, I'm not saying that going NC or LC means that a person is crazy, or bad, or refusing to work on the problems immediately in front of them. What I am saying is that for whatever reason, EFIL felt that the problems he encountered with his siblings was either insurmountable, or perhaps not worth the effort of attempting to fix. That is how dysfunctional families operate. If all parties are not willing and able to make the appropriate changes that would enable the creation of a healthier dynamic, then the family unit ceases to function (or perhaps, continues along it's path of dysfunction). Having said all that, there are a few more key pieces to this particular puzzle: the same EFIL who told my husband on several occasions that "it's not a good idea to separate oneself from his blood family" has in fact, mostly separated himself from his. He admitted to us on that occasion several years ago, that some of his brothers treated him and L unkindly, that they just "didn't get along," and as a result he felt it "better not to see or talk to them."

We all know that's a HUGE misrepresentation of the facts, but we can also tell that EFIL is a man who has been hurt, has never properly dealt with that hurt, and can not appropriately separate himself from his dysfunctions. (In my experience, I have found that the less people are willing to talk about the truth, particularly to those closest to them, the higher their level of dysfunction and denial) NOW. Here's the clincher: EFIL and L continue to invite EFIL's long-lost brothers to all of their major family functions because, according to L, in all of her eminent wisdom, THEY "choose to be the bigger people" and if EFIL's brothers choose not to show up, then "it's on them." Then L went into a diatribe about how it's wrong to cut people out of one's life, unless they have been so terribly and obviously awful that it's completely necessary. That's right folks, it's the old, "If so-and-so is not a genocidal dictator, then you have no business cutting them out of your life."

From that interaction with L, I also hypothesized that it could very well be that Mr. Hypocritical himself would be very happy to permanently close the door on several of his siblings, if only he could find the inner strength to do so, and if his manipulative wife would only stop sending out those damn invitations.

I am loath to assume that the responsibility of said invitations falls only on L's shoulders. It doesn't. The decision to send out those invitations to EFIL's brothers is one that they have both made. Willingly or unwillingly, whether by coercion, brainwashing, or force, EFIL continues to "reach out" to people who generally don't "reach back." I don't know how EFIL's siblings feel about his continued limited and perhaps disingenuous contact with them, but I do know how DH and I feel. And I continue to see the same patterns of thought and behavior in my in-laws interactions with us as I do in their explanation of how they behave with others. When it comes to OUR situation with EFIL and L, the following statements can be made: They are reaching out to people who are not interested in their phoney, half-hearted, or otherwise manipulative and condescending communications. They are reaching out to people who are not willing or accepting, for many very valid reasons, of their advances. They are reaching out to people who are changing and therefore rejecting the old patterns of behavior.

And, in comes one invitation to a Christmas party.

I have a feeling we'll get one every year, no doubt out of obligation, along with wedding and shower invitations and other major holiday events. Let's face it, if these people haven't stopped sending invitations to EFIL's brothers after all these years, they probably aren't going to stop sending them to us. EFIL and L continue to behave towards us in such a way that screams, "We are right and you are wrong. Damn what you think. To hell with what you want. We refuse to recognize your needs."

I see this invitation as just another sign that these people will never change.

The date of their little holiday shindig is the night before DS's first birthday. I read their invitation, laughed heartily and said, "What assholes." It doesn't hurt my feelings that they care so little about our family that they would book a major party without having ever asked us when we'd be having DS's birthday party. It doesn't surprise me either, given their behaviors last year for DD's birthday party. The only thing this invitation has done is solidified my theory that EFIL and L simply don't care. If they were NMIL, I'd say they'd picked that date on purpose. But they are EFIL and L and I think they picked that date because we don't matter to them, and our children don't matter to them.

I know that if given the opportunity, they would say, "Well, you didn't invite us to DD's birthday party this year, we just assumed we wouldn't be invited to DS's." (That's a terrible excuse and may even be a lie. EFIL and L, do you even know when DS's birthday is?) And they might say, "Well, you SHOULD be having DS's birthday party the following day, on his actual birthday. It's during a weekend you know." (We will not allow you to impose your "shoulds" on us. We refuse to accept responsibility for your poor behaviors.) And then they'd say, "Well, why don't you just change the date of his party? WE'D do that for YOU, you know." (Maybe so, but we wouldn't ask you to. We have more consideration than that. We have more respect than that. We would show our caring for our grandson by asking his parents about possible dates for his party well in advance so that their wouldn't be a conflict in schedules, particularly this close to the holidays.) And then they'd hem and haw some more and say, "What's the big deal? He's only one. And we have this party EVERY year." (And how many first birthdays does DS have? In fact, how many times a year do we get to celebrate HIS birthday? And how would you feel if the people who were supposed to care the most about you acted in a way that made you feel that they didn't?) And then they would say, "What's that? His party isn't until tomorrow anyway? Well, why are you complaining? The parties won't even be on the same day!" (The point isn't about the date of your stupid party, it's about the fact that you couldn't even be bothered to ask in advance. The point is that you are too selfish to see beyond what you want, to the needs of others.)

If these arguments sound ridiculous and far-fetched, it's because they are. BUT. I'm not pulling them out of nowhere: These are some of the statements they made about DD's birthday party last year.

Does anyone else see a pattern in EFIL and L's behaviors? Does anyone else see a similar thought-process in this year's motivations?

That's right. WE'RE the ones that are changing. EFIL and L see that as a bad thing. DH and I don't. We are no longer allowing this kind of behavior to affect us or our children, and we are maintaining our healthy boundaries.

I know you can't reason with crazy. I know you can't have a reasonable conversation with denial. I know there is no point in explaining the truth to selfish, stuck-in-their-dysfunction people. So, instead of trying to communicate with THEM, Dear Reader, I'll tell you:

EFIL and L are choosing to remain with their heads buried in the sand and their treacherous hearts loyal to dysfunction. They think they are acting under "God's command." They think they are behaving in a way that proves they are better, they are bigger, they are smarter. They think that inviting us to their Christmas party is an act of good will. But what they have done, all on their own, with their own words and actions, choices and deliberations, is show us that we are not important to them. They have shown us that they will not change, not for better or even for worse. They have shown us that the only place they have in our lives is in our past. They have shown us that they see us as an obligation, and not as human beings deserving of love and respect. They have shown us that their hypocrisy doesn't lie.

But we have some things to show them, Dear Reader. We will show them that our value is not a reflection of their actions towards us. We will show them that this stalemate we have reached was not caused by a faulty move of ours. We will continue to show them that we will not engage with them as long as they are refusing to change.

DH and I have each other. We have our beautiful children. We have the love of my FOO and the kindness and respect of friends.

We don't need them.

We have all that we need.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Piece-O-Crap Wine Rack And Other Useless Gifts

To say that narcissists are crappy gift-givers would be a major understatement. Their gifts are often useless, sometimes landmines, and always come with strings attached.

I remember once, during one of the last times we saw NMIL, she came to our house with some dusty old wicker wine bottle holder. It looked like she scooped it out of the trash on her way out the door and decided to "gift" us with it. I don't know what the story behind it was because I was in the kitchen cooking when she arrived and my husband answered the door. He came walking into the kitchen with the thing and asked me if I wanted it and I barely glanced at it and said, "Yeah sure, I guess." Had I spent longer than a second thinking about it, I would have taken it from him, handed it back to her and said, "No thanks." I was taken sort of off-guard by the thing, because I hadn't at all been expecting getting anything from NMIL, let alone some piece-of-shit, barely-held-together, dusty old wine-rack that I wouldn't use and didn't like. Hell, not only wouldn't I use it, but I couldn't use it: I was eight months pregnant with DS, and DH doesn't really drink wine.

I didn't really think about it until the next day and I thought, "Oh well" and threw it out. I remember having the thought that maybe NMIL gave it to us because it was just junk to her anyway and she simply didn't want to have to deal with throwing it out. In essence, I thought, maybe we were just her dumping grounds.

But the whole thing puzzled me, even though I totally get the whole "narcs are crappy-gift-givers" thing. I suppose that it's a bit futile coming up with theories about NMIL's piece-o-crap wine rack, except that it ties in nicely with my "how-to-deal-with-narcs-during-the-holiday-season" theme. I have found that it's much easier to properly deal with shitty N gifts when you more fully comprehend where they are actually coming from and that YOU aren't a reflection of the value they've assigned you.

So, having pondered this particular gift for a while, I've come up with some ideas about it:

If memory serves me correctly, this particular "gift" came to us the second to last time we saw NMIL. We saw her in October of 2010, which was the first time we had seen her in over four months. Then, she came to DD's first birthday party, ever resplendent in her phoniest of all narc-masks. That same month, she came for a short pseudo-Thanksgiving meal (at which I made sure she only got to see DD for a limited amount of time and she left as soon as DD went to bed). And the last time we saw her was for her fifteen minute visit at the hospital the day after DS was born. (Wahoo! We're approaching our one-year-anniversary of being NMIL-free!) Anyway, I believe that the day she brought us her crappy wine-rack was during that pseudo-Thanksgiving visit.

So, it went like this: We didn't see or hear from NMIL for over four months (she was giving DH the cold-shoulder for his now-famous declaration of independence), we had a short visit with her at her mini-mansion, she came for DD's birthday party, she came for a short "holiday" visit, she came to the hospital to see DS after he was born. During the visit at her house in October, she "gifted" us with her cooking. During DD's first birthday party, she made sure to point out that her gift to DD was in "that really really big bag," signifying, naturally, that her gift was the best. And naturally, she brought along crappy, insignificant, and other-wise meaningless gifts to the hospital when DS was born.

I'm fairly certain that the dusty wine-rack was gifted to us because A) She has ALWAYS attached gifts to every single interaction we've had. (The above mentioned are just the most recent examples). B) She was determined to show us how much she "loves" by coming with a gift in hand. And C) She was always on a quest to show us, in ever-so-subtle means, exactly what we were "worth" to her. ("Here, Son and Daughter-in-Law, you are worth this dusty, crappy wine rack"...see what I mean?)

I've created a list of some of the things I consider to be her "gifts" to us that I haven't previously talked about. To define our terms: By "gifts" I mean anything that NMIL gave willingly, in the hopes that she would "get" something in return, be it NS, the pain & suffering of her target, or the humiliation of her target.

These are not in order, and I'm sure that I'm missing some, but this list should paint a fairly accurate portrait of the types of strings attached to the she-devil that is my husband's NM:

1. At our wedding shower, NMIL came with a shower gift that was actually appropriate. She also came with another gift for DD (who was about six months old at the time). It was a bathing suit that was several sizes too big. BUT, that wasn't the part that got me: What tickled the back of my mind ever-so-slightly was the comment she made as she handed me the little pink bag: "It's [DD's name] first bathing suit!" I remember thinking a couple things all at once, "How do you know we haven't already gotten one for her?" And "Bitch, step-off. I won't allow the boundary-pushing that so many others let you get away with." For anyone who knows narcissists, you know well how they continually push boundaries because they expect little resistance, and because they don't recognize others as being valuable, significant, or having any worth. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I just knew that this particular gift was one with the barest tendril of strings reaching out to my DD. There was something in the way she said it, something in the attitude in her posture that told me if I accepted this, she would continue sending out her tendrils until they solidified and actually reached their intended target: the being who I am sworn to protect, cherish, and love...our daughter. I knew well that people like NMIL started small, ever-so-subtly grooming their targets to accept their abuses, until they didn't know any different and were too afraid or unaware to cry out against the injustice of it all. Some might say I was making a mountain-out-of-a-molehill. I know that I wasn't. It starts with a bathing suit. And that's just the beginning. The following weekend, I returned the one that NMIL picked out and bought one that I liked instead. I've read about far too many Narcissistic mother-in-laws to believe that her "gift" to my DD was anything less than a first attempt at planting the seeds of boundary-crossing within the mind of my infant daughter. Those were not seeds I'd be allowing in my garden.

2. A few weeks after we first announced our pregnancy with DD, DH and I were having breakfast with NMIL to discuss the possibility of moving in to the apartment she rented. We didn't yet know that she was lying to us, or that her plans for us involved what she no-doubt hoped would be the ultimate sabotage of our newly-budding relationship. In the parking lot of the restaurant where she "treated" us to breakfast, the subject of my bra-size came up. I think she asked me if I had gone up in size at all since becoming pregnant. If you think that's intrusive, just wait. At the time, I hadn't realized that I had in fact gone up two bra sizes (no wonder why my bras had become so uncomfortable!) and so I said, "I'm not sure. Maybe a little." In an "I-know-best" sort of tone, NMIL told me that she had bras at home that were much too big for her now, and that I could have them, if I wanted. Here, Dear Reader, is where I have to shake my head at my three-years-ago self and smile. Poor little unsuspecting Jonsi. If only she knew THEN what kind of monstrosity she was dealing with, she might not have overlooked this bra-giving-extravaganza as such a "little" thing. But this was prior to my enlightenment, and I thanked her and said I'd try on the bras at her house. Like so many other unsuspecting targets of narcs, I pushed my feelings of discomfort aside and graciously accepted her very first (and...was it also her last?) "offer" to help "poor little me." In hindsight, I can now put a finger on what I was feeling at the time: uncomfortable (did my dear boyfriend's mother just offer me her bras? Icky.) uncomfortable (I'm so worried she's going to cross my boundaries and just walk in to the bathroom where I'm trying these bras on) and...surprise, surprise: uncomfortable (Did she really take on that, "I-know-better-than-you" tone about MY boobs, all the while subtly criticizing the way I look?) In all, the whole event was short, but felt awkward. I didn't know what to make of it at the time because I wasn't yet fully-aware that she was a full-fledged narcissist. But if the feelings I experienced at the time weren't sure red-flags, then I don't know what would be. I ended up taking a couple of her bras and, though she never brought them up again as a means to invoke the NS that had no doubt been originally attached to them, I believe she would have if I hadn't shortly thereafter been made aware (oh, so aware) of the level of her evil. This particular "gift" actually makes me laugh though, to this day. Thinking of NMIL trying to get all "chummy" with me by insulting me, worrying me into thinking she'd walk in on me while I was half-naked in her bathroom (I remember desperately trying to find a lock on the door and couldn't), and giving me her hand-me-down bras has got to be one of the more comical scenarios of our whole relation-shit.

3. When we moved in to our apartment, several weeks after having dealt with her lies and her sister's heinous crimes, NMIL called DH and said she had a "great idea for a house-warming gift for us!!!!!!!" (I didn't hear the conversation directly, but I'm sure there were exclamation points abound). When he got off the phone, he relayed her "gift-idea" to me and added that he wanted to ask me about it first because he didn't know if it was something I would want. She offered to buy us a digital camera** like the one that she had. In talking about the incident in the present, I told DH that I think his instinct to ask me about it first was right-on-the-money and that he knew me (even then) better than he realized. I was happy he'd put off answering his NM (narcissists hate that, they like to pressure their targets into answering NOW) and was happier, still, that he wanted my input and wasn't going to make the decision alone about accepting any of his NM's future "gifts." I told him, "You can tell her thanks, but no thanks." The plain truth was that I would have gladly accepted a digital camera like the one that she was offering, just not from HER. Not only was there no guarantee that she would actually follow through on this "promise" (never trust a liar folks), but I had absolutely no interest in allowing any further manipulations from her, not even if they came in the form of rather expensive digital equipment. I valued myself, and my DH far FAR too much to play those games.

(**The digital camera she owned was no small expense - it wasn't just a point-and-shoot digital, it was the real-deal. You're talking several hundred dollars for the equipment)

4. When DD was born, in spite of several requests that people not buy baby clothes for our infant because I had already been blessed with an overabundance of them, NMIL and her sister "gifted" us with several batches of new baby outfits. The first few came the day after DD was born. Along with a huge robe for me**, NMIL gave us two baby outfits for DD: One in pink and one in blue because "she had bought them before the baby was born." (We had chosen not to find out DD's gender during the pregnancy, so that part could have been legitimate). The next set of clothes came a few days later when NMIL and Naunt came to visit us at our apartment. After I had already told NMIL (yet again) in the hospital that we didn't need any girl clothes, she and her sister gave us several more brand new baby outfits and pretty but useless burp cloths. I remember thinking it very funny that I had been sorting through a mountain of baby clothes just a few hours before they arrived and they'd had to walk past the piles of my work-in-progress in order to get into our apartment. And before they handed me their frilly gifts, they'd asked me if there was anything I needed for DD, to which I replied matter-of-factly, while indicating to the piles, "NOT clothes." I wasn't even slightly embarrassed when I opened up their packages. Another important note: They had brought along DH's youngest cousin, who was about eight at the time, and I remember her contribution to the gift-bag as being the most heart-felt out of everyone's there. Her gift, even though it was also an article of clothing, outshone those gifts of her narcissistic family-members as the sun outshines a broken light bulb. I suppose it's not hard to imagine, Dear Reader, that an eight-year-old little girl could put more thought and heart into choosing a gift than a Narcissist can, but her gift was proof. I remember how excited she was to share it: the outfit that she had taken hours to pick out (she told me.) And MAN, she couldn't have picked out a better gift. In the short time she and I knew each other, she had a better idea of who I was than NMIL or Naunt ever would. The outfit she picked out for DD was a reflection of her own thoughtfulness and proof (at least to me) that she may someday escape the narcissism running rampant in her FOO. The gift she picked out STILL remains my favorite article of clothing that DD ever wore, and I packed it away in DD's box of special things in the attic. Anyway, I pointed out the thoughtfulness of her gift as a means to show the UNthoughtfulness of NMIL's. Where DH's little 'cous hit one out of the park, NMIL failed to even show up at the ballgame.

**I must say at this particular juncture: I think we all know that any of the "gifts" NMIL gave me were not actually for me...they were for DH. He was the one she was really trying to impress (and from the beginning, the only one it had ever really worked on. DH has come a LONG way since then).

Dear Reader, I feel the need to share with you that NMIL is not yet done with her "gift" giving. She is not yet done because she still thinks my husband has strings left to be pulled. He doesn't. But she hasn't figured that part out yet. In the case that NMIL-and-Co. find our blogs, DH and I have decided to play her most recent gift-giving shenanigans close to the chest, but rest-assured that they are not fooling us.

And I have no doubt, Dear Reader, that the narcs in YOUR life won't be fooling you either. Here's to the upcoming holidays: May the narcs realize that their days of pulling your strings are numbered!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Oh, The Irony!

So, this online interview strikes me as particularly funny, considering who they are talking about. Yes, it's genuine, yes I found it online by googling NMIL's full name, and yes, I do believe it's legitimate.

Interviewer: We already have [Online Newsletter] and other online newsletters, how is [Online Newsletter pertaining to Women in Industry] different?

Interviewee: On [Online Newsletter pertaining to Women in Industry] the tips, articles and news are written for women by women...there is an interactive forum with multiple topics: fashion, pet peeves, work-at-home moms and once a month we have a Dear [NMIL's first name] column, where seasoned marketing professional and business owner [NMIL's full name] gives advice to women who have questions like: “Hey [NMIL's first name], My boss flirts with me and I’m not sure what I should do about it. Help!"...Most of the news articles written are focused on what women want to hear and read about, as well as what tips we have for leading a happy, healthy and financially profitable day.


Oh, Dear Reader! The irony! For those of you who don't know the back story, NMIL is a twice married (and twice divorced) serial adulterer who has been dating a man who we believe was cheating on HIS wife. Holy crow, is that the kind of person with the authority to give others' advice on how to navigate questions of morality? This just goes to show how far narcissists are able to go in maintaining the facade that they are moral, loving, and upstanding beings. In reality, asking someone like NMIL for advice about ANY situations in which morality and ethics come into question is like asking a fish to explain how to fly. I find it scary that anyone could be fooled enough by this woman to actually seek her advice on...well, anything. Her advice, even if it sounded reasonable, could only be coming from some terribly warped and twisted well deep within her. Furthermore, she might actually be able to say the right words, but we all know she's incapable of following through on them personally.

It's a scary world out there, friends!

We Are What We Will

Ever expanding my resources concerning narcissism, I happened upon another fantastic article today, written by Deacon Douglas McManaman, entitled, "Narcissism and the Dynamics of Evil." (Link to original at the end). It's rather long, but an excellent read.

The first step to appreciating the subtleties of evil is to begin at the most basic level of philosophical inquiry, the philosophy of being.

Evil, as St. Augustine pointed out centuries ago, is not a positive quality or a substance, but a privation or corruption of being. This implies that "good" is a property of being. Whatever is, is good insofar as it is.

When we speak of good food, for example, we mean much more than that it simply tastes good. We mean that is good for us. Such food promotes the fullness of our being. Food that is bad for us brings about a corruption or deficiency of health. Aristotle wrote that the good is that which all things desire.[1] This, despite appearances, is congruent with the notion that the "good" is fullness of being; for all things desire first and foremost their own perfection, that is, all things desire "to be" and "to be" most fully. Good and being are the same thing. Evil is thus a lack of due being. It is a deficiency, a corruption, a privation, a lack of something that should be there.

Consider a deformity of any kind. What is physically deformed lacks something that it ought to have. A bird that has one wing suffers from a physical evil and as a result cannot fly, that is, it cannot function as it belongs to a bird to function.

Moral evil is also a lack, a deficiency, or a privation, but one far more complicated than physical evil. For everyone understands the nature of a bird, and so it is immediately obvious that a one winged bird is deformed. But in order to understand moral evil, it is necessary to understand the basic requirements of the natural moral law, and unless one understands these, moral evil is not always easy to spot.

Moral evil is primarily about a disordered will; for only a being with intellect and will is a moral agent. That is why irrational animals are not treated as moral agents and held responsible for what they do. They literally don't "know any better". A good will, however, is one that "wills the good". This is what love is: willing the good of another (benevolence). But there are a number of goods that are specifically human, intelligible, and basic, that is, sought for their own sake and not for the sake of some other end. Such basic intelligible human goods include human life, the knowledge and contemplation of truth, the experience and contemplation of beauty, leisure, marriage, harmony between oneself and others, oneself and God, and harmony within oneself (integrity). The moral life has to do fundamentally with our relationship to the entire network of these human goods. Basic human goods are aspects of human persons, and so a good will is one that is open to the entire network of human goods in oneself and in others, that is, wherever there is an instance of human being.

An evil action is one that involves a will that is incompatible with an openness to the complete integration of basic human goods. Such a will is evil, because it is deficient, or lacking an order that it ought to have. For example, justice is the constant will to render to another his due. An unjust act involves a refusal to render another his due, such as the truth, or property, or reverence of his life, etc. Or, consider the act of treating another as a means to an end. In this case, a basic human good is treated as an instrumental good. The life of the other is subordinated to my own and is reduced to a means to my own ends. In other words, I treat my own life as an end, to be revered for its own sake, but I treat another's life as a means. But what is due to another is that he be treated in a way that respects his status as equal in dignity to myself. I willingly refuse that equality, thus failing to render that debt.

Just as a bird is good insofar as it has being, but suffers from a physical evil insofar as it lacks what ought to be there (i.e., another wing), so too an evil will is good insofar as it has being, but is evil in its deficiency. And since a moral agent is what he wills, we do not say that a person suffers from a moral evil as we might suffer from a physical evil. Rather, a person who commits moral evil is evil. Only moral agents can be evil.

And so evil is parasitic. Its host is always a good. And since evil is a kind of non-being or nothingness, pure evil is impossible. Pure evil would be completely nothing, and nothing is not evil; it simply 'is not'. Evil is a privation that requires a subject in which to inhere. St. Augustine writes:

...there is nothing of what we call evil, if there be nothing good. But a good which is wholly without evil is a perfect good. A good, on the other hand, which contains evil is a faulty or imperfect good; and there can be no evil where there is no good. From all this we arrive at the curious result: that since every being, so far as it is a being, is good, when we say that a faulty being is an evil being, we just seem to say that which is good is evil, and that nothing but what is good can be evil, seeing that every being is good, and that no evil can exist except in a being. Nothing can be evil except something which is good.

The Making of a Narcissist:

Human persons engage in a kind of self-making whenever they make choices. The reason is that we are what we will. It was Sartre who said that existence precedes essence, and that we determine our essence by our absolutely free choices. Only if we substitute the word "essence" with "character" is Sartre correct. There is a relationship between choosing (doing) and becoming (being). We are (character) what we choose. Nothing is more intimately our own than our character, which is determined by nothing other than our free and self-determined choices. And since evil is a privation, a kind of non-being or nothingness, the more one makes morally evil choices, the "less" one becomes. In other words,choosing moral evil, such as treating another or others as a means to an end, brings about a shrinkage, a lessening of the self. If perpetuated and unrepented, such de-creation leads to a kind of self-loathing; for there is less of oneself to love – just as the more one severs pieces of one's face with a knife, the more unsightly he becomes and the more horrified he is as he beholds his reflection in a mirror.

Beauty is also a property of being. To be more fully is to be more beautiful. But disease or corruption involves a deprivation of beauty. What is morally noble is beautiful, but what is morally evil is ignoble and morally unsightly. That is why one who commits to injustice or who gives himself to evil for the sake of ends that are good becomes morally unsightly to himself, as well as to those who see him as he is. He becomes ugly. Hence, the self-loathing that is part and parcel of the depraved.

Another property of moral evil, concomitant to self-loathing, is egotism. Consider that injustice is the freely willed decision not to render to another his due, whether it is truth, property, liberty, impartial treatment, or reverence of his life. The golden rule is a traditional formulation of the requirement of fairness: do unto others what you would have others do unto you, or, do not do to others what you yourself dislike. Injustice is precisely a failure to love another as another self. The unjust man treats himself with a degree of partiality, and he fails to recognize the other's status as a person equal in dignity, to be treated as an end in himself. The unjust man has thereby established a degree of egotism within himself; for he has made himself larger than another, at least in his own eyes and according to his own behaviour. As Vladimir Solovyov writes: "The basic falsehood and evil of egoism lie ... in the fact that, ascribing to himself in all justice an absolute significance, he unjustly refuses to others this same significance. Recognizing himself as a center of life (which as a matter of fact he is), he relegates others to the circumference of his own being and leaves them only an external and relative value."

This egotism can be relatively mild, or it can reach pathological proportions. For there is a fundamental difference between the sinner and the one who sins. Everyone sins, but not everyone is given over to sin, that is, not everyone loves sin. Some have made a commitment to do battle against their own tendency to sin, while others have simply surrendered to a life that places the self at the center. The refusal to behold one's own moral unsightliness–and thus the refusal of repentance and moral growth – brings about a conflict that demands resolution. Such a person is aware of his own moral deficiency and loathes himself accordingly. The degree of his self-loathing corresponds to the degree of his depravity. At the same time, though, he has surrendered to an egotism that is part and parcel of an unjust character. The egotist that he has become cannot tolerate the awareness of his unsightly ignobility. This conflict has to be resolved because he has a radical need for affirmation. Like all beings, he naturally desires to be most fully, and so he desires the fullness of the good – it is just that he will not choose in accordance with what he really desires. The need for affirmation persists nonetheless. And affirmation is the natural and proper response to what is genuinely good. The problem is that he cannot affirm himself – he beholds his depravity and sees others as far less unsightly, which of course spawns envy – , yet his egotism demands affirmation all the more and to a much greater extent and intensity. The greater his moral depravity, the greater and more unbearable is this fundamental conflict. He either beholds his corruption and repents of the choices that brought it about, or he turns his gaze from it and commits to creating an image, a reflection, a false self that others will be able to affirm.

He cannot allow others to see what he sees in himself, for they will reject him. What they see will be as repulsive to them as it is to himself. So he must create a highly likable and acceptable image that will procure the affirmation he requires for himself, an affirmation that he can only get from others who do not know him as he really is. Thus begins the fundamental lie of the self-loathing egotist. For an image is a reflection. One can only see a reflection if it is mirrored in some way. The egotist must see his reflection through the eyes of others, and so others become a means to his own affirmation, a means to his own conviction that he really exists. For the deeply depraved have created a void, a nothingness in the heart of their character. But a person cannot detect the presence of nothingness. Hence, the egotist desperately needs to be convinced of his own existence. He needs to feel that he is. If he will not achieve this through the pursuit of virtue, he will do so through the affirmation, praise, and adulation of others, or through their fear of him. But what others affirm (or fear) is not the true self of the egotist. He cannot show his true self, for he does not know who or what it is. His true self is fractured, dilapidated, and in pieces. Thus, it is only a reflection that they affirm.

The habit of treating a human person as a means to an end has a kind of universal scope to it. One person is a particular instance of a basic intelligible human good. Just as I come to know the nature of all human persons by coming to understand a particular instance of humanity (for all have the same nature), so too, my ability to treat one individual human being as a means to an end amounts to a willingness to treat all human persons as a means to an end. And so wherever the egotist appears to be treating another as an end in himself, such behaviour is only appearance. At its roots, it is utilitarian and fundamentally a kind of manipulation.

The more intense the conflict between the experience of his nothingness and his emerging egotism, the more radical his manipulation of others. The more intelligent the egotist, the more able he is to hide his depravity by means of a clever reflection, and thus the more able he is to successfully convince others that they are loved and revered for their own sake. The longer he persists in his depravity, the more deeply he falls into the void that is decreated by the choices he continues to make.

From a purely moral point of view, this is how the narcissistic character disordered are created. They are self-created, or better yet, self-decreated, and then re-created, although what is re-created is not a self, but a reflection or an image. The greater the opposition between his depravity or moral nothingness (and thus self-loathing) and his egotism (his injustice and his regard for others as mere instruments of his own gratification), the more pathological his narcissism, and thus the more grandiose and fantastic his reflected or false self.

The narcissist is incapable of love; for his narcissism is the fruit of his refusal to revere others for their own sake, that is, to love others as another self, equal in dignity to himself. His refusal to love barred him from loving himself because he became depleted and less lovable to himself. What he loves is the false self he has created and that he needs to see reflected in the affirmation and comportment of others. Such people are aptly referred to as narcissists. According to the ancient Greek myth, the nymph Echo fell in love with Narcissus. She died of a broken heart after being spurned by him. As a result, Narcissus was punished by the gods for his callousness: the gods made him fall in love with his own image. He would live till he saw himself. Eventually, he caught sight of his reflection in the water, became enthralled with his image and refused to leave the spot. He died of languor and turned into a flower. As Alexander Lowen interprets this myth, if Narcissus could say "I love you", Echo would repeat those words and he would feel loved. The inability to say "I love you" is precisely what identifies the narcissist.

And since he is incapable of truly loving another as another self, all his relationships with others are perverted, twisted, and abusive; for to use a person is to abuse a person, and everyone in his life, without exception, is nothing more than a means of procuring affirmation, adulation, and admiration, or if that isn't possible, fear. For it isn't the self that the narcissist loves, but his reflection.

Characteristics of the Narcissist:

The narcissist is calculating. He is utilitarian through and through. He refuses obedience to the basic requirements of the natural moral law, for obedience implies that there is something larger than himself of which he is not the measure, but which measures him. Such a notion, however, is incompatible with the very thrust of his character. He has become the measure. He is calculating for the sake of procuring power; for it is power that allows him the control he needs to protect himself from exposure and from his having to face his own finitude. Power allows him to more easily procure a supply of narcissistic fuel. His entire life has become a struggle to procure this fuel...and he will employ the most devious means at his disposal to get it. And if, by some misfortune, he should come into a position of power, we can expect his style of leadership to be thoroughly Machiavellian.

There is no better insight into the workings of the mind of the morally depraved and narcissistic leader than what is provided in chapter 18 of Machiavelli's The Prince. The principal characteristic of such a leader is not prudence, but craft:

"Every one admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep faith, and to live with integrity and not with craft. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their word."

Because such persons have depleted their character so profoundly through choices contrary to the norms of reason, they approach the bestial level and will even begin to see themselves as such. For beasts are not governed by the natural moral law, but by the law of power. The narcissistic leader is fundamentally bestial in his rule, but he cannot appear that way without exposing his true colors, and exposure is his greatest fear. And so he must employ craft and know when to "avail himself of the beast." Machiavelli writes:

"...it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man...A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves. Those who rely simply on the lion do not understand what they are about. Therefore a wise lord cannot, nor ought he to, keep faith when such observance may be turned against him, and when the reasons that caused him to pledge it exist no longer."

Such a person, by virtue of his olympian egotism, always regards others as inferior to himself. Everyone is a simpleton in his eyes. What helps afford him this illusion is that most people are unsuspecting and are unaware of the degree to which they are being taken advantage of, used and abused. This unawareness is not due to a general lack of intelligence in people, but to their tendency to project their own range of normalcy onto others. Hence, their disinclination to suspect someone so profoundly depraved to be in their midst, carrying on an existence that is fundamentally and thoroughly a lie. But the character disordered conveniently regard this trait as evidence of intellectual inferiority and will take a twisted delight in the knowledge that they have so many fooled.

But it is necessary to know well how to disguise this characteristic, and to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.

When it is a question of evil, it is precisely the element of disguise that people tend to overlook. We are wont to assume that evil, character disorder, profound moral depravity, psychopathy, pathological narcissism, etc., are easy to detect and that such people can only intimidate and inspire fear upon a first encounter. But this is only the case with those not intelligent enough to disguise their depravity, like the common criminal. The most dangerous among us are those intelligent enough to appear as paragons of virtue.

"...it is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities I have enumerated, but it is very necessary to appear to have them. And I shall dare to say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright, and to be so, but with a mind so framed that should you require not to be so, you may be able and know how to change to the opposite...a prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality, inasmuch as men judge generally more by the eye than by the hand, because it belongs to everybody to see you, to few to come in touch with you. Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result...he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it; and in the world there are only the vulgar..."

With respect to evil, there still exists a sort of half-baked Platonism in the attitudes of many people, for there is a common assumption that if a person is knee deep in depravity, either he does not know any better or is under the influence of environmental and psychological determinants he has no control over. But there is a distinction between intellectual and moral virtue. Morality is in the will. It is very possible to have a brilliant mind, but at the same time a wicked and depraved will. The most dangerous predators among us are ingeniously veiled. They carefully surround themselves with people entirely unlike themselves, that is, with deeply empathic human beings who wish to please others, who are slow to judge, who are excessively tolerant and who have an eye for the good to be found in others. They know how to exploit to their own advantage such character traits. It is their association with such people that maximizes their chances of perpetuating the facade and keeping themselves from exposure.

The narcissist despises community and emotional intimacy, and so they are profoundly lonely. On the one hand, though, there is something about their loneliness that narcissists like; for they can attribute it to their unique and superior nature. But as human persons who have a radical need for others, they cannot tolerate loneliness. This conflict is a source of chronic anguish; for loneliness is hell, and yet, as Sartre would say, "hell is other people" ("l'enfer, c'est les autres").

Man is a person, from the Latin persona (through sound). He longs to express himself, to communicate himself to others, whether depraved or not. Just as those who contemplate the marvelous or the beautiful cannot hold themselves but will cry out in praise of what they behold, so too the depraved cannot help but on occasion burst out and spit their bile, thus providing others a momentary glimpse of their interior rot. Moments such as these are clues that must be stored in the memory and, like disparate pieces of a puzzle, assembled later in order to acquire a more complete picture, which will be a horror to behold, or an experience of terror – if the narcissist discovers that he has been found out by you. The clues, in isolation, will suggest only minor imperfections or character flaws. But taken together over a number of years, they suggest something much more ominous. The inconsistencies evident in the behavior of the narcissist – prior to his discovery – should never be simply accepted, only to be forgotten. Rather, one must ponder the inconsistencies in behavior until they become consistent, that is, until the apparently inconsistent behavior acquires an intelligible narrative that rings true.

Some pathological narcissists are so clever that certain people will simply never be able to penetrate the disguise, no matter what has been pointed out to them. One reason they are so successful is that they have come to believe their own lies. The narcissist has convinced himself that the facade is not a lie. What helps to establish this conviction, among other things, is a commitment to a cause – a genuinely good cause. But after a few years of observation, one discovers that the narcissist's devotion to the cause is one sided and not grounded in a commitment to the principles underlying the cause, because after a time the inconsistency of the morality of the depraved becomes noticeable. His behavior, in other words, is not principled. And he will despise any individual or institution that expounds a consistent ethics, because it exposes his own inconsistent and arbitrary one and is a constant reminder of his own self-deception.

It cannot be emphasized enough just how much we typically underestimate the depravity of the pathological narcissist who operates behind a facade of respectability and altruism. We cannot forget that they have a desperate fear of exposure, that someone might catch a long enough glimpse at the rot that lies within and raise the awareness of others, thus threatening the power structure that took years of careful planning to erect. That is why the pathological narcissist is a long term plotter, like the brilliant chess player who plans ten or more moves ahead. It is almost impossible for anyone to uncover the complex and multi-layered schemes of such a person unless one is entirely aware of the depths of his depravity and the level of his intelligence. Knowing the one without the other leaves one ever open to being perpetually deceived.

The awareness that others have seen contradictory aspects of himself is a constant source of anxiety for the narcissist in a position of authority. And he is aware of the limits of human perspectives and that community has the power to enlarge individual points of view. When people talk with one another, they begin to acquire a much larger perspective on things, that is, they begin to see a bigger picture. The pathological narcissist who is in a leadership role cannot afford to have people talking amongst themselves and sharing stories. So he will go to great lengths and carefully contrive very devious and underhanded schemes to keep people divided. He will sow division among colleagues by planting lies about one person to another, and another about someone else. This can be a successful strategy because no one expects a highly intelligent adult to be carrying on like a scheming eight year old child or an emotionally disturbed adolescent. And since most of us avoid confrontation, it is much easier to believe the liar.

Pathological narcissists succeed for a time because of the extreme resonance of their personality structure...He is an enigma, at least prior to his exposure. One can't help but reason that he's either an outstanding citizen, leader, priest, court judge, teacher, etc., or he's the most morally depraved individual you are going to meet for a long while. And very few of us expect to discover such a depth of depravity in well dressed professional adults. So we naturally conclude the former. For he is careful not to show opposite extremes to one and the same person, especially if that person is someone he needs. The majority in his immediate environment will see his "too good" side only. Should anyone no longer be needed, or should one happen to become a threat to his facade, such a one is likely to get a taste of the narcissist's vindictive nature, even one who has been a close "friend" to him for a number of years – a narcissist's loyalty is paper thin, for he is incapable of genuinely intimate friendships. But only the targeted victim will see his vindictive nature, or a small few. He is careful to keep this side of himself from others, for it is an inconsistency that might expose him. So adept is he at this narrowly focused persecution, in fact, that any attempt by the victim to tell another will in all probability make him (the victim) appear as if he is losing his mind.

The narcissist takes advantage of every opportunity to favor a person who is down and in need – as long as the prospects that he will be of use later on are good. Such favors might include providing employment, personal counseling, boosting one's confidence, flattery, listening and being sympathetic (at least apparently), etc. Such opportunities supply the narcissist in a number of ways. Primarily, they ensure loyalty for the day that will inevitably arrive, the day when his personal edifice crumbles and he finally falls into the pit he has dug for his enemies over the years. Such a loyal following makes it all the more difficult for anyone to depose him. They also have the added advantage of helping him to persuade himself that he is good and that perhaps the gnawing awareness of that damp and dark cellar at the heart of his character was only a passing fancy. Furthermore, they provide a sense of superiority in that others depend upon him in order to be the persons they have become. When someone finally comes to realize that he is a treacherous and exploitative fraud – which is inevitable – , who is going to believe such a person when so many have been directly benefited by the accused? Gratitude makes it easier to excuse his "faults" or minor character flaws, and that is about all that the clues will suggest in isolation – and most people have poor memories.

The depraved and pathological narcissist is very ready to forgive the faults of others, not because he is loving and merciful, but rather because he is indifferent. In fact, inordinate leniency is typical of narcissists. They are either vindictive or lenient, but rarely just. Leniency, which is a vice, is hard to distinguish from mercy or clemency, so it enables him to feel virtuous, and it also helps perpetuate the appearance of moral purity. Moreover, leniency provides another opportunity to ensure loyalty.

But ultimately, the pathological narcissist is indifferent to injustice and its victims. As St. Thomas Aquinas argues, the more excellent a person is, the more he is prone to anger (S.T. I-II, 47, 3). But the narcissist experiences no righteous indignation. He only rages against the person who is a threat to his charade and/or who refuses to cooperate with his underhanded schemes. But he will not be incensed at injustice.

Courage is the mean between recklessness and cowardliness. Here, narcissists are also at both extremes, never in the mean. Indeed, they are often bold or inordinately daring. Their inflated sense of superiority propels them to recklessness; for they are subject to fantasies of omnipotence and unequalled brilliance, and they feel that they are above the law. And it is this sense of superiority that allows them to underestimate the intelligence and determination of their adversaries. But they are not brave; they are cowards at heart. They lack the courage to gaze upon the dilapidated specter of their true selves, nor can they bear to look into the eyes of one who has discovered their true nature. They inspire terror only because we recognize that the inhibitions that govern the impulses of normal healthy persons are completely lacking in the pathological narcissist. They are psychopaths. The terror they inspire is a source of narcissistic supply that contributes to their sense of existing, which they need to counter the sense of their own nothingness, created by their immoral and unrepented choices.

Narcissists and Religion:

Narcissists, in accordance with their Machiavellian mindframe, will often appear religious, especially if they are leaders. But they may also ascribe to a religion in an effort to understand their special status, which they believe they enjoy.

The narcissist despises authority and is totally incapable of collaboration. That is why he inevitably seeks a position of authority, even in a religious context. Should he be Catholic, he will most certainly come into conflict with the teaching authority of the Church, for he has a need to defy authority, and he refuses to be measured by anything larger than himself, even God...Those who are sources of narcissistic supply are highly valued by the narcissist, not for their own sake, but for what they provide him. Should that production come to a stand still, should a person ever come to discover the true nature of the narcissist hidden underneath all his colorful layers, he is quickly and thoroughly devalued and demonized. As was said above, the narcissist is initially religious in an effort to understand his own uniqueness. He is a disciple – chosen – by virtue of a special quality in him, and not really by virtue of the mercy and gratuitous love of God. He is incapable of genuine humility and worship of what is larger than himself, and so God is eventually devalued, for He does not remain a source of narcissistic supply for long. The true disciple delights in the law of God: "The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces" (Ps 119, 72). But despite appearances, the religious narcissist personally finds that law a maddening nuisance that unnecessarily limits his sources of narcissistic supply, namely the entire secular world. Religious narcissists, thus, tend to be compromising liberals, watering down the difficult truth so as to be more inviting and inclusive. But all they ever really invite and include are sources of narcissistic supply, nothing more (this, of course, is not to suggest that all liberals are narcissists).

But religion has afforded the narcissist with a position of authority, which in turn is a reliable source of narcissistic supply. Hence, the reason some of them do not leave the Church–much to the dismay of some of the faithful. They are inconsistent in their leadership; for they are disloyal to the teaching magisterium, but they demand unquestioning loyalty and absolute deference to their own authority. Should this demand for obedience become too obvious, they can very cleverly appear to employ a democratic style of leadership and receive input from everyone. With a large enough number of people at hand, the clever narcissist can find fragments of his own vision in some of their ideas. If one watches carefully, one notices how he collects those very pieces and assembles them into a vision which everyone thinks was democratically determined. But the final product in no way will have differed significantly from what he had decided originally, before consulting anyone. The democratic process, which was under his control from the beginning, only lends the appearance of collaboration and democracy.

The pseudo-religious narcissist will especially identify with certain biblical imagery, such as the Good Shepherd, which depicts a human person amidst irrational animals of an inferior nature. The Parable of the Talents lends itself very well to the narcissist's twisted mind. In this parable, some servants are given five talents, another two, to a third only one, each in proportion to his ability. The narcissist of course sees himself as a ten and everyone else as a two or a one. Only those whom he needs and who supply him with fuel qualify as a ten, but these may quickly find themselves reduced to a two or a one should their status as supplier suddenly change. Such a parable can become a useful tool of manipulation and flattery. In short, the narcissist's use of scripture is as twisted as Satan's in the temptation in the wilderness.

There have been a number of false norms that have been made popular over the years that have only made it easier for the depraved and pathological narcissist to continue undetected. The popular exhortation to be tolerant, positive, non-judgmental and inclusive are prime examples. If a person sees the glass half full, he is positive and optimistic, but negative and pessimistic if he sees it half empty. The problem here, though, is that evil is parasitic. As was said above, there is simply no such thing as pure evil, because evil is a lack of due being. The optimist who refuses to see the lack lest he begin to feel negative is blinding himself to evil and contributing to the creation of the kind of environment that the depraved require in order to flourish. Good is the very subject of evil. And so there will always be something good to behold in the morally depraved egotist. The half full/half empty platitude is simply useless, except for the ridiculously cynical that no one takes seriously anyway.

The biblical precept not to judge (Cf. Mt 7ff) is not and has never been an unqualified and absolute norm, as if making judgments were intrinsically evil. Rather, the biblical norm is qualified by the context in which we find it: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother's eye and never notice the great log in your own?...Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother's eye" (Mt 7, 4-5). Scripture does not assert that all of us have logs in our eyes that we are forever unable to remove, thus barring us from ever having to judge that someone might have a splinter in his. The norm bears upon the hypocrisy of the morally blind passing judgment on someone much better off morally and spiritually. It is not a precept against making judgments; for as St. Paul says: "The spiritual man judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one (1 Co 2, 15). Scripture is filled with examples of negative judgments (Cf. Acts 5, 1-5; 8, 21-22; Rm 1, 1ff; Eph 4, 5). The narcissist is ever scheming to create a safe environment primarily for himself, and so what could better serve him than to be surrounded by people who are committed to an unqualified refusal to make judgments?

Narcissists will forever seek positions of power. But such positions must be forever denied them. They must never be given authority. But so few are denied positions of authority because they are so adept at disguise. They are convincing, articulate, and charismatic. But the narcissist is all about power. His entire leadership is a game played ultimately for the sake of himself. Everyone under his authority is being abused in one form or another, and the damage he can do is far reaching. The facade he uses to hide his depravity and fool the world may very well contain genuinely good things, such as religious, political, judicial, or educational principles. But most of his victims will forever associate his deception with these good things and will be unable to distinguish between what is genuinely good from the narcissist's abuse of it. In rejecting the one, they inevitably reject the other. How many good things are irretrievably lost to others as a result of such abuse?

Conditions for Penetrating the Disguise:

How is it possible to maximize one's chances of penetrating the almost impenetrable disguises of the character disordered? And how do we keep ourselves from falling into the web of their deceitful scheming?

First, it is a mistake to decide never to trust another human being. There are many honest persons who are entirely trustworthy. But there is a difference between trusting another and trusting in another... We should also learn to cultivate a kind of "spiritual Kantianism"; for it was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant who distinguished between phenomenon (appearance, or the world as it appears to us) and noumenon (the thing in itself, insofar as it is not an object of our sensible intuition). This distinction may not be sound epistemology, for it led ultimately to Idealism and Post-Modernism, but we should nonetheless understand that things are not always as they appear to be. Evil is brilliantly inconspicuous: "There is a wickedness which is unscrupulous but nonetheless dishonest, and there are those who misuse kindness to win their case. There is the person who will walk bowed down with grief, when inwardly this is nothing but deceit: he hides his face and pretends to be deaf, if he is not unmasked, he will take advantage of you. There is the person who is prevented from sinning by lack of strength, yet he will do wrong when he gets the chance" (Si 19, 20-30).

Anyone who goes for a stroll in a posh residential neighborhood naturally assumes that the interior of the houses are for the most part as attractive as their exterior. No one, upon entering, expects to find a desolate interior, that is, a mass of rubble. But some human beings are not always whom we expect them to be; for we naturally project our own basic character traits onto others. But this is not always prudent: "Someone with a sly wink is plotting mischief, no one can dissuade him from it. Honey-tongued to your face, he is lost in admiration at your words; but behind your back he has other things to say, and turns your words into a stumbling-block" (Si 27, 22-23).

The character disordered are highly intuitive...If we do not wish to find ourselves cooperating in the underhanded schemes of the character disordered, we must decide from the outset never to compromise justice, nor do evil that good may come of it. We ought to commit to frequent confession, for unrepented sin can lead us to becoming permissive under the guise of being tolerant and forgiving. But the permissive are not forgiving, only indifferent. The unrepentant excuse themselves, and motivated by an unconscious desire to be excused by others (not forgiven, which implies confession and contrition), he will readily excuse the faults and failings of others, obliging them to do likewise. Hence, the current widespread approbation of tolerance as the perfection of justice. But tolerance is not necessarily a virtue, for there is a great deal that love refuses to tolerate. Again, such confusion only establishes the conditions that the character disordered depend upon in order to keep themselves from being exposed. We can undermine such conditions by praying that we might be given a horror of sin and by cultivating a hatred of injustice.


**Doug McManaman is a Deacon and a Religion and Philosophy teacher at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario, Canada. He is the past President of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He maintains this website for his students.