Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Has anyone, ever, managed to explain to a narcissist what a narcissist is ...and to accept that they are one?(130 Posts)
Trouble in my family is brewing again, and I am being called upon to help and advise my siblings and their partners about dealing with our npd mother.
I have had very low contact with my npd mother for many, many years now, can't remember if it is 12, or 13 years, but a good long time. I have posted on here before about this, spent much time on the Stately Homes thread, and am quite happy most of the time with the boundaries between me and my m.
But my siblings are still suffering and want my help. One has written to our mother to tell her what is wrong and how he would like to change things, and has asked for my comments on what he has written to her. I have explained as much as I can, about dis-engaging, FOG, etc. and the fact that it is pointless to explain things as she won't see it in the same way. But, he doesn't want to cut her off. He wants things to change.
I feel sad that he is going to be very upset when she responds in a hideous way to what he has written, as she invariably will. I feel sad that I can't think of a way of him changing things without getting done over by her. He is and tries to be a loving son and is bewildered by how nasty she can be. He puts so much effort in, to no avail.
I just want to know, from anyone who has good knowledge on this subject <waits for Attilla and others> if there has ever been a narcissist who knows they are one, and whether if so, there is anything such a person can do to get help to be less of one IYSWIM?
Or does the very nature of narcissism mean that there is no way such a person could be made to recognise the disorder in themselves?
Any help would be much appreciated.
I think my older sister has features of NPD, and could have full blown NPD, I'm not sure. The thing that finally put paid to my repeated, exhausting attempts to develop a relationship with her was when I was getting married and I invited her to look at wedding dresses with me. She said there would be no point as I wouldn't like anything she picked out because we have very different taste. I replied that obviously she would look for things that she knows I would like, which totally baffled her. She couldn't understand that at all - why would she pick things that I like? No matter how much I talked to her about it (and it was a calm, reasonable conversation) she absolutely and honestly could not understand the idea of picking out something for someone else, that might not fit your own taste but that would suit the other person. Her complete bafflement told me that there was never going to be a point where she could actually relate to me in any meaningful way, she just doesn't have the capacity to understand other people. The only viewpoint that matters in her eyes is her own viewpoint, it's almost as if she doesn't believe other people have independent thoughts and feelings.
Wow, followed the YouTube link and then ended up on the documentary about him, I,Psychopath. Was very thought provoking.
It's in 8 parts. It's not a particularly good documentary but very revealing in parts, it's like the director really couldn't get his head around it - which is the problem with psychopaths/ narcissists... They don't make sense as long as you believe theyre essentially the same as a 'normal person'
Thanks all, I'm still reading. No worries about hijacks either, it's all valuable and helpful stuff
I'm going to be where you are one day Paula and I'm not looking forward to it. Sorry it's so hard.
Paula you are in my thoughts, I hope for your sake it is quick, and that your dh is right -
<did laugh at flicked up, I will steal that, and of course - flicked off !>
Cailin - I'll help you choose a dress (even though I'm a bit crap at that kind of thing).
Scarlet- I too am finding all of this helpful, because of other peoples perspectives - so instead of just me dealing with mine - I can see the effect on sisters, brothers, mothers etc.so when we are trying to deal with other family members it is giving me a better overview, because there is no cure and its soooo fucking irritating that they do not see the pain they are causing.
Narc sister in my life. I'm in counseling and am making wonderful progress toward no contact. Actually, I'm there, but it is being tested. My older sister is in limited contact with the narc. She can do that because she distanced herself emotionally from her at a much earlier age and didn't become nearly as enmeshed in the dynamic as I had become.
Paula-good luck to you in not having a too long detox period following your dad's imminent passing. It is good that you are clear in being there because it is who you are to do that, as opposed to being there hoping, wishing for a glimpse of change and an epithany of truth about himself, even a moment of that self awareness. Thank you for saying they won't ever change. I need to hear that.
My narc sis has survived breast cancer and now has skin cancer. I believe her health is beginning to decline (she is 53) and it is/has been a point of struggle for me to process. But someone on Stately Homes said to me: just because the narc is sick, doesn't change who (or what) they are. So I am determined to not let illness, even if terminal, become a license for her to abuse me again.
Just one anecdote: A note on her breast cancer...it was caught very very early and she had surgery/18 rounds of radiation. About the same time, an old college friend (a distance buffer ) called her to invite her to her own Free of Breast Cancer Celebration Party. Sis askes her about it and friend said she had to have surgery/39 radiation treatments...sis announces that she only had to have 18. Who one-ups people over breast cancer?! And she told me this like I was supposed to be in awe of her superiority, or proud of her?!
They won't ever change.
Scarlet, I'm glad you have established your boundaries. Everyone is different and has different experiences/perspectives even within the same family. Some can do limited contact successfuly. Your brother is right in realizing that he needs to put his dw & dc first/protect them. That is a big step to take and may lead him to an operational understanding of the kinds of boundaries that are necessary to preserve his/dw/dc mental health.
The other, awful thing about narcissists, it that everything you do is futile - even when you are doing the right thing.
I have worked very hard on staying detached (actually an important thing for me to learn in its own right) and not adding any toxins to the mix. So I stay calm, kind, I start topics of conversation, I ask him about his day, I care about him.
It makes no difference whatsoever - but that is fine, my job is to stay detached.
But one thing I have to do, is calmly call him on stuff he does (the abuse). He put me down in a gathering AGAIN, the very next gathering after the one I called him on before. I said to him 'I find it very hard when you put me down in public, please don't' - [and I had at the time shown assertive non-verbal behaviour whilst he was doing it, calmly holding his gaze and challenging his projection in public - huge strides for me, before I would have shrivelled in shame and hoped it all went away/nobody noticed].
His immediate response: NO I DIDN'T! etc. 'Please don't tell me how I feel' NO I'M NOT! etc.
It makes you feel terrible. But you have to keep on doing it.
The other, awful thing about narcissists, it that everything you do is futile - even when you are doing the right thing.
It makes you feel terrible. But you have to keep on doing it.
Not really, you just walk away, thereby removing their power.
Saying "'I find it very hard when you put me down in public, please don't' " is giving him power, because you are telling him how you are feeling, and you are asking him not to. You are asking him to empathise with you. He won't.
Much better to say "It's sad that you need an ego boost by trying to put me down", then walk away. Or, carry on with "in fact, I'm..." and big yourself up.
What Lueji wrote earlier,in its entireity.
I was shaking my head at your second and third paragraphs and inwardly winced, you walked right into the narcissistic trap!. (I have three narcs in my family all of whom I see as little as humanely possible because it is not possible to have any sort of relationship with them).
It's very hard to have a simple, uncomplicated good time with a narcissist.
Except for odd spells of heady euphoria unrelated to anything you can see, their affective range is mediocre-fake-normal to hell-on-Earth. They will sometimes lie low and be quiet, actually passive and dependent -- this is as good as it gets with narcissists. They are incapable of loving conduct towards anyone or anything, so they do not have the capacity for simple pleasure, beyond the satisfaction of bodily needs.
There is only one way to please a narcissist (and it won't please you): that is to indulge their every whim, cater to their tiniest impulses, bend to their views on every little thing. There's only one way to get decent treatment from narcissists: keep your distance. They can be pretty nice, even charming, flirtatious, and seductive, to strangers, and will flatter you shamelessly if they want something from you. When you attempt to get close to them in a normal way, they feel you are putting emotional pressure on them and they withdraw because you're too demanding. They can be positively fawning and solicitous as long as they're afraid of you, which is not most people's idea of a real fun relationship.
Run for cover when they start acting normal, maybe expressing a becoming self-doubt or even acknowledging some little fault of their own, such as saying they now realize that they haven't treated you right or that they took advantage of you before. They're just softening you up for something really nasty. These people are geniuses of "Come closer so I can slap you." Except that's not the way they think about it, if they think about it -- no, they're thinking, "Well, maybe you do really care about me, and, if you really care about me, then maybe you'll help me with this," only by "help" they mean do the whole thing, take total responsibility for it, including protecting and defending them and cleaning up the mess they've already made of it (which they will neglect to fill you in on because they haven't really been paying attention, have they, so how would they know??). They will not have considered for one second how much of your time it will take, how much trouble it may get you into in their behalf, that they will owe you BIG for this -- no, you're just going to do it all out of the goodness of your heart, which they are delighted to exploit yet again, and your virtue will be its own reward: it's supposed to just tickle you pink to be offered this generous opportunity of showing how much you love them and/or how lucky you are to be the servant of such a luminous personage. No lie -- they think other people do stuff for the same reason they do: to show off, to perform for an audience. That's one of the reasons they make outrageous demands, put you on the spot and create scenes in public: they're being generous -- they're trying to share the spotlight with you by giving you the chance to show off how absolutely stunningly devoted-to-them you are. It means that they love you; that's why they're hurt and bewildered when you angrily reject this invitation.
Attila and Lue,you are spot on! I tell you something, I have spent YEARS of my life thinking that I just had an eccentric Dad, who could be a bit difficult, when infant he was causing torment and wreckage everywhere he went!
The way my Dad shows what he thinks is love is through money. After his most recent extreme mistreatment of me he handed me a huge cheque. I declined it, sating that I would prefer an apology for the hurt he had caused thanks. He was totally flabbergasted and bemused by this, and said "you always make it so hard for me to do the right thing". I thought about it for a few days, and came to the realisation that this was the nearest approximation he could make to normal loving behaviour .... So I took the money and spent it! It felt like payment for having to endure him!
Still reading, and so appreciative of all of your replies, thank you. The more I read, the more I understand, the more I can hopefully pass on to my brothers.
Thanks Attila , you're always so helpful with the reminders.
Abit , it sounds like you are still embroiled it's all so very exhausting when one is still trying to 'manage' some kind of relationship with a narc, it uses up so much mental energy that would be better spent elsewhere. As you pointed out, whatever you do it makes no difference anyway. It such a pointless waste of time isn't it?
Wow, Cailin, you couldn't ask for a more definitive proof than that, could you?! It must have been a very strange conversation.
Brilliant post this morning, Attila.
Wobbly - What Lueji and Attila said!
Sorry this post is so long, it is about the evolution of the dynamic with my NPD sister.
Attila The Excellent Meerkat, thanks from here too.
On pleasing the narcissist, it was my experience that "tranquility of environment" was achieved only if I managed it by "changing gears" when I was around her. It was akin to walking on eggshells. But give an inch...
Never crossing her, "catering to her every whim" (ie: she doesn't take no for an answer), for which she was generous financially, was fun at first-going places, doing things- of course what she wanted...even down to where people sat when dining. As time passed, time with her began to be dreaded, unexplainably so (no vocabulary, insight to personality disorders). Coming away from events with her was like: well, that was fun...on the surface; but what is the nagging feeling of unrest in my soul? It is hard to get your head around it.
Then I found the word dormancy...that's it, I'd go dormant when ever I was with her. Talk about enmeshment. Check my brain at the door and that worked a treat! For her anyway...I was a puppet, a two dimensional cardboard cutout fullfilling my part in her script. Contact is temporary, I told myself, it is how I cope.
But dormancy is really self-induced depression- I was pressing myself down. And that is dangerous to one's mental health because it has a nasty way of "sticking". I found that I needed a period of recovery after contact with the narcissist. And that period got longer and longer. "It just isn't mentally healthy for you to be around her" two different counsellors have told me.
That is how I arrived at the No Contact policy. When she contacts me, I am brief and civil but I will not initiate contact.
She recently wrote in my birthday card: "Can we get past this? I truly apologize for whatever I said or did." Along with it, she sent DVD copies of our childhood home movies. (This was the letter she told my other sister she was agonizing over writing. )
I sent it all back to her with the note:
Thanks for the DVDs but please don't send anymore. I am just not interested in them. Your apology for "whatever" is an exercise in dismissiveness. So that's a no thank you.
Paula - my narc mother died last year - I felt nothing - my narc father was physically pushing me to hold her hand and tell her I loved her (the woman who had never told me she loved me my whole life) - I told him I wanted time alone to say what I wanted to say, he thought he knew what I was going to say - how wrong he was, I sat there alone just talking about mindless stuff - there was no way I was going to sit there and say what he wanted me to say - I didn't even cry at the funeral - I had no tears left, I'd used them all up in counselling to get past their awful behaviour
It's 6 months on now and I can honestly say I've never felt better - the current stumbling block is him rewriting history about how well they brought us up and how proud he is of them - he also writes poetry which makes me go it is all so far from the truth it is laughable
My point is Paula, don't feel guilty for your feelings - anyone who has a narc parent will understand, anyone who doesn't will never get it
Eclectic your description was so well expressed. It is so hard when they get in contact trying to be nice. So hard to know how to respond.
I found this recently when I decided not to attend my m's birthday dinner and she sent me a text saying she only wished I was there because she missed me. I ended up saying we could perhaps see each other when I was in the area (live about five hours away). Now, I regret saying this, since hearing my brother's recent experiences, which have a) reminded me what she is actually like and why I don't see her and b) made me cross with her for doing this stuff to him. So now I have no intention of us seeing each other. Really, what is the point? It could never be real between us.
Garlic - it was weird but it was also liberating as finally she herself was articulating why I couldn't manage to get along with her. We fought constantly as teenagers but I was hoping that once I had left home we would start to see eye to eye and become closer. I had tried and tried to make it happen (and to be fair, she had put some effort in herself) but it just wasn't working and I was driving myself mad with it. Having that insight into her thinking helped me to finally see that my belief that she was totally self-centred wasn't just me being a nasty sister, it was actually true and she had provided solid evidence of it off her own bat. It made it much easier for me to let go of any hope of being proper friends with her. It still makes me sad in a way but really it's just the way she is - she can't manage to have a proper relationship with another person, it's not within her capability. Knowing that means I don't feel anger towards her, I mainly feel sorry for her because she sees other people getting married, having children etc and wonders why it isn't happening for her. It's obvious to me why, but she wouldn't listen if I told her, plus what would be the point? I don't think she'll ever get any better. Maybe she'll meet a man like her some day. I pity their poor children though.
Scarlet, my sister would call on [insert holiday] Thanksgiving because "she wanted to be sure to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving" (so I said Happy Thanksgiving to you too=the parrot back at you technique ). But this was about sister fulfilling her duty, so she could check off her 'things to do today' list; it really had nothing to do about me and whether or not I was happy on Thanksgiving.
In the same vein, your mother had her wish based on what she felt. Her statement rendered you invisible...it was all about her. Pity the "only wish", guilt trip on you...she missed you. But they usually do miss their favorite targets don't they? <<meow...me/ow >>
If sister said she missed me, to me, I really could not parrot that one back! "Well, that's too bad" comes to mind. I've been schooled in dismissiveness, so she may have to take some of what she's dished out over the years. (And we all know that they can dish it out, but can never take it.)
Has your brother decided to go ahead with the confrontation?
Hi Leuji and Attila,
thank you for your comments which I will think about carefully -
'I was shaking my head at your second and third paragraphs and inwardly winced, you walked right into the narcissistic trap!."
I just wanted to make two observations, and that is 1. when dealing with a narcissist, you must NEVER sink to their level because what that confirms to them is that their reality is correct (and you have been sucked into their overwhelming boundaries). So when I talk about being pleasant to him, it is with no investment (or hope of a different outcome) but because it is what I would do courteously to any human being - hello, how are you, would you like a cup of tea? - because I am and must be a decent human being.
The second thing is, the need to challenge the crossing of boundaries. If you say nothing, you are then agreeing with your treatment. So, when he puts me down in public, when he gives me the silent treatment I MUST challenge it. Whatever he does (and he did not like it last night - TOUGH), because that is me stating my boundaries and sense of self. It is not dependent on any outcome, it is the need for me to say 'putting me down is wrong. Stop it. Or, 'giving me the silent treatment is disrespectful to me, and I want you to stop.
When you are born to narcissists, you get to believe that you are invisible and your needs are unimportant. You live invisible and not knowing when you are being abused. So the above is important and must happen whether I am married, divorced or separated. That is immaterial (and doesn't solve the problem). He is not a malignant narcissist, we are united as parents and he does have a ££££ sense of fairness. So me flouncing off without working myself would be - flouncing off. The 'me' work has to happen regardless (and boy is it starting to give me results). How many people 'leave the problem' and then end up in the same boat with a new face, same issue?
In my work I have come across people with a dx of NPD (an actual dx from two different psychiatrists/psychologists as is required for a disorder as controversial as this one, not merely an Internet dx from an armchair psychologist) who post-therapy have an incredible insight/awareness of their condition, and actually no longer meet criteria for the disorder. CAT is shown to be particularly effective.
It can be hard to get them to engage in therapy, yes. Particularly as like someone said above, they don't always have the awareness to see that they have a problem, instead blaming the rest of the world! But no two are the same, just as no two people with aspergers/bipolar/whatever are the same.
I don't want to offend anyone and I know how hard it can be to have someone with this as a family member but I always find the attitude on these threads depressing. These people weren't born this way, they were made through no fault of their own. And they're usually deeply, deeply unhappy.
Wobbly, those posts made me think hard about what I have learned.
I'm putting it to you, not as a shining example of the 'right' approach but as part of the discussion.
Saying "I find it very hard when you put me down in public, please don't" is giving him power, because you are telling him how you are feeling
I would plainly contradict what he'd said, if it was contradictable.
eg: "Garlic you never know which wine to choose"
me: "That's untrue, I have a good knowledge of wines."
With a more oblique insult, I'd respond directly to the intent.
eg: "Give me the wine list, Garlic."
me: "Don't be so rude, I'm choosing a wine."
With very oblique attacks, I've done this:
N: "I know why you're staring at the sommelier."
me: "Oh? Why?"
N: "You want to get the wine list first!"
me: "I do want to choose a wine. What's the problem?"
N: "You think you know about wine ..."
me: "I know enough. Why shouldn't I choose the wine?"
N: "You always want to go one better than me ..."
me: "What, you feel threatened by my wanting the wine list??"
N: "It's not that, it's that you ... [bluster bluster]" <makes twat of self>
me: <tries not to look smug>
At no point have I admitted any weakness, hurt feelings or emotional engagement of any sort. The advice about "I feel ..." is for couples who have sufficient empathy to care about how the other feels. This is not the case in your relationship; the advice is inappropriate.
The 'me' work has to happen regardless (and boy is it starting to give me results).
I meant to add how much I enjoy reading your updates, Wobbly, as this is clealry true Respect!
Join the discussion
Please login first.