Monday, April 28, 2008

Relating to a Narcissist

This weekend, I realized there's probably a big difference in the way people react to a narcissist.

There's the way WE - adult children of the self-absorbed - react.

And then there's the way others react.

My narcissistic father called and my 15-1/2 year old daughter answered the phone.

He asked her what she'd done that day.

Normally, she'd say something like, "Not much," because she's learned he's not interested in what she has to say, and then quickly hands the phone to me.

But she said he sounded eager and chatty and welcoming, so she TRIED to explain that she had standardized testing all day and how boring it was. She must have managed to utter a sentence before he cut her off. That's when I heard her say, "Never mind. Mom!" She thrust the phone at me with an oh-well shrug.

I don't think for a second she lost any sleep over it. I asked her about it later, and she said, "He's just like that." My husband has met plenty of kooky, self-centered people over the years and it's more a source of amusement to him because he just thinks they're weird and not worth his time. This is pretty much the same reaction of some of my friends raised by non-n parents.

Then there's me! When somebody ignores me, interrupts or in some way doesn't acknowledge me, it's more than just annoying. It touches something very deep inside. It pulls apart the edges of a wound that won't quite close.


Katherine Gunn said...

Well said. That sums it up nicely.

Anonymous Bob said...

I'm still a child on the inside.

Billie said...

I can relate. I spent most of my life yearning for attention...I've finally hit a point where a lack of attention doesn't make me wonder what's wrong with me. What a relief.

Nina said...

It's soooo nice to check back in and learn I'm not totally looney!

Anonymous Bob said...

Did you think you were looney? Nina you're among the *least* looney people I know!

Nina said...

Well heck, thank you Anonymous Bob.

I guess it's my state of hypervigilence and self-doubt that often leads to the questioning of my sanity. Actually, I just heard a really funny quote attributed to author Anne Lamott: "My mind is a bad neighborhood I try not to go to alone." MY mind is like that! A dangerous place!

Cinder Ella said...

The wound.....yes. The self-doubt, too. The quote is perfect. It's a hard neighborhood to find my way out of, too.

Anonymous Bob said...

"I guess it's my state of hypervigilence and self-doubt that often leads to the questioning of my sanity."

I learned to blame myself in early childhood because in my orwellian narcissistic family with its perverted logic there was no one else to blame. I was always miserable but everything was always peachy.

It was not until I reached adulthood and read Alice Miller and others that I could start seeing my family for what it was, stop blaming myself or trying to find faults with myself.

I wasn't the crazy one.

Anonymous said...

Yes when someone interrupts me it is like a personal attack. Of course I don't act like it on the outside but on the inside thats how it feels.

Anonymous said...

I grew up with one narcissistic parent and one indifferent one. Now I am married to an N. When I am ignored - I feel a type of frustration that triggers a fight mechanism in me. I have to use great control not to let it out. These people have no idea how much they hurt other people. Even ignoring them back doesn't work - they make an even larger problem by coming on to you about why you are ignoring them!!! I just can't believe some days that I wake up in this situation. I feel like a squeezed orange :( Its time to buy a punching bag.

Reb said...

Your final paragraph struck a nerve. I've tried not to think about these things. You're saying the things I've been unable to allow myself to think.

Justine said...

Nina -- don't know if you'll get this comment cause it seems the blog is on hiatus, but wow, that last paragraph hit so close to home.

Sometimes I'll just have these meltdowns (in private, of course!) after spending time with my boyfriend's family. His brother or father will do something seemingly innocuous (interrupt me, ignore me, whatever) and it will send me into a tailspin. The other day I surprised my boyfriend at his house while he was watching Sunday night football with the guys. He kept on leaving the room we were in to check the score and this just struck such a deep chord with me. Such a harmless action ignited feelings of such rejection and abandonment. Thanks for this post, it helps.

Josie said...

Well put. I feel that way alot too. I realized recently while talking with my husband that I'm still a very frightened child inside. I feel weak admitting it...I feel I need to tell my parents how they hurt me etc. But I know it won't do any good. They'll turn it around and tell me how ungrateful I am for the Disneyland Trips etc. "After all we've done, this is how you act." *rolls their eyes* They turn everything around and make me a monster...I may very well be, (hope not though...don't want to be a monster) but all the people I'm around and am myself with don't see me as one. The only time I wear the "mask" is when I'm around them. Can't be emotional, have an opinion or expect acceptence, reassurance, or anything of the sort. I'm very scared to be open with people. With my dad sometimes I was lucky to get one sentance in before getting cut off and TOLD how to feel/react/be and then off to my room. And most of the time his responses didn't even seem to have anything to do with what I was talking about...Argh. It's exhausting. I'm enjoying reading your posts, it's really nice to read things from a person with similar experiences to my a sort of validation. Thanks and good luck to you hun. I look forward to reading more:-)

Anonymous said...

I've read this far in your blog and this last paragraph is really very very well put.

If I may, I have a question I'd like to ask. A lot of what you write is familiar, but my situation is not nearly so extreme. Then again, I moved countries to get away from my mother. Continents, actually.

My question is how to avoid becoming the same, or even just being the same. I recognize myself in this, too, or rather I recognize my mother in me. I don't know how I can be sure I wouldn't be the same with my children if I had any. You seem to have avoided repeating your parents' behavior - how?

I interrupt people. I'm bossy and impatient, and always late. I'm trying to stop as much as possible and noticing a difference, but sometimes it's so hard to notice. It often happens when (I think) I'm feeling secure and I lose my sense of empathy for others, I guess. It seems instinctive, or inbred, or hopefully just habitual. Also I seem to choose friends and lovers that are similar.

I hope it's ok to ask this question here.