Thursday, April 14, 2011

Destructive Inner Voices

In my previous post, I wrote about how I've finally been able to let go....no longer obsessing over my n-dad...no longer controlled by guilt or by him.

However, I'm not "cured" or healed.

The legacy of his narcissistic parenting lives on. This came as a revelation yesterday. I'd failed to make a connection - once again! - to a current problem and the past.

Now that I'm job hunting, after staying home to raise my family and manage the affairs of my father, I'm in crisis. I've wasted a lot of time attempting an ill-conceived mid-career transition...too ready to abandon the skills and experience I acquired in my previous career...one I enjoyed. I lack focus, clarity and confidence.

When I see a job I'd like, I think "Oh, they won't want me," even if the job is a more junior position than the one I held before. It seems as if I'm unable to look critically at a position and ask myself, "Do you really want it? Is it a good fit for you?" My husband says I undervalue my experience. To an astonishing degree. An old co-worker wondered why I wasn't playing up certain successes and had to remind me of my contributions to the company.

This isn't anything new. I've always undervalued myself in the workplace.

Why? Why do I do this? I'm pretty sure I have my n-father to thank. Whenever I accomplished anything...in life, at school, at work...and I made the mistake of telling him about it, he'd say, "Who do you think you are?" and warn me about getting too big for my britches. Any success on my part was met with derision. If I disagreed with him, for example, about politics and cited something I'd learned in class, he'd say, "You think you know everything just because you're going to college. Well, you're a nobody and don't you forget it."

Who could forget that message?

Obviously, that one sunk as deep and fast as an alien probe and is reactivated every time confidence is called for!

The revelation? Letting go is not the same, unfortunately, as overcoming the psychological fallout of the narcissistic parent.

33 comments:

Pronoia Agape said...

I can completely relate!

I also sometimes hear my father's voice in my head, telling me horrible things about myself. But I've learned to tell him to shut up. It actually works.

I'm glad you're back. Your blog, the earlier entries, helped me so much when I was just beginning to realize my father has NPD.

Anonymous said...

Dear P.A.

It's probably more helpful to be as conscious of that voice in your head...as you are...because then you know what it is and can attempt to silence it! Tricker when one has moved on to the degree that one stops making connections b/t tendencies/behaviors to how we were raised!

I'm so glad to learn the earlier entries were helpful...as you came to your dismaying realization!

Nina said...

Dear P.A.

It's probably more helpful to be as conscious of that voice in your head...as you are...because then you know what it is and can attempt to silence it! Tricker when one has moved on to the degree that one stops making connections b/t tendencies/behaviors to how we were raised!

I'm so glad to learn the earlier entries were helpful...as you came to your dismaying realization!

PWC said...

I call it the mini-Narcissist in your head. I imagine the voice as a big, fat, soft-shelled tick and then stomp on it. Yep, I do that. It's very fun.

enilina said...

I immediately thought of this quote when I read your entry, "I had to lose so my parents could win." The way your so-called father knocked you down whenever you accomplished something positive. It still boggles my mind that these people want their children to fail.

You are completely correct that it is best to be conscious of the n-voice in the head and tell it to take a hike. In one particular bad night when I could hear my mother's voice loud and clear in my head, I prayed to God to cut the hate out of my heart, yes, confessed I hated her and please take it away from her. And it worked and I was calm enough to deal with the cop that stopped me on a traffic violation that was totally my fault.

Anyway, it's good to see you blogging again!

Nina said...

ENILINA!

That's some quote!

I wonder which part of your prayer worked for you? Did the (pasnful) admission that you hated your mother move you into a calmer space or the plea to remove your mother's voice from your head...maybe both together.

I'm pretty convinced that admitting we don't like/love our parents...that we may even hate them...is key to rising above the affliction of nparents.

Is that YOU on your blog? I need to spend more time later seeing if you explained your decision to post one!

Robyn said...
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Robyn said...

Wow I can't tell you how much I can relate to this. Even with my growing awareness of the dysfunction I grew up with, I still hear that "Who do you think you are? You aren't that special." Even now I have difficulty deciding if I am qualified for a job or not. Or if someone praises me being able to accept it or if someone criticizes me being able to determine if it was merited or not. But oh yes who do I think I am, who indeed?

Someone linked to this blog from Slate's Dear Prudence column and I'm glad I came over and will be looking back through the archives. Glad to find others dealing with similar issues.

Robyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon W said...

Thank you for this blog...it will really help in dealing with my MIL who we believe is a narcissist.

I also wanted to add another book to your list of recommendations.
The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family

A good friend of mine recommended it to me, since she has the same issues with her mom.

Jen said...

I have been following your blog since last year or so, and it's been a comfort zone for me to see how I'm not the only person in the world with toxic narcissistic parents. My parents often want me to do well in school and whatnot, but when I do well in an area they are not fond of they see me as a failure - they see it as absolutely nothing special. This goes to what you said your father had said: ""You think you know everything just because you're going to college. Well, you're a nobody and don't you forget it." " I can definitely relate to that - it's ridiculous. My parents have called me a show-off for sharing my knowledge with them. *sighs* Then they argue that I am all wrong. If I was all wrong then why the hell am I going to school then?

enilina said...

I believe you're right, it's both. I haven't thought too deeply about confession versus prayer because it was a huge wild step to actually acknowledge my hatred and go against my very being NOT to pour my love and soul into empty vessels and passively expect nothing in return at best, spite and abuse at worse. But the old cliche is true, the truth sets you free. It's ugly and heartbreaking, but you are no longer a slave to the idea of a father or a mother because it was never there in the first place.

I'll have to think more about the effects of confessing and praying.

Yup, that me sitting in Captain Picard's chair.

Nina said...

Enilina,

Sometimes, people don't look at all like I imagined...because their appearance is at odds with the tone in which they express themselves. I've always thought you had such a lovely, gentle way with words...and your picture matched!!!

elizabeth said...

Nina (and commenters): I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. For 27 years I have known that my relationship with my father has affected me... just knowing that there is a name for it and others who have gone through similar experiences is like having a huge shadow lifted. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am sharing this blog with my siblings, as well.

enilina said...

Aw thank you Nina!

I'm so glad you're posting on your blog again. I hope your family is doing well, I remember you were helping your daughter through some rough patches in her life.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this blog. I can finally understand my father, or at least understand there's a word for it, and it's "narcissistic."
Try this one on. When I casually mentioned to my dad that the insurance company had paid over $60,000 on my surgery he said. "You're not worth that much."

Sherry said...

I am 56. My father passed away 2 years ago. I thought it would end. It didn't. His voice is still in my head reminding me what a disappointment I was. And I still feel guilt because I am the quintessional anti-narcissst. Never smart enough, or pretty enough, or successful enough. I am trying to learn that if I can't get rid of those person demons, at least maybe I can placate them into silence. I loved my father. But I am ashamed to say I do not miss him. God bless you for this forum. P.S. I am the former poster "Anonymous".

Anonymous said...

I dont want to tell the voice to shut up, and then it comes back. I am so tired of dealing with it all the time. I just want it to go away..

Anonymous said...

My father always told me that the best college for art was Saint Martins, that you had to be truly talented to get in...that's the shows he went to to find his employees at his fashion firm etc. Of course, I had to apply after years of this build up. The moment I got him and showed him the acceptence letter he said ' it's gone downhill' . He never came to my degree show.

Kristy said...

Hi Nina, what do you mean by n-dad, what does the n- represent? Sorry for such a dumb question, but I have only just found your blog. Thanks for your blog, i have finally found something I can relate to.

ed said...

Oh God, yes.... I am 39 years old. It took me 20 years of trying to beat the "inner voices". Finally I went into "hermit mode" retiring from society to build a small house in the middle of nowhere. I always knew there was something terribly wrong, but always used other people's beliefs in parents and family, to whip myself, that I am selfish and should try harder with my family. It takes seeing other people interact with their kids, to realise how fucked up these people who brought me up were. I realise that I don't owe them a damn thing, finally. I shall be happy to see both of them in their boxes. 20 wasted years to recover from it....Thx for the blog.

Anonymous said...

This is a very late comment, but recent events have led me to discover (or even re-discover) the issues in my family dynamic. I have a narcissistic parent and a mediator parent. So for now, as I heal, I still hear these voices that tell me things like I'm useless, but I've slowly learned how to tell the narcissistic parent to "Fine, go ahead and tell me these things, but let me cry about it, because I feel miserable and I CRY when I feel miserable." It helps when you have a mediator for a parent as well, but living with a narcissistic parent on top of that can be tough for all family members involved.

One of the heads up I need to give to any readers: DON'T try to reason with a narcissistic person. It only makes the situation worse, because they're pretty determined to convert you to their own worldview. There is no winning an argument here.

Laadeedaa said...

I'm new to blogging and to you, Nina. Thanks for this! Both of my parents are Ns. My mother is 86. I cried at my father's deathbed in 08, not because I was sad he'd died (he had cancer and pain) but because he was cold to me and wonderful to everyone else right up to the end, even as I tended him. I tried breaking with them countless times but got guilted into ignoring my inner voice and came back. Now I do this.1. got her finances in order 2. only speak with her using a speaker phone, with my husband present. 3. enlisted other relatives to give her attention. My spouse is my third incidentally: the other 2 were extensions of my Please Others symdrome. I guess its a sign of health that I got out of there twice and consciouslly attracted a healthy relationship. She can't make herself look bad in front of my husband. She doesn't fool him, which is new. Nor can she charm him which is REALLY new. She is an entertainer and has always dazzled people. He, in turn, has become a Sympathetic Observer; validating my view that she is nasty and unbalanced. Another first !Simple but healing for this only child. I want to keep reading comments here and see how others are healing and moving on.The good news seems to be that I am now starting to find ways to sideline the tendency to go back to giving her attention at my own expense and to also celebrate myself. Emotional vampire, be gone ! Some days I'm faking it like crazy but then it takes hold. My life mission is to make ME happy now. "Mamie" (I won't use her real name - too validating for her) isn't happy unless I am not. Then she's unhappy because thats what is inside her anyway. My best path so far is to keep on doing supportive things for myself whether my heart is in them or not. I have to believe that if I do this it will feel more natural and it does.. slowly

Anonymous said...

Just had a huge argument with my dad and he used that line on me. "You think you can smart-talk here but out there, you do nothing. Let's see if you can be big, I can be big if I went to school like you."

It's been extremely disappointing to find out my father has narcissistic personality disorder.

Anonymous said...

Anon April 2

Are you sure? Have you read much about npd?
Of course you know him best, and it certainly was a nasty narc. style thing to say.

If he is, try to protect yourself by not feeling disappointed anymore. You can learn how to "head him off at the pass" the next time he comes gunning for you! Fore warned is fore armed.

If he's perhaps bitter and angry 'cos you've got youth and he's got mid-life crisis, you have a chance of a relationship with him - if thats what you want!!(you did say extremely disappointing, which leads me to think you hope he doesn't have npd)

Anyhow, he obviously behaved badly and hurt you.

Hope you find peace.

mfp said...

I'm almost 39 and still struggle with the, "inner voice" of my n-dad. My self esteem was basically at zero by the time I left for college, it has taken almost 20 yrs for me to build my self esteem up, but it is still very low. I recently took an online self esteem quiz out of curiosity and I scored way below average, like the lower 10% of results. What I hate is that I know that my dad is wrong, I'm not a worthless and horrible person, like he has always made me out to be, but unless I psych myself up, I always fall back into that same mode of thinking, that I am worthless, that I don't deserve anything good.

I am happily married to a great husband and have three healthy boys. I am thankful for what I have, but always very nervous that it is too good to be true. That something bad will end up happening to take it away. The dysfunction that I was brought up with continues to haunt me. My father poisoned my mind into thinking that I was not worthy of good things, that I was honestly shocked when my husband and I started dating, that he would want to date someone like me. Someone who according to my father was so awful, stupid, lazy, fat (and no, I was not even fat, he has been calling me, "the fat one" since I was close to jr high aged), and evil (yes, he has called me "evil minded" many times whenever I dare to disagree with him or stand up to him), nobody would want me. I struggle so much to try to boost myself out of this negative loop of thinking. For the most part, I am able to talk myself out of it when I fall into a slump, BUT I resent that I cannot seem to kick this type of thinking all together and that I waste so much time and energy counseling myself through this in my own mind. It has had a negative effect in my life. I never feel like I am good enough and if ppl compliment me or are nice to me, instead of accepting it for what it is, I always wonder if they just said what they said, because they pity me or even that they are just being sarcastic. I never received anything but criticism from my parents, so I have such a hard time handling positive comments from other ppl. It is such a weird problem to have, I see some ppl whose egos are so big, they brag about everything. I am the opposite, I should brag a little bit, but I have a very hard time with it and claiming achievements that I have accomplished. In a way, this has really affected my ability to make close friends (other than my husband, I have never had a female best friend before, like the ones that everyone else has), since I'm constantly second guessing myself and I am afraid that I will bug the other person if I call or visit them too often and then they will drop me as a friend.

Amy Adam said...

Melanie is a relationship expert on narcissistic tendencies, relationship addiction, self empowerment coach, healer, author, radio host - Australia, UK, USA, global.

Anonymous said...

Sooo familiar. It took me such a long time to stop hitting my head against the brick wall of my father's ego. In the end I learned to keep my achievements to myself. I'm a writer and when I didn't show him my work he would beg to se it and then...that curled lip, the shrug, the mm...well response that often made me screw up the piece and throw it away, forever tained by his poison. I remember the look on his face when I let slip that I earned considerably more than he every had. He was absolutely outraged. Me, the nobody, the failure, how could it be?

Anonymous said...

Nina!!! I have been looking for some way to contact you ever since reading your other blog, but couldn't find anything. I just happened upon this site today and am so glad. I'm adopted, and also had extremely narcissistic adoptive parents. Anyway, I'm going to catch up reading your blogs, and will post a response afterward. Glad you are still blogging!! Mary

Anonymous said...

I had tears in my eyes reading your story... I also had narcs parents (I know what hell looks like cause I've been there), and being the escape goat of the family, I couldn't help but to cry reading your story, was like reading my own...
I also devalue myself professionally... I gave up on a dream job because all the pressure to perform in a perfect manner made me feel so scared that I gave up on the job, even having my boss almost begging on her knees for me to stay. I have no confidence in doing anything out of my comfort zone when it comes to work, it just terrifies me! My mother did to me the same your father did to you, the "who do you think you are" thing... I have NO relationship with them anymore. I even moved to another country, couldn't stand being where I was born, I'm trying to forget all that crap. I don't speak to my mother for 14 years now. I called my father 4 years ago but don't feel like speaking to him ever again. What for? I wish I could afford therapy, I'm in great need of some, I need to heal but with no professional help becomes quite complicated... Shitty life, shitty world!

Anonymous said...

"Complicated...shitty life, shitty world". I feel your pain and the pain of everyone here. You sound really depressed, and I get it. But you need to talk with someone soon. I know this, because I feel like you. I'm in the same place. I don't know who to turn to, but I know I need help. I want you to post again please. I'm listening. ~B.

Anonymous said...

I will never forget the day I walked into my mother's house having just been to Chapters. She had a bunch of her knitting friends over and asked what was in the bag... When I pulled out Jane Eyre she said "What are you doing with that? That's a smart people book." They all laughed and laughed. I felt mortified and completely devalued. Those words still ring clear as day - this was about 3 years ago, just after I had enrolled in Nursing school at the age of 26... I dropped out of high school at 14 so I was quite proud of myself for applying and being accepted after a twelve year educational hiatus. As usual, she found a way to devalue my excitement and success... Sigh... and it continues.

Anonymous said...

So many of these comments ring true. The utter absence of self esteem by the time I had left that hellish nest. Fear of failing, paralysing anxiety when presented with opportunities (name one: education, career, relationships, travel, etc.) not feeling worthy or competent for any of them! A sense of personal worth completely at odds with what other people, outside my family thought about me. A mother who would glare at me, and really wanted me to fail just so she could be right! And who was determined to imagine the absolute worst of me, despite ALL evidence to the contrary. She wanted a bad kid! It was frustrating and painful for her that I was a good student, popular and well liked by other adults. It's like she wanted to hex my life. And I think she did. That was her intent! What ARE these people? I mean really. Anyway, I'm more interested in repairing the damage than figuring that out, at this point. Sadly, I had to learn to give as good as I got, so far as my mother was concerned. Whatever love I might have felt for her, just as a human being for their mother, wasn't sustainable. People like this hate live, I'm convinced of it. They hate being lived, because it is humiliating for them to experience the goodness of another person. And so they do everything in their power to destroy it, and often succeed. My mother didn't destroy my good, but certainly my innocence and my trust. And I had to grow into a scary enough person, so far as she was concerned, to get her to back off and leave me alone. I experienced my childhood as a kind of torture. A kind of hell, truly.