When the parents in a family have NPD, the family unit tends to function like a sort of ‘mini-cult’.
Remember that the main (but by no means only…) ‘issue’ for people with NPD is maintaining an external appearance of complete perfection. That means they can’t acknowledge any mistakes, bad behavior, bad character traits or anything else that will mar the appearance of perfection to the outside world.
Of course, narcissists are probably some of the most poisonous, toxic people to be around, particularly for their kids, as they’re full of anger, spite, vengeance, soul-destroying put downs, hatred and other types of emotionally abusive behavior.
For as long as you’re towing the narcissist’s line and not challenging them, the true extent of their mental illness isn’t obvious. It’s only when you start to challenge the picture of perfection that they’re painting for you (and everyone else) that the narcissist’s mask really comes off, and you get to see the scary monster lurking underneath.
Because narcissists can never admit to anyone, especially themselves, that their poisonous behavior and attitudes to others are the cause of so many of the difficulties occurring in their relationships, they fall back on two things to shore up their appearance of perfection:
- They lie brazenly about what’s really going on and why.
- They find a convenient scapegoat to pin all the problems on.
It’s hard to appreciate just how big the lies get when you start challenging the narcissist’s false picture of perfection, if you haven’t experienced it yourself. Here’s a few examples to give you a flavor:
They’ll send you an email telling you that you’re nothing but a parasite, an evil person, and mentally ill - all the while claiming they have no idea ‘where all the hatred is coming from’ or why you want them to apologise for their awful treatment of you, because they’ve never done anything horrible to you, or said anything bad to you.
And yes, you’ll get both of these statements sandwiched together in the same email.
You get accused of all the terrible things they’re doing. So they’ll cut a child out of their will for daring to suggest they aren’t perfect, and in the same breath lecture that child that they still have so much to learn about unselfish giving that doesn’t expect anything in return.
And if the child reacts in any way other than being grateful for the narcissist’s timeless advice, they’ll be accused of being ‘mentally-ill’ and told to GET HELP!!! for failing to appreciate how AMAZING, kind and loving their parent really is.
Anything you say (or email) that doesn’t fit in with the narcissist’s view of themselves as perfect and infallible will be routinely characterized as ‘horrendous’, ‘disgusting’, ‘disgraceful’, ‘hateful’ - even if it contains nothing more offensive than asking for an apology for the hurt caused by the narcissist’s behavior, or pointing out the inconsistencies in what they’re saying.
Anything they say (or email) is always perfect, full stop. And this is true even if they’re saying the most soul-eviscerating criticisms, lies and insults.
If you try to point any of this rank hypocrisy out to them, you will be blamed for [whatever it is the narcissist is actually doing themselves]. I.e.: ‘destroying the family’, ‘acting like Jekyll and Hyde’, ‘emotionally-blackmailing’, ‘being completely unbalanced’, ‘causing nothing but pain and shame to the family’, etc etc.
Again, it’s hard to do this topic real justice in a few lines. Those unfortunate people who have experienced the deceit, warped logic and ‘projected blame’ that comes with narcissists know only too well what I’m talking about. And those that haven’t (or haven’t acknowledged what’s really going on with these people) are probably scratching their heads and pondering how on earth people could lie in such a blatant, brazen way and expect to get away with it.
But they can, they do, and that’s a big part of a narcissist’s mentally-ill behavior.
Which brings me on to the next subject: because you can’t get a narcissist to admit any ‘truth’, however obvious, that doesn’t accord with their self-image of being perfect, sooner or later you have to make a choice with enormous ramifications for your relationship with the narcissist:
- Choice 1: Acknowledge the objective truth and continue to be true to yourself and your experience of the narcissist as a flawed, and frequently very difficult and hurtful character in your life.
- Choice 2: Disconnect from your own feelings, thoughts, experiences and ability to protect yourself and from standing up for yourself by entering the narcissist’s fantasy world where everything they do is perfect and you are the cause of all the problems and issues in the relationship.
So why do people continue to go with Choice 2, even when it causes them to disconnect from their souls and their own true selves? To put it very simply, when you are being raised by narcissists - the effective ‘cult leaders’ - you can’t go against them. If you try, you will be mercilessly tormented and punished until you fall back into line, and go back to believing that the narcissist parent is only ever completely perfect, and you are the one causing all the problems.
So Choice 2 is the ‘default’ option that nearly every child of a narcissist parent has to struggle very hard to escape from.
Children of narcissists undergo a sort of self-induced ‘brain-washing’ process where they literally jettison their own subjective sense of self, and disconnect from what they really feel and what they really know in order to ‘fit’ into the fantasy world created by the narcissist parent. It’s almost impossible for a child to go against their narcissist parent, as the parent is the one defining reality for that child.
Which is how you end up with a whole family of individuals, children and grandchildren, who are effectively part of a brainwashed cult that the narcissist has built up around them, with a central belief that ‘the narcissist is perfect, and can do no wrong.’
We’ll continue this discussion in the next post, where we look at the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ that occurs amongst the children of narcissists.