This is the second post in a four-part series by One Angry Daughter, who shares her experience and resources for Adult Children of Narcissists on her blog, One Angry Daughter
After I was done explaining the situation with my family and my mom in particular, the therapist declared that “less is more with your family.” I was not expecting this. I had entered therapy with the hopes of fixing a problem so that I could be closer with my birth family. The therapist told me that my mother sounded like she had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She sent me home with a title of a book and a reminder card for our next appointment.
(The book was "Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers" written by Karyl McBride.)
It is hard to explain the myriad of emotions I felt as I started to learn what NPD was. On one hand, I was hopeful. Naively, I assumed if there was a disorder, then there must be a cure. Later on, I felt empowered because I learned that I was the one who could heal and improve my life. I also felt validated when I learned that I wasn’t intrinsically flawed, but was dealing with a dysfunctional family dynamic. I was also frightened at how “textbook” we were in our roles – a narcissistic mother, an effacing father, a self sabotaging sibling and an over achieving sibling. All of us trained to walk on eggshells around my mother in an attempt not to set off a fit of rage. All of us believing that our value was determined by what we did rather than who we are.
Up until this point, when I thought of someone who was narcissistic, I thought of someone with a huge know-it-all ego or someone who liked to stare at themselves in the mirror. In my reading, I learned that a person with NPD is someone with severely damaged self esteem. Many people with NPD had traumatizing childhoods that may have included physical and emotional abuse. A narcissistic mother is very likely to be a daughter of a narcissist herself – as the abuse is passed down through the generations.
A person with NPD builds what is called a false sense of self. It is a fragile façade that is used to mask the damaged true self they want to hide. In order to keep up the façade, narcissists are very controlling of the people around them, insisting that they live up to a set of standards or morality as defined by them. In order to enforce their moral code, narcissists use various weapons that are fueled by people’s emotions, commonly using FOG to maintain control.
FOG refers to:
Narcissists view those closest to them (such as a spouse, friend, but particularly their children) as an extension of themselves. This perception is much like the way a person views an arm or leg as an appendage of their body. Imagine how maddening it would be if one of your arms suddenly developed a mind of its own and you could not control it. This is what I imagine it must be like for a person with NPD not being able to control the people they view as extensions. They will go through great lengths to regain a sense of control and maintain their false reality.
As far as a cure for NPD, an easy remedy does not exist. The negative aspects of personality disorders can be countered with therapy or even medication. The crux of it is, the NPD person must be willing to expose the damaged sense of self he or she has been working at trying to hide in order to heal.
As such, most people with NPD will not seek out help and rather project blame on those closest to them. One of the hardest parts about realizing someone has NPD is letting go of what ever fantasy happy ending you may have and being willing to accept a different, healthier reality.