Sunday, March 31, 2013

Narcissistic Mothers Gaslight the Scapegoat Child

Gaslighting Definition by Dr. Martha Stout Photo Created by Gail Meyers
Gaslighting Definition by Dr. Martha Stout

© by Gail Meyers
What is gaslighting?  What are the signs to look for?  What steps do you take if you are being gaslighted?  Gaslighting is a little known, but insidious form of abuse.  It is also a favorite of abuser, manipulators and narcissistic personality disordered mothers.

"Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person's reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person." Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect. It is important to note the gaslighting does not have to be severe to have serious psychological consequences.

The term came from this 1944 movie entitled Gaslight. This is an absolute must see for adult sons and daughters of narcissistic personality disordered mothers.  Yes, it is a black and white movie, but I assure you this psychological thriller won't disappoint.  It is an enjoyable movie even if it wasn't so educational for the abuse survivor.

Ingrid Bergman Gaslight
Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight

Gaslight was originally performed on Broadway as Angel Street. The 1944 version was released in the United States after another version was released in the United Kingdom. The 1944 version stars Ingrid Bergman, who won her first Oscar for her performance as Paula.  Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten and a very young Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote), makes her file debut.   Charles Boyer plays her psychopath husband, Gregory Anton. Angela Lansbury plays the role of a conniving maid. While Joseph Cotten is Inspector Cameron.

The movie begins with young Paula's aunt being murdered.  However, the murder did not get away with the jewels he was after. Years later Gregory and Paula meet, fall in love and marry.  Gregory then convinces Paula to move back into the house her aunt was murdered in.  Spoiler alert, unbeknownst to Paula, Gregory is the one who murdered her!

Gregory believes the jewels are in the attic.  While searching for them behind Paula's back, he uses a gaslight.  When he does, it causes all the other gaslights to dim.  When Paula notices the dimming of the lights, he tells her she is imagining things.  This is one example of him gaslighting her.  He moves things, then when she can not find them he gives responses designed to cause her to doubt her sense of reality.  Soon, he gets the maid to join in so that no one validates her perceptions, which are 100% accurate by the way.



I do not want to ruin the movie for you, but the gaslighting continues until Paula is on the brink of losing her mind.  Notice he never raised a hand to her, nor did he even raise his voice.  Yet, she is on the brink of losing her mind.  This tactic is also used in workplace mobbings and cause stalkings.

Signs of Gaslighting

Dr. Stern articulates three stages of gaslighting, including disbelief, defense and depression.  You can see this progression in as Ingrid Bergman's character progresses toward losing her mind.
Here are the signs of gaslighting from Dr. Stern's book, The Gaslight Effect:
  • You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
  • You ask yourself, "Am I too sensitive?" a dozen times a day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy.
  • You're always apologizing to your mother.
  • You can't understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren't happier.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner's [mother's] behavior to friends and family.
  • You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses.
  • You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
  • You have trouble making simple decisions.
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person - more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You feel hopeless and joyless.
  • You feel as though you can't do anything right.
  • You wonder if you are a "good enough" girlfriend, wife, employee, friend. daughter.

 

Real Life Example of Narcissistic Mother's Gaslighting

Gaslighting can be as simple as an unfaithful spouse telling you you're just paranoid when you question him or her.  It can be as simple as narcissistic mother pretending as if the abuse did not happen the night before.  However, it can also be long-term and much more elaborate.

Gaslighting was a favorite abuse tactic of my late narcissist mother and here are some actual, real life examples. For several years right before the holidays my mother started a fight with me, attacking me from out of nowhere.  She then verbally assaulted me, told me to get out of her life and uninvited us to the family holiday gatherings.

This usually happened before Thanksgiving and lasted through Christmas and the new year. Then a couple of months after the holidays were over, I would begin to hear rumors. She had concealed her abuse with a flipped tale, telling that I had verbally assaulted her.  This is more commonly referred to as  playing the victim while vilifying the true victim.

Then we either did not attend the holiday gatherings because I was uninvited, angry or because I had not apologized to her. She would then, and she did this many, many times, stand right in front of me with a straight face and tell me how I had attacked her and owe her an apology.

For the first few years as a young adult she was so convincing that I thought well maybe it is just two different perceptions. However, it did not take me long to start actually writing out exactly what happened in anticipation of her gaslighting, scapegoating and supposedly being owed an apology. I got to the point that when she started an argument from out of nowhere, I would tell her I am not taking the blame. I would actually try to interrupt her script or tell her to stop, but to no avail.

It literally did not matter what I said or did not say, even if I said I had seen this routine before. She would simply carry on with her melodrama regardless of what I said. She would tell me to get out of her life, tell everyone I had done to her what she had actually done to me, and after the holidays act like she deserved an apology. By that time, she had most of the family mad at me because she had told them some ridiculous lie about what happened.

I always thought I was taking the high road and things would work out. It worked out, but not in any way I would have ever imagined. However, I want to warn you when a narcissist does this to a son or daughter over many years, many people just assume it is true because she is your mother.  I witnessed her doing this to both myself and my late brother. A narcissist will destroy relationships in just this manner before you have the slightest idea what is going on.

Another way my mother gaslighted her two scapegoat children was by never admitting the truth. My narcissistic mother continued until the day she died with the martyr routine that she had been treated so poorly by her two (scapegoat) children.  She was playing the victim while vilifying the true victims.

It truly is nothing less than alarming how many people bought it hook, line and sinker. This is also what my pedophile step-father did prior to admitting the truth of the sexual abuse.  The difference is the pedophile actually took responsibility for his abuse before his death, the narcissist never did!

While my narcissistic mother was terminally ill for two years prior to her death, her every action demonstrated her first concern was that her facade remain in place after her death. By their very nature most scapegoats are strong personalities and truth-tellers. It is often their truth telling that gets them in trouble with a narcissist. As a narcissist targets a scapegoat and begins to destroy their reputation and relationships, fewer and fewer people are there to validate their perceptions which are generally 100% accurate.

This happened so gradually, incrementally and consistently to my brother that he did not understand why he was being treated so badly.  He internalized it. She also did this to me, but during those years I had enough contact with extended parts of the family that she did not achieve the same extent of damage.  Oh, she destroyed relationships and reputation in many ways.  It is just that my brother had long since stopped visiting extended family because he was busy with his own family.

 

Physical Gaslighting

If you experience this you can bet you are in a dangerous relationship.  This is a form of what Charles Manson did when they broke into homes.  They would not steal anything, but just moved a few things around to cause distress.  So the person knew someone was in their home, but it was not a burglar because they did not steal anything (which can be even more disturbing).  It is intentional infliction of emotional torment.

For a more on gaslighting, see Gaslighing:  More Than Just Lying.



Updated 11/8/14 - This article was sabotaged the last time this blog was hit.  The bottom half of the article was removed and the first half duplicated.  I returned it to the original.  If you notice anything else, please let me know.  Thank you

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Terminal Illness and Death of a Narcissistic Mother

Funeral Flowers for the Death of a Narcissistic Mother by Gail Meyers
The Death of a Narcissistic Mother

© by Gail Meyers
The  death of a parent can be one of the most stressful and traumatic events in life. It is a often a difficult time no matter what your age or your relationship with the dying parent. If the parent has narcissistic personality  disorder you can find yourself in an even more overwhelming, confusing  and painful situation. Whether you have been no contact or you interact with your narcissistic parent on a daily basis, your emotions, friends, family and even your pastor may tell you to rush to the bedside of this parent.

That is a choice each of us must make for ourselves.  These people may have good intentions, but the average person can not even begin to fathom the situation.  It is common for those around the  narcissistic personality disordered mother's scapegoat to give such advice, which is part of what kept me trapped in a cycle for so many years.

Before  anything else, know that there is support out there. Even if you have felt alone and like no one understands, there are hundreds of people who have experienced a narcissistic personality disordered mother. That validation alone can be surprising, validating and healing.


The Sacred Role of Mother

The sacred belief that the mother is nurturer, defender and greatest ally to her children is deeply ingrained in most of us. It is so contrary to nature and society for a mother to behave in any other way toward her children that many simply assume these qualities in a mother.  Just as this idea has likely worked against you long and hard, it only escalates when a mother with narcissistic personality disorder becomes terminally ill.

Sacred Role of Mother Quote by Gail Meyers
The Sacred Role of Mother

The average person can not begin to grasp the idea that a mother is intentionally destroying her own child, especially if she masquerades as a "selfless saint." They have never witnessed just how fast the angel mask comes off or even dream of what is truly under the mask. A narcissist personality disordered mother uses this sacred belief of mother to her full advantage.

Narcissistic Mother's Manipulation

Just like the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz sent her flying monkeys after Dorothy, the narcissistic personality disordered mother will send her flying monkeys after you.  Expect nothing less during a terminal illness of a narcissistic mother than for her to continue to use them to manipulate and punish. If anything, and as pathetic as it may sound, my mother used the highly  charged emotions of the dying process in several ways.

Highly emotionally charged people are much more easily manipulated, so the flying monkeys may be in rare form. If  anything, the manipulation with guilt and pity greatly increase during the stress of terminal illness and death.  Narcissists are extremely jealous people, but they believe others are  jealous of them. The jealousy can also increase during this time because now in addition to whatever else she was jealous about, she is now jealous of others being healthy.

Whatever trauma, suffering or pain she has caused you or anyone else for decades is irrelevant. The whole world now needs to stop, take note and offer admiration, time, money,  etc., for the narcissistic mother who is now suffering. Keep in mind that to the narcissist, this is their final grand performance. She became  more brazen and more abusive when terminally ill.

This is  counter-intuitive to what normal, healthy human beings would do or contemplate another human being doing during this time. However, I literally saw  my mother instantaneously change characters several times depending on who just walked in or out of the room. So be warned if you are the scapegoat.

Narcissistic Mother Hallmarks:  No Remorse, No Empathy, No Regrets

It is my opinion my narcissistic mother was a dangerous  person. That is true even with her facade of the  "sweet little old lady down the street." In my experience a narcissistic  personality disordered person is only bound by what they believe they can get away with, so terminal illness may actually bring out more aggression.

A narcissistic personality disordered parent lacks  empathy. So while you as the grown child may be filled with empathy for  this dying parent, realize that human qualities such as empathy, compassion and remorse do not suddenly materialize during the dying process or upon the deathbed. If this changed at all on the deathbed, she only became more  dangerous. So do not expect any genuine remorse, empathy or compassion to suddenly materialize.

The Entitlement of a Narcissistic Mother Knows No Bounds

Just like in life, the entitlement of a terminally ill narcissistic  personality disordered mother knows no bounds. During the nearly two  year terminal illness her grown children and their families were to  support her financially, as well as to provide 24/7 care. If it was not provided, the grown child was accused of not loving their mother. If one of the scapegoat children's families needed to go without utilities in order to support their mother, so be it. If a grown child had young children or a full time job, their 8 hour daily shift of personal care was still demanded.  Only one of the two grown scapegoat children questioned this as being unreasonable - me.

It resulted in the grown children fighting amongst  themselves under the strain, rather than stand up to the narcissist who  flat refused to allow the assistance of hospice. It resulted in a mobbing, dog pile style, on the vocal scapegoat child (me) by the other grown children and their  spouses. How dare anyone question the absurdity of the self proclaimed  "selfless saint" mother flat refusing to allow for the assistance of  hospice and demanding 24/7 care from her grown children for two years!

So, literally, if you are getting ready to drop dead from a lifetime of the narcissistic mother's abuse and trying to meet her unreasonable demands, do not think there will be the slightest consideration for you. The same goes for finances. If you need to lose your house in order to buy a dying narcissistic mother's medication,  then that is what will be expected.

If the whole family raised by the narcissistic personality disordered mother remains in denial or have  not sought recovery, they remain toxic and well trained. There is no consideration here except the narcissist's demands, even if it kills everyone else, especially the scapegoats, in  the process, that is truly of no concern.

The Narcissist's Lies, Gossip, Slander and Flipped Tales

A narcissist's weapon of choice is often verbal - slander, lies, playing the victim in flipped tales of who was the victim and who was the abuser,  gossip, rage, verbal abuse and intentional infliction of emotional pain. It is a systematic dismantling of another person's relationships,  reputation, emotional, physical and spiritual health, life and very soul. This is why narcissists are so often called "emotional  vampires."

I would caution someone not to underestimate the cumulative results of this kind of behavior. Again, in my experience the narcissist became even more aggressive during terminal  illness. The slander and lies may actually escalate as an effort in the narcissist's mind to ensure that the flying monkeys will never listen to or believe the true victim or scapegoat even after the narcissist's death.

If for some unfathomable reason you want to get in a narcissist's head, all you have to do is listen to their accusations. A narcissist is constantly projecting their negative character traits onto others. Did  you just catch the narcissist in a lie? You're about to be called a  liar. They love to strip the real victim of their virtue and themselves of their abuse with projection and twisted stories. Whatever qualities you value in yourself are likely targets. You pride yourself on being honest or  generous? They will rip you off, then accuse you of being a lying thief.



I  honestly do not believe a narcissistic personality disordered mother is capable of love.  A true narcissist parent sees others, including their own children, as objects based on their usefulness. There may be the appearance of love, but if you look closely, someone such as the golden child, is adored not loved, for their usefulness to the narcissist's all important image. If you think you love a narcissist, you more than likely love a person who never existed, a facade.

If  the narcissist mother does not love you, you have likely been accused many times of not loving your mother. This is projection as well as a way for narcissistic mom to manipulate the children. So, if you dare not meet the unrealistic and unreasonable demands, this only serves as "proof" of your lack of love.  Failing to meet ridiculous demands or even questioning a narcissistic mother is a punishable offense.

If the NPD mother is bed ridden, the flying monkeys will be employed to inflict your punishment. How dare  you not drop dead from exhaustion or lose your house to take care of  your "selfless saint" mother! Of course, even if you do lose your house and collapse from exhaustion, you will still be accused of not loving the narcissist mother. Just realize it is projection.

The Aggressive Terminally Ill Narcissistic Mother

I sincerely believe and experience has demonstrated to me that a  narcissist high on the spectrum can kill as surely as if they shot someone. My narcissist mother nearly took both of her scapegoat children down to the grave with her, so I am not kidding.  All the while she had everyone fooled into thinking we were treating her so poorly!  So in my opinion, this situation is especially dangerous if you do not realize your mother has narcissistic  personality disorder and you continue to attribute human qualities to  her while expecting some hint of normal human responses. In my experience, the predatory nature of a narcissist mother continued and escalated on the deathbed.

The distinct difference with the narcissist is if someone shoots you, you have an obvious wound, a weapon and an  investigation. You can say the person shot you and here is the bullet wound to prove it. A wrong was clearly done to you by an act of  aggression from another person.  However, the narcissist mother's maneuvers are notoriously deniable.

Even if a narcissist did shoot  someone, it would not be her fault according to her.  She will play the victim and vilify the true victim.  Here is  an example of the more overt aggression. During a visit one of her flying monkeys enablers walked out of the room. She then immediately began to viciously verbally assault me thinking there were no witnesses, as was her routine many times. She was so drugged up that she did not realize when the flying monkey returned.

In hindsight, it was  truly nearly comical how quickly my narcissist mother transformed back into a sweet talking angel upon realizing the narcissistic flying  monkey daughter had walked back in.  Anyone who believes a pathological  narcissist does not know what they are doing has obviously never witnessed the literally instantaneous transformation from raging  monster to sweet talking angel upon the unexpected arrival of a flying  monkey.

Narcissistic Mothers Know What They Are Doing Quote by Gail Meyers
Narcissists Know Exactly What They Are Doing

Being a well trained flying monkey, this sibling's eyes got as big as saucers when she heard what the narcissist was saying to me. She then quietly turned around and walked out of the room. I have little doubt she would deny it ever happening to this day.

The deceitful maneuvers are rarely so obvious while they are occurring. Especially in the beginning  you may have to literally stand back from a situation and analyze exactly what happened. Narcissists are charming, convincing,  cunning actors since they have spent their entire lives pretending and  their greatest fear is being exposed.

Once you learn about the disorder,  if you are able to fully grasp the idea that there are not only people  like this walking around on this planet, but one of them is your parent, it is easier to see reality.  Initially, while learning about the depth of the disorder, I thought about it as what  an evil, self centered six year-old would do. You will  soon discover it is much more sinister than that, but that is a good starting point if you are just discovering this disorder.

Underestimating a Narcissistic Personality Disordered Mother

I have often read the biggest mistake people make dealing with a clinical narcissist is to UNDERESTIMATE  just how evil they truly are. I thought perhaps it was an exaggeration to receive such a strong warning, but 25 years later I can honestly say the therapist was not exaggerating.

Remember that when even a well  meaning flying monkey starts telling you how harsh you are for protecting yourself and your children from your narcissistic mother. It is not harsh. You should protect yourself and your children from a narcissist just like you would any other predator. The  wolf in sheep's clothing may fool some, but it does not make the wolf any less of a wolf.

See a flying monkey for what they usually are.  Flying monkeys are often willfully blind, weak in the sense that they lack the backbone to stand up to the narcissist, are easily deceived and  manipulated and/or are narcissists themselves. Whatever the reason, the  flying monkey has also taken it upon themselves to put their nose where it does not belong - in your personal business. It is always amazing  how a flying monkey seems to believe everything is their business, but if you attempted to do the same to them they would cut you off in a heartbeat.

Instead of wasting anymore time, energy and frustration, politely cut them off. Something along the lines of, "You  may be right, but I have decided to go no contact. That is my decision  and I would like for you to respect that decision." You know they are not right and I am not suggesting you lie. What I am suggesting is a  self-respecting, gracious exit out of the conversation.

Those who are  truly seeking the truth of a matter inquire. They ask questions instead of making judgments. They listen to both sides. People who truly care about you, respect your feelings and point of view. If the flying monkey is not doing any of those things their motives are not pure or they are  intruding in your personal life. A flying monkey who believes you have to agree with them about everyone and everything in order to have a relationship needs to grow up or see a therapist.

Conclusion

If you decide to visit your narcissistic personality disordered mother be very careful. Narcissistic personality disordered mothers die the same way they lived. The human race may empathize, forgive and feel remorse, but a narcissist mother does not. Healthy  introspection can be difficult for any of us, but I would say it is next  to impossible for a narcissistic personality disordered mother. So even if she wanted to change, and I have never  seen or heard of one who truly did, many believe they are incapable of the introspection the healing process requires.

While the late Dr. M. Scott Peck, a practicing psychiatrist for more than 30 years, was best known for his book The Road Less Traveled, he later wrote People of the Lie in the early 1980's. Based on my experience, I believe the late Dr. M. Scott Peck was on the right path with People of the Lie.  He documents his belief that malignant narcissism is more than just a  personality disorder, it is evil personified. You can go down the list  of the evil attributes and they line up with a pathological or malignant narcissist's  behavior right down to the parading as "an angel of light."  A narcissistic  personality disordered, evil person will destroy you and move on to the next target without so much as a second thought.
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*This article was originally published on September 18, 2012 prior to being moved to this blog.