Monday, April 20, 2015

The Children of Narcissists Movement

Is blaming all your problems on "Narcissistic" Parents or Family members constructive?  No.

As I have noted again and again, obsessing about your relationship with your parents and your childhood family is a sure way to fritter away your emotional energy in no time.   Yet, it seems to be something hard-wired into your brain, to obsess about your upbringing, I guess.

I live here on Retirement Island, and I see people in their 80's still angry about how their Mom or Dad treated them - long after they are dead.   Worse yet, thanks to greater life expectancies, I see people in their 70's who are still struggling to deal with their live parents, when they should be enjoying retirement themselves.

As I have noted before, the best thing you can do is move on, start your own life, your own family, and stop trying to "figure out" your childhood.   It's just a bunch of shit that happened, get over it.

And as for your parents, they are just human beings, who had no idea what they were doing.  Get over it, forgive them for their weaknesses, and move on.  You are not guaranteed or owed a perfect childhood.  No one is.

But there is a group out there who are not only not interested in getting over it, but instead would rather dedicate the rest of their lives to obsessing about their parents and how rotten their parents were to them.  It is a pointless game.

They have a subreddit on RedditThey have blog sites like this oneThey have websites, discussion groups, support groups, books you can buy, and so forth.  You can now identify yourself as a victim of narcissistic parents!   You're no longer just some fuck-up, but there is a name and a label for your misfortune.

Might as well sign up for Fibromyalgia Anonymous, and go the whole "victim" route....

They also communicate in a creepy two-letter code in all of their postings.  If you don't know what the code means, you're out of the loop!   
ACoN = Adult Child of Narcissist(s)
DAE = Does/Did Anyone Else
DoNF = Daughter of Narcissistic Father
Edad/Emom = enabler dad/enabler mom
FLEAS (not an actual acronym) - what are FLEAS?
FOC = Family of Choice
FOO = Family of Origin
GC = Golden Child
LC = Low Contact
FM = Flying Monkey
JADE = Justify, Argue, Defend and/or Explain
N or Narc= Narcissist/Narcissistic
NC = No Contact
NMiL = Narcissistic Mother-In-Law
SC = Structured Contact
SG = Scapegoat
SoNM = Son of Narcissistic Mother
This sort of adds to the cache and appeal of these sorts of "insider" groups.   What these folks really need, is passive-aggressive anonymous!  Frankly, these "code words" sound like a lot of Scientology crap.   Bullshit made-up para-psychology for amateur analysts.

What is wrong with this sort of thing?

Well, to begin with, it is amateur diagnosis of mental illness.  And the standards of diagnosis are so vague and generalized that anyone can say that their parents were narcissists.  It is trendy, it is popular, it is topical, it is evil.

In Psychology class, one of the tricks the professor played on us was to have us fill out a "Personality Profile" form, which he said he would review and next week, provide us with a detailed, individualized personality analysis.  The next week, he provided these, in individual envelopes for each person.  Everyone read theirs and nodded their heads.  He really was spot on!

I was the first to say, "Wait a minute, this stuff is so generic that it could apply to anyone!" and sure enough, he had given us all the same analysis.    You can read it here.

And the same is true for how these folks diagnose their parents as "Narcissists".   No matter what whacky things Mom and Dad do, they chalk it up to this generic label of "Narcissism".  And since Moms and Dads (and siblings) do wacky things, you can call them Narcissists!

For example, my late Sister once sent back a Christmas Card with the notation on the envelope that "This home only accepts hand-addressed Christmas Cards!"  Another time, she sent back a Christmas present with a list of what she felt were "appropriate" Christmas gifts.   Does that make her a Narcissist?  Or just an asshole?  Or just a frail human being with a whole host of problems of her own, including an alcoholic husband, delinquent runaway children, and a terminal illness?   I tend to think the latter.

The "Narcissist" label is so generic and so broad that anyone you don't like can be labeled with it.  In a way, it is a coward's way out of life.  The "victim" posits that their "abuser" is a "narcissist" and that's the end of the story.   Flinging the "N-word" (the new one) at people is a passive-aggressive move - foisting one's problems off onto someone else (which ironically, these "children of narcissists" claim their narcissist parents do!).

But Mom and Dad (or brother or sister) being narcissists really isn't their problem.  Their problem is, they are 20, 30, or even 40 years old (or older) and still obsessing about their parents which in a way lets the parents win.   And as you can see from the blogsite linked above, there is a lot of seething anger toward their parents.

What is funny, to me, is how these folks keep inserting themselves into situations involving their parents and then complaining when it all goes horribly wrong.  Some of them even still live with their parents, well into their 30's.  If you read the subReddit, these are mostly postings from people who should be living independent lives, doing their own things.  But instead, they keep going back to the parental teat for another mouthful of sour milk.  Why would anyone in their right mind do this?

Oh, key words:  "right mind" - yup.

I related the story of a friend of mine, who was 35 years old, married, and depressed about Christmas.  I said that many people get depressed this time of year and it was normal.

"But I have to go home to my parent's house for the holidays, and my Mother is so mean to me!" she replied.

"Well, then why don't you and your husband fly down to Aruba and have your own Christmas - little tropical drinks, great vacation sex, and whatnot." I replied.   She acted like I was speaking Esperanto.

But planning your own Christmas holiday when you are in your 30's and married is no big deal.  People do this.  It is normal.  What is abnormal is a 35-year-old to see the center of her life as her childhood and her childhood family.

But alas, some folks never break free of their childhood family, and feel an obsessive need to go back to the well time and time again for more abuse.  And these people have a lot of anger as a result of this obsession.  In a way, too, it reminds me of one of the ten irrational ideas:
Irrational Idea #3 is damning. This as the idea that when people act obnoxiously and unfairly, you should blame and damn them, and see them as bad, wicked, or rotten individuals.
Funny, but when I read these "Narcissist Parent" websites, it is all about blaming and damning.   The poster will put up a story about some outrageous thing Narcissistic Mom or Dad  did, and everyone chimes in with the shaming and the damning.  What is the point?  Does this make them all feel better?  That they are somehow "better" than their parents?

If you've read my blog, you know that my parents are anything but perfect.  But I forgave them.  I felt sorry for the sad lives they lead.   Rather than be a perpetual child, however, I moved on with my own life and lived it the way I wanted to, not through the lens of my childhood.   Of course, it is hard to do this - and easy to wallow in self-pity and blame all your "problems" on Mom and Dad.

Now, granted, there are some families out there that are like Tom Selleck's on Blue Bloods.   But they are few and far between.   And while the fantasy of the family together at the table every Sunday is nice, when do the kids get to have their family Sunday Dinner with their own children?   Selleck is hogging the limelight here!  What a Narcissist!  Right?  You see, this "label" can be slapped on anyone - by anyone.  It is meaningless.

And sadly, these sort of television shows do is provide horrible normative cues to people.   Folks watch this stuff and wonder why their family isn't like the Reagans.   Why are they not like Norman Rockwell's family?   Well, Norman Rockwell wasn't all that Norman Rockwell.  He had a lot of tragedy in his life and his wife went insane.   Hardly the subject for one of his Saturday Evening Post covers.

Start your own family - and have fun in life.*   Fun is not obsessing about your parents and what rotten people they are.   If you don't like them, then stop hanging around with them.   If you keep going back to the well of abuse, you have no one to blame but yourself.

But that is an anathema to the "Children of Narcisists" who continue to interact with their "horrible" parents day after day, and then rush home to post the injustice of it all on Reddit or some blogsite.   IS this really constructive?  Do they really want to solve their problems, or just wallow in them, like the friend with the perpetual problem?

Of course, the problem with these Narcissist groups is that if you criticize this sort of thinking, then they just slap the label of "Narcissist" on you.  touche.   It is akin to the Fibromyalgia people.  If you even question the "science" of this nonsense, they call you a "heartless bastard!!!" and threaten to kill you (no, really, they do).  Fun people.

If you feel you were "raised by Narcissists" or that your parents were Narcissists or you are on some Narcissist website, damning everyone else in your life for being imperfect, may I suggest that perhaps the apple didn't fall far from the tree.   Narcissus of Greek mythology, loved to look in the mirror.  And I suggest, if you are throwing out the "Narcissism" word, it is mirroring back to you.

Calling someone a narcissist and blaming them for all your troubles in life is, well, the ultimate act of narcissism!

* * *

*What do I mean by "your own family"?  You and your spouse and your children (if any) is your family.  Not a "Family of Choice" or some other three-letter code that "children of narcissists" use.   When you become an adult, you start your own family.  My parents did.  Their parents did.  Their parents' parents did.   For some reason, our generation - and subsequent generations, cannot let go of their childhood family and view it as their "real family" and any family they form in life as some sort of artificial construct.  That is some pretty sick thinking, my friend!