Avoidance, Repression, Denial, Suppression.
“The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”
– M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
There is even more. Displacement, Projection, Reaction Formation, Regression, Rationalization, Sublimation.
I have narcissistic personality disorder (NPR). I got it from my parents, just like I got the rest of me from them. I cannot blame them, but I do have to keep my distance. I must understand it. And then, I cannot avoid it, repress it, deny it, and you know the spiel.
I have a degree in psychology but I did not really understand it, or more accurately, I did not pay attention to it. (Again, I have a little bit of an “in” or familiarity because I did study these things and because my career was mostly in marketing, survey, or primary research where the task was specifically to listen to other people.) Others have alerted me to it in that I see it in them (I don’t think anyone has ever actually called me a narcissist). I knew I had the symptoms too but I never really tied them into the science. Again, seeing it in other people helped me realize. Then, when I started going through the wheres and hows, it all came together.
I would not say it was hard or even time consuming, but it took a conscious effort. It took the back and forth between me and others to really understand.
I took an interest in exceptional narcissistic deviants (criminals) like Keith Raniere, Bernie Madoff, and Scott Peterson. These are people who have left behind nothing but murders, suicides, bankruptcies, and the absolute worst kind of carnage an individual can create. That is their legacy, the people they have wounded or killed.
Those people are the worst examples (aside from maybe Hitler or Stalin). Some parents, like Louise Turpin and Jennifer Hart, can be awful too. Most narcissistic, abusive parents are not that bad, but they can come pretty close. I think it is essential for all parents to know about it. You, or they, have to know it because it can damage a person for life.
You hear talk of child abuse, or even child sexual abuse. That could be a start to NPR symptoms.
It is not easy to understand. The myriad of ways to avoid it, mentioned here, is one reason I suppose. Maybe that is an advantage of therapy over studying it. Most people do not have a college degree in psychology. It is hard to understand. Dr. Peck mentions “discipline” as one factor; you have to want to, put the time in, etc. He also says it takes years: you have to go round and round until you finally zero in.
For me I knew what it is. I also knew I had it, and tried to control it, but I never really made an effort; I never had to because it was not that severe; I did not have clinical narcissism. I knew a little bit about where it came from but I didn’t know that it is inherited. I mean, I knew it came from parents, but I did not know it came from parents because they have it too. That is correct: they have it, and without awareness at all, they pass it on. Let’s not get into this, but it is not really genetic. It is passed on through mental awareness or psychology. It is passed on by teaching, punishing, (lack of) loving, rewards, and all those things. It is inherited from the parents through psychology.
And it grotesque. It just grows and grows, out of control. It is definitely not just a lack of communication. In my family I knew how to control alcoholism–do not drink–but I had no idea about an almost as destructive force and one that affected me even more because I could not control it. I was smart enough to poke and prod–how can you not like your children, you taught me?–but I never realized that the other person (my mother) did not understand. Put another way, she just did not see it that way. She believed I was there for her. What she sees is, yes I taught you, but you did not understand. Ever. Needless to say, empathy and communication are barely present.
How do you get over it? You almost have to take a course in it. Or if you are lucky enough, have someone steer you into it. (No, I do not recommend NXIVM). It is so hard to grasp. It grows like a fungus. I think it is way more common than many people realize. But that is one of the ways it festers because if you have it, and realize it, you see it everywhere. For me it is way easier to see in other people than in myself. That itself is probably not even true, it is just that I think I see it everywhere. It is like, how am I different? I have never met a loving person who cared about others in my life! I have never said that, but I think there are people who have.
It is not the most upbeat message but Peck offers this:
“When these gifts have not been proffered by one’s parents, it is possible to acquire them form other sources, but in that case the process of their acquisition is invariably an uphill struggle, often of lifelong duration and often unsuccessful.” (p. 27)
I think you have to try. Let me put that another way: if you have kids or others who are affected you have to try.
(OMG. I think I am going to start reading divorcedmoms.com. Combining narcissism with alcoholism as a parent or spouse is not good at all.)
Last Words: I like to be funny and have fun and I am a happy person. Years ago, but well past the age of 40, someone told me that the jokes are not always funny. She did not say it like that. I am beginning to dislike this big word but what she was saying is it is narcissistic. It is not empathetic. I learned.
No I even see it in my writing. I have always had a problem being too cryptic, going to fast, and failing to explain and have readers understand.
The point is it affects many, many things. It is a very powerful force.
For people who had a narcissistic parent, are a narcissist, were married to a narcissist, it is not hard to learn a little bit about it. The Wiki pages are outstanding: this is not conjecture, pop psychology, or someone’s blog. It is science that has been around, and improved, for over 100 years; these are real things, and when it says there are symptoms, behaviors, and antecedents it is not just possible, it is very likely. The Wiki pages are brief but are a great place to start with links and really credible sources. For me a next step is to look into some of the better-reviewed books on the subject. Obliviously there are many other sources and personal experiences out there. Another thing, just Google “40 question narcissism test” and there is a simple test you can take on a cellphone. For me, I learned that I am, more or less, 16.8 (as a score). That is about 67 percentile (or higher than two-thirds of the population); it is also slightly below the norm for college students who are perhaps a little more upwardly-mobile, leader-oriented, etc. too.