I had a comment from a woman named Traci on one of my narcissism posts called Daughters Of Bad Fathers.
Here is here comment:
Ugh. Feeling bad for him is the worst, so don’t worry about not feeling compassion! Despite years of therapy, codependents anonymous meetings, books, internet articles, self-coaching, etc etc, my narcissistic dad always manages to make me feel sorry for him and feel guilty that we’re not closer.
And, KK, I hope you’re right, that he’s not “the worst type,” but I recently learned that I was wrong in having thought the same thing about my dad. After being with a truly malicious and malignant narcissist/sociopath of a husband, I had classified my dad as a benign narcissist. “Oh, he’s just like an overgrown toddler always needing to be the center of attention, but he means no harm and he’s got a good heart…”
He may well have a good heart, but that doesn’t make him any less manipulative, selfish and blind to needs and qualities of those around him. Found that out the hard way and I was so surprised that it took me weeks to figure out what had brought out his lying and manipulating and downright nastiness.
I realized that it was the first time in my 50+ years that we hadn’t just handed him the reins and gone along with anything that he wanted to do, which is how all prior interactions and visits with Dad had gone. Yes, we’d be irritated and exhausted by his endless monologues and rapid-fire questions disguised as interest but machine-gunned at us too fast to actually answer, but we’d long since gotten over feeling hurt or angry by his utter lack of interest in his children or their lives. We understood that he is who he is and we could either accept it and do our best to live with it in small doses or cut off interaction with him altogether.
We’ll probably slide back into our standard for coping: hand him the reins and just go along for the long, torturous ride whenever we’re around him. But now and forever, we know that beneath the seemingly benign narcissist hides a truly disturbing malignant narcissist who won’t hesitate to lie directly to our faces, manipulate, and bully to get his way in anything and everything, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant.
I think it’s a lesson I’ll never stop learning — because I still regularly fall prey to narcissists. Not usually for long, but long enough to be mad that I’ve been sucked in again.
Thanks for writing these posts, Michelle — it’s like a life-affirming support group here!
This line jumped out at me: but we’d long since gotten over feeling hurt or angry by his utter lack of interest in his children or their lives.
I realized how very much I have not gotten over feeling hurt by that. The condemnation and the ridicule were bad. The rages, lying, and pouting were intolerable. I don’t think anything hurt more than my father’s indifference toward me. His indifference to my existence.
Oh, I wasn’t ignored. I was far from ignored. Even after I married and moved away, he called nearly every day. He needed that time to run down the list of the ways I sucked. He couldn’t just give up his habit of running me down. He gained something he needed when he mistreated me. But just because he was present in my life, doesn’t mean he was at all interested in my life. The only times he showed any interest in my life was when I had a success of any kind or when I fell on my face.
He loathed when I succeeded. If life handed me a win, he would make sure to tell me why I didn’t deserve it. He would get angry and resentful if he felt I was outshining him in any way.
If I succeeded, there must be retribution. He would usually wait until I was emotionally down. Then, he would find a way to grind me lower.
He wasn’t interested in me. He didn’t care what I loved or needed or feared. He didn’t know me at all. Not because he was clueless, but because he didn’t care. I was there for him to unload his frustration on, my needs, my life, everything that was me, didn’t matter to him.
I can’t think of much that feels worse than feeling like you don’t count. To feel like your very existence is inconsequential is such a sad and lonely feeling.
Traci’s comment said so much more and I related to every word of it…but that thought of feeling like I don’t matter just jumped out at me. Even after all this time of writing about narcissism, I still find unexplored feelings or buried hurt.
I’m not sorry that I had to process this shit. I have come far enough to view these moments as prickly little gifts. These moments are gifts that aren’t fun to open. Sometimes, they sting. Sometimes, they leave me shaken. The real gift happens when I let the moment go.
I am learning there’s always a price. We don’t get passes when it comes to feeling pain or processing past hurt. At least I don’t. What I’ve learned is that running from that pain while screaming “no no no no no” only delays the inevitable. I have to feel that shit and then I can set it free.
So, Traci, thank you for the prickly little gift. It wasn’t easy to open, but once I did, I felt a slight shift and just a little more peace. I’ve learned enough to know that I’m not finished with these feelings yet. I am just now acknowledging them. I have also learned enough to not be afraid of these feelings. They might not be fun, but they are necessary. And I know when I get my head all the way around them, I will be stronger.
I wouldn’t trade these gifts for diamonds or gold.
Oh, and I know this is abruptly shifting gears here, but my next post will be my first sponsored post. So, I will see you all again after this commercial break.
Photo courtesy of Silvia Hartmann