Love In The Time Of Narcissistic Fathers

I am here to tell you, children of the United States: Your narcissistic father does not love you.

He can’t.

This is not your fault. You can rail against his antics and scream “no fair”. You can work your ass off to gain his approval. Nothing you do can change anything.

He can’t love you.

He won’t approve of you.

You will be happier when you accept this. Maybe, you won’t be happy, but acceptance helps.

We have expectations when it comes to a president. Like not being a white nationalist, not praising Nazis, and having a solid knowledge of how our government works.

There are other things as well.

We need comfort when we are sad. We need reassurance when we are scared. We need protection when we are in peril. We need guidance when we are lost.

We look to our leader, much the same as we looked to our parents, for comfort, reassurance, protection and guidance.

We get none of this from the president. We will never receive comfort from our president.

This is not news to adult children of narcissists.

My father is a malignant narcissist. He is elderly and brain-damaged now, but when I was young, he was a thin-skinned, paranoid, grandiose bully who compulsively lied.

My father’s lies were grandiose stories about gambling, fighting, or being a hero. They weren’t all over the top lies. He lied just to lie. For example, he’d buy a black ball tip pen and insist the ink was blue.

Rules did not apply to my father. He felt no remorse in stealing from his children. He could take what he wanted, we owed him. He could take his frustrations out on us, we were nothing more than an extension of him anyway. He had no capacity for empathy. He was cruel, arbitrary, and unstable.

My father is broken. Sometimes, broken things can’t be repaired.

Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken things with gold. When the broken pieces are put back together, the threads of gold winding through the broken places make the whole more beautiful than before it broke.

Some things break beyond repair. A malignant narcissist doesn’t want their pieces repaired with gold. They want to be gold. They not only don’t want to see their broken pieces reassembled and repaired with gold, they don’t want their broken pieces at all. To be broken admits flaws and they have none.

Malignant narcissists don’t understand that our broken pieces make us accessible. They don’t understand that our flaws make us human. Malignant narcissist only see gold when they look at themselves because they cannot tolerate anything less.

A malignant narcissist protects the belief that they are the gold. They protect this belief with every weapon at their disposal. I was lucky. My father didn’t command the United States Armed Forces.

My father was Donald Trump without the power, money, or fame, although he did have better hair.  Another big difference between my father and the president, is my father has never been cornered in a way Trump is being cornered. He is being cornered from so many directions and on the grandest of stage.

When a narcissist gets cornered, nothing else matters other than protecting their lies.

Protecting the belief they are beyond reproach; they are perfect. Flawless. If cornered, a narcissist strikes back with a vengeance, no remorse, no morals, and no concern for casualties. When they feel the line between the fantasy they project and their flawed self has been breached, the fallout is spectacular. Their line can be breached with an innocent comment or a sideways glance. Then, the battle begins. I never tried to cross that line with my father, but the line was small,  delicate, and always moving. So often, I landed on the wrong side of that line.

I still feel the scars from every one of those injuries. My brain cradles them and insists they get their due. I have learned to be hyper aware of people around me. I gauge their mood without ever questioning why. I try to move mountains to make sure everyone in my space feels content. Other people’s anger is the most hard to process. I feel compelled both to soothe other people’s anger and to run from it.

Now, we have president Trump. We are smothered in a blanket of twisted paranoia, aggression, and anger. Nothing can be done to soothe this anger. Our storm on horizononly remaining choice is to provoke his anger.

The president doesn’t just get the occasional questionable comment and side eye. He gets  bombarded through social media telling him what a moronic lunatic he is. He gets adulation as well, which will always soothe the narcissistic beast, but that won’t make them forget how they are wronged. They will remember every slight and address every single one of them.

The meltdown will be both great and terrible.

Adult children of narcissists see the coming storm. We don’t feel outraged by the president’s behavior, we feel terrified. We are sickened by the outbursts. We know no amount of reason can change his behavior.  

We have been shouting for over a year. We are hoarse, tired, and disheartened.

It’s too late, now. The meltdown is inevitable. Too many cats are out of too many bags. Trump will continue to be confronted with ridicule, scorn, and the truth. He will melt down. We have no way to sidestep this.

We tried to warn everyone.

Poking the bear can bring about the melt down sooner rather than later. I’m not talking about dirty pool or being cruel. We need do nothing more than to continue to point out the lies. A malignant narcissist has no bigger fear than being found out.  

I am of the opinion the bear must be poked. We have to bring the storm so we can be free of Trump. We will never be able to fix our current situation. We need Trump to self destruct so we can put him behind us. The best course of action when dealing with a narcissist is to go “no contact”. No contact is not an option for the citizens of the US. Not as long as Trump is president.

I don’t look forward to the inevitable meltdown. Every trigger I have will be flipped and I fear how the meltdown will affect my mental health. My mental health makes no difference, though. My fear controls nothing. We have to stop allowing his fear to control us.

I know this: Adult children of narcissists have strength that people who weren’t raised by a narcissist don’t have. We have been through this storm. Maybe, not one quite so big as the one about to rain down on us, but we do know these storms.

We know how to get through the storms.

We know how to gain strength from them.

Adult children of narcissists know the deep, raw and lonely pain one feels when a parent doesn’t love them.

I can tell you this, finding love for yourself can help fill the hole left by the lack of parental love. Finding love for oneself helps ward off some of the fear.

Fred Rogers found comfort in his mother’s words when he found life uncertain and scary. “My mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

This is where we can find wells and wells of self-love. Helping each other. We need to help each other now more than ever and the thing is, we can start small. Throw away a piece of trash you find on the ground. Wish someone a peaceful day when they cut you off in traffic. Hold a door for a stranger or maybe just smile at one. Start small and then grow. Become a helper.

The more we connect with each other, the more we want to protect each other. Life is going to be uncertain for a while. So many people are going to be finding out that their father does not love them and we will all feel the affects.

We can prop each other up. We can make an effort to reach out instead of lash out.

We can be the helpers.

Sometimes, our fathers do not love us. This is something we cannot change. But this is also something we can survive.

To any of you affected by Harvey, I am so sorry this is happening. I am so sad for all of you and afraid for you. I hope this finds you safe and dry. 

If you would like to help our brothers and sisters affected by this hurricane, here are a few links:

This one is administered through the mayor of Houston’s office.

Save The Children 

Houston Humane Society

If anyone has links to organizations we can donate to, please put them in comments. Sometimes, links cause comments to go my spam folder, which I don’t normally check, but I will check it for the next few days just in case.

 

Photo courtesy of  Jakob Madsen

 

 

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Add your comments below. Profanity is encouraged, but not required. ;)
  1. Kat says:

    I’m prejudiced because I like your writing anyway, but this one needs to be spread far and wide. As in reprinted in op eds in major papers.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much. This one cuts close to the bone and is in my heart.

      Reply
      • Lisa K says:

        The whole time I’m reading, I’m thinking, “How do we get this piece out there?”
        Can ‘normal’ people submit this kind of writing to newspapers and websites?
        Or do we have to wait in hopes someone in the media sees it?
        What would you like us to do, Michelle?

        Reply
        • Michelle says:

          Just share it where you can. I appreciate that so much!

          Reply
        • Jayne Hartley says:

          Hi Lisa – I would also like to figure out how we educate the world about the damage these people do. I feel that Narcissists get away with what they do because they are disguised as normal people. If we could educate the masses about narcissists, we would render them impotent. Wish me luck with my cause!
          Jayne

          Reply
      • Karen says:

        Thank you for sharing. I know this was written with painful tears. My father, too, did not have empathy or compassion for others and was a bigot and a physically mean bully. But it did not have the nuclear codes.

        Reply
  2. Paula says:

    Oh, Michelle, when he said in Houston, what a great turnout, or words to that effect, it made me sick at my stomach. We need one strong person to rise up and start the movement to get rid of him. The time will come, I pray, the time will come soon. Just remember Karma is a bitch.

    God bless our neighbors to the south. They are strong. They will get through this.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Yeah, I wasn’t surprised he said that. He is about him and when people criticize him, he truly feels wronged. He is perfect so everything he says and does is perfect and why don’t we all just understand that. This is an old, old tune for me.

      Reply
  3. Donna says:

    And the Dylan song, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is in my head now. A welcome tune.

    Perversely (or just “understandably”) I wish the final BIG fall from grace, etc. would happen NOW. It’s gonna be so very bad but the waiting, knowing shit’s about to get very real, is painful.
    Donna recently posted…An Important PSAMy Profile

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      It is terrifying because I KNOW how far they will go. They will go all the way to the end. Other people will have to stop him. They have no boundaries and they are lethal.

      Reply
  4. Shawna says:

    I am crying as I read this. I fucking love you so hard. I feel so helpless and afraid up here in Canada. I have felt vulnerable and exposed, too near the border, wanting a wall of my own maybe.
    People don’t understand how being raised by a narcissist deepens your fear of the big orange monster (my personal nickname, for, like Voldemort, I dare not speak his name). All I can do is wait. Wait for the bomb? Wait for the explosion? Maybe, just maybe we will get lucky and, as you suggest, it will be an implosion.
    Did I mention that I fucking love you?

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much. I am sorry you are scared. I am scared as well, but I still have hope and I have faith in humans doing the right thing. We will survive this and we will be stronger. I have to believe this. And I love you, too. I think sharing love with each other is productive and we need to shout this shit off the roof tops. I LOVE YOU!!!

      Reply
  5. mydangblog says:

    I worked with a malignant narcissist once–he was the reason I left my job (luckily I got an even better one). They are truly the scourge of the earth, and I feel tremendous empathy for our American kin who are struggling with Trump, but have no escape route like I had.
    mydangblog recently posted…My Week 153: Google GaGa, Titus and the FrogMy Profile

    Reply
  6. I only recently discovered how narcissistic my father is. Not like yours, but constantly mean and critical. I could never be good enough for him, so I finally stopped trying. Unfortunately you are right about the Liar-in-Chief. This is going to be BAD, and probably sooner than we think!
    Laura Lee Carter recently posted…Teach kids how to connect with Mother Earth!My Profile

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      It is going to be bad. I have been screaming that for months and months. People who don’t live with this do not understand it and they are waiting for him to change or see reason. That absolutely will not happen.

      I am sorry about your dad, it’s terrible to live with that. I’m glad you are here.

      Reply
  7. Harry says:

    This a remarkably good analysis. I was blessed with parents who, if anything, weren’t narcissistic enough. More the “fade into the wallpaper” types.

    I have considered the fact that there’s going to be a meltdown, though. I don’t need to understand his type to recognize that’s coming. He cares about his own preservation more than anything else, and when the hammer comes down, it’s going to get very, very ugly.

    I’m writing this from my comfortably dry house in Houston. All my people made it through safely.
    Harry recently posted…My Hurricane Harvey storyMy Profile

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I am so glad you and your family are safe and sound! That is wonderful.

      I am insecure when it comes to my thought process. I rarely trust my decision making skills and I don’t feel like an expert in any subject. Except parental narcissism. I am an expert. I know how they behave. People keep waiting for him to change or find his way. He won’t. In his mind, he is already perfect and therefore there is no need to change. When that gets challenged is when we are all in the most peril and it’s getting challenged every second of every day.

      Reply
  8. I love your phrase “poking the bear” because it seems even some people around him are doing it, and in spite of the damage the meltdown will cause it’s still better than the alternative, it’s better than letting him continue.
    And I think when it comes the meltdown will magnify something we’ve already seen. Trump isn’t just a malignant narcissist and a self-serving bully. He’s also a pathetic, weak coward who plays a big boss on TV but is too scared to fire people in real life.
    That makes the people around him less afraid and more willing to poke the bear, and, hopefully, that will lessen the fallout.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Underneath it all, under the bluster and grandiosity, he is a coward. What narcissists are hiding is an inferiority complex that the rest of us cannot fathom. He is broken and there is no fixing it. He just needs to go away.

      Reply
  9. Barbara says:

    Both my parents are/were narcissists. I don’t know if they are still alive because I had to make that break many years ago. My father disappeared from my life when I was 2 and I didn’t reconnect until I had my own children. His other daughter found me and they invited me to Florida. While there he toured me around to show off all the buildings HE had built I began to experience ‘fight or flight’. We saw him a few times over the years and finally had to cut him off completely.
    My mother…well you’ll see when the memoir comes out. But, it’s fair to say she viewed me as her slave and nanny while I was growing up. There is nothing more difficult, in my mind than dealing with these people. Their view of the world is warped and everything begins and ends with what they want and feel they need. To hell with everyone else.
    Now we have to deal with this shit from the orange anus and it scares me to death. I pray for all branches of government to do whatever is necessary to contain this fool before he gets all of us blown up.
    xob

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I am right there with you. I am disheartened by the people who say “give him a chance”. THERE IS NO CHANCE. He won’t change. He can’t. And he is dangerous.

      Reply
  10. What an amazing comparison and so sorry you had to put up with that throughout your life. You’ve described our “leader’ to a T. Scary times.
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    Reply
  11. Shani says:

    I heard one self proclaimed Trump voter talking about his extreme lack of empathy etc…and my immediate thought was “what made you think he was any different before you voted for him?” I do not say that as an I told you so. I say that as a the man has shown throughout his life the type of man he was. He especially ramped up with President Obama. The current (sociopathic psychopathic) malignant narcissistic occupant of the White House had networks and columnists and audiences of malignt narcissists egging him on.
    And now some of those same people are just waking up. And only some of them.
    This is what we have.
    There is no pivot. There is no deep down.
    This is it.
    Nothing will change him.
    This is not normal. It cannot be repeated.
    The bear must be poked. Because truths and facts matter. So does empathy. And the longer too many people continue to act like those things don’t matter, the bigger the mess and the longer the ramifications.

    Reply
  12. Deborah says:

    I want to share this on my personal Facebook page, but also the group I manage, “The Liberal Majority.” I hope it helps get your wisdom out to a larger audience.

    Reply
  13. Doug in Oakland says:

    You’re so right. This is, indeed, an “all hands on deck” situation, and we all have our parts to play.
    I am so very sorry that yours has to do with your experience with malignant narcissism, but I very much admire you for it.
    Sometimes you have to find the silver linings in situations in order to survive them, much less improve them, and you have a wonderful ability to write about these things that makes your experience with your father more than just the horrible relationship it was. It wasn’t “in vain” so to speak.
    And that is our unenviable collective task here. To survive this awfulness, and turn it into an example so powerful as to preclude its repetition in the foreseeable future.
    Those millions of protesters in pink pussy hats? Helpers, every last one.
    The “Cajun Navy” who swarmed Houston in their boats, plucking stranded folks from their flooded homes? Helpers.
    Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, who has hundreds of flood refugees staying in his two furniture stores in Houston and is feeding them three meals a day from his in-store restaurants? One hell of a helper.
    All of the uncounted and unsung acts of all of the struggling survivors to prop each other up in the hopes that together they might make it through?
    That’s what we are as a species. We didn’t attain our place in the biological pecking order by being faster or stronger than the other species, we got here by cooperating with each other and building upon each other’s work and ideas.
    That said, Fergus has to go. And the “poke the bear” strategy was outlined in a podcast I heard even before the inauguration, only they didn’t quite use that term.
    No, what they said was that we should do our dead level best to be up his ass 24/7/365 until he inevitably explodes, as it is manifestly clear that he can not handle the pressure of the job, much less a concerted effort to drive him crazy.
    And I know this is already a long comment, but let me just spare two words for the “both sides do it” enablers of Fergus and his awful program, in the media and the government: Fuck you. If you’re not fighting this shit, you own it, and the public platform you have access to visits that responsibility on you, and we in the backlash will not forget your actions.

    Reply
  14. Linda says:

    I was raised by a narcissist and have been fearing the worst since the day the orange satan rode down the escalator to announce his candidacy. We here in New York never liked him, and he’s from here! His meltdown will be ugly and dangerous, yet I look forward to it as a means to move our country forward. The problem is that the racists and white nationalists are now emboldened be open about their horrible beliefs.

    Reply
  15. Yes, my step-father definitely had these traits. We all remember just living in a house where every moment you were waiting, waiting, waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it does feel that way.
    On a better note, I am seeking charities that will disseminate cash to people who desperately need it. Below are some good organizations, but I have yet to find the people you could trust to just give out cash, for God’s sake. IDK who that is. If anyone knows, let me know.
    http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/ways-can-help-people-hurricane-harvey/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Web+Social&utm_content=Harvey+Help
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  16. I see and hear you, sister. My father, too, though he had WORSE hair.
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  17. Hi Michelle. So sorry to learn about your life with your father. It is painful enough for those of us who care about our country to watch what DT is doing to it, but having your experience makes is so much worse. It sounds like karma did eventually catch up with your dad and I’m certain karma will catch up to DT at some point. But like you said, it is going to get BAD until then. As you said, friendships and working together is the only antidote. ~Kathy
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    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you! I mean, I guess Karma caught up with him. He had a heart episode over 20 years ago that left him mildly brain damaged. He’s harmless and mostly quiet now. I still have a very hard time being around him.

      Reply
  18. Oh yes, this.

    I’m quiet when people talk about impeachment, or how he will be “forced to resign.” They don’t understand that is not A Thing. Not for people like him. Admit to failure? Concede defeat? Lie down and let anyone think they beat him?

    Nevah. Gonna. Happen.

    Sure, we might get rid of him… but he’ll see it coming, and on his way out the door the furious child will light a match. You watch and see if he doesn’t. If I’m wrong, I’ll buy you a drink and we’ll celebrate my wrongness.

    But I’m not.

    I’ve spent too much time with his type. Their motto is, “If I can’t have it, no one can.
    ActualConversationsWithMyHusband recently posted…Cinderella ProblemsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I wish more people understood this. Personally, my prediction is that if he is forced out, he will tell his deplorable base to unleash themselves. They’ll lose, but people will die. I hope more than anything I am wrong.

      Reply
  19. shelley says:

    While I’m not glad that we’re even having this discussion about DT, I am relieved to know that others see the same thing I do. I live right in the middle of a major red state and am isolated because virtually no one around me sees any problem with this man and his behavior. The past few months have seemed like years and I don’t know if relationships will ever be the same. I appreciate that you, and the others who have commented here, are willing to lend support. I feel like I’ve found a place to belong when I don’t feel like I belong in the place I thought was home.

    Reply
  20. Billie says:

    I so get this. Actually my mother was the more evil of my parents in a way, although he was physically violent and verbally despicable. He also had worse hair than The Trumpmeister: unbelievably bright fuckin orange.
    An image of the Orange Cunt with my father’s orange hair is so awful it’s funny.
    Trumpmeister will not just back down, be the bigger person or let things go. He has so much power, it’s all about him, and people or nations who cause him narcissistic injury will be beaten down. Anyone who massages his collossal ego with be strung along as narc- bait, although if necessary, they too will be destroyed as collateral damage.
    It’s really just the same old same old of any malignant narcopath. But as any adult child of one knows only too well, no one who has not experienced it understands. They say, “They can’t be that bad. You can make your peace with them. They are your family. They didn’t mean it. Maybe you are too sensitive. Reconciliation is the way forward.” In other words, you have to give in, accept what they did, accept the blame for their behaviour and maintain the status quo. A scary thing when such a daddy is the president.
    Trump is like a toddler, and should be treated as such. He needs a very strict nanny to ensure the hand is slapped away from the keyboard as he twitters, and persistently away from the Bright Red Button and told, firmly, “No!”
    Any volunteers?

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Oh, I know..the people who say, this is your dad..you have to love him and forgive him. No. Nope, I really don’t. I will make my peace with it as I can, but it will never include reconciling our relationship.

      Reply
  21. Indi says:

    It’s fascinating, in an eerie way to watch people attempt to address issues in a reasonable, logical manner with a belief that it will affect change. Each time it results in additional insanity and chaos, that child inside of me echoes once again, “see? I tried to tell you it doesn’t work that way with this person!”

    This article strikes a chord for me. I was “here” growing up with my own narc father.
    I learned quickly that not only did my father not have the capacity to love, but those who are supposed to be able to help often do not have the capacity to do anything about it. Some may actually see it. But making it stop? It doesn’t stop. It just turns in another direction and spews it’s chaos all over again.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Absolutely..this.

      I didn’t realize that my father didn’t love me for a long, long time. I blamed myself. I had to be defective. Now? I mean, I am sad that I didn’t have what other kids with great dads had. But I love my life now. Well, other than the anxiety caused by this administration.

      Reply
  22. Onlymeha says:

    So true. So very, very true. All of it. Thank you.

    Reply
  23. JILL B FITZPATRICK says:

    You nailed it! Having been raised by a narcissistic mother I know the terror you speak of in relation to seeing this man in office. I refused to stop fighting for my sanity growing up under my mother’s tyranny, and I certainly won’t stop fighting for my country for the sake of my Children’s future. Thank you for reinvigorating the fight in me.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      I am so glad you are here. Yeah, we get what is happening and it is sickening. All we can do is keep using what we know as a way to move forward. Peace and happiness to you and your children.

      Reply

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