OUR CULTURE OF NARCISSISM
QUICK EYELIFT UPDATE – I’m still in. I’m in for the whole day one more day. If I had only done the eyelift I would be in an office today, perhaps even mine. The chemical peel is what gives you that Phantom of the Opera Mask look.
I did not venture out of my lair yesterday. My friend Jeanne McCulloch came by with her daughter Charlotte. They brought me oodles of organic goodies and facial treats and we sat and had a good chat. It broke up the day nicely. I did not watch Funny People. I did not organize Lucy’s books. I did not write any backlogged blogs. I read Daphne Merkin’s article in the New York Times on the Y-Lift, went to bed wondering what this doctor actually injects into holes in the face. I watched Extreme Home Makeover, which is Lucy’s and my weekly show. I wrote one condolence note, partially balanced my checkbook and took a nap. FIN.
Lucy just asked me if I was sick of being in. She has never seen me in the house this long for her entire life, I think. I told her no and meant it. I said as long as I have my laptop and my mind, I can be eternally amused or if not amused then engaged.
Which brings me today’s blog, which was not supposed to be today’s blog except I got a comment on an older blog overnight that was very negative in tone, assaulting in fact. I cannot let it go without commenting back.
In the back of my head I think I know who it came from, but I have a tendency to always do that with negative observations. It’s my way of controlling the universe. When you write the type of blog I do you leave yourself wide open for criticism and public scrutiny. It’s one of those if you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen situations. I’m actually amazed I don’t get more of it. But every now and then one comes winging its way through my computer and it’s fine; it’s what the blogosphere is about in many ways and I love a good challenge.
Though the thing is I don’t have to post the negative comments. I don’t have to “approve” people’s remarks who question, criticize or attack me. I can delete them. I press one button and no one will ever know others do not agree with me. I can paint myself in large benevolent brush strokes by only posting the views of those who are in favor or sync with me. But that would be dishonest, cowardly, ultimately boring and fly in the face of what I am trying to accomplish here.
What am I trying to accomplish here? Entertain on one level, but on a deeper level, be honest enough about my life that people realize they are not alone and that we all have issues and problems. And that is OK – by facing them we not only improve the quality of our own lives, but we are healthy role models for our children.
I try and show by example that the perfect person, family, situation, or relationship does not exist. It’s a figment of the media’s collective imagination. And the pressure to measure up to this fabricated ideal is as destructive as anything out there.
I try and show that it is a constant juggling act to keep the balls of all our personalities and peccadilloes in the air and not have them land on us or the person next to us and knock them or us out cold.
I try to show that if I’m OK being flawed, then maybe others will be able to stop at denial, collect their two hundred dollars and look into the abyss of their own lives and start patching the cracks.
So, I approved the assault but I cannot let it go without a response.
The comment was about a blog I wrote a few months ago when Taylor was in a cone of silence. To avoid you having to go search in the bowels of the blogs I will post it here.
‘She was not in a good mood; she responded that it was always all about me.’ (BLOG)
She came back because she needed physical warmth. She is right.
I happened on this blog…..I am really interested in “Lucky Ducks”
You missed the cue from your daughter. It IS ALL ABOUT YOU. Too bad you can’t reread your own blog and see.
It is pitiful. The damage a narcissistic mother can do.
OK – I can take it. And part of me agrees, the part about the damage a narcissistic mother can do. And the part that sometimes it is all about me. No question Penelope, find me a person for whom it is never only about them. I would love to meet that person and learn their secret. Sometimes I go reeling to a place where hello is all about me, good-bye is all about me, the earthquake in Chile is all about me, but it is becoming less and less and I and only I have the control to stop it.
While Penelope has a valid point, she is missing the thrust of the whole blog. I know the damage a narcissistic mother can do. I am the product of what six shrinks have said is the most narcissistic mother they have ever heard of. Now I can hear Penelope saying, see, it’s all about you. Like I just said sometimes it is. But in this case I am merely setting the stage.
I am aware of the damage, because I myself have been damaged. Because my biggest personality disorders come directly from not being heard, seen or accepted for who I really was/am and continue to be by my mother. Because when I was growing up and to this day, it has always been about my mother. Because I learned to suppress feelings and doubt my own perceptions of reality because they went against my mother’s version of reality; or would hurt her in some way if I claimed what I perceived to be the truth. My mother’s feelings always came before mine, in her world and in mine and I think with anyone she ever got close to.
I have been on a mission to not repeat this pattern with my own girls.
But as you rightly say, damage is done, and certain wounds are then hardwired into our DNA. And despite going through therapy, being aware and even knowing where the land mines are placed we still step on them from time to time and get blown off our game. But what I endeavor to do and sometimes fail and sometimes succeed is to catch myself before I fall into those traps. I try to amend my behavior or go back and fix it if I have slipped. If you have read other blogs you might see more of who I really am in all of this, or you might be prejudiced not to.
What many children who are the products of narccistic parents hear, and this goes for grown up children such as myself, is that everything is their fault. And that is because nothing they can do will shake their narcissistic parent out of their “everything is me” tree. Look at the studies: children of divorce blame themselves; if I had been different mommy and daddy would still be together. Children of alcoholics blame themselves; if I were better daddy wouldn’t drink. Children of workaholics blame themselves; if daddy really loved me he would be home more and spend time with me. Children of the perpetually depressed blame themselves; if I were different mommy would be happier. Children whose parents jump out the window blame themselves; if only I was a different person maybe, maybe, maybe?
Maybe nothing, it’s not the kid’s fault or responsibility.
And many, strike that, most without vigilant, painful self-work, and the deep desire to make the future different from the past carry this with them their entire lives and more often than not pass it on to their children, who pass it on to theirs and on it goes for generation after generation.
We are a profoundly narcissistic culture. And the narcissism manifests in such a myriad of ways we simply take it for granted. In my opinion it is narcissistic of parents to put this intense pressure on their kids to succeed at such a high level. Our generation is guiltier of this than any other. We start laying it on in nursery school; the competitive parent is seen as benevolent, attentive and caring towards their kids. In my mind that parent is merely using their kid as an extension of an unfulfilled side of themselves. If Josh goes to Harvard I’m the greatest dad of all. If he aces the SATS, we’re in fantasitc shape. If Ashley is the top field hockey player, we rock– never mind that she cuts herself, weighs 87 pounds and throws up after every meal.
This is not parenting, it’s despotic rule. It’s keeping the kingdom squeaky clean for the world to see while bodies are piling up in the basement.
And meanwhile at home, mom is clinically depressed, but in denial, dad is home as little as possible, everyone is in denial. He has to work hard how else will we pay for all this happiness and perfection?
Everything looks nice on the outside but on the interior chaos reigns – the kid is told all is swell, but inside the kid knows all is for shit. So they learn to doubt their true feelings and perceptions about reality because there is mom saying we are all succeeding, we are all great, pack and let’s go to St. Barts and have some fun.
But for some reason we do not see this as narcissistic, we see it as doing the best we can. For some reason we have replaced rigorous honesty, if it ever existed in families– it didn’t exist in mine or my mother’s or my father’s so I’m guessing from the casualties I witness on a daily basis it doesn’t exist in many others either– we have replaced it with rigorous achievement and rigorous denial that masks profound unhappiness.
Because if we are doing well at many things then we must be happy. And if we are happy then we must be ok, and if we are ok then I am being a good parent. And if I’m a good parent then I’m not a freaking mess.
Call me crazy that feels like it’s all about me to me.
But then we get to another place in all this.
Let’s start with the fact that many of us have had, continue to have or are narcissistic parents. But at what point do you take the reigns of your life and say it’s my job to fix it, it’s my job to stop it, it’s my job to see to it the self-absorbed buck stops here? One can only blame one’s parents for so long. While I may state I have a narcissistic mother– and I do, and find me one person who has met her who will disagree– still, I’m fifty-one years old, I can’t blame her for my problems forever, nobody should, it’s the easy out. And I can’t allow her influence on me to in turn allow me to screw up my kids.It’s my responsibility for me and for those I love and am responsible for to look it at, own it, address and fix me. I can’t fix her. I tried that one, it failed, add that to the it’s my fault list.
I can sometimes see when the narcissistic train comes barreling down on me, I have to put my hand up and stop it. It’s not always easy, but I MUST DO IT. And this is where the honesty comes in, I have learned and I know I’m right about this, when you do slip, when I slip, when we all slip, which we will, it’s then our job to own that, and talk about it with our kids or spouse or whomever it’s hurting. If the elephant is in the room everyone knows no matter how many times you deny his existence – everyone sees him, elephants smell bad.
If you know your weak spots and take responsibility for them and make right on them, then you are not only telling your kids who you are and letting them know it’s not their fault, you are allowing them, giving them, handing over to them the greatest gift of all – the keys to their own interior kingdom. It’s OK to be you. It’s OK to be flawed. It’s OK to make mistakes. We all come from all sorts of things we did not choose: you did, I did, the lady at Pinkberry did, and we deal with them the best we way can, some deal better then others, but we HAVE to deal with them. And you will be loved in spite of them, but you and only you must fix them. You give them the power.
The thing about narcissism, Penelope, is narcissists merely blame others, they never take responsibility for their behavior. They are victims personified. That is where the damage is done.
We are only human, we all carry similar fears, dreams, needs and longings.
We all require love, acceptance and a desire, a profound desire to be seen for who we really are.
Narcissists not only don’t do this, they can’t begin to understand it.
It has taken me decades of blaming myself for things that were beyond my control to grasp this.
Despite what you might think, I do not want this for my kids, I don’t want this for anyone’s kids. It’s why I prance my insecurities around the ring like a show horse.
Thank you for writing in. Thank you for sharing your POV.
Keep following the blog.
And you can buy LUCKY DUCKS on AMAZON April 1st.