How convenient: situational helplessness

One of the things you’ll notice about a narcissist is not only their weird priorities but how they switch from forceful entitlement to hands-up-in-the-air helplessness.

As I shared in an earlier post, my dd’s father will force her to watch documentaries that distress her. They have nothing to do what she’s studying at the moment in her academics. They’re just stuff he wants to watch and for some bizarre reason, believes she should, as well.

However, he can’t see to it that she takes a shower when she’s with him. “She doesn’t want to”, he’ll say.

Well, she doesn’t want to watch well produced documentaries of people’s gross inhumanity to one another either, but that doesn’t stop him from enforcing his will upon her.

Certainly, my dd is the kind of kid who would go for a year without taking a bath if it were her choice. But guess what? It’s not!

As a parent, we have the responsibility to get our children to do things they don’t want to if it’s in their best interest. We have the responsibility to teach them self-discipline and good life skills.

How is it that he can suddenly become so helpless and a victim to her whims, when it comes to a for real parental responsibility, and yet he can draw up his over 6 foot tall height, call on his father authority and say with impassioned conviction, “She’s going to watch what I want.” As if her not wanting to is outrageous and he’s just not going to put up with it anymore!

But he can’t make her take a shower and when I get her, her hair is dirty and her scalp smells, because she hasn’t showered or bathed in the three nights and four days she’s been with him. She hasn’t reached puberty yet, but when she does…hopefully, she will have more respect for her hygiene at that time than he does.

You know, this has nothing to do with him giving in to what she wants or doesn’t want. He can’t teach her self-discipline, because he lacks it himself. And he’s lazy. It’s that simple.

And selfish. He takes his showers. He wouldn’t think of going four days without them. He wouldn’t step out of the house or let himself become that grungy. He takes care of himself.

But isn’t that what narcissism is about?

“You don’t have to stay…”

…but I do.”

She didn’t say it as an accusation, not quite…just a hint of recrimination as we were driving to the drop off. But my guilt made it feel that way.

And I do feel guilty for not being there as a buffer. Initially, she wanted us back together again, because that’s what kids do. That and her father would play videos of happy times together and tell her how he loves me and doesn’t know why I left.

But even without that manipulation, she would have wanted us to get back together again.

Eventually, though, her reasons for this began to change. It wasn’t just that she wanted us together again. As she got older and started seeing sides to her father that she hadn’t seen before, the reasons for my leaving became clearer to her. And now she wanted me to come back so she wouldn’t have to be alone with him. So that I could protect her, be a buffer to his emotional abuse, when he wasn’t being a “Fun Pal Dad”.

We talked about this the other day. I told her I would not have been able to protect her if I had stayed. I said I was losing so much of myself, there would have been nothing of me left to protect anyone.

And who would protect her from me? I asked her.

I told her when a woman is in a situation like that, she gets filled with anger, and that it would have spilled out over her. I told her I could already see that happening when I left. It’s one of the things that gave me strength to leave.

Moving out enabled me to create a safe space. Yes, she has to be with him for much longer periods than she likes, but she’s not with him all the time, and I do have her more. My home is a respite, a nurturing place where she is respected as a human being. She can have a taste of what it should be like.

No walking on eggshells. Here, she can be renewed.

They don’t see…

“Everyone thinks he’s the greatest dad in the world, because when we’re with other people he talks so sweet and kind. But they don’t see what he’s like when we’re alone.”

This hurts her. But at least it hurts her and she knows it – unlike me when I was a child who numbed herself out and grew up into a woman with tunnel vision. She does not believe this is the way it is or shoves it aside. She does not pretend this dichotomy doesn’t exist, blowing up and exaggerating the “good side” into full delusion.

Her awareness of the two faces makes it harder, but it will also make her stronger.

I soothe her pain with empathy and love.

The Importance of Validation

I set up an appointment for my daughter with a therapist. First for a kids’ group and then one on one.

The reason isn’t just for the coping skills she’ll learn or realizing that she’s really not alone in facing life changes and challenges. It’s for the validation. I was told one of the things she would be learning was how to express her emotions. To me, what’s priceless is that she will be given the message that her feelings are even valid to express. That she has a right to them and that others find them important.

Being with a narcissistic parent, she has learned to show him what he wants to see.

I had asked her the other day if she gave her father any indication that she liked some of the documentaries he made her watch. She looked at my rather incredulously, almost like I was stupid, and said, “Uh…yeah. If I didn’t, he’d get mad!”

She told me not only does she have to be there when he watches these documentaries, but if she looks away or hides her eyes or covers her ears, he will get angry and threaten that she will never watch her own shows again if she doesn’t watch his.

That is so controlling, more than I thought he would be…but why wouldn’t I know this? Maybe I just thought he wouldn’t be like that, that cruel to her.

In our conversation, dd said to me, “I think what he does is child abuse.”

It is. But there are no laws that will protect her from it.

So in the face of so much discounting of what she feels, she really needs to be with others who will validate those feelings and her right to have them and to show her that anything less than that is not healthy at best and abusive at worst. The skills will be great, but the validation will be even better.

Giving Her Choice

She loves to wrestle with her dad. That’s one of her favorite things to do and something by both enjoy. And she loves eating crabs and watching a good movie. That’s one of his favorite things to do.

It’s also what makes being verbally and emotionally abused so hard. Any abuse any time is difficult, but when it’s intermittent, not matter how frequently it’s like having your hope dashed over and over again. It becomes a series of “little deaths” so that eventually you find you’ve become a zombie.

Narcissism is insidious form of torture. It rips your heart apart in ways that are difficult, if not impossible to heal. Not just within the relationship but within your self.

That’s what makes me worry the most. It’s not what she has to go through day in and day out when she’s with him. It’s what it’s teaching her about love, about trust, about men.

I don’t just listen. I talk to her a lot. My main goal is to help her to become aware of what’s going on inside her, so that she can make empowering choices for herself. So she can discern and determine whether a particular dynamic is working for her or not, if she wants this in her relationship with men. Continue reading