Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Narcissistic Parent Guilt Trap: Don't Fall In

Anonymous Bob left a comment that got me thinking.

Here's a quote:

"But seriously, are u *absolutely sure* that the moral obligation, the guilt and the power of attorney is not just another word for the pathological bonding of children to their narcissist caregivers? The same old same old?"

Yeah. Definitely. I suspect there is no other way to bond with a narcissist. It's just not possible.

When we're children, we don't know any better. Our entire world is controlled by our parents.

When we grow-up, the attachment is, by nature, dysfunctional because our parents are.

In my case, the only reason I have any contact with my adoptive father is out of guilt.

Not because I want to. But the voice in my head says, he's all alone. He's old. He's sick. I am his only connection to the wider world. Without me, he is utterly alone.

Dumping the guilt is easier said than done, which makes the EFFORT to free ourselves critical. We were TRAINED to put the needs of the parent first. Repeatedly told that, as an adoptee, we owe our adopters gratitude. We owe them our very lives.

Of course, the aging narcissist - having no social charms or empathy to attract companionship - relies on making his children feel guilty to reel them back in, with such ploys as: "If you don't send me that candy right away I'm going to go into a diabetic coma," and "I am so glad to hear your voice! You didn't call last night and I get so lonely. I need you so much," and, like the other night (encouraged by your comments) when I told him I couldn't call for a bit? The next day he had chest pains and begged to go the hospital, a decision he knows requires my involvement. The nurse said was sure he was faking for attention.

The guilt thing? It's like a noose around your neck. It just gets tighter and tighter the more you struggle and pull.

What scares me is, now that so much of my life has been given over to being responsible for (badly) aging parents, how much of my identity is tied up in it? The Good Daughter? (Of course, my adoptive family believes I'm the Bad, Ungrateful Adoptee. Good Mexican daughters - especially those rescued - do not put their parents in assisted living facilities. Of course, now that he's there, not one of those relatives who scolded me have called or visited him once.)

And Anonymous Bob...it's like totally dysfunctional.

Labels:

31 Comments:

Blogger Being Me said...

Nina,
This probably isn't a new idea. But can you arrange for the care facility to act as an intermediary so that you don't have to check on him unless they ask you to? That would have been awfully hard for me to do with my dad. But when he was demented he was really NICE to me, and it still drove me batty.
You've got to take care of yourself, your daughters, your husband. The legal responsibilities for your dad are plenty to deal with.

What are the benefits of any but the most necessary contact? Does he really benefit? If he does, is it worth the cost to you and your family?

I hope I'm not being inconsiderate of your complications. It's tough.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Hey Justice, Just came bag from a fascinating diversion at your blog! Thanks for stopping by, btw. Yeah, I'm gonna try and shift some of that to the fine people at the assisted facility that I write a whopping check to every month. I'm even considering hiring someone to call my dad and check on him...there's actually a service that does that. It IS a really good idea. And it really helped to hear that your dad drove you batty, too (acknowledging the diff. in circumstances).

6:24 PM  
Blogger Celera said...

There's no dysfunction in looking after your dad, or doing whatever you decide is right to do for him. The goal, I think, is to make your own decisions about what is reasonable and fair and appropriate for you to do for the man who -- however poorly -- raised you. Not out of any guilt, or anything he imposes on you, but because you are a moral and decent person who wants to know, after he is gone, that you did what was right, regardless of his response.

I'm not suggesting that you should do more, or less, or different, or the same, from what you are doing now. The power is in knowing that you decide what is right and honorable, and not letting him push you into wasting time, energy, or affection that is better spent elsewhere.

I think that hoping that nature will soon relieve you of this problem is not wrong at all. He will die whether you wish for it or not, and there are worse things than death -- some things you have protected him from are worse. And some things he has chosen for himself are worse. He's not a happy person, and it may be that the end of his life will be in some ways a blessing for him as well as for you.

I *know* that probably seems harsh. Maybe I've just been to too many funerals lately.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Oh Celera, not in the least harsh. Actually, that was really great the way you put it. That wishing or not won't make any difference. How to strike the balance between what feels like the right amount of engagement and detachment is, well, a process. Some days are just easier than others. Others I have other things on my mind like my teenage girls. Sorry that you have to go to so many funerals, but there comes a time in our lives when it seems we go to more of than baptisms and birthdays!

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi NIna, great post.

"What scares me is, now that so much of my life has been given over to being responsible for (badly) aging parents, how much of my identity is tied up in it?"

I don't get it, why is it scary? Granted, the "untying" process may not be the easiest, but at least you're on the right path?

-Bob

2:09 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Bob, This is kinda hard to explain. But it has to do with The False Self. That I'm not actually the Good Daughter, I'm just a compliant, resentful one...intent on people pleasing. That role is not REALLY me and what's scary is to have part of one's identity that is just FALSE. But I am on the right path, finally, and that's the good news. And I like that word: untying. It really sums it up.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That role is not REALLY me and what's scary is to have part of one's identity that is just FALSE."

But this false part of your identity is just the remnants of the necessary false self you developed to cope with your narcissist parents. When the false self is no longer needed this part of your identity will become weaker and the real Nina will become stronger. Yes? :)

-Bob

9:57 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

Nina,

Never in a million years did I ever dreamed I could have so much in common with an adoptee. But the N-issues ring through so loud and clear that it really does seem to be the case.

Wow.

I think that it's important that certain things be done("the right things", as another poster said) for your dad. But as you alluded to, it's not necesssary that YOU be the one to do them. One of the joys of living in a highly-developed economy is that you might be able to cushion yourself from some of the scutwork.

I'm nobody to talk, though...meanwhile, the Geriatric Care Manager my brothers and I had hired for my mom has more or less walked away, shaking her head (check my latest blog entry).

Best to you

Elise

6:28 PM  
Blogger Andie D. said...

Dang Nina.

I read your words and I'm taken back in time to the absolute SUCKING pull that is parental NPD. I got free, but at the expense of my entire afamily. Not fun.

I wish there were a happy medium, even though I've proven to myself that it's just not possible over and over again.

Please don't forget to take care of yourself and your family!

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