Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Dad, the Narcissistic King

My brother and I have been trying to get our Dad back again, ever since we 'lost' him when he remarried. The problem with our thinking, we have just discovered, is that we never had him to begin with. We have been trying to achieve the unachievable. We have been looking for understanding, compassion, unity-- and most of all acceptance as his child-- which he can never give. We continually get rejected, shot down, and handled so carelessly. He treats us like he doesn't like us. He may act like he is listening (if he ever stops telling his stories) but he's not hearing you. He gossips terribly about you behind your back and nit picks at everything about you and your life. This is no father-- much less friend. He acts like someone who is pushing you away for good.

Our Dad was torn between loyalty to his wife (in both marriages) and loyalty to his children. "Idealization of the father prevents depression and rage from surfacing and protects the child from feeling orphaned" p 302 Lawson. That idealization of my Dad has only come to realization recently, as his narcissism has grown exponentially due to his aging appearance, retirement, sickly wife, and unhappiness with his life in general. As his narcissism grows, the way he treats my brother and me grows worse as well.

Will a narcissistic father ever accept me? I love the answer that was given, "Give up. Achieve closure. He doesn't deserve more than what you have already given him. The word "love" is understood by the narcissist to mean "dependence", "neediness", "ability to provide narcissistic supply", "becoming the narcissist's extension and property". In these - distorted and sick - senses of the word, all narcissists love to be loved.

A post-mortem of a relationship conducted with a narcissist is very frustrating because it never achieves closure. The narcissist is interested exclusively in allocating blame and generating guilt - not in progressing, developing, atoning, soothing, or concluding anything. Such exercises in futility are best avoided.

Narcissistic psychopaths have no friends, or lovers, or spouses, or children, or family - they have only objects to be manipulated. Narcissists have no problem perceiving ideas (many narcissists are intellectually gifted). But they do have a problem perceiving other people's ability to conceive of ideas, to have their own needs, emotions, and preference. Wouldn't you be startled if your television set suddenly informed you that it would rather not work on a Sunday? Or if your vacuum cleaner wanted to befriend you? To narcissists, other people are instruments, tools, sources - in short: objects. Objects are not supposed to have opinions or to make independent choices and decisions - especially if they don't comply with the narcissist's worldview or plans, or if they do not cater to his needs."

I totally relate with this answer. To have a relationship with my Dad is to be subjected to the blame game and to guilt trips. The blame game is intense, and along with the blame game comes criticism, judgment, and nit picking. AND if you don't play by my Dad's rules, you must have a "talk" with him, which translated means you are reverted to a 10 year old being scolded by your Daddy for being bad. He attempts to manipulate your thinking with guilt, promises of money & things, and intimidation. No matter what you do, you walk away from these "talks" feeling very small. And no matter what, you don't receive unconditional love from him. I don't even know if he can love-- as the answer above said, narcissists view people as objects. I continually feel like an object in my life, that he places at events, gatherings, and holidays for show as he doesn't have conversations with me, doesn't inquire what's going on in my life... and if I ever do have a chance to speak to him, I am quickly interrupted for one of his long winded and disjointed stories.

So, what exactly is a narcissist?
  • grandiose sense of self-importance. CHECK.
In our family, he always positions himself as the one who keeps the family together although he is the one who is tearing it apart. He subjected my brother and me to Parental Alienation Syndrome against our mother, treating us like pawns in his chess game of divorce: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome. He also anchored his identity in his job, and after retirement his narcissism has come out immensely. Now he is boasting that he being used as an 'expert witness' for high profile cases and needs to fly for depositions.
  • lives in a dream world of exceptional success, power, beauty, genius, or "perfect" love. CHECK.
His marriage has been a dream world of perfect love. He talks about his wife with disrespect ("I'm having a mid life crisis. So, I could either get a divorce or a Corvette, so I opted for the car"), talks about his wife's daughter with disdain but plays the game of nicey-nicey anyway, and he acts loving toward his wife in public but behind the scenes he lives a separate life from her.
  • thinks of himself as "special" or privileged, and that he or she can only be understood by other special or high-status people. CHECK.
He joined a very expensive country club (and has to remind you just how expensive it is) and talks about the high profile people he mingles with. He moved into a highly affluent neighborhood and name drops about all the famous people that reside in the community (and who he has brushed elbows with). He makes sure also to tell you these long, drawn out stories of all the famous / special / high-status people that he encountered in his socializing and travels.
  • demands excessive amounts of praise or admiration from others. CHECK.
He relishes all the staff at the country club bowing down to him. He also demands praise and admiration from the folks he works with, talking down to them if not getting what he wants-- then making jokes to cover up his harshness.
  • feels entitled to automatic deference, compliance, or favorable treatment from others. CHECK.
Since I've been a small child, he would go off on service people if he didn't get what he wanted when he wanted, how he wanted, etc. And if the situation was rectified to his satisfaction as quickly as possible, he would culminate into a boiling rage. He walks into restaurants with an air about him, like he owns the place.
  • exploitative towards others and takes advantage of them. CHECK.
Since I was a small child, he ALWAYS has people doing things for him, whether it was the tab at the local pharmacy for our prescriptions, the mechanic, the builder, or whoever... he exploited his relationships and took advantage of what he could.
  • lacks empathy and does not recognize or identify with others' feelings. SUPER DOOPER BOLD CHECK.
He completely is void here. VOID. There is not an ounce of empathy in him for anyone, including his presently ailing wife. He has never been empathetic and doesn't identify with the feelings of others. Observing how he reacted to my grandparents deaths in the 1970's, how he handled us kids during the divorce with our mother in the late 1970's and 1980's, how he's handled my brother's trials & tribulations in life, and how he's dealt with his wife's road to diagnosis and treatment for a debilitating disease.
  • frequently envious of others or thinks that they are envious of him or her. CHECK.
His apparent envy for my husband's status in the professional world is very apparent. What also is apparent is the change in the way my Dad treats me since I've been married to the professional. When I was dating guys that were in the service industry or whatnot, my Dad was much nicer and caring than now with the man who is professional and successful. A poignant observation relating to the narcissists envy.
  • "has an attitude" or frequently acts in haughty or arrogant ways. A LITTLE CHECK.
My Dad is a true entertainer, and he's all about appearances. So, he doesn't necessarily act in a displeasing way to people although he is passively haughty, arrogant, and copping an attitude.

  • Craving narcissists. These are people who feel emotionally needy and undernourished, and may well appear clingy or demanding to those around them.
  • Paranoid narcissists. This type of narcissist feels intense contempt for him- or herself, but projects it outward onto others. Paranoid narcissists frequently drive other people away from them by hypercritical and jealous comments and behaviors.
  • Manipulative narcissists. These people enjoy "putting something over" on others, obtaining their feelings of superiority by lying to and manipulating them. CHECK.
  • Phallic narcissists. Almost all narcissists in this subgroup are male. They tend to be aggressive, athletic, and exhibitionistic; they enjoy showing off their bodies, clothes, and overall "manliness."
  • Most observers regard grandiosity (CHECK) as the most important single trait of a narcissistic personality. It is important to note that grandiosity implies more than boasting or prideful display as such—it signifies self-aggrandizement that is not borne out by reality. In addition, grandiosity complicates diagnostic assessment of narcissists because it frequently leads to lying and misrepresentation of one's past history and present accomplishments.
My Dad has told everyone, and continues to tell everyone (and everyone that I know of believes him) that he graduated from college... and he didn't.
  • a tendency to be attracted to leadership or high-profile positions or occupations. CHECK.
He owned his own company-- but before that he was never accepting of the non-leadership / low-profile positions he held. In fact, when he left his position in sales to open his own business, the transition was full of drama, turmoil, and severing ties.
  • a pattern of alternating between unrealistic idealization of others and equally unrealistic devaluation of them. CHECK.
He unrealistically idealizes his step-granddaughter (she can do absolutely nothing wrong) and unrealistically devalues my daughter. Although he doesn't know my daughter, he has been highly critical of her actions as a THREE MONTH OLD, he has made no effort to get to know her but criticizes her when she is shy to him, and says hurtful things that she doesn't understand yet (but I do) such as, "If you weren't the way you are, you could be here with us" (he was hugging his step granddaughter and my daughter was playing on the floor in front of him). See subsequent blog post: What Makes my Narcissist Dad Tick
  • a need to be the center of attention or admiration in a working group or social situation. BIG FAT CHECK.
LOVES and RELISHES being the center of attention-- my mother always said this bothered her (but I also think that's why she loved him in the first place). He places himself as the center of attention no matter the situation. His laugh is loud, is talking is loud, the dominates the conversation, his stories are too long, and he makes sure everyone knows he's there.

My Dad barely lets people get a word in edgewise, and I don't know how many times I've been talking to him, and he interrupts me, changing the subject mid-stream -or- he gets up and walks away.

I love this excerpt from a blog about narcissists called The Parent Who Wouldn't Listen: "Of all my narcissistic father's behaviors, it's his total inability to listen that I have found the most troubling. I have observed very closely some narcissists I've loved, and their inability to pay attention when someone else is talking is so striking that it has often seemed to me that they have neurological problems that affect their cognitive functioning. When a person says something to my father, if you can manage to finish your sentence without being interrupted, it's almost as if they hadn't spoken at all. There is no acknowledgment of what was just said. There is no appropriate reaction. If you tell him you have the flu, he will tell you that everybody around him is sick. If you tell him his granddaughter broke her arm, he will not ask if she's in any pain or if she's wearing a cast, but he will tell you how terribly upset he is because you allowed her to fall off the swings. When I told him I had got into the dream college of my choice, he didn't register the news. Then he wanted to know why I was packing to leave."
  • hypersensitivity to criticism, however mild, or rejection from others. BIG FAT CHECK.
One small example was when I sent him an email with some website references about my baby daughter relating to stranger anxiety & grandparents, you would have thought I had sent him something derogatory and cutting. He went off the deep-end and said that I insulted him. He was mad at me for months.
  • preoccupation with outward appearance, "image," or public opinion rather than inner reality. CHECK.
He has always been about appearances. No matter what turmoil or drama we were going through, we always had an outward appearance that everything was fine & dandy. He is showy with his cars, clothes, and appearance as well. He wants you to be at the holiday gathering as a show to others that his family is a cohesive unit, although it is so broken. He wants you to be part of public gatherings so his friends and family think that he has it all together, that he is loved by his family, and all is something to be envied & admired.
  • painful emotions based on shame (dislike of who one is) rather than guilt (regret for what one has done)
He will not ever discuss memories of the past. Even small, seemingly irrelevant memories he will scorn. He said to me the last time I asked him a question about my childhood, "I don't remember. I don't remember because I DO NOT WANT TO REMEMBER." He will not talk about my mother and said, "I wouldn't shed a tear if she died tomorrow" and "I divorced that lady so almost 2 decades ago and haven't talked about her since then, and I want to keep it that way". The sad thing is that if he could talk to my brother and me about our childhood, many questions could be answered, wounds healed, and doors closed. But he won't ... and he is very selfish for that.


  1. Thank you for this post. When you first discover the truth about your parent, it feels like there is nobody out there that understands what you are going through. It helps to know that you are not alone. it makes you beliee that you can move past this and see the light at the end of the tunnel. The realization is painful. Sometimes I feel that ignorance was better.

  2. You are so very welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting. Realization is painful but after time, the realization is freeing and validating. The more you know, the more you can grow as a person and be in control. I wish you all my best. Happiness and more :)

  3. Your blog is very good and so very needed. I divorced my NPD husband after 29 years of marriage; after he changed the locks on our doors in home and the business we owned. I was exhausted of the time I spent as an ostrich with head in sand so as not to see his behavior and criticise him in any way....but I was tired of being numb and in his eyes I was not a doting supply of admiration; so it was an unpleasant existance. I began to see the world in technicolor shortly after; and now am in a real and mutual marriage; in love and genuine sharing 7 years later. I regret the role model I was for my kids; and he is manipulating them still (at least our firstborn daughter). She is strong though, and time and distance will hopefully stop her fromt he need to have his conditional approval(always fleeeting). You are a strong and brave woman; and I am so glad you have the spirit you have; considering that you had neither parent to really nurture and reinforce you. God bless you; and keep writing.

  4. Thank you for stopping by and thank you for sharing. All my best to you-- Happy New Year!

  5. Thank you for your amazing blog. I happened upon it while researching NPD for a final paper. I am almost certain that my father has this disorder although he has never been diagnosed.Growing up was like walking on eggshells even after my parent's divorce and moving in with my mother. I am 24 now and we live in different states. After seeing a councilor a few years ago for generalized anxiety disorder, I decided to cut ties with my father. My symptoms improved exponentially. It's extremely difficult to realize that your parent is harmful to you and that they might not be capable of loving you back or even seeing you as a person. Once that realization was made, however, I begin to realize that I wouldn't allow similar treatment from any other person and I shouldn't from him either. Boundaries are key and narcissists don't do well with them. Anyway, I appreciate your willingness to share your story and commend you for strength to do so.

  6. I do not feel that ignorance is better. I feel that knowledge is power. For me, realizing this was a relief! I have been gaslighted so many times in my childhood. For me it was my mom - she called me false, a liar, a thief, untrustworthy - and I lost a big part of my life on trying to proove that I am good - making me the perfect victim for narcissists and then wasting more of my life on relationships that would never go anywhere. I have a son with a narcissist - he lied and manipulated my son away from me - and guess what - I felt guilty about it - but for him it was only about controlling - winning our son as an object. Finaly .. I realize and see the pattern, I can stop feeling guilty, stop waiting for love and stop trying to prove that I am good. I see clearly now. I wasnt crazy like my parents said, I didn't have a lousy memory as my husband said, I wasn't over sensitive as my latest boyfriend said. I am real.

    1. "I realize and see the pattern" ... isn't it a relief to figure out part of the puzzle? My best to you.

  7. I think you mean affluent, not flatulent ;-)

    1. OH MY GOODNESS! That type-o is hysterical! I don't know whether to change it or leave it in there! I get laughing all over again when I read it! You have a good eye, and thanks for the heads-up :)

  8. I have been literally crying reading about people's experiences of narcissistic fathers in the internet as i have come to realize that my father was one and he did unbelievable damage to our family. He was like a big baby, always had to be the center of attention, still does, total drama queen, grandiose, conceited, completely self centered, unstable, alcoholic, only interested in his own needs, no empathy, doesn't think he did anything wrong, despite cheating multiple times on my mother, causing havoc with all our lives, every day, moody, argumentative, glob, hurtful, asshole all the time. He was emotionally abusive every day, and still is. He was a nightmare to live with growing up, we all walked on egg shells, and he was always unpredictable and I never felt safe and secure as a child. I cut ties with him over two years ago and I might not even go to his funeral when he dies as he did so much damage to me and my life, and my mothers and siblings lives. The only way to deal with some narcissistic parents is have nothing to do with them- they literally drain your energy to feed their ego and leave you damaged and empty. They are a waste of time and space..