Every morning, I wake up and inwardly scream, “How could Daddy and Mommy do this to me!?!” My internal CPU and RAM are maxed out all day, trying to figure it out. And I go to bed with the same wail of “What the heck!?!”.
After two years of studying narcissism and being “No Contact,” I seem to be no nearer the answer than I was on the never-to-be-forgotten day when I had a Divine Appointment with Google and the word “narcissism” popped off the screen at me.
To quote Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, ever since that fateful day, my brain has been an “exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating” place to live.
And yet…and yet…I’m sure I know the truth already. It’s there, in plain view if only I could open my eyes to see it and reach out my hand to grasp it.
So how did my salt-of-the-Earth, Norman Rockwellian family become both narcissistic and helicoptering? (Is that a word!?)
The Makings of a Narcissist
In 1953, a twenty-three year old good Lutheran boy was saying a hasty “I Do” to his fifteen year old, polio-ridden, pregnant bride. Six months later, my father was born. Although he was a good boy, excelling in both sports and scholastics to earn their love, his parents ignored him, treating him like a walking pariah.
He fled into the arms of his teenage lover, eloping with her at the age of nineteen. Four years later, the marriage and Dad’s self-esteem were destroyed by his bride’s adultery.
Mr. Narcissist, Meet Miss Inverted Narcissist
The story of my mother’s co- or inverted narcissism begins at the turn of the 20th century in my great-grandmother’s family. Their Victorian façade hid the reality that great-great-grandpa was (probably) guilty of incest and definitely guilty of horsewhipping his children.
In 1928, my grandmother was born, the product of my home-wrecker great-grandma’s scandalous marriage. Whatever vestiges of self-esteem Grandma possessed were destroyed by childhood bullying and romantic disappointment.
Thus, she raised my mother to be her emotional foundation. Mother was raised to approve, support, counsel and comfort Grandma and above all,to never move out nor have a mind of her own nor disagree in any way. Yet, she was assigned the Scapegoat status, while her little brother became the Golden Child.
We’re talkin’ major covert incest with both children. Thus, a classic codependent, inverted narcissist was made, not born.
A Match made in…well, Somewhere
Thus it was that on a gloomy day in February of 1977, these two wounded souls met and fell madly in love. A betrayed man had found a gentle child-woman who would never challenge, criticize nor threaten him. A woman he could scream and rage at, even before their wedding. He could storm out of the room and she’d still be there, puzzled and apologetic, when he returned, penitent and remorseful.
The narcissist had met the perfect co-narcissist. Sparks flew, wedding bells rang.
Birth of “The Project”
Three years later, their little pride-and-joy was born and spent her first two weeks in Intensive Care fighting a bad staph infection.
They were determined that she would be the perfect child, living a happy, perfect life.
Meanwhile, They “Got Religion”
As I spelled out in nauseating detail in “When A Narcissist ‘Gets Religion,’ You Get Screwed!,” Dad had a conversion experience in 1980. Although he shows no “Fruits of the Spirit,” yet he threw himself headlong into the feverish work of the Moral Majority to evangelize and remake a wicked world. Even mother experienced a 1980 false conversion, only coming to true faith in Christ around 2006.
God and safety were my family’s mantra. These two principles were carried out to the “Nth” degree, with absolutely no sanity nor sense of proportion. I’m surprised they didn’t just wrap me in bubblewrap and pack me away!
Until the day I moved out, they believed themselves responsible for my righteousness before God. There was no “bat mitzvah” when I became responsible for myself.
And if there was the slightest risk of danger or harm, I simply wasn’t allowed to do it. Birthday parties. Sleep overs. Field trips. Play dates. Going to school past age sixteen. Going to college. Driving after dusk. Driving over 45 mph. Traveling. Moving out. They weren’t having any of it!
They were the original Helicopter Parents, decades before it came into vogue.
So the “Official Story” is that they love and care about me so much, and never want anything bad to happen to me.
But is that the truth? And if not, do they know they were lying? Were they consciously or unconsciously living a lie? Did they truly believe their motives were pure?
Ah, there’s the rub.
Narcissism Meet Paranoia
God and safety. Nothing inherently wrong with them. Except when they’re pursued with no boundaries, no sense of proportion, no empathy, no normalcy and no idea of what living or human mean.
Where did ego leave off and care begin? What was narcissism and what was paranoia? It all combined together in a swirling cesspool, holding me hostage, robbing me of life itself.
Mother’s horror at her baby’s brush with death, combined with Dad’s jealousy and seeing a paedophile around every corner. Dad’s constant concern over rape combined with Mother’s reciting Grandma’s cliche, “No good happens after night falls.” Meanwhile, Dad’s paranoia that his daughter would repeat the mistakes of his own lustful youth and his projection of his own teenage horniness onto her, led to a near-hostage situation from 1996-1998 and a raging case of Stockholm Syndrome. And all of it done under the auspices of God. (Poor God!)
I could go on, but you catch my drift.
Neither parent tried to bring balance to the other’s paranoia. Neither put themselves in their daughter’s shoes. No one considered that, come good or ill, her life was her own to live.
Life, to them, was not something to be lived and enjoyed. No! The goal was to survive each day, unnoticed and unscathed, slipping into Heaven someday. I guess they figured they’d do our livin’ then.
Did they Know?
I really can’t blame Mom because she never had a normal life. Never moved out of her mother’s house. Never cut the apron strings. Independence was a forbidden sweet she’d never tasted. And maybe I couldn’t have something she never had. Could that be the case? Could it be envy!?! We’ll never know!
We do know that she acted on Dad’s brainwashing with all the zeal of a cult leader’s second-in-command. Whatever he told her, she believed whole-heartedly, fighting my resistance tooth-and-nail. Undoubtedly, Dad blamed her for my “rebellion.” He ruled by proxy via the Little Warden. Pity poor Mom, the Little Warden who Could!
And Dad? Well, he’s a very troubled, tortured, solitary, misogynistic man with hidden agendas and impure motives. Either he’s a pathological liar or he knows. I think he kinda’ knows. And that’s something I find hard to forgive!
Helicoptering: The Aftermath
Much has been written lately about helicopter parents. Well, mine were ahead of their time. And the result: paralysis.
Imagine being in your thirties. Your Mommy has told you how to do everything, watched you do everything and critiqued you as you did everything. You couldn’t even do a load of laundry without her screaming down the stairs, “Did you remember the detergent!?” And all because you forgot it…once.
You’ve never had to figure something out for yourself. Make up your own mind. Devise your own way of doing things. Show initiative and creativity.
Hell! If you did that, you got yelled at!
Suddenly, you find yourself in your own home. It’s a 1912 cottage, dirty, cobweb draped, neglected for thirty years…and there’s no running water. It’s a mess.
Mommy always cleaned up the messes. Or she told you how to clean up the mess. Suddenly, she’s not there. And it’s your first time figuring out how to clean up the mess. There’s no paradigm. No “This is the way I always do it,” because for thirty years, you’ve been practicing clairvoyance. Thinking with your mother’s brain. Doing everything her way.
Been there; done that. And it really, really sucks.
And your point, Lenora?
Parents, consider your motives. Are they pure? Are they honest? Are you helicoptering and smothering for your ego, because of your fears and to satisfy your needs!?!
If so, you’re fixin’ to permanently lose your child and/or ruin their life.
Remember the old adage: If you want something very, very badly, let it go free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it was never yours to begin with.
And I’m not going back, because I was only “theirs” for eighteen years. They held me hostage of thirty-one, heedless to my tears, demanding I smile through my pain.
And that, my dears, is the result of narcissistic, helicopter parenting.