When Family Is A Cult (Pt 1)
Treading the path of narcissism research, a bunny trail led off into the underbrush. A signpost said “Cult Lane.” Naturally, I turned off the beaten path to follow the bunny trail. I mean, who wouldn’t!? And I’m so glad I did.
Light glimmered when I read on house-of-mirrors.blogspot.com, “Growing up in a family of narcissists is akin to being raised in a cult.”
Fascinating shit! On hands-and-knees, I scrambled along the bunny trail as it led deeper into the thicket.
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“..The techniques of manipulation and control used by narcissistic parents are the very same techniques used by narcissistic and psychopathic cult leaders,” according to http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/narcissistic-parents.html
Curiouser and curiouser! Scratched by briars, I forged ahead.
Suddenly, the trail ended in a faery ring. The sunshine blinded me and suddenly…all was clear…thanks to the International Cultic Studies Association and “Cult 101.”
It turns out there are a set of attributes that describe most cults wordwide. They all have the same traits, regardless of doctrine. And whaddya know! Narcissistic families have the same traits as a cult! Mine sure did!
Traits of a Cult
Here are just a few of the traits that jumped out at me as familiar…too familiar.
Oh yeah! “We love you so much!” “You’re our heart walking around outside our body.” “We would die for you.”
It hooks ya! If your self-esteem is non-existent, resisting this much “love” is virtually impossible. The “love” replaces your self-esteem. It fills the void. Becomes an addiction. Without your “fix” of love-bombing, you wither and die inside.
And that’s when they’ve gotchya’! All they have to do is withdraw your “drug,” and you’ll do anything, anything they want to get it back. Do what they want, and you get the love again. That’s why it’s called “love-bombing.” Kablooey!
In the end, they never die for you. But you die for them by giving up your life, hopes, dreams, time, friends and yes, money.
“The group displays…unquestioning commitment to its leader…as regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.”
Oh Hell ya! You don’t doubt a narc. You don’t question them. And you definitely don’t think for yourself. Wracking my brains, I can’t recall even one time when the inmates of my family held and kept divergent points of view. Nope. Nothin’.
And of course, anyone in their acquaintance who didn’t agree with them were verbally filleted, behind their back, of course.
I remember this one time, oh I must’ve been twenty-nine, when Dad sat me down and demanded to know who I planned to vote for in the upcoming election. “I just want to be sure you’re voting for the right candidates,” he said. So much for ballot confidentiality!
“Questioning, doubt and dissent are discouraged or even punished”
I did raise objections and differing opinions from time-to-time, with fear and trembling. All it got me was more lectures, more brainwashing and getting yelled at. After awhile, you get wise to the game and don’t bother anymore. And that’s when the nightmares start.
You’re screaming at the top of your lungs, desperately trying to be heard. But they don’t hear you. Just smile at each other, condescendingly, deaf to your cries. And that’s when my husband wakes me up saying, “You okay? You were thrashing and kicking in your sleep.”
Come to think on it, this blog and my websites are the first time I ever dared to “question, doubt or dissent” and stick to my guns. Judging by the site hits I’m getting from my parents’ attorney, I’d say “discouraged and even punished” just about hits the nail on the proverbial head.
Grab a cup o’ coffee, cause this one’s gonna take awhile.
There’s child-rearing and then there’s CHILD-REARING in bold, italics and all caps. (I survived it without going bat-crap crazy, by the grace of God!)
The first one acknowledges the child’s uniqueness and the humanity they share with their parents. It guides and teaches, but it doesn’t crush and control. It encourages the child to discover who they are and live life to the fullest, yes, mistakes, differing opinions and all. It’s called unconditional love.
The second one, CHILD-REARING, is the “horse of a different color you’ve heard tell about.” The child is viewed with deep suspicion from birth. Their humanity (yes, including the “sin nature” Dad harped about) is grounds for loathing and condescending to the child. Voicelessness.com expressed it brilliantly when they said, “…narcissists consider children flawed and lacking, and therefore most in need of severe ‘teaching’ and correction. This negative picture of children is a sad projection of how the narcissist truly feels about his or her inner self before the self-inflation began. But the narcissist never recognizes this: they consider their harsh, controlling parenting magnanimous and in the child’s best interest.” Amen, preach it, brother!
This isn’t about self-discovery. It’s about complete brainwashing and yes, mind control. Ding, ding, ding, ding…Remember the Twilight Zone theme music!?
The preaching and teaching and lectures (which always increased in decibels) lasted for hours…ending only when I finally “cracked” and started crying. That’s how they knew they’d finally gotten through to their “stubborn” daughter.
But it was more than that. I was “prepared” for every event before it happened. If I was going to an event, Mother would tell me exactly what I would being feeling and exactly how to act and think before it happened. Often I wondered why they wouldn’t allow me to experience life organically and react off-the-cuff authentically. I felt like a member of the airforce, with a briefing prior to taking off and the interrogation/debriefing after landing!
“Leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear…”
I heard of this one cult in Chile where, “Women…wore ugly homemade dresses, so baggy that almost no trace of the female form remained visible.” That rang a bell. I’ve worn my share of Duggar-style denim jumpers and skirts. Clad from neck to knees in stiff, stabilized fabric, I felt like a doofus.
But I still wasn’t modest enough, I guess. So Mother would reach into my blouse, remove the safety pin holding the v-neck in place and then re-pin it so high, I felt choked. Sometimes the fabric tore from the strain of the pin holding it all together.
It inculcated such shame and paranoia about my body, compounded by occasionally being accused of seducing my father. Only recently have I realized that men’s “dirty thoughts” are their problem, not mine, and there aren’t as many creeps and rapists lurking about as I was led to believe!
More to Come!
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This topic is too good to rush through. There’s a whole list of Cult Traits we haven’t gotten to yet. And after that, we can look forward to a good ol’ exploration of the ramifications of leaving the cult, I mean, narcissistic family.
If you’re struggling with going No Contact with your narcy family, then you’re in good company. Those who choose to leave a cult struggle in exactly the same way. It’s called “Cult Withdrawal” and learning about it will validate us and help us stay strong in our No Contact resolve.
And, as always, I leave you with the words of Rowdy Roddy Piper!
Want to read more? There are many more original articles about narcissism by freelancer, Lenora Thompson, on the Huffington Post and www.lenorathompsonwriter.com. Enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe!
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment. If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion. If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
Thompson, L. (2016). When Family Is A Cult (Pt 1). Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/03/when-family-is-a-cult-pt-1/