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Gifts from Narcissists Always Come with Strings

It started when I was five. That’s right. Just five years old. First, I learned to read. Next, I learned that all gifts from narcissists come with strings. They must be fondled with care. Put on pedestals. Worshiped. Taken out of storage whenever the narcissist is around so they can see you displaying their gift, using their gift, loving their gift. And you must never, ever lose them. Or, banish the thought, ruin them.

Well, maybe I exaggerate just a tad bit. Hyperbole. But, you know that I’m talking about. Cause you’ve experienced it too, haven’t you? There are even words for things like this. In this world, we call them White Elephants. In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Hobbiton, they’re called mathoms: gifts that no one wants, so they keep giving them to each other.

And if you don’t swoon over every thing a narcissist gives you, they call you “spoiled.” But you’re not, are you! And I’m not either. Lest you think I’m a spoiled brat, no, I’m not. My parents’ greatest fear was, and I quote, “raising a snot-nosed brat.” They didn’t spare the rod…nor the raised voice for over thirty years of aggressive parenting! I rarely got to have or do what I wanted, and finally stopped asking.

But I can’t be bought. Gifts don’t blind me to abuse. I can’t be bribed, threatened, brainwashed, baited nor played.

Protect It!

The year was 1985 and my narcissistic grandmother, whom you’ve met before, decided to grant my wish and give me a Cabbage Patch Kid. Remember them? Weren’t they cute!?! I wanted one that looked like me: blonde hair and blue eyes. Well, that was never happening. Natch!

Instead, Grandma and Mom tore apart the entire display of Cabbage Patch kids to find “the cutest one” in a pile of plastic injection molded dolls. Seriously!?! Anyways, disregarding my wishes, they instead chose a brown-haired, brown-eyed doll I named Janey. She came with a cute dress and a real tiny diaper. Grandma purchased her, I took her home and like any good mother, I immediately took off her “dirty” diaper, wadded it up and threw it away.

Mother freaked at what I had done!

That was my first lesson in “worshiping” gifts from narcissists: they must remain in mint condition.

Wear It!

A few years later, Grandma gave me a green T-shirt and skirt set. I liked it. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think it fit well. Now, by that time they had the money to buy me another outfit, better fitting, more comfortable. Oh no! Instead, they forced me to wear the outfit, covered by a hot, heavy sweater to disguise where it was too tight. I was miserable, hot and sweaty but that didn’t seem to matter much. After all, Grandma had given me that outfit. I had to wear it.

That was my second lesson in “worshiping” gifts from narcissists: they must be worn, no matter how miserable they make you.

Use It!

When I was seventeen, Grandma again got it into her head to give her grandchildren diamond cross necklaces. It was a nice gesture I never wanted, but it also transpired during the time when my parents were convinced I was Hell-bound. Nonetheless, I was forced into hypocritically donning that religious necklace every time I saw my grandmother. It was kinda’ like how we made sure the silver-framed studio portrait of grandma was prominently displayed when she visited. Sometimes it was displayed, sometimes it was not displayed in our day-to-day lives. But when she came, it was definitely o-u-t!

That was my third lesson in “worshiping” gifts from narcissists: you must pretend to love them and use them.

Keep It!

Years passed. I graduated homeschool and this time I really liked the necklace my grandmother gave me for graduation. Unfortunately, I stupidly lost it about eight years later.

And again, mom freaked. My status as an “adult” didn’t spare me from a tongue-lashing for my carelessness. It was from Grandma, after all. Not just a normal possession. I’m surprised I didn’t genuflect and cross myself with holy water before touching objects Grandma had given me!

That was my fourth lesson in “worshiping” gifts from narcissists: you must never, ever lose them.

Lots of Sticky Strings!

Gifts from narcissists are not gifts at all, at least, certainly not how the word is defined: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” Nor do narcissists define “gift” the way the law defines gift: “A transfer of property with nothing given in return.”

Baby, you must give a lot in return.

For starters, if the narcissist has a Flying Monkey, they will set the example of worshiping whatever the narcissist gave you. And you…must follow suit.

Secondly, the narcissist will be checking. They’ll check to be sure you still have the gift. Check to be sure you’re using it. Check to be sure you’re loving it.

Thirdly, the strings extend from the narcissist to the gift to you, rather like the strings on a marionette. They’ve given you so much…so you’d better do what they want. You owe them.

And if you, like me, go rogue and No Contact…you’d better give it all back. Or as my mother so eloquently put it, “…it seems only fair and just that [name] be compensated for the pain [you] are causing.”

Translation: If you tell the truth publicly, the bribes for your obedience, silence and worship must be returned to the narcissist. You don’t deserve them anymore.

Or not! Don’t be fooled by that one. A gift is a gift is a gift. That’s what my lawyer told me. It’s the law. Don’t be cowed and don’t be brainwashed. And don’t give anything back!

But I would trade all the gifts in a heartbeat to rent Doctor Who’s Tardis. I’d flip a few levers and with a “whoosh” fly backwards in time to rescue my mother. I’d rescue her from a bevy of narcissistic relatives, introduce her to a truly nice guy and then watch her flourish sans being a Flying Monkey, sans OCD, agoraphobia, panic attacks, anxiety and anger. I’d trade my jewelry gifts if my mom could be just my mom, and not my mind control handler too. I’d trade all the gifts for my mom to be free and happy. But money just can’t buy happiness.


Call it clearing the bad energy, improving your feng shui (or “fang schmay” as Clint Eastwood called it in Trouble With The Curve) or whatever, but I sold the lot. Anything the narcissists gave me, I sold. Kit-and-kaboodle…gone! If they wanted to do me a good turn with their gifts, selling them was that good turn. The money came in welcome. Owning the gifts had been nothing but a burden. It made me sad. I needed a fresh start with happy items I chose for myself. No strings attached.

So what gifts did narcissists give you that came with sticky, strong strings, rather like cobwebs? What drama ensued?

Please share in the comments section below!

Gifts from Narcissists Always Come with Strings

Lenora Thompson

For five years, "Narcissism Meets Normalcy" has followed the real-life, ongoing story of freelance writer, Lenora Thompson, and her readers’ healing journey from narcissistic abuse to healing, peace and happiness. In August 2020, Lenora launched a new blog, "Beyond Narcissism…And Getting Happier All the Time" as she and her readers explore the new world of peace and happiness. "Beyond Narcs…Get Happy" is 100% reader supported! To learn more about Lenora, her husband Michael’s heroic fight against Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis and to subscribe to her other writings, please visit Thank you!

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APA Reference
Thompson, L. (2017). Gifts from Narcissists Always Come with Strings. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Aug 2017
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