Every time I hear the words, “I was worried about you,” I instinctively cringe and back away slowly, keeping the speaker in view but not making direct eye contact. Why? Because that “I was worried/concerned” act is a brilliant tactic in the narcissist’s quest to utterly control us.

But a story is worth a thousand words. See if these real life tales remind you of any times your narcissist got “worried about you” so they could control your every move.

The Cell Phone

The year was 1995 Anno Domini. An eventful year. A memorable year. It was the year all narcissistic Hell broke loose at my home. The year the Family went collectively crazy but somehow clung together. The year I became a Scapegoat. The year my OCD started. It was also the year we got our first cell phone.

Prior to 1995, we had been as blissfully unplugged and disconnected as most of the human race. If the car broke down on the road, you hoofed it to the nearest house and asked to use their phone. No one expected anything differently.

Your relatives took it foregranted that, if you weren’t home, you couldn’t be reached. No one worried about each other too much. You couldn’t. It was just-the-way-it-was.

Then we got a cell phone. Naturally, Mom shared the new cell phone number with Grandma. Little did we know that All Hell was about to Break Loose.

The next weekend, we went out to eat. The cell phone was along, but not turned on. Why should it be? We’d gotten along without it for decades. It was only for emergencies.

Grandma called for no particular reason.

Grandma got no answer.

Grandma freaked.

We must’ve been in a horrible accident. We were lying dead on the side of the road in a pool of congealing blood. Her overactive imagination went into overdrive. Frantic, she dispatched her Golden Child son racing down the highway to our home to discover what had become of us…as if that would somehow help, since obviously, we weren’t home to answer our landline either. She knew cause she’d tried it.

Now, I know Grandma’s actions sound loving and caring…but no. It wasn’t. It was simply an extension of her narcissistic domination. Control!! “You scared me shitless when you didn’t answer the cell phone,” she yelled at my mother.

From then on, the cell phone stayed on. We were always available to Grandma.

Text, Text, Text

When I got my first cell phone a few years later, it was an extension of the apron strings. It allowed me a kind of freedom. Yes, I got to go places alone, but 1) I had to contact my parents when I arrived and left every destination, 2) the destinations had to be accessible not via highway, 3) only during daylight hours and 4) not so far away that my parents couldn’t “rescue me.” Yeah, I’m not sure what that means either. I would’ve thought the police would’ve done the rescuing if I needed it, but…whatever.

That was how they got me to text when I got to work, text when I went to lunch, text when I got back from lunch, text when I left work, text if I went to the grocery store, text when I left the grocery store and text when I was exactly three blocks from home so they could “watch as you walk from the garage to the house so you stay safe.” Text, text, text!! Before the advent of text, and paying for their cell phones and plan, I had to call and leave a voice message. How well I remember putting on my “happy” voice each time I called.

It’s pretty hard to grow up and feel confident when you’re out with friends if you’re the only one calling Mommy constantly. It’s pretty hard to feel like an adult when Mommy and Daddy drive you to evening work events…and your coworkers know it. It’s pretty hard to hold your head up when Mommy and Daddy fetch you home from a work convention and the party is still in full swing. It’s pretty hard to look people in the eye when your co-workers go to conventions, but Mommy and Daddy won’t let you cause flying is too dangerous and they don’t want the NSA touching their “baby.”

The few times I checked-in with them five or so minutes later than expected, I was punished by that dire tone of anxiety in my mother’s voice when she said, “I was worried about you.” She only had to say those dire words in that dire tone and I metamorphosed into a sniveling insect ready and willing to do anything to receive her “love bombing” once again. My self-esteem lived or died with her approval.

This continued even after they finally “allowed” me to move out at thirty-one. Mom even added one additional check-in: a goodnight text. My heart never felt light ’til after the g’nite text was over and done because then I knew she was finally asleep and I was finally and blissfully alone and free in my condo. The only family member awake, standing on her balcony in her nightgown, ogling the stars and watering her petunias (and accidently, also watering her neighbor who took a shortcut under her balcony on his way to the mailbox LOL) in the gorgeous, beautiful night. And you wonder why I’m still nocturnal!?!

Safety über alles?

When a government becomes totalitarian, they do so gradually. One of the common first tactics is to convince their citizens to trade their freedom for safety. That’s what I did. Under the guise of love, worry and concern, I was seduced into trading my freedom for so-called “safety.”

I reality, what I got was totalitarian control. It choked me. Depressed me. Ravaged my self-esteem.

They say that when you die, you only regret the things you haven’t done. I have a lot of regrets. A lot of dreams that, because of my family’s so-called worry and concern, I relinquished. “You give up everything so gracefully,” Mother gushed.

Yeah. Sure. What was the point of complaining? I’d just be shamed and lectured for, “not being in touch with reality. This is a dangerous world. We just love and care about you. You should care about yourself. I’m so tired of being a parent. Why don’t you parent yourself?” As far as I could figure out, “parenting myself” meant saying “no” to pretty much everything. In time, I stopped bringing up my dreams, my desires. It wasn’t worth it. It was too embarrassing to be told “no” yet again.

What dreams have you given up because of the narcissists’ worry and concern? What would you have done? What hobbies would you have had? What skills and employment would you have pursued? What education did you really want? Where would you have gone? Who would you have dated? Even married?

I didn’t grieve back then. But now I do. I grieve for that trip to Ireland and Austria. I had the money for it, but I didn’t have the freedom. I daren’t claim the freedom. I was afraid of losing everything if I defied them even once…my home, my belongings, their approval, their love…and with it, my self-esteem.

I wanted to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Science museum. Visit art museums (“pornography” my parents would’ve called it.) Go to the opera. Attend Valley of the Moon Scottish fiddle camp. Work downtown at the theatre. Fly to my company’s yearly convention in Florida. Visit my grandmother three hours away. Some dreams I mentioned to them. Some I didn’t. The answer was always the same. NO. It’s not safe. We love you too much.

They say that if you truly love something, let it go. It will come back to you.

Do narcissists truly love anyone? If they do, it’s an odd, negative, throttling kind of love.

They never let go. We must break free.

And when we do, we must never, ever go back.