It’s extraordinarily lucky that my narcissists aren’t the charming type. No, mine are the type that piss everybody off in their egotistical zeal to be “better than,” to proselytize and then to live in haughty isolation from everyone else who is “going to Hell.”
Last week, a tremendous leap in healing occurred when, trembling and doubting myself, I took the plunge and contacted my narcissist’s former acquaintances dating back forty years.
Some, it turns out, are dead. Some completely ignored my messages and I can’t really blame them. They must have seen my maiden name and shuddered.
But a few wrote back or we talked on the phone. Maybe they were curious how the child they pitied turned out. As one of them told me, “We all wondered when you would rebel.” Not if. When.
And they all were extraordinarily kind.
There’s an old saying you won’t find anywhere in the Bible: “God helps them who help themselves.” Maybe it’s true. I always had such horrible, inappropriate guilt for kicking my “wunnerful, wunnerful” family to the curb. Over and over, I fervently prayed to be delivered from my guilt. But God didn’t help me until I helped myself. As soon as I interviewed those ex-acquaintances of my family, the guilt was gone. Totally gone! The prayer has been answered but I had to show some initiative!
The story that has emerged about my narcissists puts a different complexion on my family completely. I know who they thought they were. I know the Official Story from the inside-out.
But the story from the outside-in is much different. It’s also surprisingly cohesive. Interviewing family acquaintances from the 80s and 90s, people with many different relationships to my family, all produces just one opinion. They struck everyone the same way: extremely opinionated, religious and proselytizing, isolating and isolated. Frankly, they left a bad taste in the mouth. People were disgusted them. The general opinion was, “Well, if that’s Christianity, then somebody goofed.”
What emerges is the formation of not a family unit…but a cult. Just as I’ve always said. People ask me, “What cult were you in?”. I respond, “It doesn’t have a name. Nor are its tenets off-the-wall. The family unit behaved less like a family and exactly like a cult.”
Unfortunately, I realize that many of you, Dear Readers, are children of narcissists who had that charm thing down pat. I’ve read your stories. Your parents’ friends and acquaintances shame you (the scapegoat) for not being the perfectly happy, grateful child such “wunnerful, wunnerful” parents deserve. You are always the Bad Guy. The Ungrateful Children of Angelic Parents-who-could-do-no-wrong whose children sadly rebelled with absolutely no provocation, tsk, tsk.
That’s the only reason I hesitate to gun-ho suggest Interviews as a healing step. It can backfire so horribly! And I don’t want you to be hurt more than you already are.
Like I said, I got lucky. The validation was tangible. I could almost taste it.
Being an only child with no extended family on speaking terms, I had no second pair of eyes. No confirmation that, “No, you’re not crazy. That actually happened. Your parents are X, Y, Z.” So when I started this journey in 2013, I had to embrace the evidence of my intuition, my eyes, my ears and my memory that I’d been taught and gaslighted to doubt and shamed into ignoring. It took all my courage.
Suddenly, six years later, there are other people, many other people, who are validating me. I’m not crazy! I didn’t imagine it! In fact, it was even worse than I thought. Their memories fill in the gaps. Give me perspective from the outside.
Perhaps it was the loss of his first wife. Perhaps it was the power he found in his new religion. What emerges from the interviews is the impression of a man carefully, systematically, even blatantly in-your-face isolating his new wife. Everyone I’ve spoken to is quick to point this out.
He couldn’t have chosen better for his second matrimonial choice. The daughter of a narcissist. Timid. Shy. Wounded. Passive to the point of raising red flags in the minds of those who observed her submitting to the isolation. The worst part is, she was made complicit in her own isolation. She may have “made the decision” that no one was, apparently, good enough to be her friend but I assume he did the brainwashing.
I was too little to notice these things. Just a babe in arms. But I do remember being five-years-old and being carefully taught that mothers who work outside the home are disobeying the Bible. I seem to remember this being the “reason” the friendship with a nearby lady was terminated. Apparently, only “perfect” people could be our friends. And there weren’t any.
The isolation was almost complete by the time I entered school. Having proselytized to everyone we knew, good God-fearing people who I was taught were destinated straight for Hell, my family spent the rest of the 80s immersed in trying to converting the rest of the world or at least gain political control! The Moral Majority was tailor-made to exploit people like us, as I wrote about in my article Narcissists’ Shocking Lack of Discernment and Weird Tangents.
We pick up the tale in the late 90s. Having become disillusioned with politics and church, we were living in near complete isolation. Our family in shreds, our mental health in ribbons. Not a great jumping off place to start my adulthood. But it was even worse than I thought as another kind acquaintance tells me that when they asked Teenage Lenora a question, my father instantly answered for me.
“We all wondered when you would rebel,” the interviewee told me. Perhaps the most healing words I’ve heard for years.
Everyone knew it would happen. No one approved of the overbearing narcissistic child-rearing techniques that treat you like a blank doll to be created from scratch, not a lovely person to be discovered.
Albert Einstein reportedly said that insanity is trying the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. If so, then narcissism is a kind of lite insanity. Mine employed child-rearing techiques that everyone knew would result in rebellion, but their ego led them to expect a different result.
Well, the rebellion took awhile…but I finally got there.
This article is a huge, heartfelt “THANK YOU” to the kind souls who were willing to talk to me despite the shudder that must run up their spine when they see my maiden name. They were kind enough and patient enough and curious enough to talk to a girl who had no voice, no friends, no normalcy.
And they changed my life.
The guilt is gone. The isolation is gone. Now I’m on the outside, like them, and I’m among friends. Friends who’ve known me all my life and treat me much better than my family ever did.