Reclaiming my identity after narcissistic abuse

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IMPORTANT: this article is written from a secular perspective. I do in fact deal with spirituality, but I believe this particular topic doesn’t need to discriminate against atheists and sceptics, as they too can fall victim to narcissists. Read it with that in mind.

All narcissists are controlling — I can say this going by textbook knowledge of psychology, or by personal experience. In fact, most of my life I’ve been enmeshed with narcissists (first a mother and grandmother duo, then a series of misguided friendships after breaking free). Maybe a naive (and therefore blissful!) reader would be suspicious of the “series of unfortunate events” that make my life story because it really does look like I’m exaggerating; But if you have first-hand experience interacting with narcissists (especially long term!) it will make perfect sense to you. There’s this thing in psychology called repetition compulsion: we subconsciously seek out what feels familiar to us even if it’s toxic. So, yes, a former victim of narcissistic abuse IS INDEED at greater risk of falling for other narcissists later on. It’s common. In a way, I was quite lucky: the narcissists in my life ever since breaking free from mother were few and far between (and still too many! One is too many!). I’ve heard of survivors whose ENTIRE CIRCLE consists of narcissists.

Anyway, back to the point: all narcissists are controlling. Even those who are super covert and would rather feed off people’s pity than play by the stereotype of “grandiose dictator-like narcissist” — in order to sustain Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you NECESSARILY need to stay in this fantasy world where you’re always right. There is no NPD without it! Therefore, you need to control people, or else they’ll call BS on this fake narrative the minute they see it. Covert narcissists are just more subtle and manipulative, but make no mistake, they are still control freaks.

One area of life they love to try and control is a person’s personality. Especially so if the narc is a parent or a lover to this person (click here for an article that expands on why). They feel entitled to treat people not like human beings, but characters they can customise to their liking. Often, if someone is a narcissist, you’ll notice right away that they don’t ask any questions about you or feel otherwise interested in listening to what you bring to the table — no, they’d rather decide, right off the bat, who you’re supposed to be according to their expectations. Your favourite colour is the one they decided at random, you like this and that style of clothing, you’re into that specific sport, and you have a crush on so-and-so celebrity. Is any of that true? Unlikely. These are things they’ll tell others behind your back, without even asking you first, and typically it’s already too late when you find out the lies.

This is crazy-making, aye? When YOU find out about who YOU are according to the narcissist, it’s too late to decide FOR YOURSELF because everyone already knows the narcissist’s version of the story and won’t make room for yours. The narcissist will have planted “evidence” for each and every one of their claims about you — for example, by giving you gifts you don’t actually like but decide to accept because, well, you’re a normal human being and want to be polite… then everyone sees you keeping and having these things that don’t really match your ACTUAL personality, and will go like “oh, yeah, [narcissist] told me about it. Makes sense”. Voila. You’re trapped in a false persona you don’t even know about.

If you call out the covert narcissist for it, they’ll just play the victim. “Whoa, why so aggressive? It was NICE of me to give you a gift” (but the thing is, you never asked, needed, wanted, or would have ever benefitted from that gift — so is it REALLY a gift? Nope. It’s just a thing they dumped on you), or if it’s not a gift but an aggression instead, from the more malignant kind of narcissist, “whoa, why so aggressive? I’m doing this for your own good, you will thank me one day” (although, nope, that’s gaslighting. Abuse is abuse. There’s no “finally making sense one day”. Abuse IS abuse. Period).

Important note on “pushy parents” VS “narcissistic parents”

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Let me make one thing very clear: not every parent who has dreams for their kids is on the psychopath/narcissist spectrum (yes, you read that right, narcissists and psychopaths have a similar brain). Some of these parents are just normal people who for one reason or another project their own dreams onto their kids and end up being a bit pushy or annoying about it.

But it’s important to make a distinction here because of one key fact about narcissists: they’re beyond help. They’re unlikely to change. It’s all downhill and you should cut contact. ON THE OTHER HAND, a parent who is simply pushy but doesn’t have NPD traits is absolutely capable of making a change for the better! They often don’t even realise they’re being toxic, but since they’re not building their entire personality on this one toxic trait, it is possible for them to change. So try not to mistake the two.

Think of a soccer dad: he’ll do everything in his power to get his son interested in soccer because he values the sport a lot and wants the wee lad to succeed at it. Perhaps he’ll be pushy about it, even if his son isn’t really into soccer at all. Maybe he’ll keep taking his son to the stadium to watch it, invite him to play ball in the backgarden, buy jerseys, etc. And in all likelihood, he’ll get disappointed if his son decides to have another hobby entirely… But eventually he’ll understand and move on from that.

You know what a [normal, non-narcissist] soccer dad would NEVER do? convince everyone around them (neighbours, parents from school, etc) that his son is into soccer and plays it wonderfully BEFORE letting the kid know he has that dream for him. The order of events here is important, he’ll definitely make it crystal clear TO THE KID first and foremost. Why? Simple: a soccer dad is GENUINE in wanting to awaken the same interest in his son. He is not just doing it for the sake of controlling and entrapping the kid. Therefore, he won’t worry about hiding the fact his son “isn’t quite there yet” from the people all around them. The difference between this kind of dad vs a narcissist can perhaps be summarised as the difference between “hey son, I hope one day you’ll realise how awesome this sport is” VS “hey son, you’re crazy for soccer already because I said so, you’re just a pawn in my chess game so you’ll play this part like an actor”. (No narcissist would actually say that, but it’s the hidden motive).

The contrast between a real soccer dad vs a narcissistic one is perhaps even more striking when the dad is lucky: let’s say the son agrees with his dad and actually enjoys soccer. It can happen, not all kids rebel. For the non-narcissist: happy days, aye? He’ll help his son practice, pay for coaching, take him to sporting events, attend every match and cheer on his team, etc. A NARCISSIST, HOWEVER, will suddenly become disinterested and just let the kid “do his thing” with soccer. Support will be very minimum, and this will become nothing more than a bragging subject or conversation starter with his yes-men, but the kid will be left in the cold. After all, he was never human to the narcissist. He’s just an object, just a toy to customise and use for external praise, and “put back in the shelf” once it’s no longer needed. Yes, “it”.

Now replace soccer with ballet, violin, climbing or literally any activity.

All the things I am not

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  1. Introverted

Look, I have absolutely nothing against introverted people. They make for wonderful friends, I don’t know what I’d do without them. IF I had been born in a healthy home, IF I had normal parents and IF I didn’t have the trauma I have… I wouldn’t even be telling you I’m an extrovert or introvert or whatever. It would be a non-issue.

The fact is I’m extroverted. Always been, always will be. Ever since I was a wee kid I was chatty and loved interacting with people, loved crowded places like parties and restaurants, looked forward to go out, etc. My mother probably saw this as a threat to her [extremely suffocating, controlling and engulfing] parenting style, so she took it away from me. She wanted my entire life to revolve around her. All these other people in my life needed to go.

So she started triangulating me against them. She’d tell them lies, things I allegedly said; and then she’d tell me lies, which my friends allegedly said. All her invention, but I fell for it. She was very successful in making me believe nobody was to be trusted because they’d “talk” behind my back, or because they were dangerous and envious of me, and I needed to stay protected from this big bad world… under her wing. Forever and ever. (cue Mother Gothel).

As the years went by and she kept curtailing my freedom more and more, I actually started believing I was an introvert, or extremely sensitive to everything, even autistic. She insisted in taking me to psychologists from an early age, but eventually stopped — none of them ever diagnosed anything worth noting. Perhaps she was unable to “buy” any of them to give me a fake autism diagnosis or something similar that would justify keeping me dependent and with her, no matter how hard she tried. (Lucky me, as unethical professionals exist in every field. We just didn’t find them).

But long story short, her motive was to keep me from finding any sort of meaningful connection outside, so that I wouldn’t ever leave her or feed her already pathologic jealousy. And the means she found for that was to label me a “very shy introvert”. She insisted on it so fiercely and manipulated things so well, that I actually believed.

But no, I’m not introverted. Never was. And perhaps even if it were true, I wouldn’t literally isolate myself from the world. Introverts don’t deserve that either.

2. Shallow

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This one is a big pet peeve, because it’s genuine to some degree. I mean, she wasn’t just using this label for control — she actually values physical image a lot. Both her and granny have always had an obsession with looks. But regardless, this isn’t part of who I am. It’s just part of the mould they wanted me to fit into.

No hard feelings whatsoever against people who work with beauty and fashion. I like and get on well with them, despite not sharing the interest to the same degree. But I’m always in favour of lifting my friends up even if we’re different. It’s weird that people tend to automatically assume I’m “against” diversity or “can’t stand” disagreement or whatever. That’s the very opposite of who I am! My circles are as diverse as they get. I’m friends with a lot of people who have NOTHING in common with me beyond their humanity and I think that’s beautiful. I follow beauty influencers because they’re entertaining, and the same is true for the martial arts buffs, nerdy channels, handymen, mystics, athletes, musicians, gamers and farmers I also follow. But if you wanna keep thinking I’m close-minded, sure, you do you. Wanna keep thinking that whenever I make a choice, I’m “at war” with all the other alternatives? Go ahead. Wanna keep assuming whenever I say “I’m not X”, I secretly mean “I despise X”? Be my guest. I won’t stop anyone from living in a constant vicious cycle of cliqueish behaviour — But I won’t feed it either.

*trigger warning for eating disorders, jump to photo if you’re at risk*

Both narcissistic women who were my caretakers tried to destroy my body image from a very young age, perhaps because they were jealous of the healthy relationship I had with my body whereas they had dysmorphia themselves.

Mother would bully me constantly and try to manipulate me into very restrictive diets, some of which even impaired my growth (and then she’d bully me for being shorter than the average for our Germanic family…), but I never got addicted to any of these diets, I only joined when the bullying at home got really unbearable, and dropped asap. It just wasn’t my thing. I’m not sure why, but I’m not hard-wired for this kind of “beauty” addiction.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

She was a lot more successful in getting me to hate my hair though, especially during the early 2000s when super straight was the norm. My own hair is wild, think Merida from Brave lol, so of course I was unpopular in high school and felt inadequate. This didn’t stop at me frying my hair to fit the standard, though, it got way worse with “help” from the narcissists: it got to the point where they would threaten to cut my hair super short if I misbehaved (aka didn’t cater to their crazy demands). They brainwashed me into believing a short-haired woman had no value at all and would be socially ostracised. Pair that with my fear of isolation, and you’ve got a recipe for a brand new phobia.

3. Posh

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She took me to ballet, although I never wanted it, just because the rich girls in my class were also ballerinas so it was important for me to compete with them (except, no, I was a wild kid who wanted to go camping and climb trees. I couldn’t care less about competing with some karen’s daughter, OR ballet as an activity in and of itself). The closest I’ve ever been to the stereotype of “classy” was, perhaps, when I developed an interest for learning the harp as a young teen — and then couldn’t find teachers or resources near me — and it was merely because the activity looked fun. It was never about the “looks” or the status or similar BS. But I digress.

I ended up telling mother I wanted to quit ballet, and would stop going if she kept paying anyway. That seemed to convince her. First of all, I never truly cared; second, I felt like I lacked skill, and mother agreed. (In fact, that wasn’t true — I just wasn’t truly making an effort. This led all the ballet teachers to think I was a lazy kid, when IN FACT mother had actually ruined my self-confidence to the point I was unable to believe I’d succeed at anything unless I got instantly good at it with little effort. Because, well, that’s what she implied at home whenever I made mistakes. But sure… blame the kid. Parents are always saints. Yadda yadda).

Ballet aside, she had some really weird notions about me. For instance, she’d brag to whoever was willing to listen, that when I was a baby I “preferred classical music”. Sure, ma. It’s as if babies gave a fuck about what’s playing on the radio. “Waaaa, waaaaa, play me some Mozart mama or I’ll cry louder” — said no baby ever.

Never mind the first years of life, aye? Let’s go back even further: the NAME she gave me happened because of a celebrity who “looked very sophisticated”. It means nothing to me. It’s not even from my culture. It probably means nothing to her, either. She named me for the shallowest reason ever. It was just the “rich bitch” vibe this woman gave off, nothing more. Mother wasn’t even a fan, didn’t even watch the movies.

I once overheard her on the phone, talking to one of her admirers, and she said “oh dear, how cheap, Meron* would totally look down on that”. Would I, though? And what was she even talking about? I thought better not to ask. I’d gotten used to her making up narratives about me as if I was her Barbie to play with.

*not my official name

4. Conservative

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Like every kid, I sometimes obsessed over random things — only to get over the “phase” in a few months’ time and go back to being my usual self. You could argue, perhaps, that this behaviour was made a lot worse because of my dysfunctional family: mother would try to force her own interests down my throat, manipulate everyone into believing the lie, isolate me, punish me for not complying, etc — to the point that the ONLY WAY OUT of that kind of dynamics was to actually be MORE annoying than her.

For example: She’d insist that I should obsess about Barbies and playing with dolls. I didn’t care. She pushed, and pushed, and pushed. I still didn’t care. She turned to even more drastic measures. I got to my absolute limit, was about to lash out… And then decided to obsess about something completely different, and started pushing it so she could have a taste of her own poison. It’s plausible as an explanation, because I do remember obsessing over my interests to the point I’d be a total pain in the arse, like a spoiled brat — until she gave me what I wanted. But IF that was part of my personality, WHY did it magically stop happening once I grew older and moved out? Even before finding out what narcissism was? Simple: it was my defense mechanism against her controlling behaviour.

But anyway, I obsessed over things that were the opposite (or at least quite different) from what she insisted I should like. And in doing so, I started realising a very ominous pattern in her personal interests: they were all things a “tradwife” would be very into.

First it was the dolls, fashion, glitter and all the pink stuff from the “girls” section of a toy shop. I turned to Lego instead, which dad also liked, just because it wasn’t what she wanted. And in the end, you could argue that was quite sexist. This is not to shit on girls who are actually “girly”, but ya know what I mean by sexism here: only girls allowed. Boys excluded. And girls shouldn’t dare go to the other side either. That kind of prejudice.

Then, it was the “classy” stuff: ballet, classical music, fine dining, designer stuff, exotic destinations. I started obsessing over “the indians” as a reaction. (Sorry, I didn’t know a better word at the time. Blame the racist education system). She eventually gave in and… gave me Pocahontas merch. *slow clap* wow, bravo, ma. Looking back, now, truly “admirable” of you. Ya know, having actual tribes near us we could actually visit and learn from. But what did you call them? “dirty freeloaders”? I mean, I was a young kid. I had no idea about politics or imperialism. I’m just appalled at it NOW.

Next up, the religious brainwashing: she started claiming dad was doing “unholy” things (I’ll leave it up to your imagination, I don’t want this article to be hard to read), probably because she was butthurt they were on the brink of divorce and he no longer acted like a doormat for her to walk all over. She just forgot to consider I was A CHILD. I believed what she said. I was innocent. And what she said scared me (even more so, because I’m a legit medium. But I won’t get into that in this article). I considered becoming super religious, but ended up realising Christianity didn’t make sense to me. Then I turned to the opposite of Christianity.

Fast forward to teenage and early adulthood. She became a lot more open with me about her ultraconservative beliefs (things that would make a Fox news presenter sound like a harmless centrist in comparison). There was 1800-style sexism, Medieval-tier religious bigotry, her homophobia and notions about “appropriate attire” were old as balls too. Not to mention her openly supporting right-wing dictatorships.

Anyway.

I was nowhere near a “woke” kid, and I don’t think the word even existed at the time. All I was doing was rebelling against the controlling behaviour of a narcissistic mother. Political realisations only came when I was an adult, but as you can see, the irony was always present. I bet she told a lot of people I agreed with her views about the world. She might have tried her best to paint an image of me that has nothing to do with the moral compass I actually carry with me. But I couldn’t care less. All I care about is figuring out who I truly am underneath all these labels. If others agree, that’s just a bonus.

All the things I am

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I won’t extend myself here. I’ll just to straight to the point, because nobody deserves an apology or an explanation. These are things I simply AM. They don’t need to make sense to you. There’s no need for you to agree. You don’t have to even believe them. I know who I am. If you don’t, that’s your problem.

I’m honest and blunt. You must deserve my kindness, I don’t go around distributing it to strangers. Yes I know you have opinions about that, but whatever. I made that choice. This is who I am and who I choose to keep being. You can’t tell me to change it.

I’m basic. Minimum makeup, almost no hair routine, clothes in a specific style, preselected when I buy them so that they all match one another. You’re lucky if I take longer than 5 min to get ready. I’m not making a statement. This is just who I am. I experimented with being more high maintenance, but didn’t like it. If you like it, good for you. Sure, invite me to spas and salons, I’ll go. I just don’t turn it into a routine.

I live sustainably. We all should to some degree, don’t mind me, I’m just giving it my all because I wanna. It ain’t a statement. It ain’t a competition. And no hate at all to those who can’t — who do you think you are, Jeff Bezos? Lol. Billionaires are unsustainable. I don’t hate working class people.

I am passionate. Unapologetically so. I cut ties with people who can’t stand my intensity. Be miserable all you want, just don’t drag me into it. I’m not leaving my vibrational zone anymore. Lesson very well learned.

Perhaps some will be surprised by the above. “Wait, what? Aren’t you a harpist, a spirit worker, a blogger?” — These, my friend, are labels on the shallow. They’re useful! If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be in my bio. Their purpose is to put me in boxes so that I’m searchable and marketable. Nothing against that. Here, on this article, I’m simply going deeper. I invite you to do the same.

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Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron Nic Cruithne

Meron is a psychic and spirit worker based in Ireland. She talks to the dead around her, especially the Picts. Please read her pinned post before any other.