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Author Topic: Trouble receiving compliments/Do they "stoke the fires" of PD behavior?  (Read 353 times)
aslowrealization
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« on: January 04, 2019, 01:11:19 PM »

This topic came up in another conversation as something that we may not think about as often but might have an impact on some of our situations with the PD/uPD/PD-traited person or persons in our lives.

In your life, there may have been kind, generous people (family, friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, and many others) who have complimented you, or noted something positive about you to the person in your life exhibiting PD behavior. In my case, this person is my mother. Through the years, she has mentioned remarks that someone has made about me (e.g.- a teacher complimenting my work since she used to work in my school, a friend who she has spoken with from time to time on social media who always says something complimentary, which my mom repeats to me rolling her eyes a bit). There have even been a few cases where someone may have been innocently making a comparison or actively trying to provoke her in some way (such as about appearance...I'm starting to fear this one more as aging becomes more of a part of both of our lives, as she made more appearance-related comments/comparisons when I saw her at Thanksgiving than usual).

I've found that because I connect receiving compliments coming through my mother with either a sense of disdain or dismissal, that I am terrified of hearing positive things about myself...like, deep down, there's this primal fear of being attacked for standing out in some way. And that is something that I very much would like to work on. It's like there's a part of me that doesn't fully believe and internalize the positive thing that someone has said. Not to take it in to oneself to feel superior (I have a fear of this due to fleas), but just to rest in the kindness that has been shown and to feel...seen...without fear.

Does anyone else struggle with this?
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2019, 06:53:09 PM »

I am so glad you started this thread!  I had forgotten how things said to me by others triggered some state in my mom who then took it out on me.  Talk about twisted.  I never made that connection though until you mentioned it here. 

The things that spring to mind are when someone who say I was tall (as a kid).  I was tall until about 7th grade I was 5'6" by 4th grade and towered over everyone... and then stopped growing.  :P  (In my mind I am still tall!  haha)  Anyhoo, people would say 'you are so tall' or 'she is so tall' and my mom would interpret that as me being big or fat (I wasn't then).   I would be screamed at, ridiculed, punished when we got home.  But when we were still with the person giving the 'compliment' she would pinch the back of my arm and twist it hard all the while saying 'yes, i am encouraging her to diet'.  :P  I found out much later that as a kid she was a bit heavy and her older sisters teased her for being fat. 

Unfortunately I could go on and on and probably we all could but that popped into my head.  It actually feels good to make the connection and get it out though.  Thank you.

One way to get better with this is with practice you know.    I am sorry your mother can't see you or share in your accomplishments, intelligence, humor, or beauty.  I am sorry she tarnished the kind and sincere compliments others paid to you to the point where kindness is hard to hear. 

My therapist had me do an exercise where I had to write down three compliments about myself.    It was hard to even talk and I could not look him in the eyes either... i even told him to f off at one point... and look at me now!  haha  It gets better and part of the work is to do this very thing that we are doing right now.  Talking about it so good for you.

Excerpt
but just to rest in the kindness that has been shown and to feel...seen...without fear.
  We see you here and you have no reason to be afraid though it is okay to feel that way.  We can wait.   
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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2019, 08:36:57 PM »

I bet this is a rather common outcome for children of BPs. Good to see it brought up here.

Fortunately, my mom was never very critical of me when she was in her right state of mind. In fact, she was the opposite; She doted on me constantly and praised me like I was something extraordinary (I'm her only child), while exhibiting BP behavior much of the rest of the time. She actually still does this. I think it inflated my ego up until a certain age. This was very confusing until I realized in middle school that she was at least double-sided. Her excessive praise is a prime example of her "splitting" mentality.

Now, I think I'm a little extra-sensitive to criticism as a result, but I greatly value receiving honest compliments from others. It is humbling, and shows me that I actually am valuable to the world, and not just the apple of my irrational mother's eye.  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2019, 02:28:30 AM »

I have an interesting perspective from something that happened around new years:

So everyone was posting their happy new years pictures on social media and my brother was receiving a lot of compliments on his picture.

Everyone was commenting on how slim he looked and he mentioned that he's been working out (he is) and playing it out like "yeah beach body ready" and all that.

Truth is, he's actually quite chubby (Not that its in any way bad), he made some photography magic and managed to capture the exact angle, light and wardrobe that would make his midsection basically disappear.

Anyway, me having issues with people "enhancing the truth" I had the sudden urge to comment how he was not really "lean" like he was making out to be and post it for all his friends to see "the truth".

I realized it and stopped myself, but here's where all this relates to the "receiving compliments causing issues" thing:

Imagine now that he was actually slim and I had the twisted perception that people telling him he was slim and not me was somehow about me being fat, and along with heightened emotions you can see how I could have turned his compliments into a personal attack on my own self esteem.

Now, like others have mentioned, pwBPD do what we do, but "on overdrive". I can see from having recently experienced it myself how they could rationalize their retaliation from a seemingly "positive and innocuous" interaction directed at someone else.

So yeah, the fact that we can't seem to understand doesn't mean there's not a "logic" to it, to them it seems perfectly rational and reasonable.

As for how to handle it, I'm not sure I'm qualified 

I got "reverse compliments" a lot growing up: people didn't believe that I did the things that I did, "its too good for you to have made it" they said, I was even suspected of plagiarizing in college because my first year project was "too advanced" (tooting my own horn here )

I kinda stopped letting it get to me and went from "well you obviously don't know what you're talking about *grumble grumble*" to telling them "I know right, I'm THAT good" 

I still see compliments like that, I get a feeling of it being backhanded even when I consciously and logically realize its not, though I still react outwardly positive to them.

It's not the best solution but it got me through a rough patch.
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2019, 03:23:34 PM »

I was constantly criticized by my mother. She called it "constructive criticism" and I called it "destructive criticism". I think one of the reasons she did that was so that compliments wouldn't turn me into an arrogant child. I remember her saying that she didn't want me to "get a big head."
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2019, 07:31:42 PM »

Hi, aslowrealization.

I am terrified of hearing positive things about myself

I’m not terrified of these things, but they can cause me great discomfort at times. Through therapy and this community, I’m learning to feel good about compliments. It’s actually pretty cool. You hear the compliment, acknowledge it, put it in a good place and move on about your day. Easier said than done.

(I have a fear of this due to fleas),

Don’t worry. You’re self aware. Self awareness is where it starts.

You’re emotionally overwhelmed. Hell, I am too. I could benifit from your testimony. How are you right now aslowrealization?
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2019, 10:48:17 PM »

It's interesting that you feel fear... I've not thought about it groom that angle.  What's the fear? Fear that people might find out who you really are as seen though the lens of a Punitive Parent?

When I was 16, my mom was going off on me for something (it was always "something") and she said,  "everyone thinks you're so great! But I know the real Turkish!" An a-hole as she used to call me? I thought,  "I know she gets something positive pot of teachers,  neighbors and friends telling her nice things about me,  but I guess she believes something differently deep down?"

Later that year I cleaned up in the tri-county academic decathalon. She showed up to take credit,  and I resented it.  My teachers recruited me into it; she had nothing to do with it.

When I graduated with high honors from a community college with a technical program certificate also (which I didn't think was a big deal), she showed up at graduation to take credit.  I resented it. She made no end of telling me I was failing by not going to university even though she was ZERO help. My teachers and counselor knew something was off, but they couldn't do much.  I'll credit them for putting me in honors classes at least.  Someone was watching out for me.  I will give her credit for driving me 100 miles to my first (and only)  Silicon Valley job interview though.

My manager (boss's boss) sent me an attaboy email just before Christmas over a problem I found which I didn't think was a big deal.  To this day,  I have trouble receiving compliments.  There's a problem: fix it.  There's life: you grind away at it.  You duo what needs to be done.  My ex still criticizes me over some things,  and it bugs the  Cursing - won't cause site restrictions at Starbucks (click to insert in post) out of me.  I think I have trouble compartmentalizing. Projection is hard to handle.   
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aslowrealization
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2019, 09:48:30 AM »

Thank you all for sharing your experiences here...it seems like although many of us can relate to having some challenges around positive observations of us and our traits, the ways in which it's played out in our relationships with the PD-traited people in our lives vary quite a bit. Like, Harri, I never thought about a compliment from someone else being read by that person as a critique, or major_psych, that doting from the person could actually lead you to appreciate sincere compliments even more.

ItsMeSnap...your discussion of what seeing someone else receive compliments reminded me of a flea (more like a big ol' tick, really ) that I confess I really struggled with when I was younger: this feeling that if someone else is getting praised or receiving positive feedback, that if I'm different from that person, I must be wrong and bad and unworthy. For example, if I heard someone talking about how their wife is an incredibly friendly and outgoing person, I'd start thinking, "well, that's why I'm not married, because I'm not outgoing and friendly like that person." It wasn't an easy thing to work through, especially not in this age of social media, and I still struggle with it a bit but it was something I was working on before this realization. Now that I'm bringing my experience with PD-traited behavior into the mix, I can explore the connection. Thank you for that thought exercise!

Turkish, I think the fear is partially something like Cat Familiar mentioned, about getting a "big head" (in my case, I experience this as a fear of being the "real" narcissist) and partially about expecting the other shoe to drop, so to speak. Like when someone says something positive, I get this feeling of being exposed and vulnerable to attack, like a tall poppy, even when it's something very minor. It's feeling like there's a balance that needs to be restored somehow, though I cannot explain why I feel this way. I've only recently used the word "fear" to explain how I feel in writing about this feeling here...I would also say that shame comes into it, due to that first part of feeling like I have the potential to become a narcissist if I dare risk taking a compliment to heart.

Thank you for checking in about how I'm feeling, WTL...right now, I'm experiencing a combination of excitement and relief at making some of these new connections, but also a bit of guilt as I've been reading some other posts about people's experiences with the PD-traited person in their life. I've been meaning to ask (maybe another new thread) if there is a difference between people's experiences with people who display primarily or exclusively BPD versus NPD traits...because, in my limited understanding, it seems like (and this is a simplified version) BPD is more of a white hot burning emotional connection (which can get explosive) while NPD is more of a subatomic particle freezing lack of an emotional connection. Something that I find myself doing is comparing my experience with my uNPD-traited mother with people's experiences with their BPD/BPD-traited parents...and beating myself up a bit for not having the emotional tenderness towards her or urge to want to be there for her or maintain the relationship that more people on the BPD side of things seem to have (at least that's my impression). I actually feel a bit of anxiety and panic every time I read something about someone living with or near an elderly or sick PD parent. I'm bringing this up in case anyone else who is more on the NPD side of things relates to it...maybe it's that, maybe it's just where I am right now. I think, in order to heal, I'm going to have to try not to put the cart before the horse and not worry about if or when I might reach a place where I want a relationship or be able to get involved with her with her the way others seem to be able to have relationships or be involved with their PD-traited parents.
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2019, 03:52:23 PM »

Hey, aslowrealization. Your feelings are normal. However, I think that it’s important to talk about the guilt that you’re feeling. That’s not your’s to feel, I assume. It was placed on you. Do you think that this is possible?

There is a lot of overlap between BPD/NPD. It can look very similar and it’s quite common for the disorders to be comorbid. It’s impossible ground to navigate in real time.

You’re interested in learning about the differences between BPD and NPD. Understandable. A good piece of advice that I was given here is to not focus on a label. That comes later. Abusive and manipulative behavior is just that. That’s all you need to know right now. Patience will help you piece the rest together if you choose to. The important thing is to figure out what is best for you in knowing that you have emotionally manipulative people that you’re currently dealing with.

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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2019, 03:58:09 PM »

Hi again.  
Excerpt
difference between people's experiences with people who display primarily or exclusively BPD versus NPD traits
 When i first came here I was floored by all the people willing and wanting to improve and work things out with their pwBPD.   I was still keeping mine away from me with a long pointy stick and she was dead already!  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)  It was a process to work it all through.  I think doing a thread is another great idea.     No need to wonder about this alone.  
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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2019, 01:10:30 AM »

Guys I also struggle terribly with compliments. I recently competed in my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament and tied for bronze. Did I put the picture up on instagram? Nope, I was scared people would think I was better than I was. I also wasn't happy with the way I'd won the medal.

I'm reading others accounts of "hiding" themselves. I'm not alone, and we're not alone.

Moving forward, I'm going to accept compliments from others, and stop worrying if my behavior upsets others.
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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2019, 06:00:46 PM »

OK, I started a NPD/BPD thread...feel free to contribute over there if the conversation is of interest

WTL, I understand what you're saying about not trying to focus too much on labels...I first read about NPD several years ago and that description is what alerted me to consider that some of my experiences in my relationship with my mother may not be entirely healthy...but it is only more recently that I started to actually consider how the word "abuse" may apply to the situation (as well as emotional manipulation). I do not intend to diagnose or say that anything is definite, but the framework of NPD was what originally set me off on this journey (and still largely fits the bill)...so I continue to use it as a designation for now.
pbot, congrats on your tournament win  Even if you can see how you might have done things differently, I hope you can take a moment to reflect on what did go well, and what you're proud of.
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2019, 08:26:22 AM »

I started down this path of discovery by finding NPD as well. It opened up a breadth of findings and information. I’m sorry for not wording things right. You’re correct in what you’re doing. The framework is necessary. Thanks for reminding me of that. I get ahead of myself at times.

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« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2019, 07:16:05 AM »

Hi aslowrealization,

I still don’t know whether my mother has BPD traits, NPD traits, or whether she was simply too scarred and emotionally neglected in her own childhood to be able to do any better herself as a parent. I do know that I myself was emotionally neglected and abused, though it is still hard for me to type, let alone fully acknowledge it.

I used to be very bad at taking compliments. I would actually copy my mothers’ behavior: I would go full out on the irony or start to list all my other – negative – traits. Anything to undermine the actual compliment. I am still learning, but I now consciously try not to do that anymore. I force myself to simply shut up and ‘take it’ (that makes it sound almost like a punishment, and sometimes it does feel like that ).

Unfortunately, it’s the opposite for criticism: even the slightest hint of ‘why didn’t you’, or ‘you should have’ is internalized as an absolute truth very easily. It will be milled over, turned around and around in my head, and that little voice will keep reminding me of all that’s bad in me and try to drown out the good which, rationally, I know is also in me.

I hear you on the guilt you feel, I have this too. We are all on the same road, but every one of us joined this road on their own crossroad, with their own backpack. Every experience is important because of how it affects you as a person, and every person here is endlessly valuable and worth-while to listen to and to be heard and appreciated. I am glad you shared this post here. It has helped me come back out of hiding, to share, and to try work some more on myself. Thank you for that!

Excerpt
Something that I find myself doing is comparing my experience with my uNPD-traited mother with people's experiences with their BPD/BPD-traited parents...and beating myself up a bit for not having the emotional tenderness towards her or urge to want to be there for her or maintain the relationship that more people on the BPD side of things seem to have (at least that's my impression). I actually feel a bit of anxiety and panic every time I read something about someone living with or near an elderly or sick PD parent.

I am in medium contact with my mother, but I NEVER look forward to visits. I do not long to hear from her or to stay in touch. I chose to rebuild medium contact to avoid her getting even more isolated, but to me it feels like a chore, and it does not come naturally. I kept beating myself up for the lack of emotion/caring I felt. But I cannot give her more right now, not without risking my own health and sanity. So I have more or less accepted this is how I feel (or lack to feel) at this stage in my life. I know it’s callous and cold, but if she were gone tomorrow, I would not miss her. Admitting that to myself and saying it out loud here does make me feel deeply ashamed for being so cold. But lying about it to myself is quite useless, so I’d better face the facts.

Libra.
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2019, 05:43:52 PM »

WTL, about NPD/BPD, something that I have thought about from time to time is that I experience my mother's behavior from (largely) the scapegoat position in my family and from not having a particularly close relationship with her...so sometimes I wonder if I had more firsthand experience with her from a GC perspective (or even just a close relationship), I would see/read more behavior that fits with descriptions of BPD. It's possible that some of those traits may come out more or less depending on who she's interacting with.

It can be an uphill battle, just allowing yourself to feel some of these feelings sometimes, can't it? Libra, I can relate to not having the feelings I think I "should" if she were gone tomorrow. To be quite frank, we did have our good times and our laughter, little spots and visits and trips in the years between the point when I was out in the world enough to not feel as trapped by her and the onset of the serious turn in her illness about a year ago (about ten years total)...in a way, ignorance is bliss. But I feel like those times have ended now that my eyes are growing clearer every day when it comes to the emotional manipulation and with the likelihood that her behavior will only get worse in the remaining years that she has. I almost feel like I've entered a period of mourning already...but, given the circumstances, I'm satisfied with the what we did have and am OK with that being in the past. Some parents pass away at or soon after a child is born, or during their childhood, or young adulthood. I feel like the sun has set on the best of our times and, for the most part, on our chance at any relationship (for some people, an illness or those quiet moments at the end of life can be the richest and most beautiful...but that's a less likely outcome when you bring emotional abuse and manipulation into the picture)...but I'm OK with it. I have no desire to "treasure every moment" or force something solely because she's still here on this earth.
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« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2019, 09:42:06 PM »

That’s very interesting and an angle I’ve not thought about until you brought it up. I was also the SG. My sis, the GC. Amazingly enough, my sis and I have a healthy relationship.

I’ve heard it said here, in therapy and have read many other places that the scapegoat is chosen because of their strength. This POV speaks of narcissism to me. Entitlement is another aspect. How do we really know, though. At the end of the day, it’s about behavior, how that behavior made us feel and realizing that it wasn’t situational.
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aslowrealization
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« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2019, 08:08:33 AM »

Just to be clear, WTL, are you suggesting that the POV that SG are chosen for their strengths is evidence of narcissism and entitlement from the POV of the SGs who believe that?

If you are...I do understand that within a forum community, we take risks by sharing our stories from our POV...others can read what we write and draw their own conclusions about us and about those we describe. We all have the right to do so. If this is what you are indicating, fair enough.
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« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2019, 08:39:06 PM »

Just to be clear, WTL, are you suggesting that the POV that SG are chosen for their strengths is evidence of narcissism and entitlement from the POV of the SGs who believe that?

No. I’m speaking from a personal POV, theories that I can’t source and this community. I understand what you’re saying.
I’m here with as open a mind I can have. If anything, my comment can be an open door to further discussion. Even argument/debate. It can be constructive.
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« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2019, 06:57:30 AM »

Thank you for the clarification, WTL. And thank you for your openness to discussion and debate on these topics.

As far as getting a better understanding of what you are saying about the connection between the "strong one" argument and narcissism and entitlement...I will take another stab at it. Is it that we sometimes end up trying to fight fire with fire? That, in an effort to rebalance the scales that we experience as having been out of whack in our relationships, we can end up taking on a similar mindset to what we are pointing out in the other(s)? And that we should at the very least, be aware of this?
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« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2019, 07:32:35 AM »

Hi, aslowrealization. I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

Is it that we sometimes end up trying to fight fire with fire? That, in an effort to rebalance the scales that we experience as having been out of whack in our relationships, we can end up taking on a similar mindset to what we are pointing out in the other(s)? And that we should at the very least, be aware of this?

From personal experience, yes. This stuff can’t be generalized, so I’ll be speaking from a personal standpoint. What you’ve stated sounds very familiar to what I’ve seen and done. When I was too young to defend myself or have any say in the matter, I couldn’t fight fire with fire. I do remember the defining day that I put an end to my physical abuse. My mom was raging at me about something. I don’t remember what. We were standing in a narrow hallway next to a closet. I was 15. She had begun wailing on me with both fists. She was unglued and screaming. When she stopped, I asked her if she was done. She didn’t say a word. She just glared at me with glossed over eyes. I put my fist through the closet door and told her to never  Cursing - won't cause site restrictions at Starbucks (click to insert in post) touch me again. I was never hit by either of my parents again. The verbal and emotional stuff continued, but they knew better than to put their hands on me. It may not have been the right way to go about it, but I guess I set a hard boundary that day. I’m sorry for going off on a tangent here. I’ll get back on point.

Again, speaking from a personal POV, I believe that it is possible to adopt similar behaviors or actions when we’re enmeshed in these situations. Some call it “catching fleas”. Yes, I believe that being aware of this is one of the things that separates us from the disorder. Awareness is what allows us to do the work. Awareness is the best friend that says “hey man, put the brakes on and take a look at what you’re doing “.

What are your thoughts?
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« Reply #20 on: January 19, 2019, 11:18:01 AM »

I find compliments very invalidating if they come from my mother so I think I can be distrustful of receiving them from others. 

I was never good enough in my mother's eyes so when she says something nice I don't believe it.

I lost 66lbs 2 years ago and she told me I was beautiful. She genuinely meant what she said. My reaction wasn't...finally she thinks I'm beautiful, I've been validated, and now I can believe I'm beautiful too.  My reaction was to get angry, why?  Because why was I only beautiful now?  Why was I not beautiful to her always? Why couldn't I be beautiful to my mother because I am who I am?

I find that I will accept a compliment from those I trust, those that know and love the authentic Panda.  If they come from mom I don't believe them (I don't emotionally trust her) and if they come from an acquaintance I will accept it politely (thus validating the other person). So in my case my response to a compliment is based on who's giving it.

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« Reply #21 on: January 19, 2019, 11:55:54 AM »

Panda39, I’m sorry that you felt invalidated by your mom after a big life change. Compliments after the fact can be invalidating. Glad to see you here, btw.

So in my case my response to a compliment is based on who's giving it.

Me too.
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« Reply #22 on: January 19, 2019, 01:53:01 PM »

Hi PandaWelcome new member (click to insert in post) This sounds like a sensible way to go about it. Those who we trust and who are closest to us are most likely to be genuine. Acquaintances can be genuine as well but what they observe in us is more limited than someone we have a deeper, more intimate relationship with. And someone who we have a history of abuse with is really not someone who we can or should trust even when they are “saying something nice” (which may actually be a backhanded compliment or, like your example, reinforce a notion of “you’re only worthy when you are/do xyz”).

WTL, as difficult as it must have been, I am glad that you were able to find a way to draw that line when it came to your mother inflicting physical harm on you (at least) at such a young age.

On the question of our own behaviors after experiencing emotional manipulation in any form…From my experience so far, there’s a difference between thinking something positive about yourself compared to others and a line of thinking that is narcissistic or entitled. To go back to the “strong one” example, let’s say Jane is a member on these boards dealing with a NPD/BPD father. Knowing that she was always picked on and disgraced while her older sister was praised and admired by her father, she comes across the concept about the strong one possibly being chosen for that role because of some character strengths they possess. Jane could…

1.   Without placing a value judgment on it [and this is important], note that she was a more independent child from a young age – while her sister struggled a bit in school, she picked up more quickly and generally needed less assistance. She thinks to herself that she doesn’t think of herself as better or worse than her sister, just having certain strengths when it came to childhood development that her sister did not. She notes in her mind that staying she is strong in a particular way is not automatically saying that others are weak or inferior and she does not believe this (she acknowledges some ways that her sister is stronger than she is), but she does see how her father’s behavior might have been affected by it…or she could
2.   [This is where the narcissistic/entitled line of thinking begins] Decide that because she was more independent than her sister, she is actually a better person than her for not “relying” on the father’s preferential treatment for positive reinforcement. Jane notes that she has a successful career (which she worked hard for on her own so she deserves, thank you very much) and has never asked her parents for money, for instance, while her sister has frequently taken out loans from their dad. She nods, accepting this new perspective that while her father might think her sister is better, she is the one who, in fact, is better. She shares this with her therapist and a few close friends, but doesn’t say it to her sister….or she could even…
3.   Decide that, heck yes, this theory is right. She is the one who’s better. She kicks major butt in her life while her sister is leeching off her parents. In fact, she plans to remind her sister of this next time she sees her. And any time after that. She might even start to see her friends or other people who are less independent than her or aren’t “self made” the way she is as inferior.

While none of us are perfectly humble beings, I think many of us who are actively trying to heal fall largely into the first category (this is how I see the “strengths” argument when it comes to my own family, for instance). We may dip into the second category, but at least I wouldn’t call anyone narcissistic or entitled (not in a clinical way, but just using the term how we often do in casual conversation) unless they had firm footing in the second or third category.

But even being in the third category doesn’t make us abusive…until we start manipulating and treating others in ways that can be harmful to them on the basis of these beliefs. I think this brings us back to what you were saying about labels…if we start thinking “wow, I’m a narcissist” every time we have so much as a thought that aligns with the abuse we’ve experienced, we run the risk of self-blame, shame, and guilt that can prevent us from healing. And we should never feel ashamed of our emotions when they are just that – emotions.

With the third category, if Jane becomes aware that her thinking is starting to lead her to consider emotionally damaging behavior towards her sister or others, she might reflect and decide not to behave in that manner. If she is not aware, she might start the behavior and, before you know it, become emotionally abusive herself. So I very much agree with you WTL that awareness is very important in making choices about how we interact with others, both those who have abused us and everyone else…as well as within ourselves. Acknowledging that we too can have some narcissistic or entitled (or what else the person in your life might display) thoughts can help us find perspective and, if we are open to it at that point in our healing journey, empathy.

I also see how this could tie back to labels...if we're all capable of thinking that can be called narcissistic, how useful is that label as a way of defining the abuse? It may help to think of the abuse being possibly rooted in a narcissistic mindset rather than thinking "abuser" automatically when we use or hear the word "narcissist" (I know I do this sometimes).

Apologies about this thread getting off track a bit…there is so much to discuss with emotional abuse that one conversation just seems to blossom into another! Anyone, feel free to continue with either the main discussion or this one if it’s of interest.
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