dysfunctional relationships

Dear My Narcissistic Father

Dear Father,

Firstly, I have to thank you…for you made me the man I am today.

But…I refuse to forsake all my positive aspects to you whilst I burden the negative.

For this is what you desire, the way your mind exists encompasses a “black and white” understanding of the world, a world where my qualities are distinguished by the superior belonging to you, whilst the inferior belongs to the lack of you, or rather… me. A world that I believed for so long and one that made me despise myself.

It is the lack of you that made me the man I am today, along with your presence.

I am grateful for the restaurant dinners once in a while, the fact that I did not have a hungry childhood, that I had warmth, shelter…games to play with. I am grateful for your presence, even though it was mainly just physical.

I am grateful that your constant criticism motivated me to get into university and the  self criticism that persisted produced my degree. Here, I struggle, for it is true that without it would I have become “successful”? My success comes from self doubt, a lack of self worth, a preference to suicide if I was not to succeed, my fear so strong that I lived my life believing I was followed by cameras, watching and criticising my every room, till I was perfect. Yet, without you, it is true, maybe I wouldn’t continue to strive for an unattainable moment of success…as for me, I am incapable of believing anything other than I will never be good enough.

I am grateful also, that you were present but distant. That you were never truly reachable. That any attempt to communicate with you led to criticism, anger or months of silence. It was this that fuelled my curiosity into you. I wondered for years who you are, what made you the way you are, how you were bought up…did you have it tough? Was that what it was? I’m not sure if you knew, but the reason why I used to ask you to walk down the street with me was not because I needed your advice. It was that I wanted to understand you. It was my inquisitiveness of you that led to my interest in psychiatry. It was the question of whether you were Aspergers or Narcissistic, the difficulties of a fit in the box diagnostic approach and the question of whether you are mad or bad or both…this was my childhood dilemma.

I still now, look forward to your invitation to dinner. For it is the brief moment that I can pretend that I am loved by you. Please continue to invite me.

Finally, I am sorry that I will always be angry with you. These are wounds from childhood…the ignored, voiceless, inner child. As a result, it becomes too painful to attend my girlfriend’s family events, because I shed a tear if I see a father play with a ball with his son. She will never understand.

Yes, it is likely that I will always remain angry with you but it has lessened over time. I have come to learn that you are who you are because you too are like me. You did not have a father when you grew up. You did not get to play, but you had it worse. You did not have the nice dinners, the money or the games to sit in your room and play with. You were raised without money. In your anger, you swore to yourself that you would raise your children better and you thought that money is love, for you had no experience of money…nor of love.

I understand this now, for I too now ultimately want to raise my children as a father who loves them, to heal what I didn’t get from you. I wonder what my children will grow up being angry at me for…it may be something that I am unaware of too.

I don’t want to be bitter, father. Or live my life in anger. It is not something that you would notice regardless, but it wouldn’t benefit me…or my future. Building the blocks of self worth on a poor foundation is painstakingly long, with relapses not uncommon, but from believing one is nothing, one can only go upwards. The utmost goal is not that of richness or “success” or other vices to stabilise an insecure ego through narcissistic grandiosity, it is instead that of wholeness and integrity.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Is My Partner So Messy?

It is so common for relationships to disintegrate over one partner being more disordered, messy or cluttered than the other.

This topic resonates with me a lot, for I am extremely messy. 

By messy, I don’t mean unclean– I shower once a day (with shampoo), clean the toilet regularly, hoover the house meticulously, wash the dishes in the dishwasher and use gloves when cleaning out the cat’s litter tray.

I am just messy in the sense that my life is disorganised. I can still function, keep a job, pay my bills on time and meet deadlines. I just tend to pick up the bills from a wad  of papers that I threw on the floor, for example, rather than from a neat folder with dividers. Or I tend to live out of a suitcase, rather than folding and organising my clothes in a cupboard.

There is an obvious distinction between cleanliness i.e hygiene, and mess i.e disorder, which I discuss in my previous article: “Am I too messy or is she too clean”. Commonly, the arguments amongst couples is not about cleanliness, but about mess.

So why am I so messy? 

Some of it, I believe, is just due to differences in what I consider to be an acceptable level of disorder, compared to others. For example, I see no problem with a disorganised coffee table. I feel that the whole point of a wooden slab in the middle of a living room is to put items onto it, not to leave it bare. I don’t believe that the only use of a coffee table is to put a coffee mug on it. I tend to read my book in front of the television, so the best position for me to place my book is on the coffee table- it is a realistic, functional use of a piece of furniture which I consider to have a functional use. My partner has a problem with this, as she feels the table has its function solely as a mantelpiece, or to temporarily position a mug of coffee (on a coaster). In my opinion, it’s hardly a suitable mantlepiece- it is not an artistic piece worthy of such status- it is just a cheap, weathered down table from Ikea- if it has no functional use, I would prefer the extra space of having no coffee table.

Whilst our difference in opinion on what constitutes acceptable mess is part of the problem, I claim that there are other reasons as to why I and so many other people are so messy. 

To understand this, I wish to bring us back to our childhoods, where our mums used to shout at us for having a messy room.

Most children clean their room at first out of fear of being grounded and losing their pocket money. Then, as they grow older, they recognise their room as their own territory and decide that they don’t want to live in mess. So they then organise their room not due to fear of punishment, but due to a desire to improve their own living standards and their own territory.

Congratulations to those children- they will live their lives as respectable, organised, clean adults.

For people like myself, this adaptation from a disorganised toddler to an organised adult failed somewhere. I  claim that this occurs due to two main reasons:

1. The Battle For Territory

As a child, my mum used to shout at me every morning to clean my room. My dad would throw all my clothes from my cupboard and my items from my desk, shout “clean it up” and walk out.

At first, such parental tactics worked– I would clean my room.

But one day, I thought to myself….”what’s the best way to get back at my parents for messing up my room.” The lightbulb moment was that I wouldn’t bother to clean it. After all, I felt that it was not technically my room– it was my parents room and my parents house. By not cleaning “my” room, I was sabotaging “their” territory, not mine. Hence, this is what gave birth to my conformability in disorganisation, making me good within my career in finding order within disorder.

Had my parents given me a key to my room during my adolescence, restricting their entry and told me “it’s “your” room, do what you want with it, we give up”, possibly my reaction at first would have been to leave it in mess, but after a period of time, I hopefully would have decided on my own accord that I don’t want to live in mess and self motivated myself to become organised.

Hence, we come to the Battle for Territory. Animals mark their territory by urinating or defecating every-where. Adolescents do it by placing their items in places around the house. Girlfriends worried that their boyfriend is cheating on them do it by leaving a box of tampons in the bathroom, and so on.

Any parent who’s reading this who struggles with their messy adolescent, try respecting the boundary of their room and encouraging the adolescent to believe it is “their” territory, not yours. You may find that they choose on their own not to sabotage their own territory when they feel it is not under threat by others, hence minimising the need to mark their territory with their own mess.

2. Re-enacting Childhood

Even if in my case as in so many others there was a battle for territory, a need for freedom of expression and independence which led to a messy room in adolescence, why did it continue on into adulthood with my partner? Surely, as a grown man now with my own house, I have no need to mark my territory with mess. There are probably more mature ways of making myself feel like I own my house, by paying my mortgage for example and by actually owning my own house.

Why is it that my partner has now become like my mum, shouting and nagging at me constantly to clean my room?

I believe that the reason for this is within our need to re-enact our childhood traumas through our present relationships, a dynamic that is described well in a video from the School Of life. 

For me, I understand now that I create mess not just to mark my territory or due to finding my level of mess acceptable.

I also now understand that I create my mess because paradoxically, I unconsciously miss my parents shouting at me about mess. It is an engrained trauma by which my understanding of love and affection is in part by my mum screaming at me to put my socks in the washing machine. It is my childhood method of attention seeking and rebellion manifesting as an adult. It is of no surprise then that I find myself attracted to obsessive clean- freaks, for they are vulnerable to allowing my projections of disorganisation to affect them, creating the counter-transference of anger and annoyance that I seek a reaction from to feel like I am loved again.

“True love is finding someone whose demons play well with yours” – The Joker”
― The Joker Batman Arkham City

So as we wonder whether our partner is so messy to deliberately wind us up, we can take solace in the knowledge that this may literally be the case. I doubt that these insights will stop a couple from fighting but may help understand why it is they are fighting and why something so small as a misplaced book on a coffee table may be such a touchy, argument provoking subject.

Why Our Partner Is So Much Like Our Parent

I really like this video.

It demonstrates well the link between our choice of partner and our understanding of love and affection from our relationship with our parents.

It tells us how we re-inact our past within our current relationships, where we either “seek out the fault of a parent in a partner, or mimic a fault of a parent in a partner”. 

Very relevant for those of us who have been in an unstable relationship….and wonder why we keep attracting abusive, unstable relationships within our lives.

On a more positive note…Happy New Year!

Am I Too Messy or Is She Too Clean?

 

A common argument between two cohabitants, often leading to nagging, quarrelling, frustration, resentment and all too often, an ending to the otherwise harmonious relationship.

Firstly, let me focus this post carefully and deliberately avoid the gender specific argument here of man being more comfortable in mess and woman more comfortable within cleanliness. Such gender stereotypes are depicted within the movie “Break Up”, which shows Gary and Brooke’s sudden relationship deterioration following an argument on doing the dishes.

What is more interesting to focus on from this movie is that its success lies in the audience divided as to who they feel more sided with amongst the couple, whether it be the devaluation of Gary to an “inconsiderate prick” or that of Brooke to a “nag”. 

I do not believe that this division is based on an alliance of genders- that men will simply take Gary’s side whilst women take Brooke’s side.

Instead, I believe the division in opinion to be based on the consideration of what is considered more acceptable, or less taboo, between having one’s home to be too “messy,” or instead one’s home to be too “clean.”

The focus of this post, therefore, shall be on understanding this difference in opinion.

For what is worse, living in a house that is too messy, or too clean?

The immediately obvious, more acceptable answer is that of a house that is too messy, but we have yet to make one further very important distinction, which is that of the definition of “messy” and “clean”.

Being messy or clean are not definitions necessarily mutually exclusive, nor on the same spectrum: a house can be messy, yet clean, whilst another house can be clean yet at the same time messy. There needs to be a distinction between “cleanliness”, which is that of hygiene, where “cleanliness is next to godliness”, of which lack of results in infestation of maggots, mould and so on, in contrast to “mess“, which can be more accurately described as “disorder“, rather than organisation and “order“.

I doubt that Brooke or Gary would argue of the importance of “cleanliness”- clearly, their home had no infestation of maggots and as the film progressed it showed Gary to create “mess” i.e disorder with various furniture and items out of its original position or “order”, but not that of creating a lack of “cleanliness”.

I claim that the arguments for most relationships lies within the spectrum of “mess” , the spectrum of which lies between the extremes of “order” and the extremes of “disorder” rather than that of cleanliness. 

This therefore leaves us with our final question, as to whether Brooke’s preferred position of “order” is considered more acceptable than Gary’s preferred position of “disorder”, depicted within the film as Gary and Brooke began to divide the house into different territorial sections, demonstrating their differing preferred positions within the “spectrum of mess.”

The answer is that neither is more acceptable, for unlike cleanliness, both extremes co-exist more easily as a negative. An overly ordered house, with objects lined in perfection, with no allowance for change or persons who may inadvertently modify the order, provides no room for breathing or life. Rather than being a positive, the extremely ordered is a disorder of an anal obsessive nature, of a subject who can not bear the slightest of chaos or uncertainty, within an uncertain and chaotic world.

The other extreme is that is of the overly disordered house that leads to chaos, confusion, a structureless sea with no anchor, the disorder of a chaotic mind or a constipated hoarder, unable to let go and face the world, instead preferring to remain within the solace of his own mess.

Yet, opposites attract, and hence we often find ourselves fighting over where we should leave the oven mitts, or for that matter, who is to define what is the correct “order” for the oven mitts…hanging next to the oven, or on the cupboard railing?

Where both extremes provide the propensity for arguments amongst the couple, the solution of course is tolerance, but this requires an understanding of the nature of the “spectrum of mess,”  which lacks a correct position amongst the spectrum. Ability to function well in society does not correlate with level of order- one man’s order is another man’s chaos…and so on. Many successful people prefer to come home to the excitement of chaos, whilst others prefer the calmness of order. Tolerance is therefore needed on both sides, where the ordered subject truly accepts disorder as equal and the disordered subject accepts order as equal, and neither labels the other as more weaker. Until this can happen, both subjects will exert their spectrum onto the other, until one dominates or the other leaves.

 

 

 

 

Wishing a Narcissistic Free Merry Christmas

For many of us, christmas is a difficult time. 

Why?

As much as we deny, try to forget, go no contact or leave it all in the past, the houses around us decorated in christmas lights, with the image of the happy children opening their christmas presents gives us no solace from the constant reminder of what we have not had, or what we desperately seek to forget.

We may be facing christmas alone this year. 

Those of us further on in our journey to recovery may have built our new network, who soothe our christmas to feel somewhat normal, a normality which will be cherished, but still bringing about mixed feelings of anger to what we lacked in our past, with new found hope of what we can continue to have in the future.

I wish not to pretend that a christmas wish from myself or from any-one will make this a happier time. Deception is never welcomed by those of us who have experienced what we have.

But let me say this. That we can celebrate what we do have, which is insight into the madness that we now see in its true form, that we no longer are bound to be a part of in darkness. 

We all remain together, our trauma from our past helps us find one another, to help one another and to be there for each other in a way that we have never experienced.

We seek normality and christmas is a reminder of our abnormality, but it is our abnormality that is what makes us who we are and gives us our identity.

Celebrate your christmas as the symbol of your courage to make the difficult journey away from the comfort of ignorance and delusion to that of sound mind in reality

You are stronger than you give yourself credit for. I admire you. 

Merry Christmas 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from the Narcissist: Our Unconscious Relationship Choice

I was bought up in a  typical household dynamic where one parent is a Narcissist. 

My Father: The Narcissist, self absorbed, no capacity to empathise, manipulative.

Nothing new there.

What is often forgotten or unspoken of, is the other side to the coin…

My Mother: A dependant, anxious, somatiser. Again, completely self absorbed. Almost always the victim, even when she is the predator.

It was a typical narcissistic/co-dependant relationship.

As a child, I was unable to see the true nature of my mother. For what tends to happen is that when the love and affection that a child needs is spread too thin, the child will look for any morsel of love he can get. This is what sets the ground for the idealisation of the father and devaluation of the mother, or vice versa, which sets the child towards the foundation of developing the narcissistic personality themselves.

What can we learn from this typical dynamic we grow into?

For many years, I wondered why my mother would stay with my abusive father. I could not understand why she wouldn’t walk away, nor why, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, she would believe that my father treated her well.

From a Kleinian understanding of the “splitting” prevalent within personality disorder, it is necessary to understand what my father detested about himself. 

My father hated the idea of being vulnerable or weak. If he was sick, he would tell no-one- it gave too much evidence to his own mortality, that he was in fact just like everyone else…his ego wouldn’t allow such an appropriate human exchange.

He detested the idea of being poor. Despite he himself coming from a poor  background, he spoke fondly of how he rose himself and his family from such harsh realities…without his guidance and wisdom we would all have nothing, or be nothing.

Finally, he resented stupidity. He was a highly educated man, constantly comparing himself to those with lesser qualifications than himself. A man who could never be wrong, or faulted, due to the letters following his name.

What of such interest then, that the woman he “loves” was less intelligent than him, poorer than him and more weak and vulnerable than him. 

Interestingly, I do believe my father does love my mother. But the reason for why they are together, why they complement each other so well in their narcissistic/codependant relationship, is that he needs her to hold parts of himself he resents. 

He needs her to be poor, so he can feel rich.

He needs her to be weak, so he can feel strong. 

He needs her to be stupid, so he can feel intelligent.

I believe insight is everything- so let me challenge you…

What is it that you need the narcissist in your life for, so that you can feel….? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel Fuels Motivation in Victims of Narcissism

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When I get told off by any-one….I get angry. 

When I get criticised….i get angry

I don’t shout or scream, yell, or hit. I just smile. 

Why do I smile?

Because I’ve never had another outlet. If I did, the narcissist would know and my position would be weakened. 

So I internalise the anger.

I use the anger as fuel. 

Unfortunately, often I use this fuel to disprove the Narcissist. That I am not stupid or ugly or fat. I modify my behaviour to prove to the Narcissist that I am nothing like he thinks I am.

But then he wins. Because he knows it was his criticism that made you change. He believes that it is him that made you better, more like him. He takes over your accomplishment.

This is power dynamics. 

Use your anger, own your fuel.