Maria Yeager

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Narcissism and Lack of Responsibility

Today I would like to talk about how someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) blames others for the problems in his/her life. I have to say that when I first heard about NPD and how those with this disorder are known to blame others, I was quite intrigued and amazed. I witnessed this kind of behavior in a narcissistic family for many, many years. This knowledge opened my eyes, and it began my long journey of learning all about NPD.

My parents always made my sister, my brother, and me take responsibility for our actions. Stories are still shared today among our family. One in particular was a time when I was about 6 or 7 years old, and I saw a bracelet on a doll that I liked during a shopping trip with my mom. I decided to break open the packaging and take the bracelet when my mom wasn’t looking. Later, at home, my mom found out that I took the bracelet. The next day, she drove me back to the store where I had to go in and give the clerk the bracelet. I had to tell him that I took it and that I was sorry.

My parents did not hold back when we needed to be punished. One morning, when I was about 14 years old, I was in a really bad mood. My mom kept yelling for me to get in the car because we were going to be late for school. My sister and brother were in the car waiting, but I was still messing with my hair as I tried to get it to look right (big problem, I know…haha!). Anyway, after several minutes of my mom telling me to get in the car, she gave up and left without me, so I had to walk to school. When I arrived, the principal smiled at me and walked up to me. He said, “Your mom called me and told me to give you a detention. She said that you are late and have no excuse”. He thought it was kind of funny, but I wasn’t amused. I was mad at my mom for doing this.

Years later, however, I began to appreciate what my parents did for us. They taught us that there are consequences to our actions. That is one invaluable lesson…a lesson that not everyone in this world learned as they grew up.

Now, in this narcissistic family that I knew for over twenty years, I never saw any kind of repercussion for bad behavior like I used to see in my family. Instead, I witnessed never-ending enabling behavior. When one of the kids did something wrong, even if it was clearly his/her fault, he/she was never subject to consequences. Occasionally, the parents would tell the child that he/she shouldn’t have done what he/she did, but there were no consequences. Also, if something bad happened, they would blame it on the person involved in the situation who was outside the family – a teacher, a manager, an ex-girlfriend, an ex-boyfriend, an ex-spouse, etc.

What is amazing to me is that each time one of the people that they blamed exited the picture, the problems continued. The teacher exited, but the problems continued. The manager exited, but the problems continued. The ex-girlfriend/boyfriend exited, but the problems continued. The spouse exited, but the problems continued. You would think that eventually they would realize that the problem was within the family. But they never came to this realization, or at least they never openly admitted it.

During those years, the family members would share the drama with me all the time. When I offered my advice, I was met with defensiveness if it didn’t agree with what they wanted to hear. I occasionally gave them a healthy dose of reality, telling them that there was too much enabling and not enough tough love, and this angered the members of the family. This reaction completely frustrated me. I tried to help them, but somehow, when I gave advice (which they asked for), I became the target of their anger. Somehow, I became the “bad guy”. I eventually began to blame myself for causing more problems within the family because I thought I was giving them bad advice. But, deep down, I knew it was good advice, and I became so confused and conflicted. My self-worth started to tumble, and I became depressed and even more frustrated.

OK, so now I want to get into what happened after learning about NPD through counseling. First of all, I now realize how deeply blessed I was to have wonderful parents. Understanding the concept of consequences for bad behavior is invaluable. It teaches us respect for others along with the concept of boundaries. Even though I was mad at my parents when I was a child, I now know why they had to use tough love on occasion. Looking back now, I certainly deserved that detention and even appreciate it!

Constantly blaming others for problems in life is one of the hallmark signs of narcissism. The family that I talk about above clearly has this trait. As I learned more about NPD, I now know why I felt so depressed and frustrated. It wasn’t because I gave them bad advice or that I was a bad person. Narcissists don’t want to hear the truth. They want constant praise and admiration. Giving them a healthy dose of reality will hurt their image…their false self. Instead, they want you to back them up and tell them how wonderful they are at dealing with a bad situation, even if they are dealing with it poorly. They don’t want you to help them solve the problem. The purpose of those family members talking to me about their issues was to dump it on me, not to help solve the problems. So, although I truly tried to help them, they viewed  it as an insult. I learned that if they couldn’t accept responsibility for their actions, the problem was on them, not me. This was the beginning of my journey of reclaiming my self-worth.

It is important to know (and this literally took me years to accept) that you can only change YOUR behavior. You CANNOT change the behavior of someone else, no matter how bad you want to help them. The likelihood of changing a narcissist is nil. They don’t believe they have any issues, and pointing out any problems with them will lead to anger and extreme defensiveness. They will also throw all the blame onto you, so  don’t be surprised if that happens. If you can leave the situation, it is probably the best thing to do. If not, learn as much as you can about NPD and how to effectively deal with it. One way to do this is to set boundaries, and I will discuss that topic in my next blog.

Have a great day!

 

 

Narcissism and the “False Self”

As I stated in last blog, I am starting a new project. I want to turn a negative into a positive, so I have decided to write a series of blogs on narcissism. During the past five years, I have learned that I have dealt with narcissists and believe that some of these people actually had narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Today I want to discuss the false self and how it plays a role in narcissism. Those who are emotionally and mentally healthy have a great sense of self-awareness and live their life according to their “true self”. These people appreciate their own talents and use them accordingly not only to benefit themselves, but also to benefit others and the world as a whole. These healthy individuals feel sympathy/empathy for those around them, and they use their abilities to help others while maintaining a healthy appreciation for their abilities.

The false self that is typical of someone with NPD is a type of “mask” that he/she wears so that the world will view them as special or superior. Studies have shown that the narcissist creates this identity in order to protect themselves from negative emotions such as depression regarding the circumstances of his/her own life. By creating this “mask”, the narcissist is actually lying to himself and those who are around him, but he truly believes the lie. Now, I have to clarify that there are other types of “masks” that people wear, and these “masks” may be due to confusion or a lack of self-awareness. I believe that I actually unknowingly wore a “mask” during my pre-counseling years, and I will get into that in a later blog. The difference between these types of “masks” and the “mask” of a narcissist is that the narcissistic “mask” is worn for selfish purposes.

The false self increases feelings of self-worth for the narcissist. The big difference between someone living according to their true self and a narcissist who lives according to the false self is that the narcissist believes that the only thing that matters is his/her happiness. He/she gives no regard to the feelings of others and will do whatever is necessary for his/her happiness, even if that means hurting others in the process. They live in a way that makes them feel better about who they are and their life circumstances. A narcissist that I know left his wife for another woman. When confronted with the affair, he told his wife that he received some advice,  and more than likely this advice came from another narcissist. He said that the advice was “to do whatever made him happy”. There was no concern at all on the damage that it would cause to other people, including his wife. Interestingly, this man was a part of a so-called Christian family who supposedly believed that you should “do unto others and you would have done to you”. Do you see the problem here? It’s pretty clear.

The intention of the false self is to control how people respond to the narcissist. He/she needs constant praise, attention, and admiration. This praise, attention, and admiration is called “narcissistic supply”. As long as you (as a narcissistic victim) give him/her the praise and attention he/she craves, the narcissist will keep you around. If you start to complain about his/her behavior or give criticism, he/she will respond with anger and extreme defensiveness, and he/she may even go as far as “discarding” you and finding new sources of the “narcissistic supply”. Those who have NPD will go to great lengths to protect this false self image.

A perfect example of the reaction of a narcissist to criticism is shown below. Names have been changed, but this is based on an actual event.

Jim and Rhonda were visiting their son and daughter-in-law, John and Kay, who lived in another state. John had a brother, Steve, and Steve’s family was a mess. Steve’s wife, Susan, left him for another man. Steve and Susan had two children – Beth and Philip. Both Beth and Philip were in high school at the time. Steve was so distraught that he abandoned his children and moved to another state to be with another woman. Beth and Philip were left in the care of the Steve and John’s parents.

Rhonda: I just can’t believe what Susan has done to Steve! She has been a problem throughout the entire marriage. It’s terrible what she has done to those kids!

Kay: Yeah, it’s terrible what Susan did. But, you know, Steve did leave the kids with you and Jim. He’s kinda…

Rhonda: What do you mean?

Kay: Well, he’s kinda responsible too.

Rhonda: Steve has been great to those kids!

Kay: But he did leave them while they were still in high school. He left them with you…

Rhonda: Steve has been an awesome dad to those kids. I WILL NOT let you talk bad about Steve. He’s a super dad! I WILL NOT let you talk about Steve like that. The problem in this situation is Susan, not Steve. Don’t you dare talk down about my son – he’s been a great father to those kids. Susan is the problem!!

OK, so there are actually two signs of narcissism in this example. First, as stated above, if a narcissist is criticized, they become very angry and defensive. Second, narcissists never take blame for anything. I think it is quite obvious in this example that Steve did carry part of the blame in this situation by abandoning his kids, leaving them with his parents, and moving to another state. Even though this is quite clear to the onlooker, the mom refused to let her son take any responsibility for his part in the breakup of his family.

I will address the issue of the narcissist placing the blame on others and his/her inability to take responsibility for his/her actions in my next blog.

Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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