Make a keystroke blindfolded and you’re likely to land on a mention of narcissism on the Internet. But nothing explains it better than real-life examples. Here are some shocking doozies.
It’s All About Me
Maria had just watched her father die at the hospital the day before. They had known he was ill, but his death was sudden, surprising everyone. As Maria was accompanying her mother to her door, her mother-in-law, who lived a few houses down and was trudging by, launched into a diatribe about her car not starting. “She went off about her car problems, having to wait for AAA, and what bad luck she was having, without saying a word to us about my father. We just stood there listening for several minutes,” Maria said. “Suddenly she interrupted herself, hugged my mother and said she was sorry about things. She said nothing to me. Then she walked on ranting angrily about her car again. Mom and I just looked at each other in disbelief.”
Kurt had long dealt with his narcissistic father’s harsh criticism of Kurt’s son Davie. Davie was brainy but easily distracted in school, unathletic, and going through a chubby phase. Kurt’s father regularly shamed and ridiculed his grandson. When Kurt’s wife left him, he was shattered to find out that she had been cheating on him with other men. His father learned about the affairs and suggested that Kurt’s son was not his biological child.
Kurt said, “My father told me, ‘Hasn’t it occurred to you that Davie isn’t yours? Now we know he’s someone else’s boy, not related to us.’” Kurt’s father did not attempt to disown Kurt’s younger daughter, who was a good student, slim, and athletic. “I told my father that Davie is my son, no matter what,” Kurt said.
Sweet Old Lady
Lenny had heard stories about his neighbor Janine, but she appeared to be a harmless older woman with a white cloud of hair and an oxygen machine at her side. One day she began talking about a friendly squirrel that lived in her yard. Lenny, an animal lover, listened eagerly.
Janine told him, “It comes on our back deck and eats nuts from the tree there. It walks right up to my husband and me as if to say hello every morning. It seems to want us to adopt it.” Getting to the point, she then explained that they were going to kill the squirrel, either by poisoning or trapping, because it just didn’t respect their property. “I’ve had enough of them. We are so generous, and they don’t respect it. We are the ones who know how to share, and they just abuse it.”
Blame the Victim
Christine’s grandfather began raping her when she was seven years old. Her parents were often out for the night partying, leaving her under her grandfather’s “supervision.” He told her she was a “bad girl,” that what he did was her fault, and that her parents would hate her if she said anything about what she “made him do.”
In time Christine grew withdrawn and angry. Her grades dropped, and she avoided being home by spending time on the streets with other kids. Finally, during a fight with her mother she said her grandfather had been touching her and forcing her to have sex. Her mother told Christine’s father, and he accused Christine of seducing her grandfather and “ruining the family.” He kicked her out of the house, leaving her homeless at 15 years old.
Bate and Switch
Lana described her father as a seasoned psychologist with a serial history of seducing and then dumping women, some of whom were his clients and always younger and more attractive than him. “My father is and never has been a good-looking man,” Lana said, “but he has an absolute tried-and-true process with women. He listens very carefully to what they really want and need in their lives and then supports it 1,000 percent—at first.”
Lana recalled that starting when she was about 13 her father would introduce her to the new women in his life always the same way. “He’d tell me in front of her, very charmingly, that I had to love her and that she was true family, something he always implied I was not.” Lana explained that after each new conquest fell in love with her father, he would raise the price tag for his attention. “He required them to provide more adulation of him and tolerate more and more derision from him. The wonderful promise would be increasingly withheld as they became desperate,” explained Lana. “I always knew when he was about to break up a marriage or relationship. He’d say the exact same thing: ‘I wish I had known how emotionally unbalanced she was.’”
Adding Insult to Injury
Helen’s parents often fought violently and after they divorced took out restraining orders against each other. One day when Helen was about 14 and her father stopped by to pick her up from her mother’s house, her mother, Maurine, emerged with a gun and shot at both Helen and her father. She missed Helen but hit her father, who fell forward across Maurine’s property line onto her lawn, in doing so violating the restraining order.
When the police investigated the shooting, Helen’s father declined to press charges against his ex-wife. But when the police approached her for questioning, Maurine, knowing there were no charges against her, admitted she had shot her ex and then added that she wanted to press charges against him for violating her restraining order.
Helen’s mother Maurine hated not being the center of attention. At the dinner table one night when Helen and her sisters and father were talking, Maurine suddenly slipped from her chair and collapsed onto the floor, apparently unconscious. Shocked and concerned, her family rushed to her side and picked up the phone to call 911, at which time Maurine regained consciousness.
The same scenario played out a few more times at the dinner table. If the conversation shifted away from Maurine, she would dramatically drop to the floor, eliciting concern from her family. Helen said, “Pretty soon we knew that Mom’s ‘fainting spells’ were yet another one of her ploys for attention. After that we just ignored her and talked over it. She continued to fall sometimes. She’d lie there for a bit and then pretend to wake up in confusion.”
Julia L. Hall is the author of the forthcoming memoir Carry You about life, and a few near deaths, in a narcissist family. Read excerpts. Her articles on narcissism regularly appear in The Huffington Post.
Related Articles by Julia L. Hall
- The ‘Overt’ Versus ‘Covert’ Narcissist: Both Suck
- On Being a Narcissist Magnet and Developing a Fine-Tuned ‘Nar-dar’
- The Dangerous Nihilism of President Narcissist and His ‘PostTruth’ America
- Caretaking My Narcissistic Mother Through Cancer
- Child of Narcissists Goes from ‘Death Dealer’ to Healer
- A Golden Child’s Story of Guilt in the Narcissistic Family
- The Terrible Dilemma of the Golden Child in the Narcissistic Family
- Raised by Narcissists? Why You Can’t Afford the Wrong Therapist
- Tolstoy Was Wrong: Narcissistic Unhappy Families Are Kind of All Alike
- Why I Hate the Word ‘Narcissist’
- A Daughter’s Story of One Hell of a Narcissist Mother