Sometimes when I tell people I have narcissistic parents, narcissistic relatives, and two narcissist ex husbands, they call me crazy. They assume I’m just imagining narcissists everywhere. They think I’m exaggerating or lying. They think I am the problem. I can kind of see where they are coming from. Seriously, I know that many narcissists?!
Well, that’s kind of the way it works. Narcissism often develops in a dysfunctional home that includes a variety of narcissists, co-dependents and other disorders or weaknesses that all work around the dysfunction. Even non-disordered people develop coping mechanisms to survive and deal with the disordered family members. If you are the normal person in your crazy home, you still learn to live with narcissistic people and it becomes “normal” for you. You figure out your place in the home and how you can work with it without being trampled on. When there is a dominant narcissist controlling the family dynamic, there is usually at least one scapegoat. There are often enablers, doormats, other narcissists and borderlines. It’s pretty hard to act like a healthy person when you are drowning in the crazy behavior of others. So if you believe you are dealing with a narcissist in your family, and you believe there are more, or you see other weird behavior, that’s totally normal! Well…not normal, but “normal” within those types of families. Where there is one narcissist, there are usually more.
The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment
Both of my parents came from awful families. My dad will admit it. He tells stories of drunkenness, suicide attempts, manipulation, head games, and things that a child should not have had to deal with. His mom probably had BPD, from the sounds of it. Everyone was an alcoholic from a young age. Mom, dad, and later their kids–including my dad. They were all drinking to cover up their dysfunction. My mom’s family was probably worse, though not as obvious. She and her siblings will swear their parents were the best Christian parents ever. But, she used to threaten to hurt me or kill me regularly when I was as young as seven years old. I thought that was insane! She told me that it was okay because her parents said those things to her. No…that’s not okay. But some people who grow up in dysfunction become disordered because they cannot be honest with themselves and have not learned a better way to live.
The abuse becomes generational as they copy it.
The people in my mom’s family are not healthy. I once saw her brother go into a rage and start strangling her after one of their sisters picked a fight between them over the phone. (Triangulation at its finest!) Her three younger brothers have each been married three times. Each of them is a doormat who has repeatedly married disordered women. One of her sisters bullied the rest and repeatedly stole from their parents, played games with their inheritance to take most of it for herself, and worse. Another one is a people pleaser who lets men abuse her, but also goes insane threatening to kill people regularly when she gets mad. The sisters are all narcissistic or borderline. Sometimes both. The dysfunctional behavior is strong in that family. Even the co-dependents who are not abusive keep repeating toxic patterns with abusers that remind them of their family of origin.
And I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want a life where people scream, threaten and attack each other. I don’t want drama, gossip, triangulation and head games. I chose to escape. But…they haven’t. The dysfunction is so strong that they all continue to play their rules, acting crazy and hurting each other while pretending they are close. In reality, they are enmeshed. With enmeshed relationships, people lose all boundaries and believe they are “close” when in reality, they have lost their individuality. When this happens, you will get a family filled with narcissism, co-dependency and other disorders.
If you think your whole family seems crazy, there is a good chance you are right. These disorders work together, and one sick person can contaminate everyone around them.
At the same time, while you might come from a disordered family with multiple narcissists, you might also end up dating narcissists for the same reason. If you’ve been a co-dependent, a doormat, or a scapegoat in a narcissistic family, you have learned a role that can become part of your personality. You might unconsciously relate to narcissists because you’ve spent your life trying to fix them. Or they might be drawn to you because they see you are an easy target. It is common for a person who has been abused by a narcissist once to be abused by narcissists in the future. Revictimization is frequent. One of my most popular blogs is about why a predator chooses the people they do. It’s because they can literally sense who has been a victim before and who will make a good victim for them. I’ve also written before about why daughters of narcissists are so prone to dating or marrying more narcissists. We get used to patterns and we can develop body language or patterns that keep more narcissists in our lives.
While people from good, healthy homes might be more likely to develop the types of personalities and boundaries that deflect narcissists, those of us from sick homes can develop body language and characteristics that are compatible with narcissists. Of course, a narcissist can go after anyone, but they sure seem to find some of us more than others! If you repeatedly attract or meet narcissists, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are imagining it or exaggerating. It more likely means you have developed a pattern that compliments narcissists or makes them feel comfortable targeting you. Once you realize this, you are one of the lucky ones who can escape! That’s what I’m doing.