Monday, March 18, 2024

How I'm detoxing from narcissistic abuse by hearing the word salad for what it was

I've been posting a lot about parental gaslighting I experienced from all four parent figures (including two stepparents). I pondered yesterday how I could be so awful as they said, yet be loving, while they were such "good parents" and unloving. You probably can see the flaws in this but it's taken me a lot longer to get up to speed. But now, after learning about concepts like narcissistic abuse, gaslighting and word salad, I see how they maneuvered it. 

I asked why it was so important to them that I feel badly about myself (like suicidally so) and why they would want me to if they loved me?  I found the answer to those questions when looking up narcissistic abuse. And I found the answer to how they did it, in the gaslighting word salad they use. This senseless gobbledy-gook that baits and switches, backstabs, baffles and bewilders. It lambastes the spirit, crushes the soul, effs the mind and sabotages the self. It actually physically hurts and makes me ill. These answers are terrifying and exhausting. If I'm honest, I sometimes wish I'd not found them because they are so awful. But then I'd still be stuck so I guess it's a good thing. 

So number one answer to why. They didn't love me. They resented me. They loved themselves and the false image of themselves they'd created. That they were all-knowing, above the rules, the hero, the protagonist and eminently good and wise. Jesus, Aeneas, Jupiter all rolled into one. To bolster that archetypal and mythical image, they needed to cast someone as not only the villain of the piece but also, weirdly, the fixer of everyone's problems. The scapegoat.   

As paranoid as this sounds, to me, it was in fact done by all four parent figures, each with his or her own spin. I, as a child through adulthood, went along with this "shared fantasy", sharing a with each, their different narcissistic fantasy. It was exhausting, between the trauma-dumping, blameshifting, game-changing, history rewriting, gaslighting, minimizing, shame-dumping and script-flipping. Each  one did all of these, changing to a new tactic constantly. The only consistent thing was the inconsistency. They both blamed each other and capitalized on each other's bad behavior, to prove themselves somehow superior. And they all, together and separately emotionally gang-banged me relentlessly. 

One narcissistic parent is a demon to live with. Four is an army of them. It was like working in a huge menu restaurant full of angry customers, trying to cater to everyone's predilections, peccadillos, needs and expectations. Oh and these changed  without warning, too. They kept the target moving, just out of reach. They leveled it up, adding more and more, challenges but removing tools. 

How did they do that? My dad's way was with gaslighting word salad and parentified role reversal. He dripped hypocrisy. He was weaponized neediness personified. Bearing in mind I still had to juggle everyone else, including his wife, kids, my mom, stepdad and their kids, I had to counsel, heal and fix my father's every problem. He expected so much and gave nothing fault-finding.

He would tell me that I was prideful if I felt good about something. He routinely gaslit me into thinking that I was the cause of his wife's problems. And his. But also that it was my job to fix them all. And that God commanded that I obey everyone's every whim.  But I shouldn't feel good about it. I should just do it all and not look for reward or even thanks. But then that made him feel guilty, knowing that I didn't feel appreciated. How did he know? He was a mind-reader, you see. And not feeling appreciated was my fault too. I should just know I was. Even though no one said so or acted appreciative. Not so I would feel good, but that he could feel better about ungratefully exploiting me. 

So I didn't expect praise and I just felt appreciated. Not really. But I told him I did. But then I was told I was falsely modest and showing off. So I didn't say anything.  But that was interpreted as sulking. I was too sensitive and should accept criticism better. So I sucked it up even more. But now I was "too critical" and made him feel guilty all the time. His parents, he said, were too critical (when they suggested he do things like get a job and care for his family) So he expected me never to complain because it made him feel bad. So bad he frequently told me he was planning suicide. But when I worried about hi, I was told there was nothing I could do about it. Except feel like shit. God forbid daddy feel that. So little girl put on her fake-brave face. She smiled when daddy said he was going away for a long time, so that he wouldn't feel bad about going. And then he said that I didn't love  him because I didn't act sad when he left. GAAAAHHHH!! I couldn't win for losing!! 

I hopped to every hoop he set in hopes of making him feel better. It never did. He just kept serving up the word salad. And piling on the expectation. And rewriting the narrative. And moving the target. And I kept feeling worse and more frustrated with myself for not being able to work out just what was expected. Pretty soon I was more suicidal than my dad only I wasn't talking about it. Because, wait for it, that would make him feel guilty. It was all about him. It was The Jack Show and I was the main contestant who never won any prizes, not even any lovely parting gifts. 

Now, why would parents do that? Well, normal healthy parents wouldn't but in narcissistic parent, it makes perfect sense. A narcissistic parent is jealous of their target child. They tell themselves that they have golden kids who can do no wrong and one junk one who can do no right (the target). And they are jealous of hell of that kid. Because throw what they will at them, they just keep taking it. They realize that the bad kid is in fact, pretty resilient and successful. And good-hearted. 

When I went to college, he scoffed and dismissed it, saying college wasn't for everyone. I breastfeed my babies and his wife couldn't. I made no comment and certainly no judgement, even though I know now it was more wouldn't because then she couldn't pass off so much responsibility (including sleeping with them) onto me. My dad's comment "well, not every woman is a cow." Pig. Sorry but that's needed to come out for awhile. When I had a second baby he faulted me, saying Molly would always be jealous and resent me. She wasn't and didn't. And he didn't let that concern stop him from having more kids which consistently prioritized over me, expected me to raise and scapegoated for their misdeeds. I could not win for losing. But I kept on loving him and letting him do this. 

And this resilience fills narcissists with resentment and anger and possible shame (I didn't see much of that but I'm told that's what's behind it).  So they have to sabotage the kid, to bring them down a peg or two. Or 26. To knock them off this pedestal they're supposedly on. My dad said that God told him I needed discipline to keep me humble. What he practiced was humiliation. Mind, dad himself was incredibly arrogant and would go nuclear if he felt the littlest bit of humbling, even if no one caused it.

Oh, I was also, he said, judgmental. Now this man was possibly the most judgmental I've ever met. What was sin for others, namely me, was God's will for him. He could do no wrong. It just wasn't possible. You know the narcissist creed: 

That didn't happen.

And if it did, it wasn't that bad.

And if it was, that's not a big deal.

And if it is, that's not my fault.

And if it was, I didn't mean it.

And if I did, you deserved it.

I think he actually believed that God spoke to him and him alone. That God got my dad's permission to be God and that the rules did not apply to him. For me, he made up rules as he went along. And then told me they were from God. Dizzying. 

As this was the man charged with my spiritual, physical and emotional well-being, I believed every lie he told. My father-in-law spotted his bullshit at the first meeting. But I didn't realize it till I was 59. But then I grew up being indoctrinated and gaslit by it. 

So, where does that leave me. Pretty raw. I'm skinless. A mass of vulnerable human goo. I don't know where others stop and I begin. I'm in constant CPTSD. I hear voices in my head. I see dead people. My dad and his wife send their flying monkeys from beyond the grave. But for all this Pandora's box of trouble my dad has willed me, there is the one tiny little pixie, hope. She comes in the form of my loving husband, family and friends who believe my story. She's still pretty small but every time I write a post or get affirmation from loved ones or listen to podcasts detailing narcissistic abuse, or practice an act of self-care, she gets louder. Hopefully, someday, hope will drown out those screeching harpies in my head. I deserve some peace. 

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