Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lost Heros

So, yesterday I explored some feelings on my blog around a situation that is going on in my home with my son and my mother's lack of support.  I'm not sure that I really got to the core of the issue (for myself) and as I wrote, I sort of felt like I was grasping blindly in the dark for something but just couldn't reach it.  I was sort of feeling around the issue, but not fully "seeing" it.  Then something my friend Kara said sort of "brought all the pieces" together for me.

As an aside,  I sometimes try to "mask" the details of my life in order to remain anonymous.  So, like yesterday,  I sort of talked around the issue.  I feared if NM found this blog, she'd immediately recognize the details and know it was me.  BUT, I think I've already sort of given myself away, so I thought I need to be more open about the situation so that I could explore it fully (without worrying about "covering" for myself). 

The issue was that my littlest son (who's 2) lost his very favorite "lovey".  It is a small, dark colored (hard to find) stuffed toy that he has had since he was three months old.  It also belonged to his brother (who never fully attached to it, but attached to the blanket it came with as a set.  Something that I felt a bit ironic.)  He had other options, but he picked this toy to attach to.  It is a very important "member" of our household.    And it disappeared.  It does not leave the house and I know it is in my home somewhere.  I have driven myself CRAZY trying to locate it.

A child often picks a "transitional object" to attach to as the learn to separate from their mother.  It is the first thing that "belongs" to them and helps to define them as separate (in theory).  It is something to help them learn to sooth themselves away from their mother (and represents a part of her) and provides comfort for a child during stressful situations. 

I have diligently looked after that thing for almost three years (and five years with his brother's loveys).  I have hunted and searched and worried about that animal.  When it went missing, I panicked and felt a whole surge of emotions.   At first, I felt extremely upset.  I worried my poor boy would not be able to sleep, that I wouldn't be able to comfort him.  That he'd have to mourn.  (As I'm struggling with some very similar issues right now, I think this part hit me a little hard.)  I didn't want him to feel sadness (and also realized it is a part of life).   I worried that I wouldn't be able to comfort him.  (Those worries tended to be unfounded, but as an ACoN mom, I'm always worried about the "emotional line" I tow with my kids.   I don't want to be under emotional, but I don't want to give emotions too much power that my kids are overwhelmed....really, it's hard to teach a skill to my kids that I'm working on myself.    This is also a topic for another post that I would like to explore.)  I felt a touch of sadness and nostalgia for the dang thing.  Losing it felt like losing a piece of my son's "babyhood".  I don't plan on having more kids (again, something I'm dealing with right now) so losing the toy was sort of a "tangible" symbol of moving past having a baby.  I had some sentimental attachment to it too.    I also felt extremely GUILTY.  Guilty I had let it get lost, guilty for having a lot of my own feelings, guilty that I'd let my son down.  I stressed and stressed about the appropriate way to handle this and how to help my boy.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is not about me.  None of my feelings got in the way of helping my son.  He didn't see (nor did I hint at) any of my own feelings and I made sure to focus on the best ways to help him.  But, since this is my blog, and I need a place to talk about my feelings, which is why I'm talking about me, and not my son, today.  And yes, through the whole thing I tried to make sure I was keeping the attention and focus where it belonged. 

This would've also been the time that having my own mother to lean on would've helped (as I wrote about yesterday).  I was comforted today by a blog (written by a therapist) about what she did when her child lost his lovey.  Her feelings were very similar to mine and it helped me to feel comforted that I was having "normal" reactions instead of "ACoN mommy" overreactions. (This woman stated she had wanted to call and "bawl to her mommy" too.   She didn't, but she had that option if she wanted to.)  I also had my lovely friend, Kara, who held my hand too.  That definitely helped.

It was something Kara said about my mom that really "clicked" about why my mom's involvement in the whole situation bothered me.  I posted on FB that the lovey was lost.  I had hoped that the positive messages from friends and family back would somehow help me find the toy (I know, sounds like voodoo mystic crap, but I was desperate).  NM offered some messages of "help" but then ignored the whole thing for five days.  Friday and Saturday, the crazy woman sent me several texts that were all "me, me, me, me".  She didn't bother to ask about my son (or me, but who am I kidding) at all.  I get that she doesn't see me, but it fucking sucks when I see her completely ignore the grandkids she "loves" so much.  When they were babies, it was harder to see, but as they've gotten older, it's clear to see she only materializes when it benefits here.

And so, cue Sunday, when suddenly she asked about the toy and told me she had been on a quest to find a replacement.  I told her not once, but SEVERAL times, that it was OK, my son was working on it and we were "trying out" suitable replacements.  Despite that, she spent all of Sunday and some of Monday trying to find a replacement.

Sounds nice right?  Grandma looking to help her grandson?  But she's not helping him.  She's not sending something hoping he might pick it.  She's sending something, fantasies already concocted in her head that she's going to "be the hero and save the day" and SHE is going to replace the toy.    She purposely waited for this moment to decide to "support" us in a way that benefited her.  And she's not actually doing something for my son because she cares.  She's doing this in an effort to "assign" herself the roll of hero.  She's not earning the roll, but creating it so that she can then "play the part".  As I see it, she has noticed an opportunity and is jumping on it and it is all a very, very, subtle way to turn all of the attention to her.  If she was trying to help, she would've been helping all along, and not just "coming to the rescue" when she sees an "easy" way to fix the problem (and really, her arrogance that SHE is the one that will find the replacement pisses me off.  My son should chose it, not her.)

NM loves to play this "hero" roll.  It is her favorite form of narc supply.  She loves to be the one who solves the problems, has all the advice, fixes things for people.  She needs people to depend on her "smarts" and "wit" and "problem solving skills" to fill good about herself. 

And here's the really fucked up part, the part that I've seen dimly before but see clearly now, she actually creates situations so that she can swoop in and play the hero.  She will cut me down and criticize me so that she can then "comfort" me.  She will allow someone to languish in pain, so that she can then be the "healer".  She will remove other "comfort objects" from my kids (she has stood between me and my screaming children so they couldn't get to me, demanding they let her comfort them.  She refused my older son his comfort objects and demanded that she should comfort him instead.)  She allows my sister to flounder and enables her so that she remains in a position of "needing" my mother for "support" and comfort.  She infantilizes her so that she doesn't learn to take care of herself....and then she needs NM to "rescue" her from behaving like that.  NM always ready with advice, "love", and money. 

NM loved to "rescue" my grandparents and take over too.  She would often not include her siblings in issues surrounding their medical care, so that she could then point out how she had "taken care of" my grandparents.  She sends them money and then claims she is the only one who supports them.  I can think of tons of times she allowed me to be emotionally hurt so that she could then be of comfort to me.  Specifically, I know she used to go to my father when my sister wasn't behaving.  He'd step in and discipline her, at the request of my mother and in a horribly harsh way (which NM knew he would do).  And then she'd step in and "comfort" my sister.  I often wonder if she allowed my father to be harsh with us specifically so she could then "rescue" us (plus, it was a good cover for her own asshole behaviors.)  I also think that NM's continual description of me as "nervous and anxious" was trumped up so that she could do things for me and make it look like rescuing.  Because I'm too an

I have a good friend who's NM mother has Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (they create medical problems in others in order to look like the "rescuer" when they bring the relative in for care.  For example, a mother slightly poisons her kids, so she can get attention when she brings them in for treatment.)  I think my mother has a very similar issue, except that she creates emotional stress in people, so that she can then "rescue" them emotionally. 

The other issue I have with her need to rescue is that, often, I DO NOT NEED HER TO RESCUE ME.  Yes, in this situation with my son, some support would've been nice.  I did not need her to buy (several) new toys.  One toy would've been one thing.  But making a production of her search, buying several, and not even one that is close to the original is something else (oh, and she knows where she could actually find a replacement, but chose not to do that.)  I do not need her to step in and solve this problem.  I am the mom, I will take care of it, and I will solve the problem.  But to her, if I refuse her "help" I'm being ungrateful. 

It's such a catch 22.  Because what she is basically saying is that she doesn't think I CAN solve the problem myself.  That I NEED her to step in and take care of it. She does not believe in me.   I have felt the refrain of this sentiment over and over in my life (and can see it more clearly with my sister).  Her constant need to step in says I am incompetent.  When my son was born, she would buy out stores of clothes and toys.  At Christmas, she sends HUNDREDS of dollars of stuff (that I later get criticized for by others because my kids 'have so many toys').  I do not need her to clothe my kids.  I do not need her to send toys.  I am perfectly capable of it.  But she continually does it and then acts as if she's done me some huge favor.  And if I tell her it's too much, I'm ungrateful.  She's just "trying to help".  When I tell my kids to do something, she parrots me afterward, as if I need her help to get them to oblige.  It is so degrading.  She is robbing me of fulfilling my parental obligation to my kids, and hides it under generosity and kindness. 

Basically, she creates a situation of emotional strife, tells me I can't handle it, determines that she will rescue me, and then determines "how" she wants to rescue me.  Oh, and then I'm supposed to be grateful for it. 

My MIL has a very similar pattern.  Although they have a similar effect on me, I hadn't been able to quite pin how they were similar.  But they both need to be needed.  They both PUT their children in situations (or hold them in situations) so that they can rescue and be the care taker. (For example, MIL will share negative gossip someone else has said about me, and then offer "sympathy" that someone would say those things.) The both want to rush in and be the "one" that everyone looks to, the one who fixes it all. 

It's amazing to me how an act of "kindness" can hide such subversive and horrible motives.  How they will sacrifice the health and self esteem of their children to make themselves into the fantasies they have created.  I know that I've discussed the principles of this before and I think I have a good theoretical understanding of them.  But to actual see the "inner workings" of how this gets done is disturbing.  To know that for most "normal" people, all they see is a loving and helpful grandmother, is scary. 


Post Note:  One of NM's suggestions to me for dealing with this was for my older son to give his lovey to his brother.  When I pointed out that this was not fair, NM said "true" but she felt so bad for my younger son (so it's all about NM?).  WTF?  How does that accomplish anything?   Kara pointed out that it is absurd to think that because one son attached to it, the other son will too.  For me, I was appalled to think she'd rip the comfort from one son and just give it to the other, thinking NOTHING about my older son.  What would my older son do without his comfort object?  I told NM that my older son had generously offered up many of his other toys.  This gesture of love meant nothing to my mother.  She felt it best to just "rearrange" the objects (including the kids) into her idea of "fixed".  She is crazy. 


  1. I can understand how it is disturbing to see the inner workings. To see all her behaviours as her attempts to create a situation where she can be one. Wow. If her fantasy isn't fulfilled she can do so by working the situation to put her in such position. Your story makes me wonder about my FOO and in-laws. What kind of role they fantasise about playing? This really made me think.

    I think, regarding the situation with your youngest son, you are doing a good job balancing out your own feelings in the situation and his feelings to the situation. Your awareness of it and the way your mother plays into it help you navigate it with your son's needs in mind. Hang in there and I know you will get through this. xx

    1. Thanks TR for your support.

      I think that is one of the keys in understanding a narc (or at least sort of figuring them out) is to think about what they are "after". What is the NS that they are looking for. My MIL needs to be needed. She is so committed to it that she will not ever say no. For her, always saying yes = love. She also gets NS from being "the best" or the "most important" and being the "binding" that holds the family together. She sees herself as a sort of person who is always giving, generous, and self-sacrificing. My BIL likes being the most popular guy in the room. He gets NS from everyone believing he is "Mr. All-American" good guy. And he adopts what he believes fulfills that fantasy. And when someone doesn't believe he is the "nicest, kindest, most fun, coolest guy" he doesn't want anything to do with you (like me). And NM gets it from her "strong, stoic, cowboy" image in which she is the "hero" who rides in on her white horse. And the thing is, these are not images they try to create through works, but more like costumes they put on at Halloween.

  2. Basically, this is why it's impossible to have a real relationship with a Narc. They're committed to their "role" and want you to play the "role" they've assigned to you. Whether you like it or not. It's a horrible double bind: either you play the role or you have no relationship with them.
    Seeing the dynamics in real time is quite something, isn't it? I think we weren't able to see them before, because we're too "conditioned" to react in a certain "programmed" way; but once you manage to not react, the whole dynamic unravels before one's eyes.

    1. Yes, you can't have a real relationship if everyone is playing pretend. It's contradictory to itself. And yes, that horrible double bind is the worst part. Even when you try not to play the role they assign, they ignore that and continue to treat you like you are in that roll.
      It is something to see it "real time". It's interesting to think about motivations and reality and things as it is happening. I imagine some people would think I'm over analyzing, but I think too many people act on "autopilot" using "pre-conditioned" thinking and that's when they get burned.

  3. "...she creates a situation of emotional strife, tells me I can't handle it, determines that she will rescue me, and then determines "how" she wants to rescue me. Oh, and then I'm supposed to be grateful for it..."

    My NM does the same thing.

    My journey to healing recently posted about baiting. Today, my NM threw out the bait. I ignored it this time. Sad but less stressful.

    1. Thanks for the link, Judy. I'll check it out. I'm sorry to hear you had a rough day with your NM. I've found ignoring the bait is often all I can do. And it's much less stressful.

  4. "...she actually creates situations so she can swoop in and play the hero" and concurrently undermine/denigrate the AC.
    + about, oh, a million!
    In my early 20's I purchased and totally renovated a little cottage, my first "Adult Home." I didn't know squat, but I learned as I went how to wire, plumb, sheetrock, mud etc. and then the "fun" part-decorating! I was so proud of my little home when I was finished.
    Then NM came to visit. The entire week was one complaint after another from my cooking (how could I *possibly* have learned to cook-well?) to my friends, not-so-subtle criticisms of my decor, her bed in the guest room etc. On the second to last morning before she was to leave, she burst into my bedroom (what's a closed door to a N?) very early, stood at the foot of my bed, arms crossed across her chest and announced, "YOU have COCKROACHES!" (trademark smirk.)
    I was beyond horrified: I had *never* seen a single bug in my house-even when tearing down walls, insulating the foundation etc. and I immediately went into a panic. I threw on my bathrobe and went out to the kitchen asking her where she had seen this (oh YUK!) bug and she told me, "They're probably everywhere, so here's what you *have to do*.."
    Like the absolute dummy I was, I immediately ran to the store as soon as it opened, bought several boxes of borax (a very obvious, white powdery substance) and shook liberally it along *all* the baseboards per "mother's" instructions and under her direct supervision.
    I was so ashamed when friends came over as they did regularly when they asked me about this stuff all over my house which I left down for about a month before I vacuumed it all up. I felt crushed when she left the next day after the Cockroach Conundrum.
    NM HAD to steal my joy in my home and home making skills. But she knew *exactly* how to "fix" the non-existant problem. There were *no* cockroaches-ever. Or bugs of any kind. Such a blatant liar.
    I never felt the same way about my little cottage-or her-again. It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.