Releasing the past in order to find myself

Saturday, May 10, 2014

NM Rides in on Her White Horse

“You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”
John Rogers

I ran across this quote on Pinterest and it stuck.  You know how some things just get to you.  You read them and your brain shifts.  Something hits you and you just know that you've stumbled on a truth. 

It's been important to me to understand NM.  Not so I could excuse her.  Not so I could somehow lesson what she did.  But I felt I couldn't fight against NM, if I didn't understand her.  If I didn't study what went on to make sure I knew how to keep it from creeping further into my life.  You can't fully defend against that which you don't understand.

And what I didn't understand about NM was how she justified what she did.  How she could look me straight in the face and lie....and then actually believe her own lie.  How could she be so out of touch that she believed her own bullshit?

This picture of NM has been coming in hazy for awhile, but getting clearer and clearer.  It had never occurred to me to think about who NM believed herself to be.  Who she had convinced herself she was.  But NM thinks she's the rescuer.  The fixer.  The one with all the wisdom.  She wants to be the one everyone comes to for the answer. 

At my wedding, NM did very little to get me ready that day.  She complained a lot about not having enough time to do herself since she was so busy "taking care of everything" (this included tasks she assigned herself.  I didn't ask her to do ANYTHING that day, and everything she did was something she chose to add to the wedding.  I had a planner for the day and he was taking care of everything for me, as far as REAL work went.  She also had over an hour to shower and get ready.)  When she finally came in, she made a huge deal about putting me in my dress.  And after my makeup was finished, I asked her how I looked.

Of course, she had to "fix it".    I know that there was nothing she could've improve on.  Nothing.  But she had to grab the brush.  Very, very lightly pick up smidge of powder and pretend to fix my makeup.  Like I was a teenager whom she was fixing before a date.  She knew better than to actual screw with my makeup (she knows enough to know that she would've have been able to do anything but take away from what I've done) and possible risk being held accountable for anything.  But she puts on a production of correcting me.  Fixing me.  The photographer even took pictures of the "moment."   I remember feeling a bit embarrassed.  A bit infantilized.  I know there wasn't a thing she needed to fix.  But she needed to make sure everyone. including me, including her, thought I needed her to fix me. 

NM loves to fix things.  NM loves to play the part of the rescuer.  She loves to be needed.  She twists and convolutes everything to make herself the hero of the story.   To be needed is to be loved.  To be needed makes others indebted to you.  To be needed tethers people to you and guarantees they won't leave.  She loves the feeling she gets from being the "stable" one.  The one with "the money".  The one people need favors from.  The one who can then spew her wisdom on those whom clearly have their lives far less together. 

On the surface, it looks benevolent and generous.  It looks kind and thoughtful.  She is always, always helping.  And that's the story she tells herself.  How she gives and gives and gives and no one appreciates her.  How all she is doing is trying to help.  And no one sees the good she does.  How selfless and self-sacrificing she is.  This is the story she tells of her life. 

The other day, NM emailed me about my aunt.  How sick my aunt is and in so much pain.  She detailed how awful things are for my aunt.  And then she told me about how she "used her lunch hour" to run over all kinds of things for Aunt so that aunt would feel better.  She indicated that Aunt had refused her phone calls (being in too much pain) so NM then figured she better SHOW UP IN PERSON.  Because that would show how much she cared.   In NM's narrative, NM was the caring, concerned sister.  So concerned that she spent time and money to take aunt things.  It almost seems to be the thoughtful thing to do.

Yet, NM can't help but search for the credit for the nice things she does.  She likes people to acknowledge what she gives and how kind she is.  She wants, needs, everyone to know how nice she is and how much she gives. 

And also, somewhere deep down, I think that NM likes that Aunt needs my mother.  She likes that Aunt is in a "subordinate" position and not ranking so well in "life" as NM is.  Poor Aunt.  Benevolent, generous NM.  My aunt provides a place for NM to release her pent up need to give.  NM likes when people suffer because it gives her something to do.  If she had to choose between people hurting, and her never being able to "help" again, she'd choose the suffering.  NM uses this helping to "show" how much of a "good person" she is.  And if she didn't have that, how would she prove it?

And more than that, I don't think NM is above creating situations of drama in people's lives so that she can rescue them.  I think she purposely causes chaos she can swoop in and fix things.  (A couple of years ago, she insisted that she babysit for a big, important event so that DH and I could both attend.  But two weeks before, she started saying she didn't think she could drive all this way.  She hemmed and hawed and wouldn't commit.  But she also wouldn't accept that I would just schedule another babysitter.  Whenever I told her I'd find someone else, she suddenly decided to come again.  This went on for two weeks, until she finally decided to come for good, because, she always likes to "keep her promises."  She created the drama so she could end up still coming and look like she sacrificed.)  I think she encourages my sister in unhealthy ways because she likes to fix her.  I think she enables my sister and doesn't force her to grow up so that she can rescue her. 

And then, she can complain to everyone, behind my sister's back about how she has to rescue her.  About how much time and money and LOVE she has invested in trying to save my poor wayward sister. 

And my sister is actually screwed either way.  Because I often refuse NM's help.  And my lot isn't much better.  I'm called ungrateful and stuck-up and stubborn and proud because I won't take things from NM.  It enrages NM that she doesn't have anything to "fix" for me.  So, she creates problems.  She screws with my kids so that I feel inept as a mother: she implies I'm raising spoiled, selfish children (by creating situations in which she clearly favors one child and then calls him spoiled when he is upset by the unfairness).  She tries to create drama in my little family because it annoys her that I don't need her, have thrived without her, and have pushed away from her.  Needing my mother is just as harmful as not needing my mother.  It's always damned if you do, damned if you don't.

She'll offer me something.  Beg, almost, to buy something for me, give me something, provide me with something.  But if I refuse it, I'm ungrateful.  I don't appreciate her generosity.  If I take it, than I'm greedy.  I'm taking advantage of her generosity.  There is no right answer with my mother.  You are beaten down whatever you chose, but chose you must. 

Because she always has to be the martyr, the victim, the rescuer.  The one who gives while everyone else takes from her.  She has to convince herself that I am her enemy.  That my kids, her husband, my sister, her sister, everyone is out to get to her.  She has to be the white knight swooping to save everyone while all us heathens attack against her righteousness.  And she's not only going to defeat us, but she's going to save us.

At least that's the story she tells herself. 


  1. I totally understand this too. There are times now that I question how bad is it with my own NM because of what I know now on narcissism, I always gear myself up for the worse case scenario with any situation. The other day, she was having computer problems. My DH being the computer expert is her go to person. She always says it's not a rush but if two days goes by, suddenly he's forgotten that her computer needs fixing. He knows now that it almost always is a rush item and handles it that way to avoid the backlash. Recently, she had a computer issue come up and he told her he would come by. Right now he is on mandatory over time and he becomes quite forgetful when work becomes crazy. He forgot to go by and fix her problem. I reminded him and told him to call her immediately or else I knew she would tell me she was forgotten. It's happened before so I know the drill by now. Anyway, I totally get having to understand for your own protection why we all need to educate ourselves on our NM's & family. I don't get all flustered anymore over their mean sayings and doings. This is progress but at the same time I think she knows we are on to her. With today being morthers day, I tried to plan a lunch but of course since I too am not talking to my sister, it's an ordeal now for her and we wreck her day by not talking to each other. I really don't care. All my mom did was ruin her day to be celebrated but she places blame on me. That's fine because my mind is now educated on this sickness and it doesn't bother me anymore. she is the one missing out. Anyway, I hope you have a great mother's day with your own family. You deserve the peace.

  2. It's quite hard to get one's head around this, but once you do, everything makes sense. You understand why NOTHING you do ever works to improve the relationship. They don't want to improve the relationship. They want to keep putting you in the position of being either the "bad" one, so they can be the heroine (or victim); or a "charity case", so they can be the rescuer. The saddest thing is that they really believe themselves to be those roles. At least, once we see it for what it is we can step out and not play that game anymore.

    1. Yes, exactly. I just couldn't figure out how she justified everything in her mind. And as it didn't make sense to me, I didn't know how to "untangle" myself from it. I've learned I have to start believing in myself and grow up, if for no other reason than to keep myself out of NM's game. If I don't allow her to convince me I am a child and in need of her help, I can be free to make my own choices instead of just reacting to her.

  3. I do think it's important to have a paradigm in which to think-one that's reality based and specific to each situation. If we can "name" it (correctly) we can get our thoughts, perceptions and actions aligned with what we need to do to protect ourselves and our families. Aunt *refusing* her phone calls was an unmistakable Boundary which NM trampled all over because the stated wishes and rights of others are never a consideration-de facto, other's have none.
    The "Need to be Needed" is another way of ensuring the CB remains the Center of Attention and procure endless opportunities to secure Supply. I bet that picture from your wedding of her "touch-up" and "assistance" is her favorite. Instead of offering the most common genuine response mom's give when seeing their daughters dressed on their wedding day, "You look BEAUTIFUL!" (without being prompted, and yes, they do!) again places her at The Center of Attention.
    You have only morphed into "The Enemy" since you've established and enforced Boundaries. She uses others to prop up her Appearance and narrative. Despite all her "efforts" ultimately she can wail about how "No One Appreciates/Loves HER," the bottomless pit of perpetrator. Through her shameless, predatory, covert aggressive behavior she can then promote her long-suffering, selfless "Professional Victim" persona. She successfully "Flips the Script" for her own CB Agenda.
    It is and always will be all about her at the expense of others. To "be needed" in her world is to be *enabled* to continue to collude in her promotion of "self-LESSNESS" when nothing could be further from Reality. Once other's refuse to collude in a CB's Agenda, they will declare war with the mindset of a Suicide Bomber. She had no reservations about blowing up her own family and she will have none about attempting to blow your's up as well.
    Kudos for your HD "picture:" It's been a painful, excruciating and very careful expose' but well worth your efforts. There's other ways to "save the village" without "burning it down," but she'll continue to try: Terrorists are not easily deterred so constant vigilance is the price of safety.
    (Again, Happy Mother's Day-hope you have a chance to relax with a glass of wine!)

    1. Thanks TW. I had a lovely day and a nice glass of wine. Hope you had a nice day too!

      BTW, your point that NM had no reservations about blowing up her family, and will not be more generous with mine was not lost on me. That will forever be in my mind as I move forward in dealing with her.

  4. Oh yeah, I recognize this Nmom always tries to give me 'stuff' which sounds generous on the surface but there is always strings attached. I must take care of 'stuff' in a specific way, I must be eternally grateful for 'stuff' that I never wanted in the first place, I must be indebted for 'stuff' forever. That's not love, that's a hostage situation. Think guerilla warfare and you have Nmom.

  5. Hi Jessie,
    The living out their fantasies with what ever role they choose - from the past stories and this she does a good job of 'playing' the role without the work. They get away with 'looking' like their chosen role to everyone else. It seems that is why many in line with descriptions of personality disorders have acquaintances rather than deep connections. The charade has a higher degree of being revealed when dealing with them daily. And for those in the daily life, manipulation is the only way to get what they want. xxTR

  6. Ok so I'm not done reading this blog but immediately hoped you threw away the pictures of your NM "fixing" your makeup. Who needs them

    1. That's a great idea. I hadn't thought about that. Thanks for the suggestion.