Category Archives: Understanding narcissism

Defence Mechanisms

“Ouch”, says your ego as it a feels a burn, deliberate or otherwise. It’s funny how our modern access to the internet and people all over the world lead to a world of butt-hurt on internet comments sections. As an exercise in uncovering the various ways people can wriggle about when they feel they have been criticised it is fascinating.

Some men tend to get very aggressive from the get-go, personally attacking the people disagreeing with them, others fall into snobby intellectualism and suppose they are the expert on everything, some are blatantly sexist (go make me a sandwich). Women tend to be more oh-poor-me, morally superior and judgemental, you’ve just misunderstood me or repeat themselves over and over unable to let it go. We are socially conditioned to respond in certain ways when feeling wounded and defensive, some of these responses are gender specific, some are universal.

Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, set about categorising various ways in which people defend their egos, their sense of themselves as valuable and worthy people, when a threat to that sense of self-worth is detected. Some of these strategies are healthy and adaptive to getting on with people, some less so and some are downright appalling and cause serious damage to relations unless being used by a tantruming toddler.

I have toyed with the idea of creating a defence mechanism Bingo game to keep myself amused during any visits by the MIL. I could print myself out a card of various possible defensive behaviours and cross them off as the day wears on, extra points for stirring up contentious conversations which deliberately provoke defensive reactions. Then when she has exhausted her repertoire of maladaptive and obnoxious ways of responding I can leap out of my chair shouting “BINGO!” and she’ll look all confused and have no idea why I am wetting myself laughing. Ah yes, I have way to much time on my hands and end up plotting this sort of stuff.

Here are some defence mechanisms listed with the healthy, normal ones at the start and descending down four levels of Hell to the bizarre and psychotic at the end. How many does your disorder mother-in-law use in an average conversation? Which ones get pulled out most often, which are reserved for those moments when she is panicking and feels control is slipping by, which ones are used by your partner? Which ones do you adopt in response to your MIL? Could you use better ones?

Level IV – Mature defences

Found in emotionally healthy adults, socially adaptive and making use of feelings of control or an emphasis on finding pleasure or peace amidst distressing situations.

Acceptance – a person fully accepts reality without attempting to change it, protest or run away (Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference)

Altruism – service to others which feels good

Anticipation – realistically planning for future discomfort, i.e. preparing a plan for how to manage the MIL when she visits

Courage – ability and willingness to confront conflict, fear, pain, obstacles, uncertainty and despair.

Emotional self-regulation – responding to reality in a range of emotional ways which are socially acceptable, modifying the intensity, duration, type and mode of expression of feelings.

Emotional self-sufficiency – independence from the approval or validation of others, freeing yourself from feeling MIL has to like you.

Fantasy – using imagination and day dreaming to posit a more hopeful future (someone getting rejected for a job imagining the day they land their ideal position)

Forgiveness – letting go of resentment, indignation or anger aroused by a perceived offence and no longer demanding recompense or restitution after appropriate grieving and acknowledgement of the hurt.

Gratitude – feeling thankful for the range of people and events in one’s life who don’t cause problems.

Humility – full consideration of one’s own faults and attributes leading to a humble self opinion, you’re not perfect either.

Humour – expressing ideas and feelings in humorous ways to lessen distress.

Identification – modelling one’s self upon the character or behaviour of another (what would Jesus do?).

Mercy – compassionate action when in a powerful position. Believe it or not you are in a powerful position w.r.t. MIL, you control access to the grandchildren and ease of access to her adult child.

Mindfullness – staying conscious of oneself and environment in the present moment, suspending judgment, remaining open, curious and accepting. The opposite of this is dissociating or catastrophising.

Moderation – staying within reasonable limits, exercising self-restraint. Both with your own emotions and with what you are prepared to tolerate from MIL or spouse. This is about boundaries inside and out.

Patience – enduring a difficult or unpleasant circumstance for some time before reacting, God knows we’ve all done this to death!

Respect – willingness to show consideration or appreciation, a feeling of regard towards someone’s qualities, and actions and conduct which reflect that regard.

Sublimation – transforming distressing or unacceptable feelings into a more beneficial product or action, aggression into competitive sport, sexuality in dance, grief into art. Or this blog!

Supression – delaying temporarily an emotional response or need until a more suitable time, a mother squashing her own fear when a child falls from a tree to attend to the child. Not shouting at spouse for siding with their mother but waiting to express your annoyance later when she isn’t around.

Tolerance – deliberately allowing or permitting something which one disapproves of. Your in-laws way of doing Christmas lunch for example.

Level III – Neurotic Defences

Fairly common in adults. Help in the short term to deal with distress but unhelpful if used over the long term, disrupting relationships, work and socialising.

Displacement – shifting an uncomfortable emotion or impulse to a safer target (blaming MIL for all your relationship problems because it’s safer than facing how upset you are with your partner)

Dissociation – temporarily mentally separating from the distress, feeling emotionally numb, out of the body or otherwise not there in an distressing situation (it was like I was watching it happen from outside of myself)

Hypochondria – excessive worry about illness

Intellectualisation – focussing on the rational ideas and intellectual components of a situation so as to avoid the emotional distress, separating emotion from ideas

Isolation – separating out the emotional content of an event so the event can be spoken of in a dispassionate way (describing a grisly car accident with no emotional response).

Rationalisation – making excuses, convincing oneself that no harm was done as you had a good reason (but it wasn’t my intention to hurt so I’m not responsible).

Reaction formation – turning one unconscious and unacceptable thought or feeling into it’s exact opposite, behaving in the opposite way that you really want (a boy struggling with a strong attraction to a girl pulls her pigtails to upset her, you find yourself offering to take MIL on a shopping trip when you first realise how much you hate her).

Regression – temporarily acting in a more childish and dependent way (you totally suck and I hate you!).

Repression – moving a desire or thought that causes you anxiety as you fear punishment for it into the unconscious until you are no longer conscious of the thought or desire but some emotional memory of it lingers (feeling uncomfortable around a rarely seen family member but not remembering what first made you feel that way).

Undoing – trying to undo a threatening or unacceptable thought or feeling by consciously acting in the reverse way to atone or reduce one’s feelings of guilt (being nice to someone you had bad thoughts about).

Social comparison – looking to other people who are seen as worse off in order to distance oneself from similarities with that person/group and to make oneself feel better (well at least I’m not like that Jane Doe).

Withdrawl – avoiding or removing oneself from situations, places and events to stop being reminded of painful thoughts or feelings (I just can’t go back there after what happened). Not the same as planning to avoid situations where you know you will be verbally or emotionally abused (like with MIL), that is sensible.

OK let’s take a breather at this point, before it gets mad, bad and dangerous below. The mature and neurotic defences above are ways people adapt to the occasional awkward or distressing event. The word distressing in this psychoanalytical context doesn’t have to mean reduced to tears sobbing (although it could, loosing your beloved dog in an accident would provoke several of these defences) we could just be talking about how someone tries to play one-upmanship on you in a social conversation, or you became the butt of a joke at work.  BUT and it’s a big but, we are not talking about adaptations and reactions to severe trauma or prolonged abusive scenarios. Nor are we talking about the quite sensible precautions which anyone should take to protect themselves from a known toxic person or situation.

I am not suggesting we should suddenly apply for the Sainthood and start serenely forgiving our MILs, volunteering at the local homeless shelter  and practicing some New Age gratitude practice every morning in an effort to deal with her dysfunction. No no nopety nope. In fact behaving this way would be a defence mechanism, but not the mature ones listed above. This sort of behaviour is a mixture of denial, repression and fantasy. You do not have to forgive people, be endlessly patient or altruistic to be maturely dealing with someone difficult. You can use humour, anticipation and courage when dealing with her, or whatever. And no one expects you to respond with a “mature” defence each and every time. Notice how it says that neurotic defences are helpful in short term acute scenarios.

There is an insidious tendency in self-development books and blogs towards premature forgiveness and gratitude meditations as if it was healthy or even possible for someone to just put aside whatever has wounded them. This is nonsense and has its roots in a bastardisation of the ideas of the Law of Attraction. The healthiest thing to do when wounded is fully feel wounded and acknowledge what is going on inside you. Sit with it, feel it, breathe through it and past it. Premature forgiveness or ignoring hurt and replacing it in your mind with forced thoughts of your blessings is not going to allow you to move beyond those feelings. Grief, disappointment, anger and sadness are normal responses to abusive people. Once you have felt your feelings and fully respected them then you can choose how to respond.

The following two lists of ways to respond are not ones you would want to choose on a regular basis. Bet you’ll never guess where my MIL’s most commonly used reactions lie? Oh you did guess…yeah in these two lists.

Level II – Immature defences

All adults act in these ways occasionally. Habitually acting in these ways makes a person difficult to deal with and the person themselves will find reality difficult to cope with. Taken to an excessive level they are found in mental illnesses like severe depression and personality disorders.

Acting out – an unconscious desire or impulse turned into action which the person isn’t consciously in control of and is unaware of the emotion which triggered it, self-harm is an example (I don’t know why I did that!)

Autistic or Schizoid Fantasy – habitually retreating into fantasy and daydreaming as a way to resolve inner and outer conflicts. This includes retreating into role play and computer games, where the retreat includes non-communication and social isolation.

Idealization – putting someone on a pedestal (my mother is such a good person, she’d never do that)

Introjection – unconsciously taking the qualities and attributes of an idea or person fully into oneself because these qualities help deal with reality (finding yourself speaking with your mother’s voice saying the exact phrase she would say, adopting the behaviour of an aggressive peer thereby reducing threat to oneself. Very common between parents and children who absorb their values)

Passive Aggression – feelings of aggression towards another person expressed in indirect or passive ways (it was an honest mistake! I just forgot to post it)

Projection – attributing one’s own unacceptable and unwanted thoughts and feelings onto another person or group so that the other person/group actually seems to have those thoughts and feelings themselves (I saw you looking at him all flirtatiously – when you were eyeing up an attractive woman moments before). Includes prejudices like misogyny, racism and homophobia, jealousy, hyper vigilance to external dangers and injustice collecting (look at all the ways I’ve been wronged).

Somatization – transformation of uncomfortable feelings into actual physical sensations of pain, sickness and anxiety (I’m not upset about what my mother said, I just have a headache. I feel sick I am so nervous.)

Wishful thinking – acting as if the most pleasing outcome was guaranteed to happen while not paying due attention to facts (oh it’ll be fine – she’s been so much better the last few months).

Level I – Severely pathological defence mechanisms.

These defences are designed to distort and rearrange the external experiences the person is having so the person no longer has to cope with reality. The mind distorts reality into something easier for the person to deal with. These frequently appear irrational or insane to people observing them in adults but they occur as a normal stage of development in children.

Conversion or hysteria – mental or emotional distress transformed into a physical symptom like blindness, deafness, paralysis, numbness.

Delusional Projection – false beliefs about reality and the trustworthiness of people usually of a persecutory nature (e.g. so and so is out to get me, society has set it up so men like me always fail, its a conspiracy of feminazis and the Illumati, people cannot ever be trusted)

Denial – refusal to accept reality because it is too threatening (she is not leaving me), arguing that a threat to the ego doesn’t exist at all (you’re wrong, he is not cheating on me), refusing to see or accept unpleasant aspects of reality (my mother is not narcissistic) despite evidence to the contrary.

Distortion – a gross reshaping of reality to meet the ego’s needs (He didn’t leave me, I let him go because it was better for him, he has such a fragile mental state, I know I have hoarded 20,000 plastic bags but they will be useful one day)

Extreme projection – the blatant denial of a moral or character trait which is instead seen as a problem for some other person or group (Homosexuality is a disgusting sin, says the preacher who is secretly gay.  Seen in children, one child holding a broken object points the finger at another and says “they did it!”)

Splitting – the unconscious splitting off of characteristics of a person or group into “good” and “bad”  because the immature ego can’t hold the whole person/group in their mind in one go. Can also happen within a person who splits off the “good” from the “bad” parts of themselves as they are unable to hold a complete picture of themselves as having both polarities. One side of the polarity is then adopted as true and any evidence supporting the other side is rejected (The teacher can’t be praising me because I am a bad kid. Favouritism in children/grandchildren Little Johnny is an awful liar and thief, Little Jane is so precious and kind).

Well  that’s rather a lot to take in all in one go! Do digest it at your own leisure. It certainly has given me a real insight into how well I am coping with certain situations as I can spot my own less helpful defences more readily now.

Dear old MIL does all of the pathological defences, I think now is the time for one of those more mature responses, a little humour maybe…

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Filed under Denial, emotions, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, Manipulations, marriage and NPD MIL, narcissistic mother, Understanding narcissism

Lies, Damn Lies and Delusion

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Lie – to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive

Pathological Lying – long history (maybe lifelong history) of frequent and repeated lying for which no apparent psychological motive or external benefit can be discerned

Confabulation – to fabricate imaginary experiences as compensation for loss of memory

Delusion – a belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder

 

I posed myself a question in response to my MILs flat out denial that she had a) sent any play money to us at Christmas (see post “So you survived Christmas…”) b) had intended it to be malicious and had in fact c) sent it to our youngest child but had to put all of our names on the parcel because we had made it so difficult for her to send the children more than one gift despite having sent that child more than one gift already. You’ll notice how these answers contradict each other.

The question was “does MIL know she is lying”?

YES! you all shout, but the really scary answer is probably no, she doesn’t.

It creeps me out to write about this because it genuinely is very scary for me to have someone in my social or familial circle who is so out of touch with most people’s version of reality. I am strongly empathic and can in most circumstances easily put myself in another person’s shoes, feel their feelings and see their perspective. Even if I disagree strongly with their views on something I can still see how their life experiences have led them to hold the position they have. Sometimes it is a bit trickier, some people are harder to figure out as they are very reserved and reveal little of their deeper feelings. And then occasionally you meet someone who is a mindfucker.

My definition of a mindfucker, excuse my French, is a person so incomprehensible that trying to put yourself in their shoes actually causes you psychological harm. The MIL is one of them.

My therapist describes it more politely as “off the Bell Curve”. Here is a Bell Curve.

blank bell curve

 

I love the whole Bell Curve thing, I first learnt about it doing my A Level maths course aged 17. Almost all measurable characteristics in nature produce this graph; the length of blades of grass in your lawn, the heights of 4 year old kids, the weights of new born puppies, the number of cakes you have eaten this year and so on. Most people/things cluster symmetrically around an average or mean value in the middle and the numbers of people/things who have significantly more or less of the measured characteristic fall away from this peak values either side. IQ is the classic example of a characteristic which produces a bell shaped curve when measured in people.

If you look at the picture you notice the areas right out at the edges labelled with the purple arrows? Those are the places where the extremes are found, I am actually at the far right of the bell curve for female height as I am 5 foot 10 inches which is taller than the average height for a man in the UK. But that doesn’t make me abnormal, I’m within the “normal” range (i.e. on the bell curve) just not in the “average” range, in the top 2% range instead.

My MILs behavioural responses are off the bell curve, so unusual that they are not found in almost everyone else in the population, beyond the 2%. That is pretty much the definition of a personality disorder.

Lying

So how does that link in with her lying? Let’s review some indisputable facts:

My MIL sent a parcel wrapped in Christmas paper to us at Christmas with a label on it “to husband, FCW, child 1, child 2” inside was play money, plastic coins and fake notes.

She sent each child a gift, some books each and a joint present labelled as such.

We had requested that all family members send each child one gift as otherwise they are deluged in presents

My husband asked her about the play money present as she has previously tried to give us money with strings attached and been cross when it was refused. This gift of play money seemed to say “fuck you, I’ll send money this way then, ha ha”.

This is how she replied, all of this happened in the course of one conversation:

  1. “I didn’t do that”
  2. “I don’t remember sending any such thing to you”
  3. “Well I meant it to be for child 2”
  4. “You made it so difficult for me to send more than one gift to each child”
  5. “I had no choice but to put everyone’s names on it”

I see someone making shit up as she goes along, reaching some vaguely plausible story by the end of the conversation which absolves herself of any wrong doing and (bonus points) manages to make herself a victim of someone else’s unreasonable demands.

She knows at statement 1 that she is being called out for something. She probably hasn’t listened much to the accusation but the tone of voice and content of the questions leads her to go on the defensive and she instinctively denies everything. This is a lie reflex similar to that which small children have who are scared of a punitive parent “I didn’t do it, it wasn’t me”.

Then she has had enough time to start being a bit more clever and tries to deflect criticism by hedging her bets a bit ” I don’t recall doing it” this is deliberate, she knows this is a lie. How come? Because of what she says next “it was for child 2” not “oh yes, goodness me I forgot, that was for child 2”.

Notice also how she doesn’t apologise at all for going against our request for one gift per child. She is on a roll now and has had enough time to conjure up a scenario where she can come out smelling of roses (in her mind). She was the helpless victim of our wicked rule.

Then here’s the scary part, she erases the entire first part of the conversation from her mind and believes the story she has come up with, actually believes it to be the truth. If questioned today on this subject she would repeat the finalised version of this story, that it was for child 2 and we made it so difficult for her to be that generous with our unreasonable demand she felt unable to openly label the gift as such so in desperation put all our names on it. She would deny any recollection of the first part of the conversation or say she was confused and flustered because of the aggressive tone she was questioned with.

She is a liar, there is no doubt in my mind that she knowingly says things she knows are false in order to get herself out of sticky situations. But then something else happens, a layer of bizarre gets iced onto the cake of lie and she can concoct a story where she is the blameless one, clever one, heroic one and she believes it. She reaches the point of believing her own lies.

I thought this was called pathological lying but it’s not. Pathological lying is when you spend your entire life making up random shit about everything for no personal gain, you just can’t separate made up from real. Confabulation is a form of making things up found in people with memory loss who instinctively try to fill in the gap with a story, their brain is trying to help account for an absence. It is a symptom of brain trauma and some neurological conditions. She isn’t doing that either.

No she is lying and then becomes delusional, she believes her lies. The lies can be concretely shown to be lies, real evidence exists to counter them, the first part of the conversation above is an example. How can she say “I didn’t do that” and then say “you gave me no choice but to do that” one of those two statements is a lie at the very least. But still she believes her version and interprets any disagreement as wilful attacks upon her good character.

Lying is normal, we all do it. Social white lies such as “can we have biscuits when we get home?” “no we ran out” when actually the answer is “no I’m worried about all the crap you eat but can’t be arsed to have a fight about this in the school playground” are normal. The number of times a person lies everyday fits a bell curve, some do few, some do lots, most fit in the middle. How many of your lies you believe to be true when pressed also fits a bell curve, with some people easily admitting they are lies, most people grudgingly admitting most lies, some people really resisting admitting their lies and then some tiny percentage of people who say they never lie and always believe them to be true. These people are way off the bell curve. Hello MIL.

This is why I find it a mindfuck, in order for me to follow that train of thought from conscious lie to delusion I have to amputate some really crucial parts of my own mind: the parts where I see other people as just as sharp and astute as I am, the parts where I see the effects of my actions on others, the parts where I have any moral accountability, the parts where I accept I am flawed and can do the wrong thing, the part where I recognise the difference between what is in my head and what is real. Going there is scary for me and the realisation of what my MIL must be capable of if she can do this is horrifying. Worse, what if she isn’t capable of doing anything else, what if this is how she thinks, ALL THE GOD DAMN TIME!

Delusion

This is far from being the only example of my MILs delusional thinking. She invented a story first reported to her divorce lawyer and documented in detail as a result, where her ex-husband grabbed her bum cheek in the queue for service at a restaurant. This was in order to portray him as a really bad person. Next this story was related to me about the second time I meet her and it was an anatomically graphic account of how while sat at a table in the restaurant her shoved his hand forcibly into her lap and indecently assaulted her. That is what was described it to me over afternoon tea, in her garden the second time we met. You see how that conversation isn’t even normal!

Next time she tells the tale her two children were sat opposite her at the table so that is why she was unable to cry out or do anything. Now my husband remembers the trip to the restaurant but has no memory of anything untoward happening. He and his sister were in their mid-late teens at the time so their recollection is pretty good. Notice how the story changed and became more elaborate.

She has delusions about other things as well, she believes she discovered some remarkable chemical law which would have revolutionised the subject. She thinks that the radiation from her mobile phone if left on wakes her 30-40 times a night. She found a painting in a second hand shop and believes it is one of her ancestors and is wearing a necklace she has inherited despite the necklace not matching the picture and her having no evidence that the painting is really her ancestor at all. She believes she has psychic powers and knows the location of a girl abducted in a notorious kidnap case. She believes young waiters in restaurants flirt with her because she is so attractive. She believes she is stronger and more physically capable than she is and has injured herself several times as a result.

Narcissism is so horrible when acted out on other people due to the lack of morals, awareness of others feelings, the lies, the manipulations. But under it all is someone so profoundly disturbed that they are unable to ever accept that they do wrong, their brain cannot compute it. Every single action is designed to protect their desperately fragile self worth and delusion is better than a lie. Delusion says “I am not that person, I didn’t do that wrong thing”, lying says “I know I am but I can make capital out of saying I’m not”.

She really has to believe that she isn’t that person, the whole structure of her personality is set up so as to avoid ever having to consider that possibility even to the extent of denying reality. That is a truly sad and scary place to be. For the first time ever I feel sorry for my MIL.

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Filed under Communication problems in NPD, Controlling behaviour, defence mechanism, delusion, Denial, Describing narcissism, diagnosing NPD, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, lies, narcissistic mother, Understanding narcissism

From blog to book

I am following the advice of a friend who has just written her first book and collating all these blog posts and a few more topics together into a short book which I hope to put on Amazon as an e-book.

I wondered if you, my readers, had any other topics you would like to see addressed which I can add into the book and hopefully eventually put on here as a post.

I have written some material on specific narcissistic traits with examples from my dear MIL’s interactions with us, something about infantilisation of our spouses, something about denial. What else? I look forward to reading your suggestions, thanks for all your comments so far.

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Filed under Communication problems in NPD, Controlling behaviour, Describing narcissism, diagnosing NPD, Effects of NPD on others, Examples of narcissistic behaviour, Helping your spouse deal with NPD mum, How NPD MIL affects a marriage, Manipulations, narcissistic mother, strategies for managing NPD MIL, Understanding narcissism

Passive-Aggressive Behaviour

NPD MIL has big anger issues. She is constantly simmering below the surface angry. My mother describes her as the most angry person she has ever met yet MIL has never raised her voice in my company. So how do I know she is angry?

You don’t have to shout to show anger. No fist needs to be banged on a table, no finger jabbed in your face, the teeth don’t have to show in a snarling mouth nor do insulting words need to be shot out with force. Anger can be a cold, crippling state of being that blackens your soul. My MIL’s soul is of the deepest black.

She hates her ex-husband, my lovely FIL. She hates him because he survives very well without her. She left him. He just wouldn’t rise to her bait and retreated into his work, slept downstairs in his office and became a non-person to her after their children grew and left home. She decided he was mentally defective and left him, as she tells it, for his own sake. This was after she tried to get a doctor to diagnose him with a rare form of early onset dementia.

So how does she show her vicious hatred? She redirects junk mail that occasionally gets sent to her (once their) house to his new partner with intimidating messages scrawled on the front. She found FIL’s partner’s address on the internet. Nice huh?

She now refuses to attend any event where her ex-husband may be present. Christenings, birthdays, graduations are all disrupted by her weeks of haggling over who will be there, when and with whom. If she is put on the defensive regarding her intractable demands about not meeting her ex she threatens to go to the police with a trumped up accusation of assault. I know it is trumped up as the actual story of the assault keeps changing, and more importantly it is supposed to have occurred in front of her children, in their late teens at the time, who noticed nothing at the time. Oh and it only ever gets brought out when she is backed up against a wall.

But what is interesting about her methods is their indirect nature. She never comes out and says “do this my way or I’ll go to the police”, that would be too obvious. She says things like “I can’t be in the same room as FIL. Maybe I should have been more insistent with the police, you know, with being assaulted. It still upsets me a lot…” the threat is left hanging, but the message is clear.

MIL is a master of passive-aggressive behaviour.

Responding to conflict

There is a range of interpersonal responses available to someone in a difficult situation. A completely passive response is like the dog rolling onto its back and showing its tummy.  You say nothing to express your own thoughts and meekly, willingly comply with the other person.

An aggressive response is picking a fight, getting your haunches up and snarling back.

Passive-aggressive behaviour is feeling one thing while displaying the other. Looking passive or at least not overtly confrontational but still having the rage of an aggressive person locked down inside. The anger doesn’t disappear. Anger never does, it’s a bit like there should be a conservation of anger law to match the conservation of energy law.

The anger comes out in indirect ways, that is what passive-aggression is about, indirect displays of anger. Here are some examples of  PA behaviours taken from this article http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/what-is-passive-aggressive-behaviour

Non-Communication when there is clearly something problematic to discuss

Avoiding/Ignoring when you are so angry that you feel you cannot speak calmly

Evading problems and issues, burying an angry head in the sand

Procrastinating intentionally putting off important tasks for less important ones

Obstructing deliberately stalling or preventing an event or process of change

Fear of Competition Avoiding situations where one party will be seen as better at something

Ambiguity Being cryptic, unclear, not fully engaging in conversations

Sulking Being silent, morose, sullen and resentful in order to get attention or sympathy.

Chronic Lateness A way to put you in control over others and their expectations

Chronic Forgetting Shows a blatant disrespect and disregard for others to punish in some way

Fear of Intimacy Often there can be trust issues with passive aggressive people and guarding against becoming too intimately involved or attached will be a way for them to feel in control of the relationship

Making Excuses Always coming up with reasons for not doing things

Victimisation Unable to look at their own part in a situation will turn the tables to become the victim and will behave like one

Self-Pity the poor me scenario

Blaming others for situations rather than being able to take responsibility for your own actions or being able to take an objective view of the situation as a whole.

Withholding usual behaviours or roles for example sex, cooking and cleaning or making cups of tea, running a bath etc. all to reinforce an already unclear message to the other party

Learned Helplessness where a person continually acts like they can’t help themselves – deliberately doing a poor job of something for which they are often explicitly responsible.

My husband once broached the subject with his mother, suggesting in a very roundabout way that perhaps the family had a PA way of communicating. MIL said she had no idea what that meant and she actually found and referred to the article I linked above. MIL said perhaps only one example sounded remotely true to her. My husband and I have specific examples, numerous examples to back every single point except the one about chronic lateness (MIL is actually early on purpose to throw people off). It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

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What do the diagnostic criteria actually mean?

What do all the dry academic words that attempt to pin down the defining features of NPD actually mean in real life? Here I’m going to attempt to illustrate each one with some examples from life with NPD MIL.

A. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior the deviates  markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. This pattern is manifested in two (or more) of the following areas:
1. Cognition (i.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people and events)

This one is a corker, I mean what is disordered cognition exactly? Thinking you are God or that fairies live in your garden is not what this criteria is referring to. The criterion refers to ways of perceiving and interpreting. So what a disordered person sees in a given situation is very different from what you or I would see and what they then conclude about that event also markedly deviates from what we would conclude.

So how does that work out in a real situation? PD person is sitting outside a cafe and see someone they know walk by, no eye contact is made and they make no attempt to call out to them. The PD person perceives a deliberate snub. MIL actually did this to me but under much more extreme circumstances than this. I was pushing my then very ill child through a hospital corridor to a meeting with the consultant when I walked past MIL sat in the hospital coffee shop. She made no attempt to attract my attention, I had no expectation she would even be in the hospital at that time and I didn’t see  her, I obviously had other things on my mind, like would my child need a vital organ removed or would the doctors be able to save it. MIL brought this up as an example of my treating her rudely.

PD person is told someone can’t make it to their planned event so they cancel the whole thing. This is all or nothing thinking, they didn’t consider going ahead anyway or moving the event to another day. There is no middle ground and no flexibility in their approach.

Bizarre attributions of magical, unusual and unlikely properties to ordinary objects is also a type of cognitive distortion. MIL thinks her mobile phone if left on overnight will wake her “30 or more” times. She doesn’t just switch off her mobile, she unplugs the landline too.

Suspicious or determinedly negative assumptions about people are another example. MIL won’t use Skype to communicate as she thinks unnamed people will be able to hack into her computer through it and spy on her.

The resource “Personality Disorders” at the South West Alabama Behavioural Health care Systems is very helpful on understanding the diagnosis criteria for a personality disorder, it gives lots of examples of disordered thinking patterns.

2. Affectivity (i.e., the range, intensity, lability, and appropriateness of emotional response)

This is a frequently misunderstood criteria. Many people who write about personality disorders are talking about Borderline Personality Disorder which is characterised by extreme swings of emotion and volatility. But the criteria for diagnosing a personality disorder do not specify extreme ranges of emotion with, high intensity or great lability. The opposite is also true. A very limited range of displayed or felt emotions, those emotions having little intensity and  rarely leading to crying or laughter would also be characteristic of a personality disorder because they are behaviours that markedly deviate from the norm for our culture. The emotions in this case are too limited.

MIL has a very limited range of emotions, I have only ever seen neutral, panic, smug, envy and angry. I have never seen joy, happiness, fear, curiosity, anxiety, frustration, pride, sorrow, compassion, friendliness, I could go on but you get the idea.  Even when she gets exactly what she wants she isn’t actually happy, she is placated until the next demand surfaces.

Occasions when she has completely failed to show an appropriate emotional response have included my husband and my wedding (total absence of any reaction before, during or after the wedding), on the announcement of my pregnancies (expressed an unwillingness to be pleased incase something went wrong with the pregnancy and as a result she ended up disappointed), the birth of our children (refused to hold our first child and didn’t smile in either of the photos we have of her holding her newborn grandchildren), dealing with her mother’s dementia and death (no matter what happened she only ever expressed slight frustration with her mother and demonstrated little or no grief at her death or funeral).

Even during the course of a normal conversation her facial expressions and tone of voice hardly varies. She can be bloody-mindedly argumentative with you while a smile plays across her face and she speaks with a slight haughty laugh to her voice. In fact appearing unruffled or even slightly amused by everything is all you usually see.

3. Interpersonal functioning

MIL is narcissistic so she has a strong need for control and power in her relationships. She also is very self absorbed. The opinions of others only matters to her with respect to herself, she has to have the good opinion of others even on really insignificant little things. She has little empathy for others’ feelings, why would she? Life is all about her and her feelings which she struggles to regulate, just like a small child.

So when she interacts with other people she does things which try to control them. She went to the supermarket to buy a greetings card marking the arrival of our second child and bought two. One was from her and she expected my mother to take the other card that she had chosen and send that to my and husband and me. My mother politely declined, saying she  would rather choose her own card to mark her grandchild’s birth.  MIL tries to control people ALL the time.

MIL exhibits conversational narcissism in the extreme. Every comment you make is brought round to her somehow, this makes conversation very one sided and alienates people. It is why she has no friends. For example I made our youngest child a dress, my husband drew attention to this as the baby was wearing it and MIL looked, said nothing at all about the dress then remarked “I have stopped making clothes as the patterns cost too much”.

Interactions are more than just conversationally one sided, she only gets in touch when she wants something. Her phone calls or emails are topped or tailed with perfunctory phrases like “hope you and the children are well” or some other sweetener then she gets down to it “I am having a problem with the car…”, she never rings up or gets in touch just to chat. This is what makes her relationships so exploitive, you are only in her thoughts if she can get something out of you.

In order to get you to do what she needs she will manipulate and persist. She will keep pushing and pushing, changing her arguments as to why you should do what she wants, lying and distorting facts, using tiny details and points of logic to unpick your counter arguments, then she tries emotionally to manipulate with sulking, oh poor me victim-martyr behaviour, aggressive silent treatment, outright rage, bad mouthing you to others and then waits until it dies down a bit and tries again. She persisted for more than six months to get us to accept that she would buy a basic provision for our children. We said no as she was using a power play to encroach on our parental responsibilities (we can provide necessities for our kids, this was all about putting my husband in a dependent role and her in the parental role) she is still going on about it. Gifts are never just gifts when a personality disorder is involved, they enmesh you in a web of dependence, indebtedness and obligation.

This inability to accept “No” as an answer is a hall mark of all manipulative behaviour. In Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” he talks about the pre-incident indicators, warning signs that someone is manipulating you into a potentially dangerous situation, and not taking no for an answer is one of them. Persistence in the face of clear a rebuffle is a characteristic of stalking.

4. Impulse control

As with criteria 2 above, impulse control in this context refers to both extremes; little impulse control (as with anti-social personality disorder) and also excessive control (as with avoidant or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder). Rigid and persistent over-control of impulses can show itself as emotional inhibition, a reluctance to do anything that involves any type of uncertainty or risk, a reluctance to start new things or try new activities, and over-conscientiousness or scrupulousness.

This is hard to fathom with respect to my MIL. She seems to flip between the two. Most of the time I would say she is massively over controlled. She is extremely emotionally inhibited seeing obvious display of emotion as a despised weakness even in other people. She never ever wants to be seen to make a mistake or do something incorrectly as that would undermine her belief that she is better than others and expose her to criticism. So she plans things minutely. She also gives up or doesn’t try things for fear of not being able to do it well. Everything in her life is controlled and contained even her diet. We are only ever served one or two dishes in her house (chicken or stew with a bought cake or home made fruit crumble). She won’t try new foods. But when MIL is stressed and panicking (because she fears she may be shown as inferior in some way) or raging (because her own way has been thwarted) she can be stupidly impulsive.

B. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.

This is straight forward, MIL’s behaviour is like this all the time, in her house, our house, out for the day, on happy occasions, sad occasions, you name it she will be difficult.

C. The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Well it led to the breakdown of her marriage, the alienation of her siblings, the damage to her relationship with her son, her daughter moving abroad to get away from her, she has no friends at all and no social activities.

D. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back at least to adolescence or early adulthood.

Oh yes, MIL’s teenage antics included getting a car and driving it all over her school playing field to churn up the grass just for a laugh, vandalising hospital equipment while awaiting an operation, taking chemicals from the school labs to make stink bombs etc. She was a right pain in the arse by her own account. She boasts about these activities, there is nothing she likes more than being seen to get one over on anyone in authority, who she inevitably regards as inferior to herself.

E. The enduring pattern is not better accounted for as a manifestation or consequence of another mental disorder.

No depression or other signs of mental illness, on the contrary she despises mental illness in others seeing it as a character flaw and considers herself to be unusually self aware and psychologically strong.

F. The enduring pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma)

Her behaviour is not due to alcohol or drugs (which could decrease impulse control and increase emotional expression).

After that long analysis I hope you can see how some of these criteria actually play out in day to day life. Everyone of us at sometime acts in these ways. What makes a personality disorder is the inability of the person to act any other way and the extent of the behaviour. Personality disorders are behaviours taken to an extreme and behaviour that are stuck and inflexible.

In further posts I am going to go through each of the criteria specific to narcissistic personality disorder.

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Diagnosing NPD – what the manuals say

How does someone get a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder? Well there are two main sources of diagnostic criteria for mental health conditions. One is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association, the other is the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders published by the World Health Authority. If the person meets the criteria for diagnosis as listed in these academic publications then their clinician (a GP, psychiatrist or psychoanalyst) would be able to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder. Only its not as simple as that.

First off the DSM has changed the criteria for diagnosing personality disorders. The previous edition DSM IV had one version and the present version DSM V has a rather different version. The ICD-10 doesn’t list Narcissistic Personality Disorder at all in the main body of the classification, it could be diagnosed as an other personality disorder not fitting the listed disorders. They include a comment on NPD in the appendix where the DSM IV criteria and listed and it is suggested this is a topic for further discussion and research.

So why all the contradiction and disagreement? The DSM IV criteria have been criticised from within the psychiatric medical community on several points.

Firstly the emphasis in the diagnostic criteria in DSM IV is placed on  the way NPD appears to outside observers in the actions and behaviours of the PD person. Not a lot of emphasis is put on the internal state of mind and thought processes occurring in the PD person which then lead to the behaviours. The result of this is twofold. The clinician has little to go on when trying identify NPD in a therapeutic situation. Imagine a person has all sorts of problems with their relationships and gets depressed, sees a doctor and starts talking about their feelings and thoughts. The DMS IV describes behaviours in a social-interpersonal setting which the clinician never sees. The clinician needs more information about the internal landscape of someone with NPD to identify it in a person in therapy.

The other problem is that the behaviours of someone with NPD overlap with behaviours shown by other personality disorders. This blurring of the boundaries of personality disorders is unhelpful if you believe (as I think many psychiatrists do) that each disorder is caused by a particular and specific developmental disruption in the person’s early life. The nature of the damage done and the age it occurred at will uniquely determine the manifestation of the disorder. Well I’m not sure I would be confident in supporting that discrete definition in its entirity but that seems to be the underlying assumption in wanting less overlap between the disorders.

If the definition of the disorder is heavily behaviourally based there will always be a tendency for cross-diagnosis between disorders as two people can behave in a similar way for entirely different reasons. Ideally one needs to identify the key features of the disorder as they appear externally to others and internally as the person experiences it themselves. The marked thing about NPD is that the external presentation of behaviours almost completely contradicts the internal experience of the sufferer. They act extremely self assured and superior, they feel utterly ashamed and inferior. The external behaviour is enacted as a way of suppressing the internal feelings which the NPD sufferer has, in the main, stuffed into their subconscious.

This criticism of the DSM IV criteria and general debate on the subject in the clinical literature means there has been no agreement between DSM and ICD-10. There is no argument that such a set of behaviours for the surmised reasons exists. NPD is seen in many clinical settings. ICD-10 wants a clear set of symptoms before it will include NPD as a specific named personality disorder, DSM updates itself periodically to try and keep abreast of developments. The WHO manual is more conservative, the American manual is criticised for medicalising all manner of behaviours and being in hock to large pharmaceutical companies (who for a price will sell you a drug to treat the disorders in the DSM).

Below is a straight copy and paste from the relevant tomes.

DSM IV Criteria for diagnosing a personality disorder

A. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior the deviates  markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture. This pattern is manifested in two (or more) of the following areas:
1. Cognition (i.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting self, other people and events)
2. Affectivity (i.e., the range, intensity, liability, and appropriateness of emotional response)
3. Interpersonal functioning
4. Impulse control
B. The enduring pattern is inflexible and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations.
C. The enduring pattern leads to clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
D. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back at least to adolescence or early adulthood.
E. The enduring pattern is not better accounted for as a manifestation or consequence of another mental disorder.
F. The enduring pattern is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma).

DSM IV criteria for NPD

A. A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or highstatus people (or institutions).

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

DSM V criteria for diagnosing a personality disorder

The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose a personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

A. Significant impairments in self (identity or self-direction) and interpersonal (empathy or intimacy) functioning.

B. One or more pathological personality trait domains or trait facets.

C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual‟s developmental stage or sociocultural environment.

E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

DSM V criteria for NPD

The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.

b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.

AND

2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):

a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.

b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance
of a need for personal gain.

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.

b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.

C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual‟s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

ICD-10 Criteria for diagnosing a personality disorder

Conditions not directly attributable to gross brain damage or disease, or to
another psychiatric disorder, meeting the following criteria:
(a)markedly disharmonious attitudes and behaviour, involving usually several areas of functioning, e.g. affectivity, arousal, impulse control, ways of perceiving and thinking, and style of relating to others;
(b)the abnormal behaviour pattern is enduring, of long standing, and not limited to episodes of mental illness;
(c)the abnormal behaviour pattern is pervasive and clearly maladaptive to a broad range of personal and social situations;
(d)the above manifestations always appear during childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood;
(e)the disorder leads to considerable personal distress but this may only become apparent late in its course;
(f)the disorder is usually, but not invariably, associated with significant problems in occupational and social performance.

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Communication Problems 1

I’m writing about communication this morning as I had been lying awake last night running a scenario over and over in my mind. The root cause of the scenario which will probably happen at the next MIL visit over the summer is her inability to communicate clearly and directly. I think problems with communication are common to all personality disorders.

Why do we communicate? I find it helps to consider small children when trying to understand communication. They start out just making noises and learn slowly how to shape the noises and gestures into meaningful interactions. Babies develop communication in a predictable way.

First they learn to communicate basic needs. They get hungry; they cry. They are cold; they cry. The purpose of crying is to alert the caregiver who will respond in an appropriate way to cater to the baby’s need. New parents take a while to learn and anticipate a baby’s needs and they cycle through the list of possibilities (hungry, tired, cold, hot, nappy, comfort etc) before hitting on the correct response. A good enough parent will keep going through the list until the child’s need is correctly identified.

The next stage of learning to communicate is mirroring. This time the parent leads the interaction. They see the faces the baby is making and makes them back. They repeat the gurgly baby noises and play lots of hiding and appearing games. Watch anyone with a newborn and they make a huge amount of eye contact and pull all sorts of goofy faces. This response to a baby is automatic and it is very important. Just like responding to cries secures the baby’s confidence that their needs will be met, copying their facial expressions and noises shows the baby what their emotions look like and gives them the confidence to express them. They are learning a vital emotional vocabulary.  (The books “The Social Baby – Understanding babies’ communication from birth” by Lynne Murray and Liz Andrews, “The Science of Parenting” by Margot Sunderland and “Why Love Matters – How affection shapes a baby’s brain” by Sue Gerhardt  go into this in some detail).

Then babies start to coordinate their bodies better and can point to things they want. Their first communication through gestures is “Look! That, that!” and then “I want that, give it to me”. They draw another’s attention to something in the environment (Look! That, that!) and then they express what they want (Gimme!). So being able to clearly express your desire for something to another is something people learn very early on, from about 9 months old.

People with personality disorders don’t do this. They are not able to clearly express their desire for something to another person. Not even a basic need such as hunger or being desperate for the loo. Let’s look at why that is and how it shows up in their behaviour.

Why can’t they ask for things clearly and directly?

The key to understanding this is the interaction between the baby and the caregiver. What if the caregiver doesn’t work through all the possibilities when the baby cries? What if they ignore the baby? What if the baby is not played with and mirrored in lots of face to face interactions? What if the baby is punished for expressing their needs? These are conditions of neglect. They are conditions where the baby’s early attempts at communication are rebuffed. It is not surprising then if a baby with a parent like this would develop communication problems.

Some academics believe NPD occurs because the early interactions between the main caregiver and the baby are dysfunctional from as early as 6 months old. This is one of the reasons why post natal depression is taken so seriously by the medical establishment. Without good interactions between baby and caregiver early on the whole developmental track of the child is disrupted.

Some babies will scan their environment seeking out another responsive adult, maybe the other parent or a grandparent or child minder or even a sibling. The drive inside the  baby to find a responsive caregiver is very strong. They will do better than a baby which hasn’t got an alternative adult to respond to them or who has a weaker  instinct to seek one out, that misfortunate child will never learn to communicate effectively or recognise their own emotions properly. That child may end up with a personality disorder. I qualify that sentence with “may” but really you could replace the word with “will” so strong is the link between adult dysfunction and disordered care in the very early years.

The end result is someone who is incompetent in expressing themselves and actually fearful of openly and clearly making their needs and desires known. If as a child your cry for comfort was ignored or responded to with shouting or a slap you would learn pretty damn quick not to do that, not to show directly that you wanted comfort. The need for comfort would still be there. The child would learn which ways that need could be met by the unresponsive or neglectful caregiver which inevitably would mean putting what the caregiver found acceptable ahead of the baby’s instinct. This is completely arse about face, the adult caregiver should put the baby’s needs first not their own.  If never adequately met, the need would remain as an immature and insatiable drive in their psyche throughout their whole life. NPD is a need to be valued and loved which becomes utterly distorted into thinking oneself more valuable and more worthy of love than anyone else.

If the child is made to feel ashamed and ungratefully demanding when they express their needs they would grow into adulthood very wary of the response they may get when expressing a need. They would skirt around the edges of what they want, attribute the desire to another, always leave themselves with some get out clause from having the need directly attributed to them. This leads to indirect and confusing communication.

How does disordered communication show itself?

I have observed several patterns of behaviour that I have come across in adults with personality disorders. All these behaviours contribute to the communication problems people have when dealing with a persona with a PD.  Here I discuss indirect speech, triangulation, proxy recruitment, mind-reading, ambiguity, unique vocabulary.

  1. Indirect Speech: Instead of using active, first person vocabulary like “I want to go here” a more passive, third person voice is adopted “perhaps people would like to…” where it is unclear if this is the actual desire of the person involved of if they are simply hypothesising what another person’s desire may be.
  2. Triangulation: the person uses a third party to convey a message to someone or find out information about someone. Examples: MIL talks to SIL about a topic she wants us to know about, relying on SIL mentioning it when SIL speaks to us. MIL conveys her desires through interactions with grandchild “would Mummy let you have more sweets grandchild?” rather than ask directly. I think “accidentally” copying you into an email to someone else which talks about you is also an example of triangulation.
  3. Proxy recruitment: this is a more deliberately manipulative strategy than triangulation but still uses a third person to convey a message. Now the third person is recruited to act as a mouthpiece or foot soldier by the NPD person. Examples: Telling a relative how upset they are with someone’s behaviour and asking the relative to convey that to the person rather than telling them directly. Getting a subordinate to sack a member of staff or pass on bad news to management.
  4. Mind-Reading: expecting other people to know things without being told. Example: not saying what they would like for their birthday when asked as they expect the other to know or acting as if they have said something when they haven’t because thinking the message is so strong in their own mind they assume somehow that others must know it too.
  5. Ambiguity: This involves not specifying details in a conversation leaving others confused as to who or what is being alluded to. Lots of pregnant pauses, knowing looks, nudge-nudge non-verbal behaviour and use of words like someone, something, it, that, you know, thingy etc are used. Examples: “someone might get bored over the summer and … you know…”, “ever since the incident, she’s been a bit (eyebrows raised)…”.
  6. Unique Vocabulary: This involves the NPD person having their own unique use for common words which mean something completely different to the usual meaning of the word. Examples: “I’m not making excuses” when they are offering an explanation for behaviour in such a way as to minimise or remove any consequence, which is of course exactly what is meant by making an excuse.

I think the fundamental problem with the communication of personality disordered people is their difficulty in recognising their own needs due to a lack of mirroring as babies and an inability to express them clearly due to fear of being rejected or punished.

What is so difficult for other people involved with a PD person is that their methods for communicating are confusing, unclear and unreasonable. There is another level of interaction that follows from the disordered communication which is the anger and punishment the PD person directs at others who don’t understand their communication.

They are unclear and indirect and then punish others for not understanding what they are failing to convey.

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