Why You Can’t Let the Narcissist Shut You Up

As soon as you start to tell the truth
about what happened to you, it seems like
the entire universe starts to work against you.
But if you pay close attention,
it’s not the universe; it’s the narcissist.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash
Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

It just seems like the universe because she keeps recruiting more and more flying monkeys to attack you. Remember there’s a cycle to narcissistic abuse. First, there is the Love Bombing and Flattery Stage; then there is the Being Used for Narcissistic Feed Stage, then as you begin to wake up, you will enter the Telling the Truth vs. Liar stage.

This third stage is where everything turns into a mudslide. You and the narcissist will end up in a messy disagreement; then the narcissist will start involving as many other people into this disagreement as possible. People you are related to, people you went to school with in third grade, people you met on the subway and people who live five states away, but who can still access you through social media. You can see why so many survivors feel overwhelmed and feel like crawling into a blanket fort and refusing to come out.

These attacks begin as soon as you start to tell the truth—any part of the facts, however small. The narcissist will anticipate and try to do damage control through lies even before you open your mouth. While you might call it the truth stage, for the narcissist this is the denying stage. Notice I didn’t say denial, because most narcissistic people are not in denial as much as they are just plain liars trying to deny their misdeeds.

During this Truth Telling vs. Lying stage, the more truth you tell, the more lies the narcissist will put out. It’s like a fake news service that tweets lies 24/7, and it’s ugly. This could also be called the character assassination stage because that’s what happens to many memoir writers who are writing their story.

The other day a friend told on herself. She blogged a chapter about her mistakes in dealing with the narcissist. In response, she was sent a message by someone who is supposed to be a professional informing her that she is the narcissist. Can you see what happened here? My friend isn’t a narcissist. A narcissist would never write a chapter detailing his/her own mistakes. It just won’t happen because a narcissist can’t imagine they’ve ever made a mistake—in the narcissistic mind, everything is always someone else’s fault.

The second problem with a message like this is that professional counselors are busy people who get paid to listen to people’s problems all day long. They don’t go trolling on the blogs of memoir writers to diagnose them for free. In early 2017, 1800 professionals broke this rule to sign a petition declaring the current US president has narcissistic personality disorder, but they were heavily criticized because counselors are not supposed to diagnose anyone but their clients. So any message from someone who tells you that you might be the narcissist is just more gaslighting.

We who are NOT professionals, use the term narcissist loosely because we’ve read the traits of Narcissism in the DSM-5 criteria. When we call someone a narcissist, we aren’t making a clinical diagnosis; we are acknowledging the truth for our sanity. When the person we are dealing with lies constantly, manifests a lack of empathy and imagines the rules don’t apply to them, whether they have a full-blown NPD diagnosis or not, for our practical purposes, it doesn’t matter. Without empathy, without honesty, without respect, we’ve got nothing to build a relationship on–thus we label them as narcissistic.

If you get discouraged about telling your story and go back to bed and wait for the flying monkeys to settle down and the narcissist to disappear, an unfortunate thing will happen; your story, your truth, and your honor will be lost. No one will ever know what you went through. No one will ever discover what they have in common with you. No one will ever find your story and sigh and cry and breathe to know that they are not alone. And no one will ever understand why you had to change your phone number and email address and move to the Yukon.

When you start to tell your story, those who want to control you will do everything they can to discourage you. They will attack your character and accuse you of being the narcissist, but remember unless such a diagnosis was given to you by your counselor, the charges are bogus. So go ahead, tell your messy story. Tell on yourself, but by all means, tell on the narcissist because standing up for your truth and telling your story, will set you free.


Don’t Let the Narcissist Accuse You of Living in the Past

Arianne has been accused of living in the past
because she can’t reconcile with her family of origin.

Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash
Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

It all started when she began to remember why she has extreme anxiety and panic attacks. She had to face her past because there was a time when she was forced by her mother to ignore the past. One of these things was her molestation by her step-father. When she told her mother about it at the time, she was told to be quiet and keep it a secret until her mom could leave him. Her mother said she wanted to find a better situation for them and her two younger brothers, but her mother never did leave Arianne’s abuser and they are still married today.

Arianne made it through high school on drugs, with dark music and time in the hospital on suicide watch. When she finally broke her mother’s rule and told a counselor what happened, it was years after the incident. She began a journey of recovery and told her mother why she could no longer hang out with the family. Her mother was devastated and angry. She claims Arianne is stuck in the past and needs to grow up.

I’ve never met Arianne’s mother so I don’t know if she is a flying monkey enabler or a narcissist herself, but her lack of empathy for her only daughter is a warning sign that something is not healthy in their relationship.

William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” There is a lot of truth to this. The things that happened to us early in our lives formed us. We can’t escape the past entirely because we are who we are because of the past. At the same time, we have the ability to heal from our past wounds, but only if we face them. Burying them in the family tree and hiding our heads in the sand will never cure what ails us. It’s up to each of us to understand our past so we can heal and move on and not abuse the next generation.

It’s the brave-hearted who face and deal with their childhood wounds. These survivors are NOT stuck in the past like their abusers would tell us. How do we know this? Because many of them have moved across the country to put distance between themselves and their abusers. They are doing what they couldn’t do as a child but are protecting themselves today. If there is any sign that someone is NOT living in the past, it’s finding a counselor and finding a way to heal from the past.

Here is the litmus test: a person living in the past is not concerned about setting things right, while someone who chooses to move on won’t allow things to remain the same. Moving on from the past requires attention to the past rather than ignoring it.

The truth is it’s the narcissist and all enablers who live in the past because they want everything to stay the same—

No remembering the past, because the past reveals the patterns of abuse.

No truth-telling because that would wake other people up to the abuse.

No apologies because the narcissist would have to admit the abuse.

No boundaries because boundaries protect the survivor from current abuse.

Can you see a pattern here? Can you see where all this leads—to a survivor being gaslighted for remembering, attacked for telling her story, left without an apology and expected to give up her rights to please the narcissist?

Arianne’s problems are NOT in the past and they are what many other survivors are dealing with right now. This is the result of apathy on the part of flying monkeys and enablers. It is cruel to ignore the wounds of the hurting and tell them to forget about it. All of this talk about living in the past is to protect the narcissist who is the real person living in the past. The narc wants to live in the past so he can pretend it was okay to use his power to harm little girls and steal their virginity, money or self-worth.

So the next time someone asks “When are you going to move on from the past?” Tell them you’ve already acknowledged the past and moved on.

You’ve moved on by remembering the events that formed who you are.

You’ve moved on by remembering what the narcissist told you to forget.

You’ve moved on by telling your stories.

You’ve moved on by setting boundaries to keep an abuser out of your life.

The past is a zero threat for people who want to be free. This is because the worst is over. The very thing we were most afraid of has often already happened. The only way to heal from the past is to recognize and acknowledge the abuses of yesterday. The present allows us to peer into the past from the easy chair of today and realize our abusers can no longer harm us unless we ignore the past and let it happen again.

The only way the past can hurt us today is through people who refuse to acknowledge our stories with empathy and honesty. If family members still demand that we ignore the past and keep the secrets, then they are the ones stuck in the past. The past is never dead, it continues to affect all of us for the rest of our lives, so why not face it and learn what we can so we can make a better future?

Be strong! Carry on warriors!


Why Narcissistic Hoovering Sucks

Hayley left Joe six months ago. For the first time since she met him, she was finally free. Free of his criticism, free of his control, free of his cheating and free of his lies. She hadn’t met anyone new, but she was loving her freedom. She rarely thought of Joe and had zero interest in seeing him again—until she got the text.

Narcissistic Hoovering,

He’d broken both legs in a car accident and he sounded pitiful. He really needed her. She rolled her eyes and went to the hospital just to be kind. After all their time together she figured she at least owed him that much.

When Hayley saw Joe lying in the bed with both legs in traction and acting like an innocent boy, she felt sorry for him. He kept saying he’d never loved anyone but Hayley and he was so sorry for cheating on her and now that he was a changed man, he’d never lie to her again. She began to believe he really cared about her and she was back wearing his ring before the week was out. Hayley didn’t realize it yet, but she’d been hoovered.

Hoovering is named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner because it’s how a Narcissist sucks their victims back into their web. It usually happens after a prolonged period of silence and distance which could either be imposed by an angry narc or a smart survivor who chose to separate from the Narcissist.

Hoovering might seem like a miracle where the Narcissist has a born again experience, but it’s really just another cycle in the Narcissistic Circus where the narc sucks you back in with gaslighting and other techniques so they can further use and abuse you.

The techniques of Hoovering can vary with each person, but they basically boil down to whatever the narcissist thinks their victim wants to hear. The lies the narc tells while Hoovering often sound like crazy coincidences. It’s just happens that woman was at the same restaurant or someone else put those pictures on his phone or someone from work asked him to communicate to her as a go-between.

The lies are obvious, but what’s really bizarre is the victim believes the lies. Most adults would never believe such lies if they came from their child, but they suck it up when it comes out of the mouth of the narcissist. The adult who believes such nonsense is usually the woman who desperately wants to believe such lies.

Basically Hoovering starts with victim-like drama to attract sympathy and reign the target back into the web. Narc’s are very good at playing the victim so the real victim feels sorry for them and tries to make them happy again. Second, hoovering includes repairing the broken relationship with lies. Healthy people repair broken relationships with truth, but in order for a narcissist to claim turning a new leaf, he has to lie to convince the victim he’s changed.

In Hayley’s case, Joe first reeled her in with his injuries, gained sympathy by playing the victim, then claimed it was a life changing event. If Hayley had listened carefully, she might have noticed Joe was still making excuses for his bad behavior in the past by blatantly lying. Hayley fell for Joe’s hoovering because he said exactly what she had wanted him to say for years. She’d once prayed he’d say these things, so hearing her hopes coming out of Joe’s mouth sounded like a dream come true.

Hoovering sucks, but what really sucks is the way Hayley felt after she got hoovered. She gave up her freedom because it was back to pleasing Joe with her money and time instead of doing what was best for her. She lost her self-confidence because Joe continued to undermine it with his criticism. And she even began to doubt her own judgment because Joe tried to convince her she’d made a mistake by leaving him. Hayley actually began to wonder if he was right.

A few weeks after Hayley got back together with Joe, they went through a fast food drive-thru while she was driving Joe’s car. When she asked for her purse, the purse Joe handed her was not Hayley’s. She took a deep breath and slowly opened it to look at the driver’s license. Just a little mistake on Joe’s part, but now Hayley knew the truth. Such knowledge could not be undone. Hayley learned the hard way that hoovering sucks, but in the future no amount of promises about a new life or lessons learned or excuses for a man’s cheating behavior will ever suck her in again.

If you forget everything else about hoovering, just remember it sucks up your self-worth, your self-confidence and makes you question your own sanity. Don’t be a sucker.


Mothers of the Lie

Many people of narcissistic mothers meet and share a similar anxiety and shame, yet when they compare notes,  they are surprised to discover  their mothers are so different. This is because they don’t realize there is more than one type of narcissistic mother.  


In his book, “The People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck talks about parents who lack empathy. it seems both engulfing and subversive narc mothers belong in this category and it is often evidenced either by their lies or the lies they expect you to tell.

Probably the biggest issue with an engulfing narc mother is she suffocates you and overtakes your boundaries through her demanding and confrontational personality. An engulfing narc mother has zero respect for your boundaries. She will call you at eleven o’clock at night to ask if you’re having sex. She will gift you with a red sweater even though she knows you hate red, then demand you wear it to the next family dinner. An engulfing narc mother will snoop through your diary or emails and take a sandwich right out of your mouth while telling you that you are too fat. She might even wear black to your wedding and threaten to kill the groom.

An engulfing narc mom feels the need to control you by her very presence and she will do that by threatening, manipulation and lying. Think of that eighties show Roseanne. Roseanne made people laugh because she was on TV, but no one wants a mom like that in real life. If your mother acts like Roseanne you will have to provide the distance between you because she won’t. You might want to move to another continent ASAP and save yourself the time to read the rest of this article.

A subversive narc mother on the other hand might never do any of these obvious things, but the silent rules are there and you might be expected to lie for her and to her to keep her happy. The subversive narc mom rarely tells you what she wants—she prefers to communicate through hints or go through a third party-AKA triangulating.

The main difference between a subversive narc mother and the engulfing narc mother is that when the subversive narc mother is upset with you, she will act in a passive aggressive manner, while the engulfing narc is very confrontational. An engulfing narc mom will keep texting and calling and stalking you while the subversive narc mom will ignore you completely like you no longer exist.

The subversive narc mother is not any more satisfied with your choices than the engulfing one, but she is more reserved and will rarely yell as loud, but make no mistake and assume she is not watching because she might be quiet, but she is always keeping score.  She is just more subtle about it. The subversive narc mom can still wallop you with shame and knock yourself-worth to Mars with her stink-eye glare and shunning silence.

Of course, the ultimate evil of any narcissistic mother is that she expects you to behave exactly like she would. Your free will and conscience are of little value to her, because she’s all about control, narcissistic feed and appearances. Did you get hurt? She will say, “Keep a smile on your face and don’t act sad or Jesus will be disappointed in your witness.” Were you raped? She will caution you to “Keep that yucky talk to yourself or you’ll never find a husband.” These comments are about saving the family’s reputation, but offer  little empathy to your wounded heart.

Much of what a narc  mother is worried about is what other people think, while you are grasping for identity and authenticity and just struggling to survive in what seems like an undertow–often in the tsunami of her own making. You can see how this is not a healthy environment. If you follow her advice you might even drown.

With both of these types of narc mothers, it’s hard to know where you begin and she ends because each type of mother has tried to imprint you to be her mirror. She might think telling you what to do is love, but it’s not, and love can’t grow where it’s either forced or stifled.

Many narcissistic mothers–engulfing and subversive, view their children as a mirror and an extension of themselves and look for ways to belittle you and tear out your heart whenever you fail to meet their expectations. Don’t allow them to do this. You were not created to live out their dreams–God gave you your own. No one ever mourns on their deathbed regretting they hadn’t pleased their mother more–most say the complete opposite. They wish they had taken control of their own lives.

What’s missing in a relationship with a narc mother is your own sense of self. Until you can find out who you are, being around such a mother will constantly strip you of self-worth until you know yourself and find your boundaries. The best thing you can do is separate from your mother adn let go of any trauma bonds long enough to discover who you are and find out what makes you happy. In order to do this, you might benefit from taking the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram personality profiles.  it might take some studying and experimenting to really discover yourself, but these tests can help you recognize the differences between you and your mother.

If your mother can accept your differences and demonstrate honesty and respect, you might be able to restore the relationship, but  if she only likes you when you act as an extension of her values and likes and dislikes then you are probably dealing with a hard core narc.

So when it comes to spending time with your mom at family gatherings, it’s good to remember these three things:

  1. You are NOT your mother and cannot be her–even to please her. Get to know yourself so you can stand strong in her presence.
  2. To hang out safely with your mother, you need to know yourself and protect your boundaries. Until this can happen, you might need to stay away and communicate to her that you intend to be yourself and only yourself.
  3. If your mother cannot accept you for who you are and chooses to dismiss your feelings and refuses to be honest and shows a lack of respect, you will need to take a break from her. Remember no contact or low contact does not have to last forever, but respectful  boundaries do need to be set so you can continue in a healthy relationship with her.

A One Woman Riot

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash
Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

When I was a kid, if my siblings and I argued
or made too much noise, we were put on silence.
Silence meant we were not allowed to speak or make any noise.
If we found a way to communicate through spelling letters
through sign language or motioning,
we might even be put on frozen statues.

Frozen statues meant you were not to move at all. No touching or laughing or smiling because a smile meant you might be up to something. If you did not obey the rules of silence and frozen statues, then you could be beaten with the Persuader. Such was the “fascist regime” of my childhood. And while I loved my parents, I hoped to leave such control behind by the time I reached adulthood.

Of course, I didn’t realize when people can no longer control you with the belt, they will guilt and shame and shun to push you into doing what they want. Even as a young adult, I rarely spoke to my siblings about what happened in our childhood because to do so was considered breaking the ultimate rule of family togetherness. Family togetherness means you never speak of the past—not even to each other–all must be forgiven and forgotten.

Family togetherness also means you never, ever speak about the family to outsiders. And in case you are wondering, I’m doing that right now. I’ve been doing it for seven years and I have had less phone calls from my parents than you can count on one hand. Every year, I get an email from my mom acknowledging that I was born on my birthday, but my attempts to have a real relationship with them is very limited—not because I don’t want to have one, but because they feel I have broken the rules of family togetherness and they basically have no interest in my life.

Simply speaking about things that happened over thirty years ago makes me a monster to them, but I am writing a memoir—not out of anger toward them (actually I hope to portray them with love and compassion) but because my childhood was unique and strange and it was very hard for me to grow up when I got out into the real world.

So why can’t I keep quiet? Because if I don’t speak up, no one will ever have known that I was alive or what happened in my life. No one will know what it is like to have Mt. St. Helens blow up your life and be isolated from other teenagers and denied an education while you wait for Jesus to come. I have to speak it because it was not just their lives that were affected by their choices, it was my life. These are my stories, not so much theirs, but they do play a major part.

I’ve mentioned how the current US administration brings on my childhood PTSD. It’s the authoritarian rule. In the past no matter which party was in office, it was not a huge deal because presidents from both sides respected the U. S. Constitution and at least made an effort to treat all people as equal. But my PTSD was most recently triggered this last week by the treatment of the press by the White House.

I took some journalism classes in college and the first thing we were taught is the press is the watchdog on the White House steps and to imagine it being muzzled reminds me of many fascist regimes throughout history and the losses of freedom including religion. The worst part about this is that so many, even within my religious community, seem unable to see this.

My sweet grandma always kept a diary. I call her sweet because whenever I walked into the room, she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And she wasn’t playing favorites, I’ve seen her greet my male cousins and brother and my sisters in the same way. I think it could be fair to say she was kind to even her son in laws who really never seemed to respect her very much. There was a lot of eye rolling because she didn’t cook much and she did CPR on cats at least twice to save their lives. It’s true she talked to cats and raccoons and skunks and birds. She was like a Grandma Doolittle and many people were nervous about the skunks she fed on her back porch. It could be said about Grandma that she walked with skunks and angels.

Grandma talked to Jesus and about Jesus every day. And for decades, she kept a diary. The contents were often mundane about the weather or her pets, but sometimes they told stories of her faith in God and how he came through for her. She lived through her parents’ divorce which mortified her and separated her from her siblings and she endured the great depression and worked as Rosie the Riveter during WWII and endured many sad events such as losing her firstborn child at birth. Grandma lived a life of faith despite her pain.

When Grandma hurt her hip and ended up in elder care, my parents took all those decades of diaries and burned them in a big bonfire. They took away her voice before she was even dead. My siblings and I were appalled when they told us but no one confronted them because we knew it would make things harder for our family to get along.

Silence. Silence from one party can mean sadness, anger, disconnection, or even death. But forced silence is another thing altogether. Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.

During the Women’s March, I saw a video of a group of women singing a song by MILCK. My husband played it for me because he thought I would like it and when I heard it, my eyes immediately filled with tears. This is why I must write on. I can’t stop my blog or my memoir as hard as it is when I have no family to support me in telling my story, I will press on because Jesus cares.

Jesus never asks us to keep quiet about our pain or to ignore injustice. Jesus comes to each of us with love and forgiveness, but he always, always leans in to listen to our pain. I have a friend who had an abortion decades ago and she is still feeling ashamed about it. I asked her if her little boy ran over his pet turtle on his bike and was feeling horrible about it, would she care about the turtle who was not in any more pain now, or for her child? She said her child of course.

Jesus is like that. He knows we have all messed up big time at some point in our lives, but he cares more about our hearts than anything we have done wrong. This is true for parents as well as children.  But the one thing Jesus doesn’t ask us to do is be silent when we have been hurt. We are free under God’s government to share our stories and to tell our stories because this is how we overcome (Rev. 12:11).

So I don’t know about you, but I am nervous about this changing of the guard from a land of freedom of speech and diversity to a land where we are threatened to be quiet if we have a different opinion or color of skin from the powers that be, this is not how God runs his government. Jesus runs his government on freedom for all and he says we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

If you have been shamed and abused, don’t worry if someone scapegoats you and calls you a monster. Don’t let them shut you up. You are not alone. You are one of many. Tell your story. Embrace the messy truth, speak the honest truth and cherish the value of your own voice. I’m doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence. Let’s not be quiet. We can each become a one-woman riot! Viva la resistance!


It’s Not You, It’s the Narc

When Allie met Josh,
he told her she was the most beautiful woman
he’d ever met and Allie believed him.
For the first time in her life she felt appreciated,
but her joy didn’t last very long.

narcissism, narcissist, relationship, love,

As an ACoN* growing up with a negligent Narc father who barely noticed her, she thought she’d finally met the man of her dreams. Fast forward a year and Allie was hurt when Josh suggested she lose some weight and get a new haircut to look younger. Allie was also beginning to notice how rude Josh could act to other people. Sometimes she was shocked to hear him lie to his mother which made her wonder if he lied to her too.

A few months later when Allie discovered he was cheating on her, Josh blamed it on her inability to keep him happy. Allie thought of all things she did to please him. She remembered how Josh had said she was perfect in the beginning and now she tried to figure out where she’d gone wrong.

Allie called up her friends asking them what was wrong with her that Josh would treat her this way. Friend after friend said it was not Allie’s fault, but it was Josh who was the obnoxious one. Allie hadn’t seen it before and she struggled to comprehend how a man who once had so many nice things to say about her, could turn and trash her now.

Allie had believed these compliments represented Josh’s true feelings, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in their relationship had ever been about Allie. Josh’s compliments had merely been a way to win her affection so he could use her for narcissistic feed. Josh borrowed her money, expected her to cook and clean for him and wanted her to support his career, but he didn’t care about Allie’s needs at all. If she failed in any way to meet his expectations, Josh accused her of being selfish and trashed her accomplishments.

Josh’s goal was to manipulate Allie into trying harder to please him, while Allie’s goal was to restore what she thought was lost. But the truth is Allie was chasing something she’d never had in the first place. It was a painful lesson to learn, but Josh (like all Narcs) was a fake now and had been a fake all along.

When Josh left Allie, he blamed their break up on her. He called her a lazy nag because she didn’t like his cheating and didn’t meet his needs. He said if she really wanted it to work it out, she could’ve tried harder. After he left, Allie got sick and depressed. She missed work and isolated from her real friends because she felt used and thrown away by one person. Allie was just as beautiful and smart as she had been before, but her self-image had been twisted by a Narc.

One day a friend gave her the number of a good therapist and Allie decided to give counseling a try. Through counseling, Allie finally understood why her entire relationship with Josh had been a fraud. Nothing Josh said or did had never been about her–it had always been about Josh and his needs. Her lack of love from a negligent Narc father had allowed her to let a malignant Narc into her head and destroy her self-love.

Allie has learned to never allow a Narc to twist her mind and steal her joy with their petty insults. Josh never really knew her–Narcs don’t take time to know others except as they can use them for narcissistic feed. Allis decided she’s worth having a relationship with real people who are willing to invest in honest and loving ways.

After a few months Allie grew stronger and she was good to date again, but this time she had the boundaries in her head. Never again will she allow anyone else to approve or disapprove of her.

*ACoNs —Adult Children of Narcissists


Why Gray Rock Beats Paper

At the last family dinner there was a big blow up.
When Ann got home, she pulled out a piece of paper
to write her mother a letter, but
what she didn’t realize is that gray rock always beats paper.

gray rock, narcissist, narcissism, narcissistic abuse,

Even though she poured out her heart on paper, Ann got no response–not a phone call, letter or email. She’s still waiting for a reply, but all she hears is crickets. That’s because her mother refuses to acknowledge she even got a letter from Ann. Ann knows her mother is up to something because her favorite saying is that typical narc mantra, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”

And Ann was right. While Ann is waiting for a response to her email, her mother was calling the rest of the family to talk about Ann and using Ann for the family scapegoat. That’s when some of Ann’s siblings began to turn into flying monkeys. They started calling Ann to warn her to make peace with Mom. While most of Ann’s family was caught up in the narc’s drama, Ann’s sister Lucy stayed out of the picture.

Lucy hates family dinners because of her mother’s crazy-making, but she wants to stay in relationship with her nieces and nephews and other siblings. The difference between Lucy and Ann is Lucy knows her mother is a malignant narcissist so she refuses to give her any power. While Ann was writing her heart out to their mother who doesn’t care enough to respond, Lucy went Gray Rock, because she knows Gray Rock will always beat paper when you’re dealing with a Narc.

How do you handle the family drama? If you too, have been tempted to pull out a piece of paper and write a letter, it might help you to recognize how rock beats paper.

So what is Gray Rock and how do you know when to do it?

For starters, let’s realize what Gray Rock is NOT:

Gray Rock is not a personality type—but it’s used when dealing with a personality disordered person.

Gray Rock is not a lifestyle—it’s a survival strategy for a day or weekend.

Gray Rock is not a form of manipulation—it’s a way to avoid being manipulated.

Gray Rock is not a way to treat anyone who gives a damn—
it’s only used when the Narc has shown no respect for you and others.

Gray Rock is not a form of No Contact–It’s a way to cope
when you can’t go No Contact but still need to be around the Narc.

To Clarify:

Lucy never goes gray rock with her husband because he is NOT a Narc and he is willing to listen to her point of view when they have an argument.

Lucy never goes gray rock with her children or nieces and nephews because while kids might act narcissistic, they are still kids and they deserve the chance to learn and grow.

Lucy never goes gray rock when someone says something she doesn’t like—that would be lame and immature like a Narc.

Lucy never goes gray rock with people at church or work who offend her because much of the time people don’t even realize they have hurt us.

Lucy never goes gray rock with anyone capable of listening and responding to honest communication. Gray rock is the last resort before no contact.

Lucy is a very caring person who shares her heart with trusted friends and people worthy of her friendship, but she learned a long time ago that her mother (who is a malignant Narc) is not someone she can trust. Lucy realized she had two options–to go No Contact or go Gray Rock, for her Gray Rock has been the better choice.

It’s been three weeks and Ann still hasn’t received an answer—her mother continues to ignore her letter, This leaves Ann all the more frustrated because she was vulnerable with someone who was unsafe to share her feelings with. If Ann fully understood narcissism, she would have realized writing a letter is useless with a Narc because they don’t care about other people’s feelings. The only scenario in which a Narc might write a letter back would be to correct a letter written to them. It needs to be underscored that Narcs do not care about relationships as much as they want to be right.

If Ann wants to go gray rock, it’s a very simple procedure–all she needs to do is pretend she is a gray rock. It’s simple to explain but hard to pull off.

Gray Rocks blend in.
Gray Rocks don’t ask for attention.
Gray Rocks don’t move.
Gray Rocks don’t speak up to defend themselves or others.
Why? Because all logic is lost on the Narc.
Gray Rocks know you can’t reason with unreasonable people.

If a Narc asks how a Gray Rock is doing, it’s usually a trap for information. The Gray Rock knows this and responds with as little information as possible. You can’t share your accomplishments or the Narc will be jealous. You can’t share your pain or the Narc will exploit it next time he wants to cut you. The only appropriate information to share with the Narc is the weather. And if for some reason the weather is adversely affecting your life at the moment–for instance if you are snowed in, then even the weather should be off limits.

When dealing with a malignant narc, your only option is to stop letting the Narc to know how you feel. All the cutting remarks made by the Narc which can destroy your paper letter or your heart, can’t harm a rock because a rock has no feelings. (Of course you have feelings and there are places to share these feelings, but just don’t share them with the Narc.) Your honesty and feelings will only be used against you if you share them with the Narc.

The reason going gray rock works is because it doesn’t give any ammunition to the narcissist. It’s like winning the ultimate rock, paper, scissors game because scissors can’t cut rock and gray rock beats paper every time.


If You Give a Narc an Apology

If you give a Narc an apology,
he’ll want some groveling to go with it. 

apology, forgive, narcissism, narcissistic abuse, narcissist,
He’ll say you owe him and
ask you to pick up the pieces
for all the messes he’s made.

When you refuse to pick up his messes,
he will accuse you of things you’ve never done.

You’ll try to set the record straight,
but when you speak the truth,
you’ll be gaslighted.

When he discovers he can’t convince you,
he’ll triangulate with another.
And another.
And another.

When everyone’s heard his sorry lies,
he will accuse you of lying
when you’ve actually told the truth.

But don’t shut up,
it’s okay to let your voice to be heard.

If you give a Narc an apology,
you might as well give him a license
to blame you for everything that’s ever happened.

Then he’ll say “forgive and forget,”
and ask to borrow some money.

You’ll go to the bank to get the money,
but you will get a sick feeling in your gut
and decide to say no.

When you refuse to pay the Narc off,
he’ll call you selfish.
You’ll explain that self-care is not selfish.

He’ll get angry and ask when you are going
to get your act together to meet
his (insert religious or political) standards.

You’ll  tell the Narc you won’t set fire to yourself
just to keep him warm.

He will play the victim
and send in his flying monkeys to persuade you.

You’ll stay calm and ignore the flying monkeys.
The Narc will then run a campaign
to get you shunned.

You might lose a lot of friends
and relatives who have no clue
what it’s like to deal with the Narc.

But here is where change happens—
the point between being victim and survivor.

You’ll rise up out of the ashes
and start a new life.

You’ll realize the Narc is
not interested in a relationship–
he’s just interested in using you.

You will leave his circus
and go no contact.

You can forgive yourself for apologizing
when you didn’t need to.

You can take some time to breathe in gratitude
and realize you are free.

You can follow your heart
and make art with the pieces.

You can write the truth
even when your voice shakes.

You can arise and shine
and let your voice be heard.

You can listen to your heart
and find new family and friends.

And should you ever again be tempted
to apologize to a Narc,
just trust your gut and refuse to give in.

Because chances are–
If you give a Narc an apology,
he will always ask you to play a game
you can never win.

-Cherilyn Clough


Narcissistic Word Salad

When I was a kid we used to sing “the salad song.”
It was a song made up of random phrases
from several songs strung together.
If you start a song and someone else
wanted to sing the salad song,
you could end up singing a different song altogether
because once the salad song gets started
there’s no way to go back and
finish what you originally intended. 

This is what Word Salad is like when you try to reason with a Narcissist. In their right talking, self-protection process, the Narc will sing the same phrases over and over until you consider running with scissors or stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork. That’s because long before you thought of this confrontation, you were asked to play a game you can never win.

Word salad begins when the Narcissist doesn’t recognize your boundaries and you imagine confronting them will give you a better relationship in the future. (Cue evil witch laughing in the background.) Of course be careful NOT to use the word confrontation because that will just derail the conversation into one about the evils of confrontation. According to the narc, confrontation is abusive. You will then be asked:

“Why do you have to be so confrontational? No one else in the family causes the trouble that you do!” This will be followed by a lecture on how nice everyone is but you. You might feel like shouting I am NOT your kind of people, but it won’t matter to the Narc.

Even if you are wise enough to avoid the C word, word salad will just take another turn.

You might ask the narc to stop treating you with disrespect. To which the Narc will answer:

“Disrespect? How interesting you use that word…remember that time you disrespected me in front of your teacher?”

To which you might reply:

“I was in seventh grade.”

And now the Narc has pulled you into their web:

“Of course it was the seventh grade, but that just proves how disrespectful you’ve been your entire life.”

And if you are still crazy enough to imagine you can reason with the Narc, you might reply:

“I’d prefer to talk about our current relationship instead of events years ago.”

(Seems reasonable right?)

But the Narc will find a recent event to prove how you have shown a lack of respect:

“Okay, so how about the fact that you can’t even show up at your grandmother’s birthday dinner?”

Of course, they leave out the fact that they planned the dinner on the spur of the moment, on another day that wasn’t even her birthday and you had to work that day. Be careful here, you might try to defend this by suggesting true respect would be to consult you before the party was set, but that will just take you down another rabbit trail which like all rabbit trails will lead you back to where you started.

All of the Narc’s circular reasoning and arguments are simply a distraction to make you wonder if you are the real problem, but let me state this plainly:

You. Are. NOT. The. Problem.

Of course, you aren’t the problem. This concept only exists in the head of the Narc. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t do any of the things they accuse you of doing.

Bottom line:

The Narc needs a scapegoat and you have been selected. (Unlucky you.)

Most likely you have been the scapegoat since you were five, but if this thought crosses your mind and you happen to mention how you were belted for asking for breakfast at five, the Narc will deny it and gaslight you by accusing you of false memory syndrome and then ask:

“Why do you always have to live in the past?”

By now you might start slamming your head in the deep freeze, wishing you had never thought of confronting the Narc. Meanwhile, the Narc starts adding up all of your crimes since 1983. The Narc has a selective memory and while he doesn’t want you to remember the past, he brings it up whenever he thinks it will throw you off. Remember all of this word salad is not about trying to understand each other. The goal of the Narc is to keep talking past each other until you doubt your memories and yourself. It’s really all about mind control.

The truth is you can’t reason with unreasonable people, so next time you think of confronting the narc, just remember you are actually ordering a word salad–with a lot of baloney on the side.

Or maybe you could just save yourself the trouble and go No Contact.



My Child, My Mirror

When many people hear the word narcissism,
they think of the legend of Narcissus
who was so vain he worshiped his image in a pond
until he fell in and drowned.


I once saw a cartoon of a father staring at his own reflection in a lake while his daughter kept calling out, “Daddy?!” The image suggested she was neglected while he adored himself. This cartoonist understood the neglect that comes from a narcissistic parent, but he only got it half right–because for many narcissistic parents, their child is the mirror.

How many new parents hold their precious newborn and whisper, “You’d better meet my needs or I will ruin your life and reputation.” No, they usually say doesn’t he or she look like me? And while all parents look to see what this baby will look like, the extreme is the narc parent who never grows past that stage to view their child as an individual. By never acknowledging their child’s individuality, they disregard healthy boundaries.

The narcissistic mother sees the child as a mirror of herself. She wants the child to reflect her at all times and she also views all resources of the child as hers. In such a world of no boundaries, it’s difficult for the child raised by such a parent to know how to stand up for self. He or she doesn’t know how to take responsibility for themselves because they’ve been raised to serve their parents at all times and barely have a self to give.

This mirroring pattern continues into adulthood and is manifested by parents quizzing their adult children on their religious beliefs, politics and spending habits. Appearances are everything to these narcissistic minds. They want all of their children to attend their church and vote as they would vote and eat what they would eat on holiday dinners. They want their children to be an extension of themselves, so they use mind control to shape their children at a young age to become mini versions of themselves. If this is true, you may have been robbed of your ability to shine.

By refusing to acknowledge their child’s individuality, such parents are selfish to begin with and nothing you can do will fix this. As you pull away to become yourself, they will become more controlling, then disillusioned and bitter when you fail to live up to their expectations. As you begin to vote differently or leave the church or form your own holiday traditions, the war will intensify.

The battles are subtle at first, a glance of disappointment, the suggestion you might be letting down the whole family because you have chosen differently. But as most ACONs know, the failure to reflect our parents–to vote, marry and worship as they would have us live our lives eventually brings on a cascade of narcissistic behavior from gaslighting and scapegoating to the silent treatment. You have been asked to play a game you can never win.

There is no better time to reclaim your individuality than now. There is no better way to reclaim your boundaries by standing up to let your voice be heard, but beware the narc parent will accuse you of everything from ruining the party to being ungrateful or disloyal or not honoring your parents. They might use everything from scripture and flying monkeys to lawyers to straighten you out.

When this happens it’s important to ground yourself these truths–

1. No one–not even a parent owns the choices of another human being. Slavery is defined as controlling another person’s choices.

2. God created you to be yourself–not an extension of your parents. Look in the mirror and recognize your own face.

3. You will never feel at peace until you step into your own individuality and live your own authentic life.

As you listen to your own voice and the voice of your Maker, you will begin to shine. It might seem a little scary at first, but you can forge a new path from your family of origin. When you reach that fork in the road where the sign reads narc parent vs. your own choices, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, step into your individuality and shine.