I wanted to write a little posting about narcissism and some of the terminology bantered about when interacting with those who have narcissistic tendencies.
As I have written before, my stepchildren’s biological mother has narcissistic tendencies. ( Please note the irony of using a phrase such as “narcissistic tendencies” to describe her, at time, sadistic behaviors, in a blog titled “Vocabulary Differentiation” is not lost on me.)
As my stepchildren have aged, they of course, understand their mother is different, way different from other mothers. Their coping mechanisms vary. One attempts to cover for the mother. Inserting her into conversations and making up activities the mother does so the mother appears “normal”. The other child calls it a bit more as it is – referring at time to the mother as a “monster”. (let that sit with you for a moment….)
I have tried in my own way to help them navigate this dynamic. And make no mistake about it- they need help with this. They both desperately want a relationship with their mother, of course. Their mother tells them how much she “loves” them. And, of course, this is where the confusion and sense of loss enters into abuse situations.
On the one hand, you are hearing ” I love you” and you, in your belief of those words, think “love” triumphs all.
What has helped my stepchildren move through the confusion of being “loved”, yet treated so poorly, is when we differentiate “love” and “value”.
Their mother, in her own way, “loves” them and FULLY expects them to buy into this idea of “love”. In equal measure, my stepchildren need to believe their mom does in fact “love” them, for what child can handle the rejection of the mother.
But, they are left with a confusing mess. Their mom “loves” them, yet treats them poorly. I tell them, that yes, their mom “loves” them. They need to hear this. However, I also tell them, because they also need to hear this, that she really does not act as if she values them.
For that is where they feel the loss. They do not feel valued by her. It does little good to cover up things for children in these situations. They live it and they experience it. What they need help with is understanding the context of what is happening to them.
Some times differentiating the vocabulary around abuse helps. When someone tells you they “love” you, ask yourself, “do they value me?”