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Getting On : Family

Divorcing Your Toxic Mother

from elisha717 - Thursday, May 08, 2008
accessed 887 times

I went through this experience just this last month, and so I decided to write my paper on the books I was reading for my own comfort. So, in way I did my own therapy working on this.

Divorcing Your Toxic Mother
We live in a society where a lot of pressure is put on adult daughters not to say anything bad about their mothers, and to accept abuse because “she is your mother.” A daughter who will actually stand up and tell her mother the truth is often criticized by her family and even acquaintances, and a lot of times becomes an outcast by her own family. This is very close to one of the most difficult experience for a female to go through.
It is very hard for conventional society to understand how a mother could possibly be a destructive force in her own daughter’s life. Most people prefer to see all mothers as these warm and loving creatures who have given birth to life. So this issue becomes a very conflicting topic to talk about, and people who have good mothers find it very hard to relate to what it is like not to have a good mother. So the outcome of this is that these daughters feel even more isolated and not understood; this whole process can be very lonely and something one tries to carry in silence. According to Victoria Secunda, in her book, When You and Your Mother Can’t Be Friends,
This is not the mother of anyone’s wistful reverie- this is the mother of painful, sometimes intimidation, even frightening experience. Of the women who have divorced their mothers, there is not one who would not have gladly sacrificed just about anything to avoid the harrowing conclusion that it was the only alternative. (2)
So, as adult women, these daughters search for love endlessly, and somehow never seem to fill this empty hole, until they come to grips with a past that no daughter wants to have to admit to. It is not easy for someone to admit that their mother does not really love them without somehow feeling that they must be unlovable themselves. Like John Bradshaw said in his book, Healing the Shame that Binds You:
Children find love, acceptance and identity in the mirroring eyes of their parents or primary caregivers. Abandonment can include this lack or loss of positive mirroring, not just physical abandonment. Shaming experiences are recorded in a child’s memory banks. …Any future experience which even vaguely resembles the original shame- based trauma can easily trigger the words, sights, sounds, smells or other senses involved in the original trauma. (17)
And the adult daughters who really want to move on with their lives, and break the whole cycle, (that probably keeps getting passed down through each generation), are going to have to work through these difficult memories.
Alice Miller has achieved worldwide recognition for her work on the causes and effects of childhood traumas. In her book The Drama of The Gifted Child, she notes that,
Children who are intelligent, alert, attentive, sensitive, and completely attuned to the mother’s well-being are entirely at her disposal. Transparent, clear, and reliable, they are easy to manipulate as long as their true self (their emotional world) remains in the cellar of the glass house in which they have to live. (22)
A lot of these daughters have to teach themselves how to be able to emotionally relate and react to what happens around them, because for so long, they have had to learn how to react in such a way as not to offend their mother. And because of this defense mechanism, these daughters (a lot of time) do not know how they really feel about things. They even have conflicts with their identity, as to who they are and what they believe. Here Miller says,
In this effort to be a “good child”, the children develop the art of not experiencing feelings, for to reveal their true feelings risked the loss of their mother’s love. They become especially adept at forgoing the expression of their own distress, because they learned very early that this only contributed to their mother’s own distress, usually because she, too, had been narcissistically deprived as a child. (9)
Miller has written quite a few of very powerful books on how to heal from these tough experiences. In her book, For your Own Good, Hidden Cruelty in Child- Rearing and the Results of Violence, she suggests that:
If the child has no possibility of reacting appropriately to hurt, humiliation, and coercion, then these experiences cannot be integrated into the personality and the feelings evoked by them are repressed. The silencing of the child results in these experiences and the feelings associated with them being split off from the child’s personality. (7)
After all, these stages of growth are important for each individual. Also, missing out on these stages of growth can actually be detrimental toward one’s own individual happiness, and functioning as a well-rounded adult.
Shonnie Brown, a counselor in California, has worked first-hand with quite a few adult daughters who are trying to work through painful memories. A very tough conclusion for some of these daughters is making that choice between being revictimized over and over again or walking away. These girls realize that no matter how much work and therapy they try to do, it all goes “down the drain,” every time they have to relive this childhood abuse. Brown says in her article on the WEB called, Adult Daughters and their Mothers: A Tenuous Bond:
An adult daughter of a narcissistic mother will report feeling empty inside with no sense of self. She often feels treated as if she was her mother’s “possession,” as if her “job” is to glorify her mother. Narcissistic parents reward children for being like them, but may condemn, judge or criticize a child for his or her true identity.
Brown’s words express how a lot of these daughters feel. A daughter wants her mother to love her unconditionally and actually applaud her unique identity. Yet, so often a daughter who wants to break away, and try something new, often gets rejection from her own mother. (The Drama of The Gifted Child) For example, a lot of daughters who have extremely religious mothers have experienced this type of rejection for wanting to choose a more liberal path than that of their mother’s.
One of the most tragic of all these events is when their mother denies that the traumatic experiences that her daughter is trying to tell her are real. As Brown’s experience says:
A mother’s response to a daughter’s trauma will most certainly affect their bond. Even a securely bonded daughter will feel tremendous abandonment when her mother denies the reality of childhood physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The mother is supposed to be the protector in every instance, but sometimes mothers would literally rather die in denial than acknowledge the possibility that something bad happened to a child they were responsible for. Shelly, for instance, tells me that her mother finally admitted on her deathbed that Shelly’s childhood sexual abuse was real. And, for Shelly, this admittance held enormous healing power in their relationship. Petra, on the other hand, recalls that her mother died refusing to admit the possibility that Petra suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. This denial only confirmed the deep abandonment and isolation Petra has felt since childhood.
And working through these types of experiences are already so tough on the daughter who is trying to heal; so when her own mother, denies that her daughters memories are real, this mother creates an even more traumatic experience for her child to go through. Some mothers are in such denial that they will project on their daughters what they are guilty of themselves.
Divorcing one’s mother is not an easy decision to make, but it is a decision that might actually save one’s sanity. (At the least, it might free up one’s time to make quality friends with people who actually care). Some daughters have experienced extreme bouts of loneliness while they are making this painful transition, and while they are searching for their authentic selves. But the quality of one’s life after will definitely make it worth it in the end.

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from also
Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 08:58

Jennifer J. Freyd, University of Oregon

...talks about this in 'Betrayal Trauma' (her parents helped set up False Memory foundation to discredit her memories of childhood abuse)

(reply to this comment)
from you may find these interesting
Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 08:25


"The experts tell us that, as infants and toddlers, we all feel that we are the center of the universe, that we are omnipotent and omniscient beings. In the beginning, we perceive our parents as merely "extensions" of ourselves in the sense that when we are uncomfortable in any way, these shadowy figures, the landscape of our universe, act on our behalf. Thus it is that, at the earliest stages of development, the "response of the universe" to our needs becomes our deepest belief about ourselves and life itself - a belief inculcated before verbal skills are developed. This is a central idea in modern "attachment theory".

If, when we are hungry or cold or too warm, or lonely and in need of touching and comfort, the universe as mother responds immediately with the appropriate solution, our earliest and deepest sense of existence tells us that the universe is safe, that it is good, that it is responsive to us, that we have "power" over our selves and our environment, and this supports the development of a healthy type of infant narcissism (or a "secure" attachment). This becomes the fundamental platform from which we operate throughout our lives. We have learned that the universe is safe, that it is good to us, that we can reach out or cry out and the universe and all within it will provide. But then, of course, we have to grow up and learn that we are NOT the center of the universe, and it is this process of maturation that transforms healthy infantile narcissism into healthy adult self-esteem.

So far, so good.

We have here an individual that trusts the universe because the universe of the mother and others in the infant's life always responded positively and lovingly. No matter what happens to this child later in life, it can be predicted that the child will carry this "safe universe" inside and will always have it to fall back on.

Interestingly, quite often, narcissistic parents are rather good infant caregivers because, as long as the infant is totally helpless and dependent, they feel that they are being fully appreciated for their every effort. And, of course, since they are "playing house", they have an idealized image of the infant-mother bond in movie stills or great oil paintings that they try to act out so as to attract praise to themselves from those others who witness their great accomplishments as parental units!

This is fortunate for the child of the narcissist because, of course, as soon as they are old enough to tell mother or father "no" or disagree, or want to have their own way that opposes the will of the parent, the narcissistic wounding begins and they begin the process of dissociating and withdrawing into rich fantasy worlds.

The child also becomes VERY attentive to the environment so as to avoid the attacks of the narcissist and to try to get some love and attention (only normal) for the self. But getting love from a narcissist is like trying to hit a nonexistent target. So, the child of the narcissist gets very good at "reading reality" and adjusting their behavior accordingly because their life depends on it to a great extent. They also become great fantasisists because when they are not directly involved with the narcissistic parent, they are creating a world for themselves where they receive love and attention for whatever marvelous qualities. There is the danger, of course, of becoming a narcissist themselves, of passing on the infection. There is also the very real danger of becoming entangled with severe narcissists and/or psychopaths romantically because "crazy love" is the only kind they've ever known! In The Narcissistic Family, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert M. Pressman write:

Links between the experiences of childhood and their sometimes permanent effect on adult behavior have long fascinated observers of human behavior. Of particular interest has been the impact of one's family of origin on personal development. In the last decade, the concept of the "adult child of alcoholism" (ACOA) has helped us to understand the nearly predictable effects of being raised in an alcoholic family system. As therapists, many of us have worked for years with individuals suffering from what appeared to be immutable low self-esteem, inability to sustain intimacy, and/or blocked paths to self-understanding. The concept of the ACOA opened a new door to the understanding of such problems. [...]

[A]long with the benefits of working with the ACOA and abuse models came a puzzle. What about individuals who had the traits of an ACOA but whose parents did not drink, or rape, or beat? True, there was dysfunction in their families, but the common thread was elusive. Among adult children of dysfunctional (but nonalcoholic and nonabusive) families, we found a body of personality traits previously identified with the ACOA model. These included chronic depression, indecisiveness, and lack of self-confidence.

Within this population we found common behavioral traits as well: a chronic need to please; an inability to identify feelings, wants, and needs; and a need for constant validation. This group of patients felt that the bad things that happened to them were well deserved, while the good things that happened were probably mistakes or accidents. They had difficulty being assertive, privately feeling a pervasive sense of rage that they feared might surface. They felt like paper tigers - often very angry, but easily beaten down. Their interpersonal relationships were characterized by distrust and suspicion (bordering on paranoia), interspersed with often disastrous episodes of total and injudicious trusting and self-disclosure.

They were chronically dissatisfied, but were fearful of being perceived as whiners or complainers if they expressed their true feelings. Many could hold their anger in for extremely long periods of time, then become explosive over relatively insignificant matters. They had a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction with their achievements; this was found even among individuals who externally may have been viewed as very successful. The list of people included professionals who were obsessively involved in their enterprises, but were unable to achieve at a level at which they found satisfaction. In relationships, these individuals frequently found themselves in repeated dead-end situations. [...]

The principle clue was that in the absence of alcohol abuse, other forms of dysfunctional parenting (such as incest, physical abuse, emotional neglect and physical absence) seemed to produce the same symptoms. [...]

As we began to track common traits shared by the parent systems of the survivors, we identified a pattern of interaction that we labeled the narcissistic family. Regardless of the presence or absence of identifiable abuse, we found one pervasive trait present in all of these families: the needs of the parent system took precedence over the needs of the children.

We have found that in the narcissistic family, the needs of the children are not only secondary to those of the parent(s), but are often seriously problematic for the latter. If one is to track the narcissistic family on any of the well-known developmental scales (such as Maslow's or Erikson's), one sees that the most fundamental needs of the child, those of trust and safety, are not met. Furthermore, the responsibility of needs fulfillment shifts from the parent to the child. [...]

In this family situation, the child must be reactive to the needs of the parent, rather than the converse. In fact, the narcissistic family is consumed with dealing with the emotional needs of the parent system. [...]

Over time, these children learn that their feelings are of little or negative value. They begin to detach from their feelings, to lose touch with them. Often this denial of feelings is functional to the child, as to express them only adds fuel to the fire. Instead of understanding, recognizing, and validating their own needs, these children develop an exaggerated sense of their impact on the needs of their parent(s). Indeed, they become the reflection of their parents' emotional needs. The needs of the parent become a moving target on which they struggle to focus. Because they feel responsible for correcting the situation without having the requisite power and control to do so, the children develop a sense of failure. Moreover, they fail to learn how to validate their own feelings and meet their own needs. In time, the children undergo a semipermanent numbing of feelings. As adults, these individuals may not know what they feel, except for varying degrees of despair, frustration, and dissatisfaction. (Pressman, The Narcissistic Family, Lexington Books, 1997)

In short, the individual raised by a narcissist is trained to be a slave and is a walking target for other narcissists and/or psychopaths. That's the bad news. The good news is they can be helped. This kind of narcissistic wounding is fixable because, as mentioned above, for some strange reason, narcissists are often decent parents to newborn infants so that the child receives that particular foundation of trust for the universe that is so crucial in later life. Oh, of course, they later learn that trusting is bad, and this alternates with their feelings of trust in the way quoted above: holding back alternating with disastrous disclosure.

Now, let's look at another child; this one has very attentive - perhaps too attentive - well-educated, parents who believe rigidly in schedules and child-rearing practices based on "science" and designed to raise a good Christian, long-suffering, Spartan child who is intelligent enough, manly (or girly) enough, and not a cry-baby. Being a hard worker is valued, so the baby has to learn not to be a slacker right from the start!

With a parental attitude like that, a newborn infant can be psychologically destroyed in no time!

When a child is treated, at the very earliest stages of life, as an "object" to be "molded and shaped" by regimentation (as one form of infant abuse), a dreadful crime against the essential self, at the deepest levels of being, is committed. A child who is left hungry because it is not the scheduled feeding time will be conditioned to believe the universe does not provide nourishment in response to his cries. His protective "grandiosity" is shattered. As the authors above put it, "the most fundamental needs of the child, those of trust and safety, are not met." This leads to insecure attachment. A child who is not picked up and comforted when he is frightened, startled, or simply lonely and in need of being touched, is conditioned to believe that there is no point in reaching out or interacting with the universe in any way. His sense of being powerful is severely damaged. So it is that a child raised according to the Cartesian "man as machine" model, or the Christian "spare the rod and spoil the child" model has no sense of safety or sufficiency.

An infant subjected to abrupt and arbitrary "schedules," promoted by parents who, convinced by "medical and psychiatric theories," believe they are doing the "right thing," end up with severe injuries to the primal self. Such injuries can be severe and irreversible, following along the line of transmarginal inhibition. In some cases, there is actual brain damage if a child is left to cry too long, or traumatized too severely and too regularly. Congestive centers form in the cortex and primitive defense mechanisms (PDMs) can be triggered by anything that reminds the individual of the original trauma, most of which, remember, is pre-verbal. And yes, in many cases, the child may dissociate into an alternate personality that is grandiose and all-powerful; this dissociation may be repeated to the point where it takes over the life of the individual, and it is very likely true that such cases of narcissism are fueled by having been made to feel helpless and powerless. And such an individual can hold in vast oceans of rage because the main damage was done at the most primitive level of brain function.

The empathic support of our "primary objects", the parents, is crucial at these early stages. In its absence, our sense of self-worth and self-esteem in adulthood tends to fluctuate wildly between over-valuation of ourselves by regressing to the infantile narcissistic mode, or devaluation of ourselves as the helpless child slave of a sadistic, even if well-meaning, parent.

Such a child can grow up with a heavy sense of bitter disappointment and radical disillusionment with the universe as a whole. They are often unable to accept self-limitations, disappointments, setbacks, failures, criticism or disillusionment with grace and tolerance. Their self-esteem is inconstant and negative. There is a tendency to believe everything that happens to them is the result of outside events, or that everything is their fault, in some way. Sensitivity, or overexcitability, plays a large role in these reactions.

It seems pretty clear that any child who is neglected or abused at the earliest stages of development is going to have issues throughout their lives of some sort. Getting better depends on how long, how severe, the abuse and what kinds of corrections were made, how soon, and how consistently. And, most of all, it depends on the individual and their WILL to get better. But it is even more than that. Martha Stout writes in The Myth of Sanity:

Given the work I do, I naturally ponder whether there are any organizing systems of meaning and value - "good" ones or "bad" ones - that correlate with successful recovery from dissociative disorders, or any that militate against such an outcome. Are there souls, so to speak, for whom the prognosis is better than for others? And when I consider all my patients, over all the years, the answer is yes: there is in fact an astonishingly robust correlation between an individual's successful recovery on the one hand, and on the other hand, a person's preexisting conviction that she and she alone is responsible for something. This something could be an endeavor or a specific person, or is quite likely to be the conduct of her life in general. People who are compelled and organized by a sense of responsibility for their actions tend to recover.

And conversely, sadly, people whose directive meaning systems do not include such a conviction tend not to recover, tend to remain dissociatively fragmented and lost. ... [T]he difference is that of tenaciously assuming personal responsibility for one's own actions, and therefore taking on personal risk, versus placing the highest valuation upon personal safety, both physical and emotional, which often precludes the acknowledgment of responsibility. (If I acknowledge responsibility toward my child - or my friend or my ideas or my community - then I may be compelled to stick my neck out. I may have to do or feel something that will make me more vulnerable.)

Here, the psychology of trauma comes full circle, in that the original function of dissociation is to buffer and protect; and so by rights, patients who value self-protection above all else should be candidates for treatment failure...

A self-protective system of mind may express itself behaviorally in many ways. Three of the most common ways can be characterized as 1) action-avoidant dependency upon another person or upon a confining set of rules, 2) a preoccupation with reassigning blame, and actions and complaints that indicate a lack of perspective on one's own problems relative to the problems of others. 3) The third behavioral expression of a self-protective soul - acting upon a lack of perspective on one's own problems relative to those of others - is reflected in our society at large by the popular phenomenon of victim identification.

...A survivor of trauma is a victim, certainly; but "victim" does not comprise the totality of her, or anyone else's, identity. Helpers must support the healing process in both of its phases: the survivor must endure the discovery that she is a victim, and then she must take responsibility for being that no longer. Both parts are equally important, and in neither phase can self-protection be the primary goal. Enabling someone's long term identity as a victim robs her of an important human right, that of being responsible for her own life. [...]

[W]e cannot simultaneously protect ourselves and experience life fully. These two desires preclude each other proportionately. To the extent that we try to protect ourselves, we cannot truly live; and to the extent that we truly live, we cannot place our highest value upon protecting ourselves. This lesson, is not new, but it is interesting that the theme reiterates itself right down to our neurological blueprints. Maybe there is no salvation for any of us outside of the meaning system provided by personal responsibility, despite all the daunting risks. Perhaps this is why we so doggedly look for examples of accountability in our role models, our parents, our leaders.

Now, what about a child whose every need is met at the early stages of life, whose family is not narcissistic, and who still manifests severe narcissism or psychopathy?

We now come to the point of bifurcation: the difference between narcissistic wounding and NPD/psychopathy.

Notice the characteristics of narcissistically wounded children: they grow up with a heavy sense of bitter disappointment and radical disillusionment with the universe as a whole. They are often unable to accept self-limitations, disappointments, setbacks, failures, criticism or disillusionment with grace and tolerance. Their self-esteem is inconstant and negative. There is a tendency to believe everything that happens to them is the result of outside events, or that everything is their fault, in some way.

When we try to use "narcissistic wounding" as the cause of all cases of narcissism, and shame and sensitivity as the intermediate step to the triggering of this "archaic rage", we run into severe problems both empirical as well as theoretical/logical.

Let's look at the logical problem: If the infant experiences itself in a state of limitless power and knowledge, a state called "grandiosity", how does that translate into an adult personality structure that is "shakily put together", oversensitive and shame-prone (i.e. psychoneurotic)? That's a pretty remarkable transformation. If the infant state is "prevented from maturing", as is suggested, then that must mean that it remains the same; it doesn't change. And if that is the case, then the adult narcissist must be exactly like that undeveloped baby: he or she experiences him or herself in a state of limitless power and knowledge, and does so against all evidence to the contrary; it is a rock solid structure; it is unshakable! There is no "oversensitive" nor is there any "shame-proneness" because sensitivity and shame are learned in the process of maturation.

Many traumatized individuals do seem to REGRESS to that narcissistic state when under stress or certain types of stress. When they do this regressing, it's called dissociating and the more you do it, the more likely you are to do it in the future and the easier and more automatic it becomes. (See Martha Stout's The Myth of Sanity.)

So, such a narcissist as Kohut is describing would be one where development was arrested or distorted at some stage of normal maturation - because SOME development has taken place to lead to the ability to feel shame, to be sensitive, to advance and to regress, to associate and dissociate. Therefore, attributing the narcissist's rage to compensatory reactions underpinned by "over-sensitivity" or "shame-proneness" would not be the same as attributing the narcissist's rage to a primal, infantile narcissism. In short, you can't have it both ways here. If there is an undeveloped infantile narcissism at the root of the rage, it cannot be partly developed because then there would not be infantile narcissism behind the rage.

And yet, there is that description of the narcissist's rage, the psychopathic rage, that everyone who has ever experienced it recognizes it! (Of course, that's what makes me suspicious of the whole theory and the people behind it, but I'm not going to go there right now.)

The bottom line is this, Kohut and Wolf must certainly be describing the REALITY of the narcissistic/psychopathic rage when Wolf writes:

[Kohut] observed that underlying the rage one often finds an uncompromising insistence on the perfection of the idealized other. The infant experiences itself still in a state of limitlessness power and knowledge, a state that we as outsiders deprecatingly call the child's grandiosity, its grandiose self.

If for a variety of reasons this infantile grandiose state of narcissism is prevented from maturing into healthy self-esteem we meet with what looks like an adult....

I think we have figured out by now that we can discard completely the twisted ending that goes: "but really is a very shakily put together oversensitive and shame-prone narcissist."


The fanaticism of the need for revenge and the unending compulsion of having to square the account after an offense are therefore not the attributes of an aggressivity that is integrated with the mature purposes of the ego - on the contrary, such bedevilment indicates that the aggression was mobilized in the service of an archaic grandiose self and that it is deployed within the framework of an archaic perception of reality. The shame-prone individual who is ready to experience setbacks as narcissistic injuries and to respond to them with insatiable rage does not recognize his opponent as a center of independent initiative with whom he happens to be at cross-purposes.

Here, we must discard "The shame-prone individual who is ready to experience setbacks as narcissistic injuries", but what are we going to replace it with?

Carl Frankenstein suggested that the person that becomes a psychopath goes into an "ego expansion" state where, in order to feel safe, his ego "incorporates" everything in the outside world as part of himself. He writes:

Psychopathy has been defined as constitutional inability to establish objective (positive as well as negative) relationships and effective human ties or as a constitutional deficiency in volition and emotion (in contradistinction to intellectual deficiencies).

Lack of identification; a poorly defined ego concept; a tendency to mirror others in behavior; absence of superego awareness, of anxiety, of guilt feelings and of neurotic reactions to conflict or frustration; shallowness of fantasy material; lack of concern for objective facts; weakness of the time concept are mentioned as the main characteristics of psychopathy in children. ...

It is also a well established fact that a phenomenology of psychopathic behavior in adults reveals additional and still more serious deviations. There we find moral indolence, often leading to brutal crimes; lack of control over sexual and/or material desires; hysterical fanaticism, seemingly for the sake of a truth, a principle, an idea, but actually reflecting an insatiable need to be the center of attention, admiration or fear; the same need producing the well-known swindler and impostor type; narcissistic excitability; or almost unlimited seducibility. Sometimes the vagabond, the sex pervert, the addict are included in the list of psychopathic types. (Frankenstein, Psychopathy: A Comparative Analysis of Clinical Pictures, Grune & Stratton, NY and London; 1959)

Notice that the problem of "objectivity" is mentioned twice above. We could also consider the "weakness of the time concept" to be a problem of objectivity. What seems to be mainly wrong with the narcissist and the psychopath is relational inability. Relational ability is what grows out of healthy narcissism in an infant that gradually turns into appropriate adult self-esteem as the infant learns to distinguish between itself and others. The healthy child matures and comes to have a "reasonable and accurate representation" of his own true worth in relation to his world, his reality. Deficiency in the process of growing from no ego at all to ego identification to self-esteem can interfere with normal processes of acquiring a healthy introject (inner self), superego formation (inner parent). Without these two elements, there is no anxiety, no guilt, no neuroses, etc. In short, there is nobody home. This is exhibited by the noted intellectual peculiarities of the psychopathic child: lack of concern for objective facts, inability to form proper time concepts, inability to accurately experience time, and shallow fantasy life. Psychopaths lack an inner psychic milieu.

All these are just different ways of saying that the problem with the psychopath, the narcissist, is an inability to relate oneself to the environment either outside of the self or inside of the self! The psychopath/narcissist then, is left being little more than a machine, a two-dimensional construct with no inner or outer self, a ghost, a vampire that cannot be seen in a mirror and casts no shadow. He disappears in the bright sunlight of truth and objectivity.

Both of these concepts return us to consider the infant stage where the infant fails for some reason to establish the difference between self and other. Everything "out there" may seem to the psychopath as an extension of the self, or that it exists only for the incorporation to the self potential. In a sense, it might be like an infant that believes that mother, breast, food, everything, is part of itself, for its own pleasure and never grows beyond this emotional, egoistic state. Frankenstein writes:

Learning means internalizing the non-ego, transforming reality contents into conceptual emotional and functional parts of the ego. The ego coordinates not only the contents of consciousness (by relating them to each other in varying contexts of meaning) but also its own functions (by relating them to each other as well as to the actual and potential contents of consciousness, according to their relevance in a given situation).

In other words, learning is like drawing a map inside yourself - in your brain - of everything that is "out there" and learning how to read that map so that you can effectively navigate reality. The extent to which that map accurately describes the external landscape (the same way a map of a geographical location actually shows you the features of the real place when you visit it), determines how objective that internal map is.

What seems to be another important feature is being able to know that the map is a map and the reality out there is not the map, but is the reality.

Psychopaths may not build maps of reality because it appears that they don't seem to know the difference between the map and reality. They do not seem to distinguish between what is outside and what is inside. The way a psychopath navigates reality may be so bizarre that we cannot even conceive of it."

Sorry its so long but I thought it was extremely useful

to read the whole essay, go to

(reply to this comment)
From elisha717
Sunday, May 18, 2008, 07:18


Well, I just sat down this beautiful Sunday morning, and sipped on my coffee, as I read this really well written essay.  Thank you for taking the time to post this for me, as I found it very informative and helpful (as since finals are over I have these three weeks of "dead time" [before summer school], I have been subconsciously still trying to make sense out of what happend with my family and I).

What the essay said about the mother loving the child while it was refelcting total love for the mother, but when any contridictory behaviour or attitude would surface, the mother started dissociating herself from her child, etc.  This info makes sense, as I feel I lost my mother (from being my defender and being proud of me) when I was about ten years old.  After that age I feel like I became this little girl who could "do no right" in my mothers eyes.  (I tried so hard)! 

That would also explain my two previous relationships, (nightmare material); moreover, about the will being a very important tool in recovering, is also very true for me.  I had one very intense year, where my recovery was the main thought on my mind.  If it wasn't for the people next to me right now, I am afraid I would have been another number added to the list of causulties. 

Very useful!  I wish I had this essay when I was writing mine! Thank you!(reply to this comment

From another toxic mother
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 10:17

I heard this woman speak on the radio. Her books sound very interesting.
(reply to this comment
From rainy
Thursday, May 29, 2008, 04:25

I found that absolutely fascinating. Thanks.(reply to this comment
From vix
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 14:10


That reminded me of an article I read the other day, also by Rebecca Walker.  Quite embarrassing to have to admit to reading the Daily Mail after you've cited the Times (blushing).. but never mind.

 (reply to this comment

From oh! vix ;)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 16:39

Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 3 out of 5(
this will make you laugh to this comment
From vix
Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 10:30


Thanks, chuckles are good :)


 (reply to this comment

From Wtf?!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 16:46

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(
That's a fake!(reply to this comment
From vix
Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 10:28

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

OMGWTF it's a FAKE?!?

 (reply to this comment

from madly
Sunday, May 11, 2008 - 20:23

To be honest, I didn’t read this article at first, because there was such a barrage of your comments, polls, etc that it was a bit overbearing, no offence. Anyway, I liked your article and found it informative and interesting.

How weird that I am reading your article on Mother’s Day. Well, I guess I can say: Happy Mother’s day, mom… you sure were a mother fucker.
(reply to this comment)
From elisha717
Monday, May 12, 2008, 12:14


Thank you!! (Especially coming from you)!!

I still haven't had the time to sit down and really READ all your material, (though I am still going to read it all [hopefully it won't be too overbearing for you when I make my comments]) Lol!!............[I do get what you mean, well, as you can see, my interest in commenting has already started to fizzle out, I was just kind of like a kid in a candy store [especially during finals].

I still am wondering (the business side of me) what you're doing to pursue this talent of yours?? (reply to this comment

From madly
Monday, May 12, 2008, 15:23

No worries… I was mainly teasing you. Most people get excited when they first come to this site. It is a bit mind boggling to discover that such a place, where others feel the same way you do, has been there the entire time you felt alone and misunderstood. All of a sudden you want to share everything you have kept bottled up for years. It is freeing to let it all out…so good for you. I am sure I did the same thing as you; many have. Don’t feel badly, as I know that many here are sick to death of my articles. I know I am. ;) One day I will have something positive to say, just not yet.

I am not sure what you mean about “talent”. I have never viewed my crazy mind, and views that come from it, as a talent, more of a curse, but thanks.(reply to this comment

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