The ugly face of narcissism II
John’s story – part 2
Written by John
My Father is a Narcissist
I often doubted myself when labelling my father as a narcissist. One just doesn’t want it to be true. But the more I thought and learnt about it, the clearer the picture became. There are therapists who argue that lack of empathy is the most prominent trait of narcissism. I have a vivid memory from childhood. I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember saying to my father: “I’ve got problems.” This evoked an instant response of rage from him, with him saying: “Children don’t have problems, I do …” This is a prime example of a lack of empathy. Not only could he not put himself in my shoes, he also had to make it about him.
It is said that if you really want to get to know someone, you should take them on vacation with you. I think if you really want to identify the narcissist in someone, expose him or her to prolonged stress. In my father’s case, this happened when my mother got cancer and eventually passed away. My mother was a gentle soul – emotionally the opposite of my father. One of the interesting dynamics of narcissists in relationships is how a highly empathic individual will gravitate towards a narcissist during romance. This was definitely the case with my parents. During my mother’s illness and the last few months of her life my father put up a brave face. He seemed as gentle and behaved as can be. In retrospect I wonder how much this had to do with his concern about friends’ and family’s view of him, rather than my mom, since his demeanour completely changed when my mom finally passed away. It is difficult to understand someone else’s grief, but my father’s true character came out with her death. Obviously he grieved – and there was nothing wrong with that, but he acted as if he was the only one affected. Everything had to be his way – because he had lost his wife. Yet, there were children who lost a mother and family and friends who lost someone dear. In retrospect, I can now see that the “It’s all about me” characteristic of the narcissist was very apparent.
Not only was my father’s elevated sense of entitlement crystal clear with the death of my mother, but he was also completely exploitative and without empathy. Years after her death the circumstances surrounding her funeral seem to still be somewhat bizarre. My father had the funeral set up as a tribute to my mother’s life. Once again nothing wrong with that – but I cannot help having the feeling that the grand tribute was actually all about him. As if to say: “Look how smart my wife was – aren’t I smart to have had such a smart wife?”. Since I was the master of ceremonies he put immense pressure onto me to do everything exactly according to how he wanted it to be. It bordered on the exploitative and emotionally abusive. It is troublesome that he never thanked me for the role I played during her funeral. But that’s narcissism for you – all that was important to him was that it flowed exactly like he wanted it to be.
Not only did I have to mourn my mom’s death, but in realising that my dad is, was and has always been a narcissist, I experienced, at least on a psychological level, the death of a second parent. It is very difficult to have a reciprocal, intimate, deeply emotional relationship with a narcissist. The parent bond I had was with and through my mother and since she is not there anymore, my parent bond is dead.
To be continued …
Part 3 of John’s journey with narcissism to follow soon!