arrested development

During my college years, I majored in psychology, with a special interest in child development. This is a common focus for women in their late teens, and I suspect it's even more common in women who come from dysfunctional family backgrounds (somebody want to do a study on this?). At the time, I was under the impression that my family of origin was normal and healthy, and that my mother had successfully risen above her dysfunctional family background to become an emotionally balanced and fair parent. I carried this misinterpretation of my childhood with me through my studies, scoffing at the section of a textbook that outlined the reasons why spanking is ineffective at best and harmful to the child at worst, and smugly deciding that my wonderful mother's parenting fit best in the "authoritative" column rather than under the "authoritarian" heading.


The thing is, at the same time as I was so sure that my family's way was the right way, I also carried with me a history of struggle with my mother. Her "all ways are my ways" Queen of Hearts demeanor, her quick temper, her inability to see things from my point of view and insistence that I see things from hers, her black and white sense of right and wrong. It was this background, nagging at me from the corners of my mind, that cried "Aha!" when I studied Piaget's concrete operational stage of psychosocial development, especially as its transition into formal operations applies to adolescents, and its relationship to Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development.

Adolescents still in the concrete operational stage of development think of themselves as unique; this is a phenomenon known as the "personal fable" and is responsible for what we think of as teens' selfish egocentrism. It's the reason a teen thinks that her zit is enormous and the focus of everybody's attention, the reason teens think nothing bad will happen to them if they take risks, the reason they believe their parents cannot possibly relate to their experiences. It's normal for a child, and not normal for an adult, who should have matured into higher reasoning abilities. During Kohlberg's conventional level of moral development, which would typically describe children from about age 9 to adolescence, a child's moral sense is other-focused. Morality equals doing what other people (teachers, parents) expect you to do and fulfilling obligations. So a young teen is simultaneously engrossed in themselves and has a sense of right and wrong that hinges upon following orders. They think in black and white, fundamentalist, rule-based ways.

The personal fable: parents just don't understand.

Theorists believe that most people do not proceed past this conformity-based or law-and-order-based level of moral reasoning and grow into post-conventional reasoning based on human rights or universal human ethics. When I learned about Kohlberg's model, I considered that my mother's development might have stopped at the conventional level. I also realized that her development had halted around the time that some very significant, traumatic events happened in her life.

My mother did not have the nicest of childhoods. I suspect that this is true of most narcissists. Granted, lots of people do not have fabulous childhoods, but some special cocktail of genetics and environment comes together to create the perfect mix to breed narcissism in some unfortunate individuals. In her case, her father was a narcissist who was emotionally demanding and abusive, and physically abusive, as well. Her parents had a large number of children, too; as a parent, I know just how each additional child divides your time, attention, and emotional energy further, in a way that seems to expand exponentially rather than linearly. Her family belonged to a religious faith that is rigidly controlling, emphasizes obedience, and discourages critical thinking. This combination of factors made for a backdrop that would not provide sufficient flexibility and emotional support for a normal adolescence, much less one as troubled as hers: her mother fell ill when my mother was in her early teens, and died several years later. Her father descended into alcoholism in his grief, and was either extremely neglectful or violent and demanding, with very little in between. My mother lived in fear of him both as a child/adolescent and as an adult. She craved his approval but virtually never got it. She wasn't really free from him until he died, and even that is questionable. As time went by, I would recognize that I felt similarly about her.

So I assumed that my mother's moral reasoning had somehow just gotten stuck at the age she was when her mother got sick and died. I didn't know how this would happen, just that it seemed to be true. But just recently, I have been studying frontal lobe development. More specifically, the development of the prefrontal lobe, that part of the brain responsible for emotional balance, attunement to others, bodily regulation (stress response), response flexibility, fear modulation, empathy, insight, moral awareness, and intuition. Most of these abilities don't come online until adolescence, and prefrontal lobe function isn't usually at its peak until the early 20s.

prefrontal lobe and limbic system, via The Dana Foundation

You can picture the front of your brain like a closed fist, with your thumb tucked under your fingers. The four fingers over the fist represent the prefrontal cortex - the outer layer of the very front of your brain that is responsible for rational thought, decision-making, your sense of ethics, and self-control. If you lift up your four fingers, your tucked-in thumb represents the location of parts of the limbic system, involved in emotion, aspects of motivation like reward and fear, and regulating heart rate, blood pressure, and attention. If you've ever heard somebody talking about the "lizard brain" or "reptile brain," this is it. Your limbic system is you, stripped of all your higher reasoning and judgment, stepped back through millions of years of evolution. In a healthy, calm adult, the prefrontal cortex can take motivations from the amygdala (part of the limbic system) and decide whether or not to act on them. In times of extreme stress, the prefrontal lobe may be overwhelmed and go "offline", leaving the person to act on the impulses from their limbic system. Now imagine what happens if the prefrontal lobe is underdeveloped - emotion can much more easily overwhelm it.

"a pretty handy model of the brain", via Daniel J. Siegel, MD, Mindsight

One way of thinking about overwhelming the prefrontal cortex, thinking about lifting up those four fingers, is that a person whose prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed has "flipped their lid", leaving the limbic system to do the driving. You've probably seen this in children; a temper tantrum or meltdown is a great example of an underdeveloped prefrontal lobe being very easily overwhelmed.

While reading Mindsight, it suddenly occurred to me: trauma causes change in brain chemistry and function. Could it be possible that an abusive upbringing and/or the death of a parent would impede the development of the prefrontal lobe? Is narcissistic personality disorder an effect of screwed-up frontal lobe development?

I haven't found research that specifically pertains to this, perhaps because it would require the identification and cooperation of folks with NPD. But here's a synopsis of what we know: 
"Children exposed to maltreatment, family violence, or loss of their caregivers often meet diagnostic criteria for depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sleep disorders, communication disorders, separation anxiety disorder, and/or reactive attachment disorder."  - Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents
"In adolescence the brain goes through another period of accelerated development. The pruning of unused pathways increases, similar to early childhood. This process makes the brain more efficient, especially the part of the brain that supports attention, concentration, reasoning, and advanced thinking. Trauma during adolescence disrupts both the development of this part of the brain and the strengthening of the systems that allow this part of the brain to effectively communicate with other systems. This can lead to increased risk taking, impulsivity, substance abuse, and criminal activity (NCTSN, 2008; Chamberlin, 2009; Wilson, 2011; CWIG, 2009)." - How Trauma Affects Child Brain Development
"It is assumed that patients with NPD might have reduced affective neural component of empathy. Further evidences are needed to validate this hypothesis...there are various forms of empathy dysfunctions in psychopathology such as antisocial personality disorders, psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorders and autism, which seem to reflect selective impairment of one or several components of the neurocognitive architecture of empathy." - The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: implications for intervention across different clinical conditions
I suspect that the theory I started working on nearly twenty years ago - that my mother's emotional maturation was halted by the traumas of her early teens - is probably valid.

Now, here's the thing - it doesn't mean that it's ok for a person with impaired frontal lobe function to be a jackass to another person. What it does mean is that they are truly impaired, and as such, expecting normal, healthy behavior from them is unrealistic. We know this about narcissists. They are unlikely to recognize their impairment, and equally unlikely to seek therapy to change their thought patterns and behaviors. But they are not, as I so often see them described, evil.

I often remind myself that "nobody wants to be an asshole." If our narcissistic family members had had a choice, they would not have chosen to be who and what they are. They are not the devil incarnate. They are very, very broken people, more deserving of pity than hatred.

At the same time, understanding the sources of their dysfunction and feeling sympathy for the immature children in them does not mean that we are obligated to lay down and subject ourselves to bad treatment. We don't owe it to them to fix them or to stick around and suffer out of some disordered idea of family obligation.

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If anything, this model of NPD encapsulates how I feel about my mother. It's a tragic situation. She deserves pity and love, but cannot get it because of the particular way she is broken. I would like to give it to her, but cannot because it would require putting myself in harm's way. I find it uncomfortable to sit with this version of "how the hell did Mom end up the way she is?" because it removes the comfort of saying "this person is just a jerk who deserves shunning." It invites the awkwardness of knowing how imperfect human relationships are, that these two hurting, motherless women cannot ever help each other. In the end, that is the true wound that I have to heal, and the true legacy of narcissism.

34 comments:

  1. I really like this post. My mother is also in "arrested development." It's been very obvious to me since I was a young adult, and it's what drove me to study psychology as well. I find Kernberg, Kohut and Winnicott especially useful in dealing with issues in my own FOO. thanks for writing such an insightful post.

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    1. Thanks! I'll look into KK&W. It's always good to read something that puts your own experiences into a different or more helpful context.

      By the way, I can't get into your blog any more! :( I've been away from blogging for a while and you must have changed it while I was gone. Can you let me in, pretty please?

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    2. Here's a link to my public blog.
      http://calibanssisters.blogspot.com/

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  2. I also studied psych and, more specifically, child development in school.

    I found this interesting and I really will have to think about what you've had to say. I have struggled with the label of "evil" that I've seen NPD's described with. I just couldn't buy that. But I agree with you that just because they are impaired does not mean we have to tolerate their behavior.

    I struggle with my NM because I see the broken, adolescent woman-child she is. I can tell she does not see herself as harmful at all, but a kind, caring woman whom nobody appreciates or understands. While her viewpoint is certainly skewed by her lack of empathy and insight, she still is dangerous and harmful to me. It would be so much easier to just see her as evil.

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    1. I also had a focus on child development. :) It has served me well as a parent, although interestingly, my mother started out as a psych major, too, before changing her major.

      It is really hard to both recognize how much the narcissist really is hurting, and also put up a wall against them. It's awful that these people who didn't get what they needed as children still can't get what they need, and that the dysfunctional ways they have (through no fault of their own, if you get down to it) continue to prevent them from having healthy, fulfilling relationships. Ugh.

      It really is easier to see my mother as a BAD BAD BAD person. I will admit that sometimes I just have to retreat into that mental space. It serves a protective function, sometimes.

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    2. I do wish more parents had an understanding of basic child developmental stages. If they knew what was "normal" for a child, and what was completely beyond the scope of reason, I do think some people would be able to parent their children better. I think too many people view children as little adults and it is not only unfair, but often works against the greater goal.

      My mother's life makes me sad. She was abused. She was treated horribly. She was better than her mother and father. And I see how her narcissism has left her unhappy, unfulfilled, and lonely. I remember her looking at her own mother's life after she passed and saying how sad it was to know her mother had such a horrible life. At the time, I thought, well how would you know it was horrible. Maybe that was the life she chose. But now, I look at my mom, and although it is a choice for her in a lot of ways, it saddens me to see how swallowed she is by narcissism.
      But not sad enough to put up with her crap anymore.

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  3. Reading this post, I realized that my NFOO would reject the whole thing, the whole notion of a child's psychological development. Never mind the decades of scientific research, they KNOW that children should simply behave properly and have achievements their parents can be proud of, despite any and all negative experience the child may have had, at no matter whose hands. And I mean ANY and ALL negative experiences - they are "no excuse".

    What hope does a child have in that environment?

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    1. So what's interesting to me is that my mother can identify some of the factors that led to my grandfather being a narcissist. And she can identify how her siblings were impacted by their childhood. And she knows that she was scarred by her childhood. But she doesn't recognize her current/ongoing behavior or connect the dots. Oh, and she thinks she's really logical. ;)

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    2. Weirdly, my NFOO will sometimes acknowledge that our family is screwed up, but they see it as just something to be accepted, not changed. They NEVER reflect on their own contributions to the mess though. Of course, Ns are not known for their self-awareness!

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  4. Interesting post, Claire. It does sound as if your theory about your mother is correct.

    A while back, I was discussing with my children the "Heinz dilemma", used in Kohlberg's stages of moral development.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz_dilemma

    My Nmother and brother (who is very enmeshed with her) were also in the room at the time, and their opinions about the dilemma were interesting. Both the kids (16 and 12) said the Heinz should steal the medicine with slightly different reasoning. the 16 year-old said because saving a life was a more important moral consideration than theft. The 12 year-old said life was more important, specifying that the druggist had priced the medicine unfairly.

    Both my mother and brother, on the other hand, said that Heinz should not steal the medicine. Brother said because the druggist had put a lot of work into the medicine and that stealing was wrong. Mother - giving an answer that was kind of off the map - said that Heinz shouldn't steal the medicine because money was the most important thing. Why would Heinz' wife matter? Money is money.

    This made me raise my eyebrows, to be sure. It's worth saying that my mother has tendencies toward fraud and gets very indignant if someone tries to stop her from cheating.

    I really don't know what it says about my mother's stage of moral development. IMO it shows perhaps some sociopathic traits.


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    1. That sounds both horrifying and fascinating to watch play out. I once heard somebody (not my NM) admit that prestige and money were far more important than being a good and interesting person. I think my jaw literally dropped.

      So your mother was kindof saying that the druggist deserved compensation...but for all the wrong reasons? If only Kohlberg hadn't died young, we could call him up and ask what the heck to do with that answer. In his absence, I feel pretty good about going with your "sociopathic traits" assessment.

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    2. Once I visited the Old Melbourne Gaol (museum) with my mother. Some of the exhibits showed the equipment used to dish out punishments to prisoners, which were notoriously harsh. My mother's comment was that children should see these, with the idea of scaring them into behaving.

      HELLO.

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    3. OMG. That's the kind of comment (scaring kids into behaving) that makes me wish there were some kind of psychological test one had to pass before becoming a parent. Not that I'm actually advocating for it, but I hate that people who think that way have kids.

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  5. There is strong evidence to suggest it is exactly these alterations that do indeed occur both in Traumatized AND Non-Traumatized cohort groups. For more information, you might like to join the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) which has engaged (for years) in Applied Research. If this paradigm gives you a framework in which to conceptualize the etiology of "what ails" and come to terms with it as it applies to your relationship with your mother by all means use it!
    I personally have no problem calling my biological mother evil: By that what I mean is "lacking conscience." However, this lack of conscience has been entirely freeing for her in that there are no constraints or restraints on her behavior OTHER THAN THE POTENTIAL FOR BEING "CAUGHT." That's it. It is NOT that she lacks knowledge and insight regarding what IS and what IS NOT "acceptable" behavior-clearly, she does. Her ability to conceptualize and operationalize an 18 yr. reign of terror post NC until her death on her adult offspring (me) designed to annihilate and if possible kill the physical "me" concurrent with significant financial resources rendered her extremely dangerous for me. Her ability to manipulate others, to change personas and presentations depending on her agenda, her parasitic lifestyle was stunning both in it's chronicity and severity. The clandestine manner in which she carried out her agenda, the targeted strategies which she employed to up the ante and destroy metaphorically as well as de facto certainly gave me insight into the mind of an individual who firmly believed she was exempt from the norms, values and societal imperatives across cultures. Additionally, she WAS given multiple opportunities to address "what ails" and chose not to avail herself of these opportunities. Her ability to utilize the very best human qualities-love, empathy, sympathy, care and concern, a desire to help others etc. allowed her to have virtually unfettered access to subsume and consequently exploit others with impunity and discard them once their utility to her had been exhausted OR she had fouled this particular nest irreparably particularly in terms of her personal culpability/accountability: Then it was on to the next victim. I do believe there is a spectrum across Cluster Bs and am not unaware our jails and prisons are full of people just like my biological mother; the only difference is they got caught and for THAT, they are truly sorry. Their victims are acknowledged only in so far as it is pro forma to indicate such as it also "Agenda" driven by their desire to achieve the best possible legal deal, Parole/Probation etc. While the behaviors we endured secondary to having a "parent" such as this may not have transgressed specific legal boundaries, IMO they certainly transgressed Kohlberg's or any other paradigm of morality or lack thereof. The etiology of such will likely never be known considering the very real constraints regarding the use of human "subjects" in applied research and certainly, the reliance on self-report by reporters who have consistently demonstrated a profound lack of reliability and validity. Various Instruments-MMPIs, brain scans etc.-are helpful. Nonetheless, all have definite limits and reliance strictly on a particular model or paradigm while helpful are certainly limiting in terms of generalizability. My experience is not limited strictly to my biological mother by any means. Good discussion and thanks for this. I am comfortable with my paradigm, my statement my biological mother is/was evil in the sense of my use of the term and acceptance that her personality structure was firmly entrenched, unyielding and self-perpetuating within the construct of her "persona." And from that, take the steps necessary to protect myself to the extent possible; others have not been so fortunate.
    TW

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    1. I find this discussion and your perspective interesting TW. And I would certainly agree, that by your definition of evil, your mother (and lots of NMs) are evil. My NM is not lacking a conscious and on several occasions has been restrained by it. However, for my NM, she seems to be governed by some code of "vigilanty" justice. It's not fear of getting caught that guides her behavior, it is some sense of 'righting injustices'. Unfortunately (for me), those injustices are purely subjective and centered around her. She has deemed herself the high court of moral justice and so if anyone violates HER codes of "morality", she feels it necessary to punish them or get even. My mother seems to think that she is the very model of a human being. I guess what I'm saying is that it is interesting to see the spectrum of NMs. For some, like you and Q, it is clear to me that your mothers operated in a more evil way.
      I found this to be an interesting point for me too "IMO they certainly transgressed Kohlberg's or any other paradigm of morality or lack thereof." From my understanding of Kohlberg's model (and I clearly could be wrong, especially since my knowledge of him is not very deep) I don't see it as a paradigm that is really "transgressed" rather a categorization. Merely, some people are at a lower level of moral functioning. Children function at these lower levels, and while they may not act in an ideal "moralized" way, we would not expect that of them or describe them as less than for being such. I'm wondering if this applies to Claire's post: that some NMs are like children, unable to (physically unable to, due to brain chemistry) progress to higher levels of moral reasoning and are stuck in an immature state of being. And because of that they are no more able to act at a higher level of moral reasoning than a child.
      I can see however that by suggesting such, it can be perceived as excusing the NMs behavior. Maybe that is why I often see myself treating my mother as an unruly 3 year old. I don't take her personally, I realize she has limitations beyond my control, and I enforce consequences when she behaves in a way that is harmful to me or my FCC.

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  6. I often thought this about my own mother. She was abused as a child and I know that has something to do with her behavior. I admit though, it's hard for me not to think of her as evil because of some of the things she has done.

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    1. I agree that it's hard to balance an understanding of how our parents got the way they did with the hurt we feel because of their actions. I'm pondering this alongside the "evil" issue.

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  7. I believe arrested moral/cognitive development is certainly part of it, and, perhaps, for many narcissists, a large part of it.

    There's another part. The manipulations, the lies, the purposefully hurtful behavior. Children and adolescents don't really come close to these types of behavior. This can be labeled as "evil." And the fact that they are on their best behavior in public while being hurtful and abusive in private, enjoying their sadistic escapades, shows they at least know that this is wrong and they don't want to get caught by people who matter. The victims don't matter.

    My toddler sometimes hits me and I make a sad face to indicate that this hurts. Sometimes she laughs sweetly (childlike innocence), sometimes she stops and pats me on the head (empathy).

    When my father sees he has hurt someone's feelings, he can't help smiling in a gloating way. This is not just arrested development.

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    1. That joy from sadistic behavior is why I have a hard time not thinking of my mom as evil. She gloats and has a sparkle in her eye when she's able to manipulate or hurt someone. My teen doesn't act this way though sometimes she is self absorbed. I do believe that my mom's abuse has stunted her emotional growth in some way and for that I feel bad for her.

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  8. I was originally going to respond more personally to everybody, but instead I think maybe we should take the discussion of evil and continue it soon via other posts. I hadn't anticipated that one aspect of this post to be something that would spark so much conversation. Definitely a good thing to explore some more. There are a lot of questions that the "evil" issue provokes in me.

    I've seen that gloating too, Brooke. Also the pre-meditated stuff mentioned upthread. A lot of meat to think about here.

    For now, my question would be, is it useful to ACONs in general to think about NPs as developmentally stunted? What I'm hearing here is that perhaps some of us don't think so, or maybe that we think the real issue is something else. Thoughts?

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    1. I feel I can't just dismiss the fact that I do believe they are developmentally stunted. I had to reconcile, for myself, the fact that my NM did have a horrible childhood too. There is a part of me that is very sad for her as a little girl and the shitty start she got in life.

      However, as many others pointed out above, my NM does seem to get off on hurting people. Like I said, she justifies it as some sort of perverted justice. "You hurt me, so I'm going to get even." And often the "hurt" she references is purely based on someone not doing what she wants, not a true injustice or harmful behavior to her.

      So, that makes it complicated. The background that created the conditions in which narcissism can flourish, and then the adult who uses narcissism and their hurts to inflict pain on every other person in their life are two separate components.

      I think, for me personally, the hardest part I have is labeling someone else as "evil". My NM is mean, vindictive, hurtful, vengeful, bitter, and spiteful. But, evil? I don't know. Although, I can fully understand why other's see their mothers as evil.

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    2. I believe everything that helps us understand more clearly is helpful, and the emotionally stunted condition of narcissists is definitely one of those things. I do see other elements in the behavior of some narcissists - those more sadistic and towards the psychopath end of the spectrum - that we humans generally describe as "evil".

      I mean, evil either exists or it doesn't. We can describe human actions as evil or as seriously psychologically disturbed as a consequence of damaging parenting - we are still talking about the same thing. Hitler and the many sadistic heads of concentration camps must have had horrible childhoods and were probably emotionally stunted as a result. They also did evil things. I'm not saying my father is just like Hitler, but the mindset is similar.

      Perhaps "evil" is a word that's problematic if used to label people. I don't say anyone is evil, but I do feel people can feel and act in ways that are evil. I believe there's some evil in all of us, but it's damaging to label people as evil, as we all (at least potentially) can grow and change.

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    3. "evil either exists or it doesn't"

      This is interesting, although like so many other things in my mind this week, I don't really know in what direction I want to take these thoughts.

      Can something be psychologically disturbed *and* evil? Is it either/or? What IS evil?

      It's also interesting that you bring up Hitler, because he's one of the classic people brought up to illustrate evil in human form, but I always have difficulty using that word to describe him. Seriously deranged, absolutely. Broken, utterly broken. Maybe it's the fact that the word evil has religious overtones for me and I'm nontheistic/nonreligious? Maybe I use the words immoral and unethical in the same way that some other people use the word evil?

      I don't know...this is probably one of those philosophical things that hinges so much on subjective, largely undefinable feelings and nuances that we can never really pin it down.

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    4. My mother also sometimes seems to get off on hurting people - or at least what looks like it to me. I'm not sure I can judge her behaviors in a way that fits my emotional compass, because she clearly doesn't have the same emotional compass, do you know what I mean? What does it mean for an immoral person to purposefully hurt somebody? If they don't know they're causing hurt, is it the same as purposefully causing hurt? Ayiyi, I can go down this rabbit hole forever. Trying to understand the mind of a crazy person will make you crazy, too!

      What I do know is that it is NOT OK for anybody to treat anybody the way NPs treat their children. I just have no idea what the solution is - can the damage to their kids ever be prevented? :(

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    5. Yes! That's exactly the point - what is evil? :)

      I feel comfortable using the word "evil" because it forms part of my mental scenery, grounded in the study of religions and literature - and I'm religious too.

      For me, "evil" tends to overlap with "seriously deranged," "immoral and unethical" behavior that stems from lack of love. Lack of love from one's parents that one transfers to others in a destructive way. That goes for Hitler and my father and your mother in my book (she has done things I'd characterize as "evil," though you might not).

      I see how if you don't like using the word, then of course you're not going to use it. I don't like labeling people either, just behaviors and modes of thought and feeling, and these change.

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  9. Yeah, Jessie and Claire, I agree: I think it's the word "evil" that's so evocative as it means different things to different people. And yes, the 18 yr. post NC war was with out a doubt retribution, but in that respect she WAS an equal opportunity destroyer so it was not as if I was singled out for differential treatment, but rather the chronicity as well as severity put me in a class of my own for the most part.
    I am grateful the laws have changed since I went through this; had Stalking and Aggravated Harassment types of legal redress been available the options available to me at the time would have been much more useful in terms of dealing with anyone who is hell-bent on destroying their prey. You can't arrest or press charges based on what someone MIGHT do, but at least you can leave a legal paper trail in the event you meet with an "Unfortunate Accident" or simply vanish.
    TW

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  10. PA- I like what you said here --- "Perhaps "evil" is a word that's problematic if used to label people. I don't say anyone is evil, but I do feel people can feel and act in ways that are evil. I believe there's some evil in all of us, but it's damaging to label people as evil, as we all (at least potentially) can grow and change."

    I think that's more along the lines of how I feel. I struggle to label people as anything. For me, it's much more helpful to label their behaviors. Labeling people feels so black and white for me, and often people don't fit into these labels/boxes so easily and my mind struggles with it.

    And for me, I am not particularly religious (more spiritual), and evil is not a word I have ever generally used. And my definition of evil isn't rooted in religious teachings.

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  11. "I think it is dangerous to label some one as evil." Sometimes it's dangerous not to.

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  12. Yes, exactly, q. Ask the victims what happened to them when they ignored or minimized the potential of the predator in front of them. Narcs ARE Predatory. Can we agree with that? And ACoNS aren't their only victims or their only prey. The implications of lacking conscience are stunning. Just think about how freeing that truly is: No accountability to anyone, including oneself. If "caught," use all the typical tactics ACoNS have been subject to. We who DO have conscience DO care, do have empathy, do want to help etc.-it is exactly those wonderful human qualities they use and depend upon to continue to present a particular type of persona to the world at large while exploiting all the "opportunities" inherent in the rest of the population who do have conscience. It works for them and to our detriment as well as the detriment of anyone who crosses their path. And yes, they're going to die the way they lived: They do NOT change.They do NOT mellow. They do NOT "Age Out" of their character.
    Don't know if you've had a chance to take a look at some of Frank Ochberg's work, but I do believe he likely has some youtubes floating around. Since psychology is your interest and Frank's from my generation and shares similar interests I do believe you'll find his work informative as an ACoN and for me and countless other human beings that have been on the "other side" of an individual who lacks conscience, is predatory and what I refer to as evil. It's just my experience, no more, no less. It's informative for me to look back on a lifetime of a woman who had the Label we call "Mother" and see a lifetime pattern of carnage, of discarded people, good people who endeavored to "help" left in her wake. Even years later, the most laid back, easy going, kind human beings are still horrified and yes, traumatized by what was done to them even by a "harmless old lady." And she's not the only one I've encountered through out my life.
    TW

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    1. Q and TW, you're probably right. The best I can personally feel comfortable with doing, though, is saying: "This person has consistently done evil things and is not to be trusted around humans."

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    2. It's like finding a rattlesnake under something you rolled over. What kind of rattle snake it is doesn't matter at that moment.
      What counts right now is getting the hell away from it.

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  13. Does anyone here ever feel like they are emotionally stunted from growing up in this kind of enviornment? I ask because about a week ago I was reading my diary from high school and it just felt like I was that same person. I'm sure that isn't true, but the words I used to describe myself to my husband were "emotionally stunted."

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    1. Yup. A lot. Growing a bit, slowly but steadily.

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  14. I know some people have different brain chemistry, but unless they are completely mentally compromised, everyone has the ability to make choices about how they conduct themselves everyday, every moment. The choices we make, make us. I've seen people with some horrifying childhood upbringings become kind, productive, and good citizens. Our environment and brains have an influence but the choice of what kind of character we develop is up to us. This is a good article.
    http://narcissists-suck.blogspot.com/2008/02/it-is-easy-to-be-narcissist.html

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