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The Happy Feminist

Wow! I never thought this intensely navel-gazing, therapeutic post would inspire so many wonderful comments. Thank you all so, so much! I wanted to respond to a couple of comments in particular:

Moi says:

And, I'm realizing that I've got some narcissitic tendencies that I totally need to deal with ASAP before I *become* my mother.

I have worried a lot about the same thing over the years. (I am now thinking it may be one reason I am somewhat discomfited, although grateful, for complimentary emails. I am worried that I am going to become like my father, constantly courting adoration.) But one of the articles I read points out that children of narcissists often engage in narcissistic behaviors just because that's what they have grown up with. Mimicking a parent's narcissistic behavior is not the same thing as being narcissistic. If you realize you are acting in a narcissistic way and want to change it, you are not a narcissist. Narcissists tend to deny bad behavior and certainly have not intention of changing their behavior.

I have certain behaviors that are like my dad's. One example is that I tend to sometimes get very adamant that my taste or preference is superior compared to yours. So, for example, if you said you liked to the Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar, I would INSIST that the London version is better, rather than just saying, "Really? I like the London version better." Someone pointed out to me that this is really obnoxious so I have tried (with some success I think) to change it.

Amy says:
Maybe it's just me, but whenever I read descriptions like this I get a twinge when I see shadows of myself. But then I remind myself that wanting to feel significant and noticed are normal parts of being human, and are not in themselves unhealthy...

Absolutely! But I think this is a common experience in reading about psychiatric diagnoses. In my "Law and Psychiatry" class (which didn't discusses narcissism in any depth), I convinced myself that I was depressed/anxious/obsessive-compulsive, bipolar, and schizophrenic! I definitely agree with you "that every problem or disorder is the extreme of a normal human feeling and/or a natural part of growing up."

Dave, I can't wait to find out my new name! And Moi and Arwen, I will pop you both an email at some point!

Cheers all! You've made my day.


The Happy Feminist

Oh, and even though I am going well over my own word limit, I also wanted to respond to Amy's comment:

You are so brave to be able to take pity on him. I don't think I'm ready for that yet.

I don't think pity is a brave thing but sort of a self-serving thing on my part. I have long been worried about the prospect of having to be there for my father in the event that my mother predeceases him when he is old and feeble. I don't think that I can bring myself to cut him off (as he did to his own father) but it would seem like a betrayal of my childhood self to be caring or kind towards him. I think that I can reconcile that problem by feeling PITY. Pity would allow me to be kinder to him than he deserves (and thus live up to my own personal moral ideals) without having to pretend to myself in anyway that the misery he inflicted on me didn't happen. Pity reconciles both my desire to do the right thing and my desire to do justice to my own highly negative experience with this guy.

By the way, this is not to say that I think cutting off a narcissistic abusive parent is morally wrong, although it may not be the moral ideal. I think after having survived an upbringing like this, you have earned the right to do what is best for you, and this needn't include pity or forgiveness.

Also, Amy, I just finished a great book I would recommend called "The Overachievers" by Alexandra Robbins!

AmyJane

Just popping back with a laugh to say there are at least two Amys posting.

I think I'll change my tag-- In college there were 4 or 5 of us, so I was always AmyJane ;)

--Cheers

AmyJane

I'm just a dog-loving non-law-student, and saw potential confusion brewing...

David Thompson

Hmmm. I wonder what he would diagnose *you* with.

David Duff

And his virtues are ...?

The Happy Feminist

I wonder what he would diagnose *you* with.

His diagnosis: How did someone as heroic as I spawn such a wimpy kid?

Accurate diagnosis: Post traumatic stress disorder.

annamal

Hi Happy

I'm totally feeling you on this, not because of the narcissitic personality disorder but the sudden realisation that you're not crazy and that other people have felt *exactly* like you, it was incredibly liberating.

In my case it was discovering asperger's syndrome which explained so much about me and my family.

The Happy Feminist

And his virtues are ...?

He is smart and hardworking, he provided very well on a material level for his wife and child, he has some genuine professional achievements under his belt, he has at least a superficial interest in a wide range array of topics and ideas, and he has a good aesthetic sense.

mythago

So as long as the trains run on time he's not such a bad guy? Maybe it's just me, but "has good aesthetic sense" doesn't quite strike me as a virtue.

A good alternative to cutting him off is letting your mother deal with his future needs.

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