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I've had a couple of narcissists in my life and I'm going to write about my experiences with them, for the benefit of anyone who wants to read about narcissism. Lengthy, but worth it for those interested.

The first one is my uncle, my mom's older brother. I'll give him the pseudonym "Uncle Gus". I personally have alot of fond memories of Uncle Gus. I remember him as jovial, knowledgeable and creative. My conversations with him as a little boy fascinated and entertained me. Whenever he was around me, life was more fun. I credit him with the development of my sense of humor and my family once moved explicitly to be nearer to him.

I have not seen him since I was 14. With the exception of a potential chance encounter on the street, I'll never see him again in this lifetime. Over a decade ago, he abandoned our family. The separation shocked me because I knew nothing of what caused it. He went from hero to zero in the blink of an eye. In the aftermath of that abandonment, talking with my family members, I learned the vast background of what had happened, and that behind the clown I saw, Uncle Gus had a dark side.

Uncle Gus' narcissism manifested itself primarily in two ways: a victim complex of passive-aggressive complaining, and mistreatment of his daughter, my cousin.

PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE COMPLAINING

Uncle Gus routinely complained about the people in his life. His daughter, who I'll call "Erica", confirmed to me that everyone in his life, his coworkers and friends, etc. viewed him as the complainer. "His ability to remember all the times in his life when he felt like a victim is amazing", Erica once told me. "Some of the things he complained about were really stupid too, like that I hadn't paid back several cents I owed him, or that the light in my room was on when he didn't want it to be."

On rare occasions, he'd tell people off to their face. But for the most part, Uncle Gus was a passive-aggressive operator. He'd complain about Erica to my mother and then complain about my mother to Erica, while making it seem like he was on mostly good terms with everyone. He complained about things that I and my younger brother did. When I messed up and broke the light in his guest room, I felt so ashamed for doing such a dumb thing. "Monadnock, everyone does dumb things. I do dumb things all the time, don't worry.", he told me. I was very grateful that he was trying to cheer me up. After he abandoned us, I learned that when I wasn't there, he'd complain about the broken light to my mother. This revelation particularly stung.

Uncle Gus' two-faced habits turned out to be his downfall. One night my mother met with Erica, just the two of them. Over time, a rift had grown between my uncle and my mother. He had recently began dating a new woman; they were in love and were planning to marry. With the New Wife's presence, he didn't much need my mom to confide in anymore. My mother and Erica started exchanging stories and learned, to their alarm, that my uncle was a backstabber.

He wasn't the only one who had found love. Erica herself became engaged during roughly the same era as her father. The family structure was about to change, and while my mother was itching to confront her brother about his transgressions, it was agreed that it must wait until after Erica's wedding.

MISTREATMENT

Uncle Gus mistreated Erica in numerous ways. Erica told me he maintained a cold, neglectful distance from her during her entire childhood. His main hobby is pyrotechnics and once actually prioritized buying fireworks over buying health insurance for young Erica. I couldn't believe this.

Uncle Gus divorced Erica's mother when Erica was only a few years old. He destroyed Erica's relationship with her mother's side of the family by persuading Erica that her mother's parents would kidnap her if they had the chance. When her grandparents learned my uncle had told her this, they were so offended that they distanced themselves from Gus and Erica. The fear of abandonment is pervasive among narcissists, and Gus was preparing against that possibility from Erica's earliest years, it seems.

An aside: Erica's mother these days is so mentally ill that she requires a social worker's assistance just to function in everyday life. Uncle Gus would sometimes tell Erica: "you're just like your mother". How's that for cruelty?

Erica grew up in Gus' overcrowded pigsty of a house (he was a hoarder) as he berated her, sometimes making no effort to hide that he was doing so. Her fiancee came from a dysfunctional family himself, but "we still had relationships, we still did things together. It didn't seem to me like Gus and Erica had much of a relationship in the first place".

And yet, all of these sins pale before "The Thing".

Gus did something to Erica. Something big and bad. I never asked exactly what it was because I'd rather not hear what it is. After The Thing, Erica didn't trust her father. It was one of the main reasons why they had so little of a relationship. After interacting with Erica, I am convinced that The Thing was molestation.

Gus' narcissistic attitudes infected his New Wife. She was a hairdresser yet didn't offer to style Erica's hair for her wedding. When Jerry Seinfeld brought his standup comedy act to town, Gus, the New Wife, Erica and her fiancee were all in the audience...and yet they sat not as a party of 4, but as 2 couples alienated. My mother also noticed New Wife's vampyric influence over Gus, driving even more of a wedge between us all, and planned to include that in the upcoming confrontation with him.

INTERVIEW WITH A NARC

Two weeks or so after Erica's wedding, Gus, Erica, her husband, my mother and my grandmother sat down for an interview, in an attempt to repair everything. Here is what they asked him:

-"Do you talk badly about us behind our backs?" He didn't answer.
-"We're worried because you seem to have thrown us out of your life and we want to remain a family."
-"We don't like the way New Wife treats you. She needs to treat you better."
-and then they brought up The Thing, wishing to understand it better. Gus' response was that it never happened, Erica lied about it and "we're trying to destroy the family by asking about it".

Though I was not present for the conversation, Erica's husband told me Gus' eyes were darting around the room as the conversation unfolded. "He reminded me of a trapped bird, like he was itching to escape". As the conversation reached its conclusion, he noticeably calmed down and acted as if everything wrong was now well. He calmly walked out the door after saying goodbye and they hoped to see him and New Wife again soon, with a fresh start.

That's not what they got.

A couple days later, Gus had worked up the courage to tell my mother what he really thought of her. "I am so angry with you! Don't you dare ever talk to me again!" And so it has been ever since. My layman research on narcissists has taught me that their amygdala is deficient in comparison with non-narcissists. If you overload a weak amygdala with stimuli it cannot handle, the traumatic effects on the body can be unimaginably painful; sometimes the symptoms are identical to a stroke. My guess is that being confronted with his own damaged nature by 4 people close to him agitated his amygdala into such a frenzy that simply being near us again could trigger that awful stress, so his brain had no choice but to avoid us at all costs.

DENOUEMENT

For several years, my family held out hope in vain that Uncle Gus would somehow come to his senses, despite a lifetime of poor social functioning, that he would realize his behavior was deplorable, apologize, change for the better and become part of our family again. As the years passed, two occurrences dashes these hopes.

The first was when a great aunt of mine called him to tell him that the love of her life had passed away. She requested he pass the word on to my mother and he erupted: "No! [Monadnock's mother] and I don't talk anymore!"

The second was when Uncle Gus' own mother, my grandmother, passed away. He knew that there would be a funeral, and that his daughter, his son-in-law, his sister and his nephews would be in attendance, and that many other individuals there would know of his disappearing act. The stress of having to meet with us after all this time outweighed his grief over losing his mother, such is the cognitive defect of the narcissist. He angrily called the funeral home where his mother's body was kept in repose, accusing them of not telling them his mother had died. Apparently he had been hoping for a private viewing before the funeral; I tend to doubt he deserved that honor.

Uncle Gus' exit from our family has thankfully left me without any long lasting emotional scars. His daughter is happily married to a good man and she works in a high-paying career, a significant geographic distance from her troubled upbringing. I accepted what happened with him long long ago. I'm just crestfallen that he could no longer ever be the same funny, bright man who I remember as having such a positive influence on my own childhood.
 
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