Posted by: Judy | December 21, 2011

Holiday narcissism…

Welcome to the holidays, and trying to survive the narcissist’s desire to be helpful. It will be your fault that their attempts to be helpful aren’t.

I forgot to wash my bowl, and found it washed and returned to me. Sounds wonderful, I know. But when I washed it again, because there was enough junk on it to scrape off with my fingernail, it was intimated that I was unappreciative and picky. My mother used to check the dishes I’d washed, to make sure they were perfectly clean. She would have made me wash the bowl, again. The rules are always different for them than for you.

Then, hours later, I’m making a grilled cheese sandwich. I was hoping to be done before the parents returned from running errands. I wasn’t. I helped bring in their shopping. My dad often helps me. I was very aware of the time. From the corner of my eye, I see my mother turning the sandwich. I hurried over, with a “No.” And flipped the sandwich back. It really wasn’t done.

The conversation that followed was so insane I still can’t believe it. Within five seconds it was all my fault and I was ungrateful and making her life miserable, because I wouldn’t let her help me. I felt like I’d been slapped when she complained, “I’m not a mind reader.”

Wait… What?

Because I had not asked her to leave my food alone, in advance, it was my fault that she had tried to be “stupidly helpful.” Her words thrown at me, not mine. She has gone out of her way to be as unhelpful as possible, having informed me that she would make me as miserable as possible so I’d move out…

Oh… why did I think the agenda had changed?

Sigh. I also made the mistake of trying to be reasonable with her and calling her on her behavior. She expected me to be the mind reader, and accused me of expecting it of her: Projection. Okay. When I told her that I never said it was stupid, she exploded that it was her word choice, and I was to drop it. Okay.

But Judy, she was only trying to be helpful.

After a fashion, her fashion. She decides what help is needed and how and when to give it. She has demanded that I be as independent as possible, but then when I’m not dependent and grateful when she is feeling the need to be helpful, then I am mean and ungrateful.

Actually, I was never encouraged to be independent. I wasn’t allowed to work when I was going to school. I was to major in what they thought was best, regardless of my aptitude or abilities. I wasn’t taught how to handle finances. In fact, I was taught none of the basic survival skills. I was expected to simply know. I wasn’t taught to cook. I took home economic classes at school, then worked at it on my own. I was expected to do laundry as a little girl, after being shown once how to do it. I was expected to clean the house perfectly, by a measure that changed moment by moment.

She didn’t tell me the timer had gone off. She didn’t ask if there was anything she could do to help me. She simply did what she wanted to do for a desired outcome that didn’t materialize. She is always asking me if she can help when there is nothing she can do, like asking if she can help me with my groceries. She doesn’t bring in her own groceries. If I accepted the offer (and I have), she would demur that she wouldn’t be very helpful because she has too much trouble with her knees.

No matter what, I will be wrong.

What I could have done differently: Nothing.

I’m not dealing with someone who is reasonable.

What if you’d let her cook the sandwich? Have I mentioned that she is the source of my food issues? She is feeling generous at the moment because of the holidays, but that can change at the drop of a hat. She relishes telling others how we can’t eat at the same table. I haven’t eaten what she cooks in months, and my stomach has been much more settled. Really.

Why did  you say anything? Yes, that was a mistake. I shouldn’t have tried to defend myself. But I’m trying to stand up for myself. No matter what I say, if it isn’t exactly what she wants to hear, it will be wrong. That being said, I’m endeavoring to not fall into the silent treatment, but it seems to be the only safe course.

How will I handle things differently in the future? Will I handle things differently in the future? That is part of the insanity of dealing with narcissists: You find yourself believing that next time, if you handle it differently, it will be different. Note to self: IT WILL NOT BE DIFFERENT!

From past experience: If I’d allowed her to do the cooking, she would have seen it as permission to cross more and more boundaries. If I’d said nothing, she still would have been hurt.

What do I do to take care of me: Write things out so I see what is happening rather than allow it to fester in my brain that I should have, could have, would have done something different. If only… I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. It won’t be different. The narcissist will not change, and I will not allow them to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

I have the right to expect to be asked if I want help. I have the right to say, “No,” without having to explain myself. I have the right to choose whether or not I accept help that is offered. I have the right to choose to do things myself, even if it means burning the food. I have the right to make that choice. No one has the right to take away my right to choose or my right to say, “No.”


  1. Moments like these I remember my counselor encouraging me to go ‘no contact.’ And people wonder why we don’t want to be around her. They just don’t see how really insane she is and she plays out these scenarios over and over. (I know the powder keg that goes with this one. Remind me to tell you later.)

    • Looking back, it was as if there was a whole conversation going on in her head, and I was slapped with the replies. Oh. There’s a powder keg. Okay. That makes more sense.

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