Thursday, April 02, 2009

Yes, he really does think it's all about him...

Last week I tossed a bullet point in my list about IFKAMH being a continuing source of stress and frustration in my life and about how I'd be seeing a therapist to help mitigate some of that. I'm happy to report that I think she will be very helpful in this manner. She listened to me try to recap almost 4 years of history in a little more than an hour, and at the end of it all, she made me feel like I'm okay and not deserving of the looney treatment. Not that anyone other than IFKAMH was trying to imply I needed the looney treatment...it's just having that professional opinion aligned with the opinions of everyone around me that somehow makes it really seem okay.

As I was preparing to leave her office, she handed me a slip of note paper with three words she'd scribbled and told me to look it up when I got home. Some of the things I'd revealed about IFKAMH concerned her and brought this term to mind. What could she want me to look up? Do they have information on the internet for selfish idiots nowadays? Well, sort of. She wanted me to look up Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

On my way home from the appointment, I returned a call from my mom only to find out my grandfather had passed away the night before. It was not expected though it kind of was. I guess it was just a sooner than expected reaction. He wasn't well and had been requiring around-the-clock care, but no one really thought he was ready to go yet. But, he was, and my family is doing their best to help my grandmother through this transition. Without him, her time is not dedicated for any specific purpose like it was, and that is likely to be extremely hard to get used to.

Once I got home, it didn't take too long to start Googling. What I found on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) was like a factory of light bulbs turning on in my head, flooded with light. The clicking in my brain was probably loud enough to annoy the dogs in the house. The more I read, the more once-inexplicable things began to make some sense. I not only believe without a doubt that he suffers (though his suffering from it really just means more suffering for those involved with him) from this personality disorder, I am leaning towards a belief that he learned these behaviors from his mother.

His incessant lying, his poor response to fatherhood, the manner in which he left our marriage, the attempts to hold on to some ideal of our relationship long after it had died, his general inability to understand and accept his responsibility for his life, and now his need to force the boys into some unrealistic relationship with him all relate to symptoms of NPD. The lack of empathy, that irritating way he has of not considering or caring how his actions and statements impact others, was the most telling factor for my therapist and is also a major factor in determining if someone's behavior is just rude or actually disordered.

His mother's attempts to control her grown son via threats and, often, bribery, her uncanny knack for not hearing people talk and then not remembering what they've said (or even what she's said if it no longer suits her goal), her not understanding people's comfort boundaries, her odd belief that infants might have the ability to remember a rarely-present father-figure several years later despite his absence from their lives...again, all relate to symptoms of NPD.

Unfortunately, the very nature of the disorder means he's unlikely to ever get diagnosed or treated because he'll never believe there's anything wrong with him. Also unfortunate is the effect he could have on the boys, which is what I'm most afraid of these days and what prompted me to seek counsel from a therapist. Some of the things that have bothered me already are fully in line with the behaviors and rationalizations of someone with NPD. My pleas with him to alter some of the ways he's treated the boys were specifically related to the likely effects an NPD parent can have on their child, like lowered self-esteem, inability to express individuality, and unreasonable compliance to make the parent feel better in hope of avoiding a conflict with said parent.

I have another session this afternoon. She'll hopefully have gotten some information from one of her other clients who has a very protective-of-the-children parenting plan that could be useful for me in the coming months, and maybe we'll be able to discuss the best ways for me to communicate with IFKAMH in the future that won't immediately draw out his defenses, which results in his attacking and insulting me.