Where does NPD come from? First and foremost it’s learned behavior. Research is showing there’s a genetic component too. People are born with a genetic predisposition (nature), and based on how they are raised (nurture), the NPD comes alive.
During recovery, right before my diagnosis, I had already learned that I was low on empathy. I had very shallow relationships with everyone in my life, including my family. When my grandparents died, I honestly didn’t care. Sure I put on a front, because that’s what others wanted to see from me. But inside, I didn’t feel much. We didn’t have much of a relationship.
I started exploring why I didn’t have a relationship with them – or anyone else in my family. Was it my own lack of empathy? In part. But as I delved deeper, I started to realize that on both sides, there are nothing but Cluster B’s.
I have a memory of my grandfather bouncing me on his knee. I must have been 8 or 9. He was smiling, but what I remember most was the blank look in his eyes. It’s the same look people describe sociopaths as having. That empty, blank “lobotomy” stare. It’s such an uneventful memory, I always wondered why my mind kept going back to it until recently, when I started to put the pieces together.
He was a serial philanderer. He beat his wife and terribly abused my father. Didn’t have much to say to us. But he was incredibly charming. I remember one of the lessons he taught my father, which my dad then taught me, “Do whatever you want, just make sure you’re smart enough not to get caught.” He raised four kids, here’s how they turned out:
My father: I am torn as to what he is. I want to say a codependent, or enabler to my Nmom, because she’s the lead narc in my family. But it’s more than that. Honestly, he feels more like an inverted or covert narcissist himself. He can’t take criticism, or he blows up into a fit of rage. He’s terribly insecure and defensive and will attack over any perceived injury. He thinks his ideas and everything he does are better than everyone else, who are all pretty stupid. He is manipulative, using splitting and triangulation often. He manipulates my mother into taking the fall for everything, but behind the scenes he’s setting her up. Low on empathy. He’s also incredibly charming to others outside the family. The thing is he genuinely seems to love his grandkids and sometimes (very seldom) he can recognize his own faults and has apologized me for hurting me – once. My mother can’t even do that.
EDIT: Since originally publishing this blog post, I have come to learn my father is a sociopath.
Aunt #1: Narcissist. She was a professional therapist, which is common for NPDers. She was manipulative, condescending, mean, clearly had a superiority complex. She cared nothing for us, but on her death bed, loved to see us all around her bed. One final source of supply. Her daughter from her first marriage was scapegoated and I believe is also a narcissist, while her son from her second marriage could do little wrong.
Aunt #2: Sociopath. Once, as a child while watching me, she let her daughter chase me and my sister around the house with a baseball bat while we screamed in terror, afraid she would bash our heads in. I had to be around 12, my sister, 5. My aunt watched, and laughed with genuine enjoyment. I ran, panicked, to the phone to call my parents. She walked over calmly and hung it up with a smirk on her face and tempered rage in her voice. She was 6’2” and towered over me. There’s some evidence she let her husband sexually abuse their daughter, who I believe is also ASPD. When my grandmother died, my aunt conducted a smear campaign throughout the town, alleging my father killed her, so she could try to claim the rights to his inheritance.
On my mother’s side, I never knew my grandmother, she died while I was young. But according to my father, she was just like my mom. The stories I hear of my great grandmother sound strikingly similar as well. She used splitting often and liberally. My mother talks of how she would come to town to visit and only visit her one child’s house, never stepping foot in the other’s – even though they lived right across the street. One was the scapegoat, the other was the golden child. My aunt on my mother’s side, also likely NPD.
In my family, no one talks. Brothers hate sisters. Cousins were pitted against each other from the start. I have to get all the way to second cousins before I find someone that is most likely “normal” and they mostly want nothing to do with us.
I think about this often when I beat myself up for my behavior. It’s no wonder I am the way I am. Did I really have a choice? I can count at least four generations of Cluster B’s, before I get to my own children (generation 5). Who knows how far back it goes?
Cluster B behavior was all I have ever known. How could I know how terribly abnormal it all was, if it was all I had never seen from day one? If every single family member I knew was either a sociopath or a narc? If i never felt genuine love or empathy from a single person in my life? I thought everyone secretly didn’t care if their grandparents died, and were just putting on a mask. I honestly did.
I count my lucky stars every day that I have been able to see my own behavior for what it is. I am choosing happiness. I am doing what at least four generations of my family haven’t been able to do. That makes me incredibly proud.
Recently, just prior to my self-awareness, I started to notice behavior in my son, similar to my own as a child. Red flags went up immediately and we got into family therapy. In fact, seeing his behavior, I marched into my therapist’s office and all but demanded a diagnosis. I needed to know the truth if I was going to stop it from being passed on. Already, we are starting to see his behavior turn around.
I’ve resolved, the cycle ends with me. I may have lived the first half of my life as a mentally ill person, but for the second half, I choose healthiness and happiness.
I will NOT pass this on to my children – or at least I will do everything humanly possible to turn things around. I will change my behavior, no matter how hard it is. I will support my kids and show them empathy. I will share every detail of my personality disorder with them, as they grow, so they know it’s not their fault.
I hope with every fiber of my being that the damage I’ve done before I knew how sick I was, can still be undone. I pray I haven’t ruined my son. I would never forgive myself if he had to live the rest of his life feeling the way I’ve felt.