July 7, 2010

Why Parents Hate Parenting


NY magazine.jpgno, i don't hate you, i just hate what I didn't become



New York Magazine's article, All Joy And No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting, has 19 million pages of quotes and examples, but no answer.   Too bad; the answer is right there.

Here's how the article starts:

There was a day a few weeks ago when I found my 2½-year-old son sitting on our building doorstep, waiting for me to come home.  He spotted me as I was rounding the corner, and the scene that followed was one of inexpressible loveliness, right out of the movie I'd played to myself before actually having a child, with him popping out of his babysitter's arms and barreling down the street to greet me.

For the new readers, that's your sign that there's a contagion nearby, suit up.  When a person sees their life as a movie, that means they're the main character and everyone else is merely supporting cast.  And when one of the extras-- in this case, the kid-- goes off script, she doesn't just get upset, she has a full blown existential crisis:

I recited the rules of the house (no throwing, no hitting). He picked up another large wooden plank. I ducked. He reached for the screwdriver. The scene ended with a time-out in his crib... Two hundred and 40 seconds earlier, I'd been in a state of pair-bonded bliss; now I was guided by nerves, trawling the cabinets for alcohol. My emotional life looks a lot like this these days. I suspect it does for many parents...
Wow!  Her 2½-year-old acts like he's 3½, and four minutes later she's willing to settle for  vanilla extract.

It is at this point, only two paragraphs in, that it should have occurred to the writer that the reason "parents are unhappy" may not have anything to do with the kids.  That insight, however, most emphatically does not occur to her or anyone connected with the article.

Which is why it is accurate, though mysterious, to say that the reason parents are unhappy is these articles.


II.

To illustrate the unique unhappiness of parents, i.e. NY Magazine parents, the article describes a UCLA study in which researchers analyzed 1500 hours of video from 32 middle class families in their homes.  The clip described in the article is this: a mom trying to get her 8 year old son to stop watching TV and do his homework.  Ponder that.

The director of research in this study has watched this scene many times. The reason she believes it's so powerful is because it shows how painfully parents experience the pressure of making their children do their schoolwork. They seem to feel this pressure even more acutely than their children feel it themselves.

Powerful, got it?  As in pay attention to this clip.  You can imagine what the clip shows,  we've all been there, some of us on both ends.  The clip shows a struggle millions of parents can relate to.

But for that reason, it's quite ordinary.  What makes it powerful?

In order to understand the real importance of this clip, forget about what actually happens in the video and focus on what people saw in the video.

This is what the writer of the article saw:

It's a weekday evening, and the mother in this videotape, a trim brunette with her hair in a bun and glasses propped up on her head, has already worked a full day and made dinner. Now she is approaching her 8-year-old son, the oldest of two, who's seated at the computer in the den, absorbed in a movie. At issue is his homework, which he still hasn't done.

No, that's not the issue, it barely receives a mention.  Maybe it's the rum talking, but am I the only one who read that description of the clip and thought "the mom sounds hot?"   That's the issue.   The issue is that she is a trim brunette with a bun, with glasses, with a look, whose relative perfection is being marred by the time burglar in the den.  The issue isn't the homework, the issue is her.  Trim brunette with glasses and a bun=put together mom who has it all, so why isn't she happy?

I'm not saying that mom thinks that-- I'm saying that the writer of the article thinks that; she  devoted the majority of the paragraph and almost all of her emotional energy to describing her.  But it's a non-sequitor, if the point is about getting the kid to do homework, what difference does it make how she looks or what she's cooked?

It doesn't.  But the writer cannot grasp this, because the main character in the movie is the mom, the story is about her.   Surely, how she looks must have some importance. 

I hope it requires no elaboration that had the writer chosen to see the clip as a story about a  curious but bored child tormented by a descriptionless gadfly, this would have been a very different article indeed.  But it wouldn't be in NY Magazine, it would be in Omni.

III.

It would be a pointless act of euthanasia to criticize the article, except that these popular press articles are more than bathroom reading, they are the template for how to think about these social issues, in the same way that you can't think about Obama without resorting to language implanted by CNN or the New York Times.  Try it. It's impossible.

These articles offer you the freedom to argue about the conclusions, but trick you into accepting the form of the argument.

Here's an example.  Passive readers of this article, e.g. everyone on the toilet, will feel the comparative emphasis of the description of the mom and unconsciously assume it is relevant to the thesis.  You're going to read "trim brunette" and infer  "put together mom" and then you're going to try to figure out why the "put together mom" is having such trouble with the entropy machine her husband gave her.  Whatever conclusion you reach, the form of that conclusion will be, "the reason otherwise well put together moms are not happy is..."

From which you can derive every other insanity common to such articles, which in this case the writer does explicitly for you anyway: 

One hates to invoke Scandinavia in stories about child-rearing, but.. If you are no longer fretting about spending too little time with your children after they're born (because you have a year of paid maternity leave), if you're no longer anxious about finding affordable child care once you go back to work (because the state subsidizes it), if you're no longer wondering how to pay for your children's education and health care (because they're free)--well, it stands to reason that your own mental health would improve.
Because, you know, no Scandinavian women ever kill themselves at double the rate of Americans.

None of this will make you a happier parent, let alone a better one.  The article itself makes the point that, "parents' dissatisfaction only grew the more money they had, even though they had the purchasing power to buy more child care."   So why bring up Scandinavia?  Because it jives with some other incompletely thought out political position?

These articles are cognitive parasites, that's what makes them dangerous.  They change the way you think.  Even if you disagreed with the conclusion, you're still going to approach this problem from, "why aren't put together moms happy?"  This will never lead you to the answer.

The real form of the question, the one that generates the correct answer simply in its asking,  is, "why doesn't having kids-- or getting married or getting a better job or getting laid or anything else I try to do-- make me happy?   Oh. I get it.  I'll shut up now."


mother and child.jpg
I was sure that color coordinating the baby and the bathroom would make me happier but it didn't... should I have gone with lavender?




IV. 

Two other short examples.

As per the article, fathers apparently suffer more than mothers.  At first I thought it was because they were single fathers, but no, these were married ones.  Not what I would have guessed, but I'm open to new information.  Per the article, most arguments a couple has-- "40%"-- are about the kids.

"And that 40 percent is merely the number that was explicitly about kids, I'm guessing, right?" This is a former patient of [a couples counselor], an entrepreneur and father of two. "How many other arguments were those couples having because everyone was on a short fuse, or tired, or stressed out?" This man is very frank about the strain his children put on his marriage, especially his firstborn...
This man is very frank.  It took, what, 6 months of therapy? to discover that many of the arguments with his spouse are related to stress.

He may be frank, but he's obviously clueless:

...This man is very frank about the strain his children put on his marriage, especially his firstborn. "I already felt neglected," he says. "In my mind, anyway. And once we had the kid, it became so pronounced; it went from zero to negative 50. And I was like, I can deal with zero. But not negative 50."

The guy was in a relationship without any kids, and he felt neglected.  What the hell did he think was going to happen when he had kids?  Daily oral?  The article writer doesn't detect anything remarkable there, I'm guessing because she probably thinks it's not remarkable to feel neglected in a relationship.

Unfortunately, here's what the article writer does think is remarkable.  This is what she wants you to understand from that interview, this is the very next sentence:

This is the brutal reality about children--they're such powerful stressors that small perforations in relationships can turn into deep fault lines.
 
Got it?  It was all working until the kids came. 

Note also the arrogance of the parents relative to the Catimini clothing models that live with them.   Can you be vaguely dissatisfied, unfulfilled and possibly even resentful of your marriage, yet fake it enough that your spouse thinks you love them more than anything?  So why do you think you can fool your 8 year old?  Because he's 8?  He smells it on you, it reeks, like sepsis.  And yes, it will spread to him eventually.


jim gaffigan.jpg Jim Gaffigan, in between jobs


V.

Another example:

A psychologist offers the article's one useful insight about unhappy parents: "They become parents later in life. There's a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy."

Ok, sounds plausible.  This, however, is the article's interpretation of that insight:

It wouldn't be a particularly bold inference to say that the longer we put off having kids, the greater our expectations. "There's all this buildup--as soon as I get this done, I'm going to have a baby, and it's going to be a great reward!" says Ada Calhoun, the author of Instinctive Parenting and founding editor-in-chief of Babble, the online parenting site. "And then you're like, 'Wait, this is my reward? This nineteen-year grind?' " 

The author of a parenting book still cannot help but see children as a reward, as a cherry on top of a cake, not because she is brain damaged but because for 40 years she has been told by people, like herself, like New York Magazine, that they were.

There's a word for all of this, but everyone gets queasy when I use it.

VI.

I have a surprising piece of advice for parents, which I hope will be taken in the spirit it is offered: your kid doesn't want to be around you that much.  No one does.  This isn't because you're a bad person but because you're an ordinary person.  You are not such a unique, creative, intelligent or even interesting person that the kid benefits from constant exposure to you.  When you have something to offer, maximize and concentrate that time, and then get the hell out of the way.

This advice is quite practical.  Parents often don't know what to do with their kids, so they overwhelm them with their attention instead.  What no parent realizes is that the vast majority of that overinvolved time is spent irritated.   Add it up yourself.   Nagging, bored, looking at your mobile.  The obvious message is that you're not satisfied.

That's the template you've offered him.

I don't know if helicopter parenting will turn the kid into a wimp as many claim, but I do know that it will make the kid hate you.  The natural individuation that will occur in adolescence is going to be a lot more severe, get ready.  Of course, by that time the parents will be too emotionally exhausted to keep on helicoptering, so you get the awesome combination of a lifelong history of overcontrol, with a sudden removal of nearly all of it, exactly at the time the kid discovers meth.  Well played, New York Magazine parents, well played.

---


Also: Don't Settle For The Man You Want



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http://twitter.com/thelastpsych










Comments

This essay kicks ass!... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 8:11 PM | Posted by Ken Roberts: | Reply

This essay kicks ass!
Thanks.

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Best Blog Ever.... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 8:38 PM | Posted by David Farnbach: | Reply

Best Blog Ever.

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I think the reason the auth... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 8:53 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I think the reason the author described the mother as trim is because people unconsciously associate fatness with laziness and being ineffective as a human being. If the mother is trim, then that is like a short cut to saying "the problem isn't the mother's willpower and discipline and personality... the problem isn't the mother". Trim means thin, usually the sort of thinness that is the result of working out and eating right (i.e. discipline). Trim does not mean beautiful, although it is a prerequisite for beauty.
The glasses on the head + bun makes me think she must be a professional, since only smart women with good jobs wear glasses and put their hair in a bun, amirite?

I know when I read this article the first time, that's exactly what I thought. "Oh the mom is disciplined (keeps in shape, good job) and can do anything else, but for some reason parenting is fucking her up". Or at least that is what I thought the author was trying to express to us. "Hey, this woman can do anything but control her parenting life".

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I would also like to add th... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 9:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I would also like to add that parenting does suck ass, and I would bet a years salary that you have no children TLP.

I am female and a few years away from 30, and I never ever ever ever intend to have children ever. I worry this may be a poor choice in my golden years, but I am willing to take that risk. Every parent I have ever met is miserable. I see my own parents, how much care and effort they invested, and how all of their children grew up to be ungrateful shitbags (with perhaps the lone exception of myself) and I say to myself... good lord I never want that to happen to me. Wrestling with some giant 20 year old who you created who does nothing but cause problems? I'd rather shoot myself in the face, thanks. My parents were FAR from perfect but they don't deserve the treatment they are getting from my siblings, selfish rotten little shits.


I also suspect the reason parenting is so awful in today's society is because society is constructed in an unnatural way that is a total and complete affront to our evolutionarily designed social needs. We are meant to live in small bands, tribes, with lots of relationships and support. The way we reproduce (and by this I mean more than sex) depends on that system. Children are not meant to be raised by one or even two human beings all by themselves. That is a recipe for worsening insanity and misery. And our isolated, fragmented society already creates insanity and misery.

Children can be that tipping point that takes an already isolated, fragmented person and puts them over into the "lets just end it all" side of the fence. I mean you can be isolated, very few friendships, no close family, with a job you hate, but *scraping by* emotionally... add in that one additional isolating burden (a child, a needy child with no ability to offer any sort of relationship or support who only robs you of your already strained personal resources) ... and yea, i would probably overdose on my abilify too.

This isn't narcissism. This is human animals, with brains like a dog, designed for small bands of close relationships with other humans, being forced to live in a society more fitting for a fucking honeybee or an ant... structured and isolated and gigantic with no support or relationships.

Narcissism isn't the cause, it's the result of a society that has been fucked up by technology. Our brain was not designed for this.

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hey, I like you.... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 9:04 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by another anonymous soul: | Reply

hey, I like you.

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Parenting is "awful" only b... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 10:19 PM | Posted by demodenise: | Reply

Parenting is "awful" only because suddenly, you're responsible for a life that is 100% not about you.

Yes, parenting is the hardest job ever. Yes, it brings you to the point of "oh my god, I have no freaking clue how to do this." and it does it over and over and over again. And you keep doing it because suddenly, it doesn't matter if *your* life is good. What matters is your kid. You jump in front of speeding cars, whatever, not because "if I don't save my kid, I'm a bad parent," but because you love your kid that much.

That being said, I'm a card-carrying member of the "I'm not breeding" party.

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demondise, Hi, this ... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 10:38 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

demondise,
Hi, this is the anon 7/8/10 9:01pm.

It's nice for you to extol the virtues of self sacrifice and parenting, and to admonish those not up to task... but then to qualify your statements with "oh, and by the way, I won't ever do it lolz!"

You remind me of those fat old drunk redneck men who cry into their beer about patriotism and valor of dying in war, meanwhile these chickenshits were to scared to enlist in the army when they were 18.

Fact: if something is really shitty and soul sucking, perhaps it isn't virtuous, perhaps it's simply shitty and soul sucking. Parenting is not supposed to be this hard. It is only this hard in our fucked up society which is grossly unnatural. "Wake up after no sleep, go to work like a robot, come home to a screaming brat and make dinner, do it all over again tomorrow". Who isn't ODing on their abilify with that kind of life? People who stay happy and sane with that lifestyle are the crazy ones. Humans were meant to have meaningful relationships and meaningful interactions. We were meant to spend most of our lives in close connection with people we care about. We were not meant to do meaningless things all day, with very little connection to people who mean anything to us, to only have a relationship with a child who is too young and immature to give us the support we need. It's not that children are bad, it's just that by development a child isn't capable of being a support system for an adult. A child is meant to be nurtured and guided. But in order for children to have that, they need a lot of strong adults. There are no strong adults in this world anymore.

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*fans self* "what ... (Below threshold)

July 8, 2010 11:32 PM | Posted by Truly Trim Brunette: | Reply

*fans self*

"what did you expect, daily oral?"

I so want to give you oral. You are a god.

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Not to whine, but to put th... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 2:49 AM | Posted by RC: | Reply

Not to whine, but to put things into perspective, consider what gay men go through in order to raise children. We must endure frustrating and EXPENSIVE legal hurdles for adoption, or go through the even more expensive (and ridiculous) process of finding a womb and egg donor. Plus, we don't have the supportive framework of a legally recognized marriage.

The fact that so many same sex couples are opting to raise children in spite of this suggests one thing: it's worth it.

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Just want to preface commen... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 3:52 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Just want to preface comment with a huge kudos, you're a badass, and please excuse all erroneous armchair-psych.

"I have a surprising piece of advice for parents, which I hope will be taken in the spirit it is offered: your kid doesn't want to be around you that much. No one does. This isn't because you're a bad person but because you're an ordinary person. You are not such a unique, creative, intelligent or even interesting person that the kid benefits from constant exposure to you. When you have something to offer, maximize and concentrate that time, and then get the hell out of the way."

Coming from an Asian household raised on American soil, I'd like to say that my parents not only felt they had nothing to offer, but expressed multiple times that they were absolutely clueless, with the implied message loud and clear: you're on your own, kiddo.

But rather than encourage this lone-ranger maverickism, they behaved completely opposite, nagging the shit out of my sister and I and fear-mongering and instilling perfectionism into our minds whenever we'd gun for something, but when we'd seek their counsel they'd run like roaches.

So on the one hand, we have gross neglect. And on the other, micromanaging the shit our lives in a cheap attempt to call it "parenting".

In their defense, they had shitty/non-present parents, and back then in Korea, everyone was clueless as to what the fuck to do with kids. Is what I tell myself to cope (along with the justification that Life never promised anything more than More Life, and that this is value neutral; once you're born, that's it. Not a Good Life. Not The Best Life. But Life.)

As for the support network issue that the anon commenter raises, if you look at how kids were raised in Korea then vs. now, maybe anon is onto something, in that today's kids are spoiled brats (such as myself) whose parents give them free reign to act like mini-assholes under the guise of "love" ("I'm allowing them to be who they are, and to not be punished for things they wouldn't understand... like I was..." – which is the furthest thing from the motherfucking L word on the planet but that's for another rant).

But filial piety. I don't know what's good about that either.

Though anon's appeal sounds kind of romantic, to go back to our idyllic past with meaningful relationships and a support network to fall back on, I don't know how realistic a solution it is. We're stuck with what we got in these incredibly segmented social constructs.

And honestly, looking at my parents' friends and relatives, along with my friends' parents and relatives, I would not on any account want to be raised by the clueless and the damned. Which are simply carbon copies of my folks – bless their ignorant and fearful souls.

I could be wrong. But maybe the solution is to come to terms with fear and egotism, and accepting responsibility. If one chooses to take ownership of things that they decide they will be responsible for, like, oh, I don't know, the rearing of their kids.

I've never had any children. I would like to in the future, so the only planning I can do is to learn how to accept responsibility for things I say I will do.

Again, I could be wrong. Head knowledge

But thanks for this essay. What an interesting read / discussion.

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By the way, this is my emai... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 3:57 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

By the way, this is my email (above poster). If you wanna just talk or whatevz.

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This is truly one of your b... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:01 AM | Posted by Chiara: | Reply

This is truly one of your best posts ever -- thank you!

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I won't be surprised when m... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:14 AM | Posted by Adam: | Reply

I won't be surprised when more and more people decide that they don't want to "ruin" their lives with children. What percentage of the population can make this choice before it starts having serious social consequences?

Remember that most parents in the US now only have two children. Population growth has stagnated. If 10% of the population forgoes childrearing, you get an alarming degree of negative growth, i.e. a shrinking population. What then?

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Okay, sorry in advance, but... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:27 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Nik: | Reply

Okay, sorry in advance, but this is going to be a long post. This post is addressing "Anonymous". If you don't care, skip.

"...I say to myself... good lord I never want that to happen to me." (quote from Anonymous)

Right there, that's the point. TLP isn't advocating that everyone should have kids and that they need to change themselves so that they can.

"This is the brutal reality about children--they're such powerful stressors that small perforations in relationships can turn into deep fault lines." (quote from TLP blog post)

The two things you should take away from this sentence are that if you aren't ready, don't have kids. If you can't afford mortgage payments, don't buy a house. If you do, don't be surprised when the bank forecloses it. The second is, why are you cruising through life unhappy? Take charge of yourself.

"...very few friendships, no close family, with a job you hate, but *scraping by* emotionally... add in that one additional isolating burden (a child, a needy child with no ability to offer any sort of relationship or support who only robs you of your already strained personal resources)..." (quote from Anonymous)

This person you describe should not be having children. This person is not a "product of our society" (because it's off topic, I won't get into why miserable people are a product of their own creation). Again, don't take on more responsibility when you can't handle the amount you already have.

"...how all of their children grew up to be ungrateful shitbags..." (quote from Anonymous)

You give yourself away here. Your bias is obvious. Your siblings made life terrible for your parents, therefore that is the standard for all families. In every post you make, the support for your arguments are anecdotal.

"Fact: if something is really shitty and soul sucking, perhaps it isn't virtuous, perhaps it's simply shitty and soul sucking. " (quote from Anonymous)

Another give away. No one said (at least on this blog/forum) that having children is virtuous. It is morally neutral. Not every child rearing experience is shitty and soul sucking. If this was a fact, then why are there happy parents? Life is hard, life is draining, life isn't a paradise.
Because of, not in spite of, the things we work through and overcome do we gain satisfaction and appreciation.

"It's nice for you to extol the virtues of self sacrifice and parenting..." (quote from Anonymous)

Why can't someone hold a positive opinion of something they don't want to participate in? I hate sculpting. I have no desire to ever create a statue. It's tedious, boring, and I have no skill in that discipline. Does that mean that I can't appreciate the beauty of a statue? Or that I am a hypocrite because I believe others can derive pride, enjoyment, and fulfillment from being a sculpture?
You also know nothing about the poster. She/he might have a disease (such as AIDS or Huntington's) that they could communicate to their child and have made a conscious decision not to have children.

"If the mother is trim, then that is like a short cut to saying "the problem isn't the mother's willpower and discipline and personality... the problem isn't the mother"." (quote from Anonymous in reference to a quote from TLP blog post)

This does not make logical sense. If you are responsible for something and it goes poorly, how is it not your problem? I am perfect, so since this thing I am involved in isn't going right, I am not responsible. If you write a book and the grammar is terrible and the reader can't understand you, the fault is yours. You have failed.

"Who isn't ODing on their abilify with that kind of life?" (quote from Anonymous)

This is a little off topic but, in my opinion (not fact) our society takes drugs as a prop. I believe that most pathologies can be remedied with time, effort, and guidance. But we don't afford ourselves with those "luxuries", so people use drugs like they would use crutches. I should rest my leg, but I need to move so give me some fake legs.

Now that I'm done venting my frustrations, I'd like to acknowledge that you are probably a troll. Though, I'm not sure because you do seem righteously angry, not just inflammatory. Either way, I'd be happier if you stopped posting or took some time to self edit.

Again, sorry for the long post.

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Is negative population grow... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:35 AM | Posted, in reply to Adam's comment, by NIk: | Reply

Is negative population growth a bad thing?

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"I would also like to add t... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:39 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Ben: | Reply

"I would also like to add that parenting does suck ass, and I would bet a years salary that you have no children TLP.

I am female and a few years away from 30, and I never ever ever ever intend to have children ever. I worry this may be a poor choice in my golden years, but I am willing to take that risk. Every parent I have ever met is miserable. I see my own parents, how much care and effort they invested, and how all of their children grew up to be ungrateful shitbags (with perhaps the lone exception of myself) and I say to myself... good lord I never want that to happen to me. Wrestling with some giant 20 year old who you created who does nothing but cause problems? I'd rather shoot myself in the face, thanks. My parents were FAR from perfect but they don't deserve the treatment they are getting from my siblings, selfish rotten little shits."

Those are exactly 165 words, 17 of which are first-person singular pronouns of one sort or another. It's a syntactic miracle that anybody can produce prose of which 10.3% consists of I, me, myself, my. Fascinating!
(If you/I count the '...who you created...' as an instance of indirect self-reference, the total goes up to 18 or 10.9%, which has gotta be a new intercontinental record for English.)

How regrettable it is that your happiness is so deeply imperilled. Dr. Phil is sure to have some helpful tips on how not to feel lonely in your golden years.

And as for your bet, what odds are you offering? : http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2008/07/the_boy_who_learned_to_talk_to.html

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How come i found a soul-mat... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:45 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by harman: | Reply

How come i found a soul-mate so far away? You think exactly like me. I also think the current socio-economic-cultural milieu is inhuman and anti-social and doesn't take care of our deepest needs as human beings. It expects us to fulfill traditional human roles such as parents and children and spouses while all the traditional support systems have been taken away. Children too feel guilty about having left their parents in search of jobs, you know. The explosion of choice, and jobs away from home, and virtual communities are playing havoc with our need of togetherness.

We don't need the newest iphone, but we really need to live with other human beings in sickness and in health (to accept each other even when we don't see eye to eye on something) and to do more things together which are MEANINGFUL, not run a cause-marathon to ward off a mid-life crisis.

And having done away with biological and traditional social meanings, today we are inventing new and pathetically inadequate meanings because meaninglessness is so painful. Vacationing to exotic places, buying new things, trying to find god or truth, changing one's diet, ..., how long can one keep doing all that?

We were born to pass on the baton to worthy successors.

I recommend to you the book, The Shelter of Each Other, by Mary Pipher.

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It's a weekday evening, ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 4:55 AM | Posted by Whatever : | Reply

It's a weekday evening, and the mother in this videotape, a trim brunette with her hair in a bun and glasses propped up on her head, has already worked a full day and made dinner. Now she is approaching her 8-year-old son, the oldest of two, who's seated at the computer in the den, absorbed in a movie. At issue is his homework, which he still hasn't done.

My first thought was, the homework still hadn't been done because the mother was too busy doing anything but parenting. Suddenly at 7pm it finally occurs to her that she will look bad if the kid will go to school the next day without his homework done.

When you have something to offer, maximize and concentrate that time, and then get the hell out of the way.

Good advice. The sad truth is most parents had no idea parenting was going to be such a "grind" and when they do figure it out they overcompensate to hide their feelings of "please, turn 18 already and get out of here." Not from their children, who know this already, but to hide it from themselves. Often they make more children in the process, when one (max. two kids) are more than enough for the typical nuclear family.

Not that there's anything wrong with saying, you know what, this parenting thing is not at all my cup of tea but I'll do my best now and next time I get the urge to procreate I'll just go masturbate in a closet somewhere.

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More grotesque lack of self... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 6:55 AM | Posted by Paul C: | Reply

More grotesque lack of self-awareness at The Atlantic. "But the complaints raised by the piece aren't new at all; in fact, people—women, most notably—have been voicing them for the better part of the last 60 years."

Well done everybody, for failing to notice the single most important change in your society in the modern age: the arrival of the nuclear family as an ideal and the complete failure to involve the extended family in, you know, the family.

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The first paragraph of sect... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 9:34 AM | Posted by SonOfALovingFather: | Reply

The first paragraph of section VI. You nailed it right there in that section, Doc. Being the son of a fatherless father, my dad overcompensated for the guidance and protection he lacked when raising me. I was raised in a manner where all the major choices and decisions of my life were made for me. From the college I had to attend, to the graduate school afterwards, and then to the house I was coerced to purchase with my brother. My parents did this with their best intentions; however, they never thought about what my desires or feelings were in the process.

So, where does this leave me today? While I love my parents, it makes me feel as if I don't want to experience their overbearing influence on me anymore. This has even translated to the way I feel about other parents and the influence they have on their own children. Every time I see a domineering mother with no personal life but to control and sway their child to do exactly as they deem fit, it sickens me. Perhaps as a reaction to my way of being raised, I want to take an entirely different approach to raising my own children (when that time arises).

Just like you stated in section VI, raise your kids the best you can: provide them with guidance, wisdom, protection, and love, but get the hell out of there after you're done. Let the children blossom the way they're meant to, not the way we think they should. It's not allowing for the child's true potential to flourish, and it will only lead to delayed resentment later on in their lives.

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I love parenting. Sure, it ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 9:43 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

I love parenting. Sure, it is tough. We are thankfully moving out of the "potty-training" stage, but we are now in a "whining" stage. More to come, I know; I just graduated one, whose HS grades were even more variable than mine.

I believe the theme of the post is spot-on: if you are self-centered, you are in for big disappointment if you become a parent. To the degree that you put raising an adult as a lead mission in your life, versus trying to have an awesome movie-about-you as a life, you will probably be successful.

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I googled the title of the ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 9:49 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I googled the title of the article to actually read what I have been commenting on (I am a professor, so I don't necessarily have to know my topics anymore, I just have to have gravitas).

Here is what came up: this blog pretty much looks like a narcissist's House-Tree-Person...(potty-mouth warning)...

http://www.fuckedinparkslope.com/home/i-love-my-children-i-hate-my-life-i-love-my-life-and-hate-yo.html

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I googled the title of the ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 9:49 AM | Posted by medsvstherapy: | Reply

I googled the title of the article to actually read what I have been commenting on (I am a professor, so I don't necessarily have to know my topics anymore, I just have to have gravitas).

Here is what came up: this blog pretty much looks like a narcissist's House-Tree-Person...(potty-mouth warning)...

http://www.fuckedinparkslope.com/home/i-love-my-children-i-hate-my-life-i-love-my-life-and-hate-yo.html

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Try this, different angle, ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 10:45 AM | Posted by Sarah: | Reply

Try this, different angle, same result.

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/society/middle-class-parents-exhausting,-say-babies-201007052877/

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I'm not sure if this was in... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 11:17 AM | Posted by R. Kevin Hill: | Reply

I'm not sure if this was in there already or if I just imagined it, but here's a way the late exhaustion can set in: a seemingly well-intentioned desire to give the kid everything you didn't have, not realizing that this is (in this case) an irrational attempt to give yourself everything you didn't have by proxy, then waking up to the realization that the kid wasn't you after all but somebody else, and thus, at least as regards *that* project, all that effort was wasted. This would just be yet another example of how the indefinite and manifold meanings we attach to the word "love" make it difficult to grasp the difference between loving intensely and desperately wanting to be loved, because we keep calling them the same thing. Truly loving can ache, can be heart-breaking, but I don't think it is emotionally *draining* the way futility is, no matter how hard a situation is practically.

Also, ja, economics, the sprint up the down escalator. But that would be for "The Last Economist."

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In my observations, parents... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 12:00 PM | Posted by Felan: | Reply

In my observations, parents are too controlling and over focused on negative interactions. A kid runs around (a normal child activity) they get ineffectively yelled at for an hour. A kid spends an hour quietly making a picture which they show to the parent and they get, "Hmmm that's very nice."

Naturally the kid wants less to do with the parent that is always *only* telling them what to or yelling at them and briefly glossing over the good. The stressor isn't the kid in my opinion but the inevitable failure of such brutish methods and being stuck in an ever-deepening behavioral rut that insures an increasing array of interactions gets funneled into this same pattern.

Whether you are dealing with a pet, a child, another person, or even an organization it has been my observation that the more you squeeze the more erratic other's behavior becomes. It took me a long time to understand why they say discipline isn't effective with kids. It is ineffective not because it fails to discourage some behavior but because it fails to indicate what replacement behavior is desired.

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The biggest lie these artic... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 12:07 PM | Posted by BHL: | Reply

The biggest lie these articles perpetuate is the one that seeks to lump everyone in together into homogeneous groups who feel and think and act the same.

The fact is that there are shitty parents and great parents and average parents. There are people who should be parents and people who shouldn't be allowed to be charge of a plant. Some people love it and some people don't. This is what hasn't changed.

I'm in complete agreement with the posters who have pointed out that there have been massive changes in our society which affect lots of people's financial ability to dedicate themselves to being parents and those changes are not addressed by the article.

But this generation is not the first one to be shocked to discover that the mere act of procreation will not suddenly turn you from a fundamentally unhappy person into a fundamentally happy one. There just seem to be more people willing to tell us how unhappy they are and to constantly run around searching for a magic panacea outside of themselves.

TLP has hit the nail on the head in identifying the real truths uncovered by this article. A very refreshing and enjoyable read - thanks.

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The same people who constan... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 12:35 PM | Posted by No: | Reply

The same people who constantly harp on and on about how the greatness of the Scandinavia welfare state are the same people who prevent us from obtaining wealth in the same way the Scandinavians have--drilling for oil underneath the sea bed.

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Between the article and som... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 12:47 PM | Posted by Jonathan Peterson : | Reply

Between the article and some of the comments here, it's clear that there are some messed up people in the world. I love being a dad, my wife loves being a mom. We enjoy time with our 12 year old as much as time with each other (we've had a minimum of 1 "date night" a month since having our son). She's already starting to feel the empty nest coming, while I'm kind of looking forward to the more adult father/son relationship that I've missed since my Father died.

Is parenting a lot of work? Of course it is - all worthwhile things are.

As for the nuclear family and modern society being the cause of all ills. Get over yourself. You family is only as "nuclear" as you allow it to be. My son's soccer and tennis teammates and his friends' parents ARE our extended family.

Make some friends, get a hobby, include your kids in both. Play with your kids and they will learn to create and discover. Sports, art, cooking, reading, drama, whatever turns your kid on find it and do it with them as early and often as possible. My son has never been into building things, technology, etc. as my father and I were. So we play sports incessantly, watch lots of great movies together, even play video games together. Homework is a pain in the butt - deal with it. Playing with your kid is the reward for BOTH of you when the homework is done.

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what would the internet be ... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 12:51 PM | Posted, in reply to No's comment, by Jonathan Peterson: | Reply

what would the internet be without completely off-topic political snark?

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Anon 9:01 again.RC... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 1:09 PM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Anon 9:01 again.

RC, When gay men are going through all the trouble to adopt, they aren't really aware of what it is like to parent. So, your argument that gay men do it because they know it is worth it is not up to snuff.

Gay couples, couples in general, want children because children validate a union. The next logical step for many people who are in love and want to spend their life together is a child, the child is a symbol of a family unit.

Given the controversy (i.e. redneck religious hate) surrounding gay marriage, this only intensifies the drive to validate a gay union with children.

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How is that off-topic or po... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 1:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Jonathan Peterson's comment, by No: | Reply

How is that off-topic or political? Did I just pull the Scandia reference out of my hat?

A certain segment of our society is constantly going on and on about how wonderful certain European countries are and how our lives would be so much better if we simply emulated them in every way. They have no idea how to produce the wealth required for their dreams of cradle-to-grave coddling, and as TLP points out, it doesn't seem to be a utopian solution anyway.

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Remember that most paren... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 2:20 PM | Posted, in reply to Adam's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Remember that most parents in the US now only have two children. Population growth has stagnated. If 10% of the population forgoes childrearing, you get an alarming degree of negative growth, i.e. a shrinking population. What then?

A healthier planet? Less tubes to be bled for their credit scores?

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It might be fair to say tha... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 2:50 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by RC: | Reply

It might be fair to say that for some narcissistic couples of ANY sexual orientation, having a child serves to validate their union and hence their identity. Especially couples who subscribe to New York Magazine! But there's a bigger picture.

There's an eons-old, evolutionarily driven instinct to care and nurture that is behind the desire to have children. The instinct is so strong that it is not hindered by being unable to reproduce, nor by having enormous social/economic hurdles in the way.

Some couples just know that they're not going to feel completely fulfilled by a puppy - they want a child. For those individuals, it's not at all about social validation or pissing off redneck religious conservatives, it's about family. One doesn't need to be a parent to know that having a family, despite its hassles, is worth it.

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So other than being atrocio... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 7:40 PM | Posted by JMiller: | Reply

So other than being atrociously designed in terms of logical layout, and the bit about Scandinavia being utterly off-topic, I think there are a lot of key points in the article that pretty clearly match the points presented here. Consider chunks from TFA:

"This is especially true in middle- and upper-income families, which are far more apt than their working-class counterparts to see their children as projects to be perfected."

Put another way, the more money you have to spend on your kids, the more time and effort you can burn on spending that money on your kids (even if it's just taxi services for them). This gets to the point of utterly horrifying me when somebody says something like:

"“The crazy thing,” she continues, “is that by New York standards, I’m not even overscheduling them.”"

Which is basically ignoring the actual needs of the child and disclaiming any personal responsibility for the the raising of the child, instead pointing at some deranged community standard as being their unquestionable guidance.

"I swear I feel like I’m surrounded by women who were once smart & interesting but have become zombies who only talk about soccer and coupons."

Yes. This happens often, probably because (see above) you've got the money to spend on making your kids do more kid things which you have to support with time. This is basic theory of constraints: the more time you spend minivan-ing around trying to not be late to whatever's next on Junior's agenda (of your crafting) the less time you're going to have to have interesting adult ideas and conversations.

"“The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons. So you have to think about which kind of happiness you’ll be consuming most often..." (says Gilbert)

Which, pardon the confirmation bias, is exactly what I previously expected.

It's not entirely that people need to spend less time with their kids (though couples should spend more time without their kids -- this can be inferred from a spot-on block in the article about depth of conversation between couples) it's that they need to spend less time actively spreading their kids' time out, especially if they've managed to already find a natural talent towards which they can/should encourage focus and discipline. (My bias is that I'd rather see "really awesome" than "really well-rounded" -- so I coach HS debaters rather than try to raise kids of my own.)

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While I agree with the blog... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 10:52 PM | Posted by davidmallenmd: | Reply

While I agree with the blogge that parental narcissism is part of the picture of the problems many of today's parents are having, I think the bigger picture is guilt. Among the sources of guilt: The Phylis Shafley's of the world (a career woman who made a career out of attacking career women) and their ilk constantly bemoaning the loss of the stay at home mother. Studies that purport to show that children of two-career families tend to do worse in some respects on average than children where one parent stays home. Old school grandparents who feel that their grandchildren are being neglected and then criticize their working daughters - while simultaneously envying the hell out of their careers.

The parents come home tired from work and guilty and try to make up for lost time by giving their kids everything the kids want and giving into their every whim. Then they wonder why the kids throw temper tantrums when they don't get their way. So their kids are out of control and never do what they're told, and the parents' guilt starts to get mixed in with, as some posters have so nicely pointed out, rage at their kids. The rage then makes the parents feel even more guilty as well as inadequate, and a vicious cycle goes on and on.

Then we have the American Psychiatric Association, worried that the out-of-control kids are being labeled as bipolar (which some parents love because it seems to take them off the hook), proposes "Temper Dysregulation Disorder."

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Nik: TLP is suggesting that... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 11:33 PM | Posted, in reply to Nik's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Nik: TLP is suggesting that the problem isn't parenting or rearing children, the problem is narcissism is more common which impairs a person's ability to parent.

From my perspective, I see the problem as MASSIVE changes in our society which make parenting quite miserable. Like the fact it is not economically possible to have a family with a SAHM, like the fact small close knit communities aren't as common, are quite rare, like the fact people are encouraged to leave their families at a young age and go out on their own and have very little contact with them, so on. This is not how humans are supposed to live, our brain isn't meant for it. There were many problems with society several decades ago, now those problems are just gaping wounds.

demodenise certainly did start with the whole "parenting makes you super self sacrificing and transcendent" tripe, even if TLP didn't.
Not every parent has a bad time of it... but then again, some people keep grinning and smiling even when they lose their house and their legs and their family. Some people are just indefatiguible emotionally speaking... hyperthymic types. These people make good parents, it's pretty much the only people who are emotionally resiliant enough to do the job in today. Just my opinion.
Someone can hold an opinion of something and not participate in it, but the rules change when the subject in question is a moral one. If it is a moral subject, then I have to say PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. Don't sit around singing the praises of dying in war if you yourself are sitting on your fat ass drinking beer, don't sit around talking about how great it is to give yourself over to childcare and become self sacrificing if you yourself never intend to have children. That's called being a hypocrite. It is quite different to appreciate sculpture and sculpting, appreciating talent you yourself do not possess - this has nothing to do with morality, and very few of us have the talent potential for sculpting.
I seriously doubt demodenise has a disease preventing them from having children. Judging by what he/she said about parenting, it is pretty clear he/she doesn't want to do it because it sucks ass.

Re: problem not being the mother... the point I am making is that the description of the mother gave an image of self control and personal power, but yet she is powerless over parenting. The suggestion is made that there is something mysteriously puzzling about parenting which gets the best of even otherwise successful, capable women.

The fact you have very poor and limited reading comprehension and insight and are generally not a clever person does not make me a "troll". Your insights are very one dimensional and everything I have previously stated I have had to clarify for you, much like speaking with a child. This sorta makes you someone I really don't want to have an argument or discussion with.

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Hey Ben, please try to avoi... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 11:36 PM | Posted, in reply to Ben's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Hey Ben, please try to avoid pulling a Mel Gibson on me. I'll fully admit to being a "narcissist" (hey, on this forum, is that like being a jew in nazi germany?) if you admit to being an aggressive nutjob.

How many kids do you have, ben? Do you even have a relationship? You sound like a really disgruntled basement dweller so I am going to assume both of those are negative.

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Hi harman,this is an... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 11:42 PM | Posted, in reply to harman's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Hi harman,
this is anon 9:01pm again and I totally agree with everything you have written. It is a shame so few people realize that.

Maybe these drones will agree if TLP starts blogging about the structure of society being incongruent with our evolutionarily designed brains. They seem incapable of forming even remotely independent thoughts.
Their phrases are stolen from previous blog entries by TLP. I feel bad for them, they have no idea how mindless they look. You would think they were undergraduates and TLP was a respected professor. It's just embarrassing all around. Second hand embarrassment is the worst kind, because you're powerless to stop the source of it (except, perhaps, mentally choosing to ignore posts which call things "props" and people hurling the insult of "narcissist" as if were were young indoctrinated hitler youth hassling local jews or something).

Sometimes I feel such gratitude that I have always had the ability to observe, analyze, and form an opinion. Very, very few people seem to have this ability.

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RC, I would assume a gay ma... (Below threshold)

July 9, 2010 11:57 PM | Posted, in reply to RC's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

RC, I would assume a gay man of all people could see through the "evolutionary instinct" lie regarding parenting. If parenting is an evolutionary instinct, I would assume hetero sex is as well. But clearly, there are many cases where some people don't have that instinct. And it is not as simple as "all people have an instinct to be a parent all the time unless they are narcissists".
Certainly there are nurturing instincts, maternal and paternal behaviors... but these are not just free flowing constantly operant regardless of circumstance. If a person is presented with a small baby, if there are indicators (e.g. hormones, situational) that the baby is yours, then "parental instinct" might come into play.

My male cat has zero parental instincts at default, until one day when I was small we brought him a box of rescued orphaned kittens. There is also reason to believe these kittens were genetically related to my adult male cat. Guess what? Upon being presented with these kittens, automatically my cat began cleaning them and snuggling with them. Amazing, the kittens triggered my otherwise totally self focused cat to start acting like a mommy to these orphaned babies.


Either way, I'm not arguing against parental instincts, I just think they don't exist until a person is presented with a baby. The feelings and behaviors we call parental behavior cannot exist until the stimulus of a baby exists. I suppose we could imagine a baby in our minds, and so vicariously fantasize about parenting, but I don't think it's possible to really feel "parental instincts" until you actually are a parent. Observing animals this is true, and many humans report a similar change in perspective when they see/hold their baby.

When a person has a driving need to have a child in their life, I would argue this has much more to do with their identity than they realize... and very little to do with parental instincts.

Remember, identity isn't a bad thing, contrary to what some of you have been lead to believe by TLP. Having an image to aspire to is what makes us better than what we are. If I want to be the kind of person with a family, and children, that doesn't mean I am a narcissist without any feelings or concern for people, it might just mean that I idealize those values (family and children) and so I want ot model my life around this ideal.

Identity and ego are healthy and necessary parts of a successful functional person.

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I grew up with kids. My mom... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 12:33 AM | Posted by Vince: | Reply

I grew up with kids. My mom did daycare. She considers kids her passion and absolutely loves to spend time around them. I love kids too. I simply cannot understand how spending lots of time around kids could stress somebody out, even though I see it happen all the time.

I think where people go wrong is when they stop treating kids like little people. If you're constantly stressing yourself out over the right way to react to kids, you'll be a neurotic wreck of a parent. Children have personality from the minute they're born. They're not little tabula rasas that are just waiting for your generous teaching. If your vision of what you want your kids to be butts up against that kid's own desires, you're in for a world of hurt, because you're going to be hurt by his refusal to kowtow to your desires than he will. Your hair will turn gray before you change your child.

Be open to new experiences and listen to kids, even more than you listen to yourself. Chances are you'll learn more from your kids about life in their first six years than you did your whole life.

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Vince, I love you :)... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 12:40 AM | Posted, in reply to Vince's comment, by Chiara: | Reply

Vince, I love you :)

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Excellent work, my friend. ... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 12:53 AM | Posted by Slim Beatty: | Reply

Excellent work, my friend. It's rare to find an intelligent voice in a clatter of ignorance. I am a parent... I love it. Quite frankly, it's hard as hell. However, when you love yourself, when you love your family, you can finally enjoy them.

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With all due respect, I don... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 2:07 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by RC: | Reply

With all due respect, I don't know how to engage with somebody who's interpretation of my words deviates so much from their original intent.

(1) I wrote that "There's an eons-old, evolutionarily driven instinct to care and nurture that is behind the desire to have children," yet you read "parenting is an evolutionary instinct." Those two statements are not the same.

(2) "The desire to have children" is not the same as a "parental instinct."

(3) What does hetero sex have to do with anything? Sexual orientation and sex are not the same thing.

(4) You're making claims about humans based on the observations of your cat, but cats and people are not the same thing.

(5) I agree there is something pathological with somebody who needs to have children, but NEED is the keyword here. Needing a child and wanting a child are not the same thing.

(6) TLP argues against narcissism, but narcissism and identity are not the same thing. In fact, lacking a healthy identity is what TLP defines as Borderline Personality Disorder.

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Vince, I love you too! What... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 2:08 AM | Posted, in reply to Vince's comment, by RC: | Reply

Vince, I love you too! What team do you play for? ;)

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Anon, I'd say that admittin... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 3:40 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Ben: | Reply

Anon, I'd say that admitting to being a narcissist here would be more like outing yourself as a Nazi in Israel. I recommend looking into http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law But hey, admission is supposed to be the first step to cure, right?

Don't get the Mel Gibson reference, but as for your questions about my familial status, I haven't got time for a family. I spend my time pining away, hoping that you'll notice me. Now that I have your attention, will you tell me I'm a good boy?

It's a pity, 'cause I'm sure you'd make a wonderful parent. You've got a keen eye for lonely, aggressive nutjobs, and you're sure to have many ideas how to raise intelligent and civilized kids.

Flame skirmish aside, the arguments from evolution are not convincing and insidious (ditto arguments referring to 'the natural form/state of the family'). Unless you have data relating to genotypical changes over broad swathes of time to behaviour, you're absolving people of the responsibility they bear for the choices they make and the acts they commit. It boils down to 'Hey, I don't actually know what genetic predispositions/familial imperatives were long ago, but I assume/have heard that they were so different from the status quo that people can't be expected to cope, so if people act harmfully, they're excused.' Saying people just are a certain way that makes it impossible for them to improve themselves is just a means of pulling the identity card handily out of your sleeve. It might be worth questioning where these ideas about innate nature come from: is it something you *know* or something you've been told that reinforces your own biases? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-so_story) Worüber man nicht sprechen kann ...

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Of course Alone has kids. T... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 9:09 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by acute_mania: | Reply

Of course Alone has kids. There is no other reason a middle aged psychiatrist would have seen twilight.

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Haha, great article. Thank... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 10:53 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Haha, great article. Thanks for making a point of avoiding 'narcissism' but in this case I can't argue it would have fit.

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Alone generally watches lot... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 12:50 PM | Posted, in reply to acute_mania's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Alone generally watches lots of crap TV and movies, the way a journalist sees shitty media just to come back to homeland and tell us what it was like (and what it was about, with hit little thoughtful analysis)

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I believe it's non-sequitUr... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 2:36 PM | Posted by eduardo: | Reply

I believe it's non-sequitUr, doc, instead of non-sequitor.

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"...but the rules change wh... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 3:45 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Nik: | Reply

"...but the rules change when the subject in question is a moral one."

Why is child rearing a moral subject? And if that's true, would it be hypocritical of a janitor to extol the virtues of being a physician? Not everyone is capable of everything. It is good to know your limitations. Not all of us have the talent or skill or intelligence for parenting, but that doesn't mean others can't acknowledge the upsides to parenting.

She would be a hypocrite if she said, "I'm not going to be a parent, but you should because it's morally good." But instead she stated that although parenting is too much for her to handle, those that can and do are exemplary.

There are massive changes in society every generation. It shows a very limited historical view to think that ours is more drastically different from the previous generation then any two other adjoining generations. Humans are meant to adapt. Our minds are capable of more than what our brains are evolved for.

The mysterious puzzling thing about parenting that gets the best of a woman projecting the image of self control and personal power is that it is impossible to be in complete control of a child. Their outbursts, especially in public, damage that type of person's sense of self. The unfortunate thing about a child (for this type of person) is that the child has free will.
"If I'm in control of myself, why can't I be in control of this child?"
Or worse yet, "I am in control, but the people who see my child's tantrum won't think I am."

I'd like to know exactly what you think I didn't understand about your post. Judging from your responses I think it is your reading comprehension that needs to be called into question, not mine.

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Why do people think it's so... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 4:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Why do people think it's someone else's responsibility to make their life meaningful? I'm tempted to invoke the N word here (narcissism) simply because this kind of assumption that meaning is provided by external things (or people objects to be used for personal ends) seems like just more of the same narcissistic/consumerist dynamic. Meaning, by its very nature, is internally generated. We create meaning for ourselves - you can't buy it, others can't provide it (though you may find meaning in relationships with others the meaning is still generated internally and involves emotional/psychic investment by the one seeking meaning). If your life lacks meaning then it's not society's fault, it's your own. Blaming others is actually counterproductive when it comes to creating meaning in one's own life. Both self honesty and self responsibility are quite necessary to find meaning in one's own life. Self honesty because one needs to know oneself to discover what is personally valuable and meaningful (one's true self not the public persona or idealized self). Self responsibility because it's up to each of us individually to create our relationships and to choose our activities (from our choice of work to our hobbies), and because we ARE society. You want society to be different? You want to feel part of a community? Then act differently and start creating the social relationships and structures that you want. On many levels it really is that simple.

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Adam - I chose not to have ... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 4:25 PM | Posted, in reply to Adam's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Adam - I chose not to have children but it's not because it would "ruin" my life. It's because I realize that raising a child is a big responsibility that requires personal sacrifice and requires a lot of time and effort (preferably from a group of people). It certainly has its rewards too but I am practical enough to realize the sacrifices and that it's a lifetime commitment. I'm lucky enough to be from the first generation of women who really had this choice (I'm mid-40s, quite a few of my female friends have opted not to have kids). Lots of people have kids simply because they "should" or because they're searching for meaning or unconditional love and they're sold the myth that this is what having children is like (when it's actually the opposite, it's the parents' job to provide meaning, unconditional love and to provide for the child's needs...including setting appropriate boundaries and teaching self control, unconditional love doesn't mean never teaching boundaries or spoiling a child...spoiling a child ruins them as an adult).

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Anonymous with the potty mo... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 4:36 PM | Posted by rox: | Reply

Anonymous with the potty mouth: Hell Yeah! I absolutely agree with you. The word narcissism when used to apply to any and all self centered behavior may as well be used interchangeably with "selfish", "sinful", "out of touch with emotions of others".

The whole idea that everyone needs to be cured from narcissism makes as much sense to me as the idea that everyone needs to hear the name of Jesus Christ and they will suddenly know compassion and the world with be great.

Don't get me wrong TLP, it's not that you aren't identifying a real phenomenon, but your assessment of WHY that phenomenon exists is much different than mine. Your snark is awesome and funny, but all snark requires looking down on someone.

Ultimately I don't think that looking down on narcissists (people out of touch with the emotions of others) and poking fun of them is the answer.

(It is however... fun. Hence I come back) ;)

The reality is that I think we as humans need each other. I think everyone needs to forget about trying to make everyone around them function the way they want, and instead just care about human beings the way they are. Yes even if they are narcissists.

A better way to cure self-centeredness is to open your eyes to the emotions of others. That will help more than reading books about narcissism and over analyzing the semantics behind a word that simply means you need to open your heart to compassion and the emotions and experiences of others.

I think if we could foster a deeper compassion for those who ARE disconnected from the emotions of others, we might create a world where it was easier for people to grow in compassion rather than further hide within themselves and get lost in trying to please IMPOSSIBLE people like TLP who will always think they are a narcissist no matter what they do, despite that he is a narcissist himself. (One whom is lovable despite that, so don't get your panties in a bunch TLP)

These comments are always filled with beautiful intellectual people who want to show they are not narcissists to his greatness, and all in doing so show that they are narcissists and we are all narcissists because at the heart of it we all want to be loved and we all want to matter and to be seen as having something valid if not AMAZING to say.

And I think that's ok. Having feelings is what makes of human. What we do with those feelings and how we incorporate the feelings of others into our actions is what matters.

Now dice me up fellow commenters, intelligence is hot and I'm a masochist so I'll enjoy it.

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“The problem is, 95 percent... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 4:56 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

“The problem is, 95 percent of the time, you’re not thinking about what they mean to you. You’re thinking that you have to take them to piano lessons. So you have to think about which kind of happiness you’ll be consuming most often..."

The problem is, 100% of the time, not thinking about what *you* mean to *them*.

Not "you have to take them to piano lessons", but "they need to be taken to piano lessons". Why are they even going to piano lessons, again? Is it because they need to, or because "your kids" need to?

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Incidentally, none of my fr... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 5:47 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Incidentally, none of my friends who have chosen not to have children regret the decision (nor do I). Most of us are "auntie" to quite a few kids and enjoy children, we just didn't feel the need to have our own. Though, I suspect that those of us from the Gap/Lost generation have a very different perspective having come of age during the 70s (the only period in history where women could have sex without the specter of pregnancy or fatal sexual diseases hanging over our heads...we were a very lucky generation of women in many ways and we were very aware that we had choices). And, yes, many of us are in longterm relationships with people who also don't want their own children. Those of us who did choose to have kids are generally on the "good enough" mothering side of things. I suspect that it's because we realize that you can't have freedom without being responsible for yourself and your choices (and the consequences of one's choices).

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All you people who are so f... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 6:10 PM | Posted by jastor: | Reply

All you people who are so firmly against having children (mostly looking at you, Anon 9:01) are the exact image of the 'narcissist' that TLP so frequently rails against. You live your life believing you are the main character on the center stage; whatever experiences you experienced are ubiquitous and common to all of human nature. You aren't willing to change yourself in order to become a parent - because why should you? Your life is about you, as TLP says everyone else are just a supporting cast. Why would you want to have a child, a supporting cast actor who is completely unable to fend for themselves, forcing you to take time out of your star status?

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I find it laughable that pe... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 8:57 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I find it laughable that people are calling me a narcissist.

If you must accuse me of something, call me a depressive, probably bipolar, emotionally unstable, emotionally retarded isolated loser. That at least is slightly accurate. "Narcissist" is a total joke. I can't even begin to RELATE to the drive that makes someone do x because it will make them look like y. I can't begin to relate to the whole thought process of "I want to appear like y". I have never related to anyone in movies, I have never had a famous person I looked up to and wanted to be like. I have never, ever, wanted to mold myself like anyone else, or to be like anyone at all. Which is probably why I am so fucking weird. I just do whatever random shit I want no matter how fucked up it seems to other people.

On the plus side, I have a spectacular ability to observe and form my own opinions, which the majority of people do not have. Like, for example, all of you mindless parrots calling me a narcissist like a baby who just learned its first word.

I work in healthcare and I would just like to say out of all the physicians I have interacted with I could name the very, very rare few who weren't narcissists. The reason TLP is probably so obsessed with this deal is because narcissism is pretty much redundant with physician. People become doctors because they are the sort of people who live their life like it is a movie, and their script says they will be a big shot doctor. Doctoring attracts that very special kind of narcissist who loves having control and power over people. Especially among the older generation, doctors are regarded as gods. It is a no brainer that a narcissist would jump onto that.

And, once they ARE a doctor, the narcissism just grows and grows and festers like some kind of cancer. The drive to "be somebody" is constantly affirmed now that they are Dr Jackass and so they become unmanageable, out of control assholes.

I think the reason narcissism colors everything TLP sees is because so much of his life IS interacting with (or perhaps being ) a narcissist. Narcissism is just a way of life for physicians, much in the manic depression and alcoholism and heroin addiction is a way of life for artists.

That's sorta how physicians live... like they're gods walking among mortals. You people have no idea.

And I look at them, like I am looking at a fucking rhino at the zoo or a giraffe or a really exotic bird. Like "what in the fuck is this thing made of??? who thinks like this???" I cannot even BEGIN to relate to that sort of mindset.

I really don't think narcissism is all that common among normal people, it's probably mostly found among people in high status jobs, or maybe who pursue arts and sports (you have to feel special to do that, amirite), but among normal people working normal jobs, you won't see narcissism.

I just find it ridiculous so many here are calling me a narcissist. It shows how fucking retarded you all are.

I don't know why I bother commenting. As I said in a previous post, so many of you are so spectacularly dull and uncreative, you are only capable of parroting back what you have been told.

I may be a self absorbed asshole, but that's not all required to be a narcissist. You've got to live your life in a way that people like you live your life. You've got to feel nothing behind the eyes and everything you do has to be self serving and emotionally void. All of your emotions must either be shallow, or somehow connected to your image (e.g. feeling rage if your ego is threatened, otherwise feeling nothing and talking/acting like a robot).


Remember, just to reiterate...
selfish asshole is part of narcissism...
narcissism is not the only type of selfish asshole.
Not all selfish assholes are narcissists.

Try understanding the words you say next time, babies.

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Oh and I know someone will ... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 9:40 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Oh and I know someone will say what I just said above is also narcissistic, but then again, there seems to be no way to avoid that in this weird world. Unless you are a cynical douche who criticizes and analyzes everything, sit around talking about everyone but yourself, which is sorta like talking about yourself in the way dreaming is thinking about yourself.

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I think only a few of you a... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 10:47 PM | Posted by Why so serious.: | Reply

I think only a few of you actually understand narcissism.
If TLP wrote about sociopaths you would all go around calling your friends sociopaths because they convinced you to help them move into a new apartment.
I'm glad you can all use spell check, but that doesn't mean you should go around using big words. Sometimes it's best if you just kept silent.

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The comments are far more e... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2010 11:54 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

The comments are far more entertaining than the post. Thanks, TLP. Rape tunnel, anyone?

Oh, and I'll bet TLP is still thinking about that offer of oral instead of mulling over this crap.

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saturday night narcissist p... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 1:38 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

saturday night narcissist party.

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All of this complaining abo... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 2:42 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

All of this complaining about modernity is misplaced. Close-knit communities still exist, extended families still exist (and are often expanded with fictive kin), and there are still people who are sane and happy and have meaningful relationships. Modernity doesn't prevent these things. In a lot of ways, because of how fast and cheap communication and travel is, and how many more channels people have for meeting each other than in the past, it's easier than ever in human history to create and keep meaningful relationships. The problem is that many people are consciously choosing to AVOID those kinds of relationships. Narcissism is not a symptom of modernity, it's a cause. By telling yourself that you're lonely and frustrated and isolated because of modernity, you're reinforcing an image of yourself as a powerless victim of 'society' or 'technology' or whatever. You're relieving yourself of the burden of having to actually take an interest in other people and open yourself to them. Because, hey, since your suffering is so noble, maybe one day you'll get an article in New York magazine, amirite?

The problem is that we as a culture have abandoned the belief that people have the ability to influence their surroundings- we react and nothing else. The logical conclusion is that anyone who achieves and lives well was just lucky, and the real heroes are the victims, the people who got dealt the bad hand. Respect has effectively ceased to exist and pity has become the most desirable thing a person can have, because if you believe you're powerless to control your life then pity is the only real feeling you can have towards yourself or anyone else. There are no friends, only commiserates. There are no opportunities, only burdens. And as you become more and more convinced of your own uselessness, you also get smug and arrogant- all those happy people are just full of shit, aren't they? Then you're too far gone, because you've decided that happiness is a lie.

You want your life to get better? Reject pity. Don't offer it and don't accept it. Everything else will follow.

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It's no more innately narci... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 10:44 AM | Posted, in reply to jastor's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It's no more innately narcissistic to choose not to have a child than to have a child. One can still be a very vibrant part of society and ones community without having children, that's what extended families are (whether they're biological families or families of choice). This idea that having a child is a noble and selfless act is part of the mythology of parenting - and it's generally not true when you're talking about real people's motivations because real people's motivations are usually complex and multifaceted.

Many people have a child for quite selfish reasons. After all, if it was a selfless act then it makes much more sense to adopt an already existing child in need than to create another human being...oh, but it's not the same if it's not a mini-me? Hmmmm, so much for the altruism! All the good parents (the good enough ones) I know had kids for both altruistic and selfish reasons.

Sure some people don't want children for narcissistic reasons...in that case it's a fantastic thing that they're not having children. Narcissists don't make very good parents, for the obvious reasons discussed by TLP in this blog post. So narcissists not having children aren't a problem, it's the narcissists who are having children that are the problem (not only for their children but also for society in general if these kids don't get some foundation to build a sense of self upon). Not everyone is equipped to be a parent, parenting is not an "instinct", it's learned behavior (hence how abusive habits are passed down from one generation to another ad infinitum unless something/someone breaks the cycle of violence/abuse). Even cats learn how to mother by being mothered. Parenting is, obviously, going to be even less "instinctual" for someone with a NPD (and pity the child who is subjected to their parenting "instincts"!) Why anyone would be advocating that narcissists have children - or berating the ones that are sensible enough to at least know that they're not going to be good parents or like parenting for not having children - is beyond me. It's like advocating for child abuse! Clearly some people don't understand what a NPD is...it's not simply being selfish, mind boggling though a narcissist's sense of entitlement can be if one runs up against it, someone with a NPD actually doesn't experience empathy or relate to other people as individuals with their own valid needs and desires. This is a pretty toxic environment to raise a child in. Some narcissists love having children - at least young children - because they have no defenses or boundaries and can be easily controlled and used by the adult they love unconditionally. An extreme example would be a cult leader who breeds his/her own army to adore god/him/her. A less extreme example would be the average joe who gets married a couple of times and has kids each time but doesn't have the resources or ability to even look after one family properly or make it work. (I say "him" simply because most women stop wanting to have kids at a certain point, though there are certainly women who do the same kind of thing.)

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"Narcissism is just a way o... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 11:21 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"Narcissism is just a way of life for physicians, much in the manic depression and alcoholism and heroin addiction is a way of life for artists."

Good lord, can you pull another cliche out of your ass? Talk about seeing people as objects and not as individuals! Sounds like you're creating a cartoon image to serve your personal needs/desires (and that you've got a personal bias going on).

Not all artists are depressed or drug addicts, in fact most aren't and plenty of people who aren't artists suffer from depression or are addicted to something. Artists are just more likely to communicate about their depression or addiction - or explore dark emotional and psychological, and social, territory - than the average person because that's what artists do...they communicate and deal in the realm of meaning and perception. (Or, at least, people doing relevant work do. Art is a meta conversation about our culture in many ways, sort of serving as the collective unconscious or at least the liminal edge where meaning and understanding of ourselves percolates and seeps into consciousness.)

Equally, not all doctors are narcissists, some go into medicine for very altruistic reasons and because they are empathetic. Doctors are just people. Certainly the mental health profession does attract people who are curious about mental health - often because of their own or familial mental health issues. And certainly psychiatry was a very attractive profession for people with a NPD, but so is being a CEO, a rock star, a politician, a criminal or any other position that they feel will give them power over others (and make them look like "someone"). Even being an infamous victim or abuser can be attractive to someone with a NPD, it doesn't have to be positive attention or power. Narcissists aren't necessarily high achievers or successful in the world, or even that intelligent, though they'll still seek out opportunities to declare themselves superior to others even if life is providing them with feedback that indicates otherwise. In fact, if reality is contradicting their image of themselves as superior they're more likely to seek out ways to prop up their self image as being superior to others and to generally be more enraged/contemptuous towards others. If you generally feel contempt towards others, particularly those less capable than you or with a personality disorder...this post is for you.

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"I just do whatever random ... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 11:33 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"I just do whatever random shit I want no matter how fucked up it seems to other people."

So do you have absolutely no regard for how your actions effect others or the consequence of your actions? Is it all about fulfilling your "random" personal needs and desires no matter the consequences of your actions on others? Do you have a line you don't cross in regards to harming others when you're doing "random shit you want no matter how fucked up it seems to others"?

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anon 11:21 am... did you re... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 2:46 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

anon 11:21 am... did you really think I was saying every doctor is a narcissist, and every artist is an alcoholic manic depressive? Wow. Seriously, did you really think that is what I meant? Really?

I wonder what it is like to think like that.

anon 11:31 (which I am sure is the same person because they are so equally unintelligent) - how in the fuck did you get that I am a sociopath from what I said? Really?
I am not particularly aggressive or violent and I try to be respectful of all people as much as I can. When I said I do "whatever I want" I meant along the lines that I don't feel a need to meet certain social obligations or criteria for "my life" the way other people do. Like, "I need x kids, a job in x field, x car, x house" and all that crap other people think about themselves in their head and aspire to obtain. I have very little ego and I don't aspire to any "image" and I find it absolutely fascinating to observe those people who are the polar opposite - people who live their lives as an image, trying to meet and mimic some made up self.
Everything I have done in my life has been because it gave me happiness, I wanted to do it, it meant something to me, I felt it was important, etc etc etc. I don't know how people want to do things, to be things, just because it looks a certain way. No idea what that is even like. I have less narcissism than I think is normal, IMO. Yes, in spite of using lots of personal pronouns.

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Yo, you called yourself an ... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 3:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by A different anonymous: | Reply

Yo, you called yourself an asshole and said that the things you do are random and fucked up. You told that guy you were a shitty person and he believed you. Quit biting his head off. Instead of being insulted that he thinks you're a dick, how about stop trying to convince people that you are one?

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Does anyone on the list rea... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 3:14 PM | Posted by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Does anyone on the list realize that mostpeople who have narcissistic personality disorder actually have low self esteem, and cover it up with grandiosity, bullying, demanding admiration and so on?

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You pretty much did say tha... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 4:03 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

You pretty much did say that. You said all but a "very very rare few" physicians are narcissists. You seem to have real issues taking responsibility for your words/actions - even when your own assertions are there in black and white.

You said - "I work in healthcare and I would just like to say out of all the physicians I have interacted with I could name the very, very rare few who weren't narcissists."

yeah....that claim is increasingly looking like projection on your part. You may or may not have a NPD, you ARE behaving like someone with a serious narcissistic disturbance. You aren't who you think you are (your self image), you are defined by your behavior and who you express yourself to be. It seems the idea you hold of yourself and what you're expressing here don't align very well.

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"Doctoring attracts that ve... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 4:23 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Doctoring attracts that very special kind of narcissist who loves having control and power over people."

A "special kind"? You clearly don't understand what a NPD is if you think that there exists a narcissist who DOESN'T seek attention, control and power over other people (and unquestioning adoration/respect, whether they've earned it through their actions or not). If a narcissist isn't able to succeed or isn't bright enough to manipulate themselves into a position of professional power, they'll find another way to try to exert power and control. Playing the victim can be one method, using a family (particularly children) is another method. The idea that narcissists are all hyper intelligent people in high powered jobs is entirely inaccurate (or that all people in jobs that have a high value in our society are narcissists). Narcissists believe themselves to intellectually superior to others but many of their grandiose beliefs about themselves are, well, grandiose and inaccurate.

But, hey, I'm not at all surprised YOU think the narcissists you've dealt with are special.

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David it was long though th... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 4:47 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

David it was long though that narcissists suffer from low self esteem but more recent research and theories seems to point in the other direction (from what I've read). In my experience, someone with a NPD will fish for compliments but it's not due to low self esteem, it's simply fishing for compliments and making sure that attention is focused on them. Essentially, if you believe that everyone else is just an object to be used to prop up your grandiose false self image and fill your desires then you're suffering from an exaggerated sense of entitlement and self worth because you're valuing yourself over others. It's a bit different than a self esteem issue...it's a "self" issue!

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"I have very little ego and... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 6:00 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"I have very little ego and I don't aspire to any "image""

If that was actually true, you wouldn't keep trying to convince everyone to buy into the image you hold of yourself (and go into what appears to be a narcissistic rage whenever someone points out your behavior doesn't support your claims about who you are). Everyone has an image - both a self image and a public one. The test of how healthy/functional a self image is is how well it aligns with reality and what you actually express about yourself. (Not that holding some false beliefs about oneself is particularly unusual, it's all about degree. If you believe you're Jesus, for instance, your self image is severely out of alignment with reality and you would be considered deluded.) If you really had a healthy ego and self image, you wouldn't work to hard to convince us all that you're superior and special. You also wouldn't keep trying to pretend you're somehow aligned/on the same level as Alone instead of just another commenter like the rest of us. A little tip, if you're trying to convince people you have "very little ego" then you might want to cut down on the obviously grandiose claims regarding your own intelligence and "spectacular" insight combined with childish insults (that obviously you'd find hurtful but anyone with a healthy, mature ego finds silly and juvenile). You'll find that if your actions constantly contradict your claims about who you are that people with average insight and intelligence won't find it hard to tell that your declared self image is remarkably out of alignment with who you actually are as expressed through your words and actions.

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Thank you so much for being... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 6:11 PM | Posted, in reply to Jonathan Peterson 's comment, by Cappy: | Reply

Thank you so much for being a sane person.

It's all about attitude and perspective.

My observation when I became pregnant was that the people who came from happier, more emotionally stable families viewed my pregnancy as a beautiful thing. The ones who had more complicated childhoods and frightfully ego-centric parents did all but say "I am sorry for you loss."

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You know, I shouldn't be su... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 8:18 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

You know, I shouldn't be surprised by how mind numbingly unintelligent and hypocritical you all are.

I really, really hate the readers of this blog. They are such useless basement dwellers, candidates for committing the next mass shooting, so on.

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...You're a fuckin... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 8:30 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by the other Anonymous: | Reply

...

You're a fucking tool, dude. Grow the fuck up.

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Anonymous - I believe that ... (Below threshold)

July 11, 2010 9:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Anonymous - I believe that the grandiosity is a false self that, IMHO, some researchers get completely taken in by. In my patients, a lot of the male narcissists are in the family systems role of what I call the "little man."

Their mothers, who often have gender role conflicts, act dependent on them after their fathers disappear or become incapacitated for one reason or the other, but really don't want or need anyone to take care of them. Mom will build up the little guy as her "little man." He really is too young to take care of her anyways, but she cuts his balls off (figuratively, that is) if he really tries to help.

The narcissists then grow up looking to build themselves up by taking care of a woman, and often pick someone with borderline personality disorder (a well known couple type), who then does the same thing to them as their mom did. The men will make themselves the villain in this family drama by acting as if they are bullies who are all wrapped up in themselves and are using others for their own gratification, but it's all an act.

Not everyone with NPD fits this profile (we're seeing more and more women with NPD), but an awful lot of them do if you can get past their defenses and get them to tell their stories.

I had one example of a guy whose mother broke her hip in the bathroom when he was a pre-teen, but wouldn't unlock the door for him so he could help her out. She said she "didn't want to bother him."

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Ha! I forgot about the rap... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 12:29 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by RC: | Reply

Ha! I forgot about the rape tunnel! VERY good connection! I wish I could vote up your comment more than once.

http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2010/01/im_building_a_rape_tunnel.html

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Certainly there are people ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 8:48 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Certainly there are people with low self esteem who over compensate, they're generally not people with NPD though. NPD disorder doesn't exist without an exaggerated sense of entitlement, people with low self esteem simply don't have this sense of entitlement (quite the opposite). People with NPD are very good at presenting as victims, it's their go-to tactic when the grandiosity isn't working. It's just another form of grandiosity because they are grandiose about being victims (they perceive their suffering to be special and more intense than that of others, once again there's a lack of empathy and self of entitlement and it's all about others filling their needs).

And, no offense to you personally but it's obviously a tactic that works very well on therapists because next to the grandiosity it looks like a breakthrough or change for them to consider themselves helpless victims when they came in presenting as grandiose supermen. It's been my observation that the "victim" version that someone with a NPD presents is just as much a false self as the grandiose personality. Neither the grandiose persona or the victim persona are the true self.

I'm not saying that people with a NPD don't come by it honestly and weren't abused, I'm just pointing out that their victim persona is just as grandiose as their superior persona. Pity is as good as admiration for someone with a NPD - if less desirable. Anything to be special. Someone with a NPD will switch to the pity ploy when they're in a tough spot and being grandiose isn't an effective tactic (you'll find many unsuccessful narcissists amongst drug addicts, they favor the pity ploy).

The narcissist's main agenda is getting others to fill their needs by any means necessary (other than asking and engaging in a normal reciprocal relationship where other people's needs and limitations are valued and respected) - the sense of power comes from the manipulation and getting what they want (while generally pretending they're doing the other person a favor so they don't have to reciprocate), this bolsters their grandiose belief they're smarter than others (when, in reality, they just do things that most of us find unethical, unkind or antisocial). Of course they have a justification for it, and why their unethical, unkind and antisocial actions aren't their responsibility (and are somehow different when they do it than when their abusing parent did it to them, interesting how the father's are always left out of discussion of this dynamic since for a mother to abuse a child in this manner means that there's negligence on the father's side too).

There's a reason so many people with a NPD are cheap (with their own money but extravagant with that of others) - it's not only because they see money as power but their whole agenda is about getting something for nothing and getting their own way no matter what.

Anyway, this is not to say that one shouldn't have compassion for people with NPD or that they don't suffer. It's just that people with a NPD are incredibly adept at manipulating others via empathy while actually having no empathy or compassion for others (and their suffering/narrative is grandiose too). You can't really count on the same kind of transference/countertransference effect with someone with a NPD because of the very nature of their disorder - transference is about empathy but people with a NPD don't have functional empathy and is, in fact, something they routinely use as a tool/weapon. The very core of a NPD is that they don't individuate properly and don't develop empathy (and this is a neurobiological development and not just a character trait). You can certainly get someone with a NPD to act differently but that's not the same thing as them actually developing true empathy or respect/caring for others. Though acting like a decent person is certainly an improvement and worth working towards (if only to protect the people around someone with NPD).

You know, just because someone without a NPD overcompensates when they feel insecure that doesn't mean that people with NPDs are doing the same thing. Their minds/brains really do work differently so projecting non-NPD behaviors and motivations onto people with a NPD is a recipe for misunderstanding (and being manipulated by a narcissist).

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One thing that strikes me..... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:04 AM | Posted by AMom: | Reply

One thing that strikes me...those that sneer at parenting, insult those that are raising children by denigrating it...Who do you expect to be caring for you as you age? Surely, you don't think yourself entitled to the time and energy of the children we're raising. They're the Drs, nurses, firefighters, police officers, etc of the future.

Hopefully, you'll never need one of my kids, or their contemporaries to be taking care of you, since you have nothing but negativity for the act of parenting.

Since you're concerned about the state of society and over population, you have plans to wander off into the woods, set yourself adrift when the day comes that you are aged and face being unable to care for yourself. Since that's all you care about NOW, why should you be entitled to being cared for by others when you're in your 70s, 80s, and beyond?

But, that's a pipe dream. People who are too selfish to consider others often have an extreme sense of entitlement, and figure they're worth far more than they were ever willing to give.

Don't get me wrong, I'm GLAD that those who are that self centred aren't reproducing, for the sake of the child that would have to grow up in that toxic waste environment. Choosing to be childless, is imo, a far cry from putting down parenting.

There are those of us who do enjoy parenting, who work their butts off raising healthy, happy, responsible, well rounded adults. Those who are unable/unwilling to make the sacrifices required have no business reproducing, and I hope they've taken permanent measures to ensure they never do. No innocent should be left in that situation.


As the aged outnumber the young expected to step up to the plate and care for them, its a hell of a burden on society. We're already facing that now, as the Boomers start hitting retirement age and beyond.

If you're concerned about the planet, the finite resources available, I hope your concern extends to not using any when you're no longer a productive member of society, and need others to care for you. Grab an ice floe, and set yourself adrift.

Same sort of logic.

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"The narcissists then grow ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:12 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"The narcissists then grow up looking to build themselves up by taking care of a woman, and often pick someone with borderline personality disorder (a well known couple type), who then does the same thing to them as their mom did. The men will make themselves the villain in this family drama by acting as if they are bullies who are all wrapped up in themselves and are using others for their own gratification, but it's all an act."

People with NPD don't just "act like bullies", they are bullies - our actions define who we are, not the ideas we hold about ourselves that are contradicted by the reality of our actions. It's very common for abusers to blame the child or their partner for "making them" abuse them. So you're essentially saying that men with NPD are only pretending to be assholes and use other people but really they're being made to do so by their wives? (I say men since you seem to be very focused on men and mothers, while totally ignoring the role of the father in both protecting and mentoring a child.) Has it occurred to you that part of the personality disorder is projecting the manipulative mother onto all other women? Or refusing to acknowledge that the person with the NPD is acting just like their abusive parent towards others? And repeating their abusive parent's claim that the child is "making them punish them"? You can't change behavior (or anything for that matter) if you don't take responsibility for it. Allowing someone with a NPD to avoid personal responsibility isn't doing them a favor, it's actually enabling them. It's quite useful to think of people with a NPD as drug addicts because it's very much the same dynamic (and quite a few hardcore drug addicts do have NPDs, their grandiosity is just about being a special victim whose suffering is more special than anyone else's).

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It's just a shame that so m... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:46 AM | Posted, in reply to AMom's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

It's just a shame that so many self centered people ARE reproducing (a general discussion of parenting isn't about any of us as individuals...and this blog and discussion wasn't about YOU unless you happen to be a narcissistic parent such as is being discussed).

Simply having a child isn't the same as raising one to be a productive member of society as an adult, a child may even end up being a societal burden (this may be via an accident that leaves them dependent or due to bad parenting...so even despite being good parents a child might not be able to contribute to society as the parents envision...that vision is about the parent btw and not the child, the child will have their own vision for themselves if the parent is a good parent). And, if someone is having children simply so they have someone to look after them when they're old then that sounds like a pretty selfish reason to have a child (or future caretaker/orderly/object to be used by the parent).

Having a child isn't an achievement. Raising a child into an adult that is the best human they can be is. Until someone has actually done that, they don't deserve any special merit/praise for being a parent. Trying to pretend that one is having children for society's sake is just silly (though there's nothing silly about consciously raising a child to be a functional part of a society but that is something that one does for the child first and not society! Unless a parent is more concerned with how they look to society than they do about the child itself). If someone were mainly interested in bettering society and in children in general they'd be parenting abandoned kids instead of making a mini-me. (Nothing wrong with having one's own children, it's just not a selfless act and it doesn't entitle you to special treatment other than seats on buses. If a woman has a NPD then pregnancy and motherhood can seem like it should entitle one to all kinds of special treatment and unconditional love that is contradicted by the reality of motherhood where a mother's needs are the last ones on the list - as so well laid out in the article that TLP is writing about.)


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Hi (the last anonymous comm... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 10:58 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Hi (the last anonymous comment) - I oversimplified the dynamic to give a general idea. Of course, you are absolutely correct on the points you made. What I am about to say will no doubt raise additional objections, but here goes anyway:

Acting like a bully makes you a bully regardless of your motives, and people should indeed be held responsible for their actions no matter why they did it. Being empathic with a bully means trying to understand why they act the way they do without condoning misbehavior. Condoning it would be sympathy, which is never empathic when the person knows you don't REALLY approve of what they do, which makes the pseudo-empathic person a liar.

Nor did I mean to imply that the "difficult" wife makes the NPD do anything. They are volunteering for the gig, and projection is definitely involved, although maybe not in the way you think. Each member of the couple actually feeds into the false self of the other member of the couple, so both are responsible for what ensues.

I refer to this process as "mutual role function support." I'm again being brief here but you can read a far more complex description in my book: "Psychotherapy with Borderline Patients: An Integrated Approach."

Blaming either member of the couple is counterproductive. The same goes for abusive parents, Amom.

Anonymous (comment before last). The NPD's almost never portray themselves as helpless victims. When they "break through" they acknowledge that their deep and unmet need for appreciation and validation is driving their sense of entitlement.

If they're faking in therapy to gain the therapist's sympathy, the stories they tell develop huge plot holes like a really bad movie. Such tactics only work well on therapists who don't keep an open mind as they go along that their hypotheses might be wrong.

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David - Thanks for the clar... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 12:27 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

David - Thanks for the clarification of what you meant (and the potential for discussion). Even if we don't end up agreeing about everything, it's interesting to share perspectives. We agree on quite a few things but I still disagree about people with NPD playing the victim because I've seen it happen many times, it's a very useful technique for manipulating people and avoiding responsibility...and it certainly doesn't rule out grandiosity.

Certainly both parties share responsibility in a relationship for that relationship (when we're talking about adults, there's obviously a power/responsibility difference when we're talking about the relationship between a child and parent/adult). Just as both parents do when a child is abused.

I think one feature of NPD that you overlook is that they primarily seek out partners that make them look good - now this obviously includes people with BPD who can "sense" their needs and conform to the narcissist's needs without needing manipulation (and they are complimentary disorders, one with no empathy and one with hyper-empathy) but it also includes partners who start out on the relatively normal/healthy spectrum too. (And let's not ignore the fact that people with both NPD and BPD are actually quite attracted to mental health professions, and someone with a BPD - if they've managed their own issues and learned how to discern their own feelings from those of others, mastered being conscious of transference and countertransference - can make exceptional therapists due to their hyper-empathetic abilities, which is really just being incredibly fine tuned to non-verbal communication.)

People with NPD initially present very polished versions of themselves (the key to discerning whether someone has a NPD is that they're "too" something, they're presenting ideals and not the slightly scruffy and imperfect real version) and it's only once they've got the intended partner in a vulnerable position that they start to reveal the darker aspects of their personality. Add in that our society's model of "true love" is actually really more of a narcissistic fixation/obsession (I can't live without you, you complete me, I'd die if you left, etc) and a relatively naive girl/woman can end up in a relationship with someone who isn't who they thought they were. And, of course, what narcissists do is chip away at the other person's self esteem and sense of reality (this is why people with NPD isolate their partners and families to ensure control, both physical and mental control - plus the sheer ruthlessness of people with NPDs is hard for anyone to fathom if they haven't experienced them since they're so far from healthy relating). Someone may not have a BPD but they'll certainly look like it after a while if they're trapped in a relationship with someone with a NPD - we ALL rely upon the people around us to help define reality and norms to some degree, and to mirror us. In a healthy relationship this is an interdependence and it's based in the reality of who both people are, in an unhealthy one it's a co-dependence that's based in a fantasy about who the people are.

"Anonymous (comment before last). The NPD's almost never portray themselves as helpless victims. When they "break through" they acknowledge that their deep and unmet need for appreciation and validation is driving their sense of entitlement."

I'm curious, are you a man? I ask because I've experienced people with NPDs claiming to be victims but it occurs to me that this is perhaps a tactic used mainly with women for the rather obvious reasons that it works best on women (whether being used by a man or woman with NPD). And any claim of being a victim comes with the attendant NPD grandiosity that makes out that their personal suffering is much more intense than anyone else's, including people they victimize using exactly the same tactics as their abusive parent. It's usually used as a means to avoid taking responsibility for their own abusive behavior.

And I'm also curious because your initial post seemed to be painting people with NPD as victims (which they certainly were as children and they live with the consequences now, like all abused children that grow to adulthood...but now they're adults and are responsible for their actions and feelings like the rest of us). Where did you get this image yourself if not from your patients? And does it occur to you that just because someone with a NPD doesn't use a specific tactic with you that this doesn't mean they don't use it with others when it is effective? Men who abuse their wives routinely claim they're victims (NPD or not). Men who kill their families routinely have an explicit sense of being a victim. People who kill others do so because they consider themselves victimized by society/the post office/etc. Now these are obviously extreme examples but these are also the extreme behaviors of a NPD in full blown narcissistic rage.

A real breakthrough with someone with a NPD is them recognizing that other people are entitled to exactly what they're entitled to - that they're not special (or no more special than anyone else, and that includes their suffering not being more special than anyone else's). From my observations, the problem for people with NPD isn't that they don't experience their own feelings (even if they are in denial about some of them, they experience them just as strongly as the rest of us), it's that they don't experience anyone else's (they literally aren't empathetic, their brains don't function that way...it's a bit like a form of autism except they can read others they just can't feel them in the way most of us can). Both NPD and BPD are boundary disorders - a confusion about where the self starts and ends, about separation and sharing - it's why they're about identity and not self esteem (the self is unstable and not properly developed). It's also why NPD and BPD compliment each other, they're both reactions to the same type of parenting. In one case the child doesn't develop empathy as a defense against the invasive parent, in the other the child develops an exquisite sensitivity to the emotions of others as a means to navigate their parent.

Or this is how I've come to see it anyway from my experiences with people with NPDs - your mileage may differ and we may have to agree to disagree on some points (though I'm certainly open to convincing arguments). Thanks for sharing your perspective on this and engaging in discussion.

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The other thing I'd note ab... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 12:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

The other thing I'd note about people with NPD is that they don't actually look after others, they simply tell themselves that they are someone who looks after others (usually the very people they're using as a narcissistic source!). This is another area where the idea proposed that people with NPD routinely look for others to care for seems out of wack with NPD to me - they do the reverse and seek out caring people to look after them and someone with BPD is attractive BECAUSE of their ability to sense the N's needs without them needing to be stated and poor ability to set boundaries or discern their own reality...the ideal situation for a narcissist).

So, people with NPD don't seek out people with a BPD so they can look after the person with a NPD, they do so to get looked after...though it's very common for people with a NPD to look down on their partner as incompetent and needing to be cared for. And to go out of their way to paint a public image of the relationship where the N is the together one who takes care of others (when in reality they abuse others and expect to be taken care of) and to even provoke "crazy" behavior and breakdowns in their partner. Not all of this is conscious, of course, but it's not all unconscious either.

May I suggest that maybe you're seeing some men with a BPD in relationships with female narcissists if they really are caretaking and not just promoting a false image of themselves as caretakers? There seems to be some tendency to put all men with narcissistic disturbances of this extreme kind into the NPD box and women into the BPD box, I suspect there's actually much more crossover than you'd expect since they're essentially two responses to the same kind of treatment. I'd also suggest that NPD is being "seen" in more women mainly because it's now manifesting in women more like it does in men (where before it would be considered a BPD because playing victim is more useful to a woman than a man when it comes to manipulating others, the main key here is whether someone experiences empathy for others and you'll find that many people with grandiose victim complexes don't actually have any empathy for others).

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I'd like to add that when s... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 1:02 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

I'd like to add that when someone with a NPD is in a narcissistic rage THIS is their true self being expressed. It's a very genuine expression of who they are and their emotional frustration for not having their needs met in the way they feel entitled to have them met. It's not the entirety of who they are or could be but it's honestly who they are and how they feel - underneath the rage there's vulnerability too. I find it interesting that you consider this an act when it's actually when someone with a NPD is acting the least (even if they're acting out, and having a tantrum just like the five year old they are internally would have if they can't get their way). So, yes, there's severe ego disturbance but that's not the same thing as low self esteem.

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Anonyomous - I appreciate y... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 1:06 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Anonyomous - I appreciate your willingness to share perspectives and compare viewpoints. Let me try to answer your questions.

Yes, I am a male, but I don't think that's why I don't get the victim role from my NPD's. My stance with these patients probably precludes their playing it. I'm sure that you are correct that they play this card with others. However, I think their doing so eventually becomes evident, so in the longer run they are making themselves look bad by playing this role. Their victimization is also partly true, as you point out re their childhood.

I have to disagree with you that borderline partners make them look good, at least over the longer term. Quite the opposite, actually. BPD's are experts at making anyone look bad - as you point out they have amazing empathic skills in spite of their reputation for not being able to integrate good and bad images of others. If they could not do this, how could they gain the reputation for being expert manipulators?

As far as NPD's making themselves look good, I also don't agree. If you look at the DSM criteria for NPD, they are hardly complimentary. In fact, they are downright pejorative! Pts with NPD do hide their darker side, but not for very long in my experience. A lot of my female residents (I train them) form an almost immediate dislike for them.

My understanding of the family and personal dynamics of both BPD and NPD comes from not only from the patients themselves but also from interviews, conjoint sessions, and other materials with their parents and spouses. (Some of those became my therapy patients as well). I also do extensive genograms with patients tracing the origins of dysfunctional repetitive family behavior patterns, which are often transmitted intergenerationally.


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I think a lot of the debate... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 1:28 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

I think a lot of the debate we're having stems from the nature of a false self. It is played so completely and so believably that it is hard to know what is real and what is not. Also, if a particular strategy is not having the desired effect for the false self, people can switch to a different one (or "modes" as schema therapists call them).

I find the best way to get to the truth is to do two things. First, assume that these people are smart enough to know what other people are probably thinking about them. Many psychotherapy paradigms presuppose that people are incredibly stupid.

Second, what is the end result of all of their behavior - what I refer to as the net effect. Do NPD's really get admiration? Do BPD's get taken care of? Would an NPD be stupid enough to think that a BPD is good at taking care of anyone? I say no.

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Thanks David. Why don't you... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Thanks David. Why don't you think your gender is relevant even though you see NPD and BPD as being about gender? That seems odd to me (and the fact that more women with NPD are being "seen" seems to indicate its less about gender and more about context/perspective and actually looking for something). If gender is an essential issue in the personality disorders we're discussing from your perspective, how can your gender not be relevant when you interact with someone in a therapeutic context? (And, of course, it raises the spectre of how BPD has been used as a catch-all diagnosis for angry women and the history of psychiatry being used to control uppity women.)

Since you yourself first framed this as being about men with abusive mothers and haven't discussed the role of fathers at all (the paternal absence or lack of ability to protect the son is surely just as instrumental in who they become as the mother's role...no?) your gender does seem at least marginally relevant. And why all the focus on mothers when men also learn how to be adults and how to act like adults by modeling their father? See, I don't think NPD or BPD is essentially about gender even though many people with NPDs make it about gender (whether it's by becoming misogynists or misandrists) - I see both as being about trauma and survival mechanisms to cope with trauma (one that discards empathy for protective purposes so it doesn't develop neurobiologically, one that develops empathy without the ability to discern one's own feelings from those of others...to sense and create appropriate boundaries). Once again this may be an area where our mileage differs but I appreciate the discussion none the less :-)

Also, I don't understand what or who someone with a NPD chooses for a partner (and why) has to do with the DSM description/criteria? (From the perspective of the person who has NPD, it's not like they consider themselves as someone with a NPD when they're choosing their partner - they're simply attracted to people who fill their narcissistic needs either as an object that makes them look good or by subsuming their own needs...and NPD isn't limited to straight people either). Your connecting the two makes no sense to me, can you please explain because it seems I've missed or misunderstood something. Narcissists put their energy into constructing a false self image so who they choose as their partner is very much about "how does this person make me look?" (and how much more narcissistic attention/reward will they generate for the N). I've seen plenty of narcissists pose as caretakers because it makes them look good but that isn't the same as actually taking care of anyone (particularly if what they're really doing is getting others to sacrifice to fill the N's needs/desires). I've never met someone with a NPD who didn't think they were a great and generous person (or they alternately choose the Ruthless Hunter/CEO/gangster model, or flip between the two...just not anything average or realistic) - even when they're busy being being the opposite. They can make grandiose donations (if it makes them look good), or give grandiose rewards to people who do what they want (money/reward/love are all tools to be used to manipulate others) but none are actually caretakers or actually acting with care towards others...the narcissistic gain is always paramount.

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

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David - Sure people with a ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 2:33 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

David - Sure people with a NPD can't not know that someone thinks they're an asshole when that person says "you're an asshole". What someone with a NPD does in this case is they start a social campaign to demonize the person who has pointed out they're a narcissistic asshole to paint that person as the asshole. And the person with the NPD, of course, simply dismisses the critic and criticisms as being inferior so as not to have to acknowledge they behaved like an asshole. Sometimes they'll acknowledge behaving badly if it's necessary/expedient but only with the caveat tht it's the other person's fault somehow. Behaving like an asshole is usually done as a coercive measure anyway after other efforts to manipulate through charm or seductive measures haven't worked (the first tactic is manipulation via positive means, if that doesn't work then bullying is the next step, and then finally if that doesn't work the person with the NPD claims to be being victimized). Of course, lots of narcissists aren't aware of their dynamic, this is just what they do because it's what they learned to do. They also see empathy as being a weakness not only because they use it to manipulate others but also because their response to being used by their parent was that they didn't develop empathy.

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Thanks, anonymous. If you ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 2:47 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Thanks, anonymous. If you look at my original post (July 11, 9:08 PM) I did mention fathers, if only in passing. Family dynamics are quite complicated, and I can only discuss one or two aspects at a time in a blog post, so I'm coming across as more simplistic than I am. I didn't mean to come across as sexist. Both parents are quite important in triggering personality pathology.

Some therapists do try to put "uppity" angry women in their place. I'm pretty sure I'm not one of them, but who knows for certain? I am also not a psychoanalyst, but patients do react to therapists as if they were primary attachment figures of the opposite gender all the time. My being a male is no doubt a factor in what I see initially, but it is only one of many factors. Sorry if it sounded like I thought it was irrelevant.

Gender issues are common in the genograms of families of cluster B personality disorders, but they are not the only issues that are relevant. I think the reason we see more female narcissists and more male borderlines today is because, despite all of the remaining sexism in today's society, we really have made a lot of progress in changing traditional gender roles.

Some families are stuck using the old gender rules because of something anthropologists refer to as "cultural lag." This is, in my opinion, where the trouble starts.

I bring up the DSM criteria only to make the point that the characteristics of NPD are very negative, and that it doesn't take a psychologist to recognize egocentricity, grandiosity, or bullying. Another poster thought that NPD's pick borderlines to take care of them because BPD's idealize and empathise so well, but that would presume that NPD's are morons who wouldn't notice quickly that BPD's are not good caretakers, and who wouldn't run at the first sign that their new partner was not all she (or he) seemed.

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"Second, what is the end re... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 2:55 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

"Second, what is the end result of all of their behavior - what I refer to as the net effect. Do NPD's really get admiration? Do BPD's get taken care of? Would an NPD be stupid enough to think that a BPD is good at taking care of anyone? I say no."

Lots of people with NPD get admiration or attention/care, they just keep moving to new people when they've worn out the old (including new wives and families). Sure they prefer admiration but, just like a five year old, they'll take negative attention if they can't get any positive attention. Some get it through their work as well via the adoration of strangers who don't really know them. Sure there may be people who don't feed them but they just avoid these people and often treat them with contempt. The point about whether people with NPD or BPD get what they want seems to be missing the point - of course they can't because what they want is unconditional love of the kind only appropriate to infants! Of course no real person can provide the kind of idealized unconditional love and admiration they crave...which is why they continually punish their partners for not providing it (unless their partner has something they want and need to appease the partner to maintain - such as wealth or social status that is innate to the partner but makes the N look good and superior to others).

You may say "no" but that doesn't mean someone with a NPD doesn't believe that they'll get what they crave from someone with a BPD - at least at first. It's a mistake to think people with a NPD or BPD are very intelligent just because they're good at manipulating others, it's what they were raised to do and an ingrained behavior and not one that's a result of actually intellectually understanding interpersonal dynamics. And, at the end of the day, a lot of people with NPD aren't actually that good at manipulating others, they're just willing to do ruthless and unkind things to get their way that people with a normal sense of empathy wouldn't do. I'm starting to wonder if the "people with NPD are smarter than average" meme wasn't started by someone with a NPD! ;-) Or isn't just a function of class and what class has access to psychiatric/therapeutic care and how class effects what personality disorder people are diagnosed with.

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Anonymous - Yes, NPD's do a... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:00 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Anonymous - Yes, NPD's do all tht things you describe. They do it by habit and can do so without thinking because the habit is well ingrained, but at some point they actually do think about what they do. There are ways to get them to admit to it.

They may not completely understand why, but when confronted by the same negative results over and over again, I can not believe that they do not notice or that they have no idea when they are rationalizing. I give people more credit than most therapists.

To see what I mean, ask yourself how successful NPD's are, ultimately, of shifting the blame in the eyes of other people for their problems on to others. In my experience, rarely.

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Anonymous (how many anons a... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:08 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallen: | Reply

Anonymous (how many anons are involved in this discussion, anyway?) Behaviorists think, based on experiments with rats and dogs, that immediate reinforcement trumps long term misery. That seems to be what you are saying, so correct me if I misread you.

In people, the behaviorist conclusion is just not true!

Also, vilifying patients because of their bad behavior gets a therapist exactly nowhere. Do you think it more important to have them get their just deserts for past misdeeds, or to change their behavior in the future?

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Fair enough David, it can b... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:20 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Fair enough David, it can be hard to discuss complex ideas in the comment section of a blog. And my apologies for missing your inclusion of the father (I just notice most discussion of men with NPD centres on the mother and you also seemed to be emphasizing this). I certainly wasn't trying to point to you personally as being sexist - even if I am pointing out that we do need to be cautious because of how a diagnosis of BPD can be biased due to sexist beliefs. Also, my mistake in attributing the post by the anon that says people with NPD pick people with BPD to you when it was another anon who posted it. I now owe you a double apology because I was apparently attributing that post to you as your initial post.

I thought this post by an anon was from you..."The narcissists then grow up looking to build themselves up by taking care of a woman, and often pick someone with borderline personality disorder (a well known couple type), who then does the same thing to them as their mom did. The men will make themselves the villain in this family drama by acting as if they are bullies who are all wrapped up in themselves and are using others for their own gratification, but it's all an act."

Now back to our discussion with less confused attribution from my side (and I should probably stop being anon to avoid causing more confusion :-) "I bring up the DSM criteria only to make the point that the characteristics of NPD are very negative, and that it doesn't take a psychologist to recognize egocentricity, grandiosity, or bullying. Another poster thought that NPD's pick borderlines to take care of them because BPD's idealize and empathise so well, but that would presume that NPD's are morons who wouldn't notice quickly that BPD's are not good caretakers, and who wouldn't run at the first sign that their new partner was not all she (or he) seemed."

Sure the DSM criteria are negative but that doesn't mean that in the real world someone with a NPD can't have an extremely charming persona or someone with a BPD can't initially give the impression they really care because they're so finely attuned. In fact, many successful people with a NPD are incredibly charming and seductive...at first or if you supply what they want. And someone with a personality disorder isn't a "moron" if they don't see their own or someone else's personality disorder - particularly if they seem to read and respond to all the N's needs intuitively. Two people with boundary disorders aren't going to be very good at figuring out boundaries or a personality disorder that fits so neatly with their own...it'll feel like "love" to them both. (Because they both only experienced "love" as manipulation.)

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I most of the posts are min... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:28 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallen's comment, by brainchild : | Reply

I most of the posts are mine - apart from the other initial anon that I thought was you posting and the anon with anon discussion. I'll try to remember to put a name to the post from now on (sorry, it's sheer laziness in my part not to do so in the first place).

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I also seem to have mistake... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:30 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

I also seem to have mistaken you for the anon who is a therapist, my apologies for that too!

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I'm neither vilifying peopl... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallen's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

I'm neither vilifying people with personality disorders nor am I therapist - just to clarify.

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David - My apologies, on re... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallen's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

David - My apologies, on re-reading I realize I've attributed quite a few anon comments to you...including the one about gender.

Anon - "Their mothers, who often have gender role conflicts, act dependent on them after their fathers disappear or become incapacitated for one reason or the other, but really don't want or need anyone to take care of them. Mom will build up the little guy as her "little man." He really is too young to take care of her anyways, but she cuts his balls off (figuratively, that is) if he really tries to help."

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Now it's my turn to apologi... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 4:33 PM | Posted by davidmallenmad: | Reply

Now it's my turn to apologize. Sorry to all anons - the one anon post that you attributed to me was in fact me. Just forgot to put my name in.

The pattern I described involving gender issues and the NPD/BPD couple, with the NPD person making himself the villain, is in fact a very common pattern in male narcissists once you get through all their b.s. There are several other patterns, of course.

I was not attacking the NPD's mothers for chafing under internalized sexist stereotypes and not reacting well to them with their children (the understandable reason for the mothers' behavior in this pattern), but I can see how what I wrote could be read that way. Who they picked to marry is no accident, however.

Of course NPD patients can be highly charming, and BPD patients do really care, although in some contexts you might never know it. That's the excuse these people give when you explore why they "missed" enough red flags to form a small communist country when they first met.

It's sorta like people who say they didn't notice that their spouse had a drinking problem when they first met. Even if one is fooled at the beginning, it doesn't take long to notice danger signs, and these people ignore them. BPD pathology is almost impossible to miss!

Ignoring something is not the same thing as missing it - ignoring is an active process.

Generalizing again, but narcissists often tend to rush into relationships with quick professions of love. These people all know it and seek it out, and they don't even have to read dear abby to know it.

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No worries, it can get conf... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 5:11 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmad's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

No worries, it can get confusing to try to have a discussion in a comments section that doesn't always keep you logged in with a name.

"I was not attacking the NPD's mothers for chafing under internalized sexist stereotypes and not reacting well to them with their children (the understandable reason for the mothers' behavior in this pattern), but I can see how what I wrote could be read that way. Who they picked to marry is no accident, however."

I'm a bit confused here as to whether you're discussing the mother or the wife of a man with a NPD...can you please clarify. If we're talking about the mother, I'd suggest that mothers with NPDs create children with NPDs. It's not frustrated ambition due to sexism and inequality, it's using your children as objects and denying their needs in favor of filling their own. Of course, there's still the question of what role a father plays - particularly since he's the primary role model for a boy.

While who someone marries may not be an accident, it also may not be a conscious choice.

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Life blows.... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 5:13 PM | Posted by Bum: | Reply

Life blows.

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I was talking about the mot... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 5:51 PM | Posted, in reply to brainchild's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

I was talking about the mothers, although there will be obvious parallels with the wife. You're right that the parents are misusing their children for their own needs, but it's not either/or but both/and when it comes to the issue of frustrated ambitions.

The following is highly oversimplified and will undoubtedly raise more questions. There are a lot of different variations on the themes mentioned here:

According to both my theory and my clinical experience, the mother in this pattern is actually giving off a double message to the son: take care of women according to societal mandates, but here's what will happen if you dare try. She can't renounce her own family of origin system by teaching her son that women are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves without a man's help, so she tries to get the message across indirectly.

She is ALSO using the son to appear dependent herself. Still, I try to be empathic with all members of the family drama.

In this pattern, again oversimplified, the father is usually a pseudo male chauvinist who believes it his duty to take care of women but resents the hell out of them for this very same thing. He has also usually received the message in his own family of origin that he is inadequate to meet the challenge of taking care of women. It would take a whole book chapter to explain how and why that happens.

Anyways, he usually promises to take care of a woman who seems to want that but actually is highly conflicted about it, but then fails through a variety of ruses (business failures, gambling, alcoholism, multiple affairs, etc). This way he tries to satisfy both ends of a double bind. His wife then complains to the son about what a loser he is while she either tries to build up the son's ego, or in some cases, tear it down ("You're just like your father").

If dad continues to have a relationship with the son (some do and some don't), he often reinforces the idea to the son that one can never please a woman no matter what one does - which is sort of true in this type of family because of the high level of ambivalence. It is also true that his wife can not please him. Whether she lets him take care of her not, they are both unhappy. Secretly she may appear happy when he acts like a loser, just like his family did, so she can appear to be "forced" by circumstance to be less dependent.

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Men with NPD achieve their ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 6:20 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Men with NPD achieve their ambitions without any decrease in narcissism or increase in empathy, and see their children as objects that are extensions of themselves even though they have high powered jobs. I don't see why you think women with NPD would be different in this regard. Do you really think more power and admiration makes someone who has a NPD less disordered? They actually tend to increase the disorder because they fluff up the false self image (and if you've got power/money/fame then you'll generally have a pool of available feeding options if you've got a NPD, though none of them will be satisfying of course since there is no substitute for being poorly/badly loved as a small child, just re-enactments or learning how to become ones own good parent...and I'm not entirely convinced that there isn't irreversible neurobiological damage or lack of development in some cases of NPD).

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I'll also point out that it... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 6:36 PM | Posted by brainchild: | Reply

I'll also point out that it's impossible to please a man or a woman with a NPD, that's the nature of dealing with people with a NPD. Because, hey, it's not about you it's about them...always, even if they're making it about you. Part of the whole modus operandi of someone with a NPD is keeping people around them feeling unstable so as to better control them (though they're often not aware or refusing awareness of this) and to keep them jumping through hoops (generally to avoid being abused). People with NPDs can be quite fun as acquaintances, it's only when someone gets close to them and expresses a need of their own that the person with the NPD gets ugly.

I think you've made some incorrect connections. Certainly people with NPDs like to be powerful but thinking that a mother with a NPD wouldn't treat her child as an object if she'd only had a high powered job makes no sense to me. If she has a NPD it's also a result of her own childhood and lack of empathetic connection with a caretaker (all a child needs is one person who sees them for who they really are and who affirms to the child that they're getting raw deal for the child to be able to start building a true self, it doesn't have to be the mother who sees the child...it can be anyone, even someone passing through the child's life).

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David - It sounds like you ... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 6:38 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

David - It sounds like you may be dealing with a specific subset of patients because this really isn't what I've observed. Or, of course, my observations may be incorrect or yours may be. Or our interpretations of what we've observed may be very different.

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I had read the article last... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 7:36 PM | Posted by FJWalker: | Reply

I had read the article last week (or the week before) and as I was, I thougt: I'm interested in what TLP has to say about this.
Great Stuff.

Now, you've got to tackle The Atlantic's current issue and its article on the end of Men. Along with a companion article about fathers not being needed.

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To the anon(s) who keeps sa... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 8:43 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

To the anon(s) who keeps saying NPD and BPD is caused by bad parenting - prove it. You have zero proof this is true. Psychologists want to promote that agenda, because psychiatrists have the monopoly on craziness that responds to sedatives (bipolar and schizophrenia)... so psychologists love to promote the idea that personality disorders are caused by psychological traumas that can be blamed on someone else ("hello therapy here I come", says every loser in unison).

I think most of the time personality disorders are just like axis 1 disorders - physical, physiologically real fuckups in the brain. There is something wrong with the brain that makes a person unable to regulate their emotions, or to not give a shit if they constantly violate someone's rights, so on. "Bad parenting" is not THE cause, although I do agree traumatic upbringing could make it worse (much in the way early life stressors can trigger axis 1 mental illnesses later in life). Yea, it's also shown people with axis 1 craziness have a lot of abuse in their background as well. But no one says schizophrenia is caused by failing to make some developmental milestone and therapy can resolve it. How ridiculous would that be?

Just because abilify and seroquel doesn't do much for a guy who walks around not caring about other people's feelings doesn't mean the guy has a thinking problem that can be changed by therapy. Hello illogical. Let's not forget personality is very largely genetically determined, and the part that is not genetically determined is no less physically real than the genetic part. Environment is just as powerful as genetics in shaping our mind and body. If a person has a gene to go insane if they are exposed to too much stress hormone cortisol, it can be said that environment is the trigger for mental illness in this case... but it doesn't make the pathophysiology any less permanent, physically real. Environment is often no less physically real than genetics.


It's said that DBT can "cure" borderline, which is fucking stupid. That's like saying being taught how to read braille "cures" blindness. Duh. Therapy doesn't do a thing for personality disorders, as a best case scenario all it can do is help a person function better and experience less distress by giving them coping mechanisms for their fucked up brain.

The idea that shitty personality problems are a simple issue of trauma and conflicts that can be resolved eventually is pure *fantasy*. It does not stand up to research - research which shows the brains of people with fucked up personalities really are different than other brains.

But, if your a psychologist/therapist on the prowl for clients, I can totally see how you would pimp this idea. People with shitty personalities want to hear that their shitty personality is a result of their Oh So Hard life, amirite? Blame your mommy, that's why your a shitty human being.

I've totally met people online who had perhaps white trashy but otherwise perfectly ordinary upbringings, totally convinced by their therapist that their upbringing was especially damaging and the reason for their problems and that htey have "complex PTSD" or some bullshit. UG-GH

I think it is a litmus test of someone's douche bagginess when they have the nerve to call being emotionally invalidated as "traumatizing", when so many children exist in the world who were beaten, raped, and abused FOR REAL. It goes to show that person doesn't even spend a split second thinking about people other than themselves.

So, in closing, once more, to all the therapists in the world: Please stop promoting the lie that shitty personalities are caused by "trauma" or bad parents. This does not hold up to research. It's a myth.

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Question.What woul... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:02 PM | Posted by pseudo-narcissism??: | Reply

Question.

What would you call a person who behaves exactly like a narcissist:
1) Bizarre sense of being entitled,
2) Often has shallow superficial emotions,
3) Often grandiose with a belief they are special in many ways
4) Indifferent to others rights and feelings; always justifies away behavior when other people complain that they are disrespectful and violating
5) extremely manipulative with a pattern of trying to first obtain what they want via charm, then resorting to rage/violence, and finally total emotional breakdown...
6) Completely unable to acknowledge any personal problems are their own fault or responsibility, always blaming someone/something else
7) SElf worth is entirely based in external validation of their image (or by coveting an internalized image of themselves that has no basis in reality)
8) Gains no self worth/respect/"good feelings" by behaving in a correct way (i.e. helping people, being respectful, working hard). Feels absolutely nothing in the way of positive reinforcement when doing the "right thing".

... HOWEVER, this person does show the capacity for empathy, as evidenced by an obvious and reflexive response to people being in pain (with disgust and aversion), likes children (clearly responds in a positive way to children suggesting the capacity for kindness), and occasionally does show signs of guilt (in response to their bad behavior, sometimes they do show guilt and remorse with genuine emotions).

I would note that it is unlikely borderline personality is a better explanation for this behavior, as the person is very rarely ego dysphoric, shows no internalized aggression at all (e.g. cutting, suicidality), and their behavior is not a reaction to emotions but rather it is a reaction to being denied or limited in a narcissistic way (the behavior flares up badly when boundaries and limits are placed on them, which is a narcissistic sort of reaction).

Is it possible to be "half a narcissist"... to behave exactly like a narcissist, but to actually have empathy deep down?

Hmmmm.

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Hey AMom,This is the... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:24 PM | Posted, in reply to AMom's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Hey AMom,
This is the first anon who went off on parenting sucking ass (9:01pm).

Let's just clear something up, awlrite?

NUMBER ONE, I actually am one of those professionals you list. So, busting my butt all my life helping others isn't a "good enough" reason to take care of me when I myself am old and infirm? Simply because I think parenting sucks ass and would never want to do it? That negates all that I did for other people? GEE THANKS, I can see the sort of mom you must be if these are your sorts of values. Mommy's belief system to her kiddies: "Only help people who deserve it, and deserving it is a value I arbitrarily define on a whim".
Sounds like emotional instability a'brewin in those young'uns already. Good to know my taxes will very likely go to pay for their therapy and meds when they come of age.


And, NUMBER TWO, I would point out, I did NOT "put down" parenting in terms of calling it a worthless endeavor. I simply said parenting, in our society, sucks a lot of ass. It's a very important job, but it sucks a lot of ass none the less because of how our society is set up. It's sorta like, um, a carpenter trying to build a house with a gift certificate of $1000 to home depot. It's sorta not happening.
I mean maybe some can do it (parent) and still stay sane, but not many. I would assume those able to "do it" either have an indefatiguable sense of optimism (e.g. hyperthymic personality), OR alternatively they are married to someone with a well paying job, giving them the luxury of being able to work part time or not at all, so that they can devote their working time to raising their children and tending the house that the children constantly mess up, and cooking the food they constantly eat.

Because, unless you are in that ideal situation, you are going to find yourself in one of the following situations: 1) overworked as fuck (e.g. working full time and then trying to be a mother on top of that) 2) neglecting your kids like shit thus feeling like shit 3) poor as a motherfucker (e.g. working less but parenting more).


This doesn't even address the social issues involved in raising a child... i.e. the fact we don't have neighbors we trust, extended families who can help, so on. Some of us do, many of us don't.

I will never say parenting is a useless job.

I will 100% stand behind my original statement: parenting sucks an ass. Unless you are lucky to have an ideal situation (a stable husband, which is rare, and a husband who ALSO has a well paying job, which is even rarer)... yea, sorry to say, unless that is you, you are probably in a lot of denial about your life sucking ass in some major ways as a direct result of being a parent.

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"Do you really think more p... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:37 PM | Posted, in reply to brainchild's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

"Do you really think more power and admiration makes someone who has a NPD less disordered?" - No, of course not. I agree with what you said: "They actually tend to increase the disorder because they fluff up the false self image." The NPD often secretly feels like an imposter, and success does NOT change that.

"Certainly people with NPDs like to be powerful but thinking that a mother with a NPD wouldn't treat her child as an object if she'd only had a high powered job makes no sense to me." I don't think I'm making this clear. I'm not saying that at all. These mothers would never take a high powered job in the first place because they would be upsetting family rules.

Unfortunately, if I went into the idea here that people are willing to sacrifice themselves and their children if necessary for what they think is required by their kin group (ever hear of honor killings in the Middle East, for example), even if on the surface they appear to be oppositional, I'd be opening up a whole can of worms that I would rather not in this blog.

I do have a book for lay readers coming out August 31 that describes my point of view on the latter point in more detail and goes into the science behind all this called "How Dysfunctional Families Spur Mental Disorders: A Balanced Approach to Resolve Problems and Reconcile Relationships" if anyone is interested. It's already posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (cheaper on Barnes and Noble).

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Does anyone find it strange... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:39 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Does anyone find it strange that davidmallenmd is posing as a PSYCHOLOGIST yet his title is apparently "MD"?

Uh oh, someone needs to get their story straight.

His posts are interesting but ultimately I smell a troll (either that, or a really pathological person who believes this crap).

I don't think a real psychologist would ever have the nerve to stereotype his patients this much. "NPD is caused by this in the mother and this in the father... gender this and that.... NPD and BPD etc"... holy shit freud is that you? Talk about unscientific, biased, and useless.

You know, I just want to say, even though my mind would VERY MUCH PREFER if davidmallenmd were a troll, deep down I know he probably isn't a troll. Mental health professionals, both psychiatrist and psychologists, are extremely irrational and label their patietns which ever way they feel fit. Similarly, treatments are also quite random ("Um, here's some seroquel, it will help or something" "Here's some depakote, because you're pissed off you probably need that")

From my personal and professional experiences with psychiatrists, that's sorta how they jive. Their diagnoses and prescriptions are based on gut instinct (which they really do believe is clinically valid method of treating people - this is probably the narcissism piece stepping in).

So, I would very much like to think this davidmallenmd is sorta a troll, but I know it's most likely true he's some kind of therapist and he really does practice what he's now preaching.

Sorta sad.

Then again, anyone in the mental health system is fucked, and has always been fucked, and this is true from the moment psychiatry and psychology were conceptualized, when they were just a gleam in freud's crazy eyes, amirite?

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My, a wee bit defensive are... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 9:49 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

My, a wee bit defensive aren't we?

Actually, there's a crapload of studies that show that child abuse and neglect are by far and away the biggest risk factors, whether biological, psychological, or social, in leading to personality disorders. It is in the nature of risk factors that not everyone who has them develops the disorder, and not everyone who has a certain disorder has all of the risk factors.

I'm a psychiatrist so I have access to all those medications, by the way.

Also, sedation does not treat schizophrenia or true bipolar disorder, which, unlike personality disorders, are NOT in any way related to child abuse and neglect.

But I'm not going to argue with you or write down literally hundreds of references. Do your own literature search if you don't believe me.

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I never said I was a psycho... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 10:01 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

I never said I was a psychologist. I am a psychiatrist. In fact, I ran a psychiatric residency program for 16 years. I know that psychiatrists who are also therapists are becoming an endangered species, but there are still a few of us left.

As far as stereotypes, one cannot discuss a particular common pattern in general without doing that - as I mentioned, there are wide variations on the patterns I'm describing.

I also happen to agree with you about the way a lot of mental health professionals are making diagnoses these days, as I describe in my upcoming book mentioned in a post above.

However, just because some of mental health science and practice is baloney, that does not mean that everything in mental health is.

From your post, it sounds like you may be a true believer rather than a true skeptic, so it would be pointless to argue with you. It would be like arguing with a fundamentalist about whether a religious text is literally true. Please correct me if I am wrong about you.

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"Is it possible to be "half... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 10:26 PM | Posted, in reply to pseudo-narcissism??'s comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

"Is it possible to be "half a narcissist"... to behave exactly like a narcissist, but to actually have empathy deep down?"

Yes it is. You'd be shocked. When you've played a role for your whole life, you become pretty convincing at it.

While some narcissists may commit unspeakable evil, thankfully most of their crimes are petty. I don't see them as inherently bad.

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In hindsight, I've realized... (Below threshold)

July 12, 2010 11:02 PM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

In hindsight, I've realized that I was one of those half-narcissists for much of my childhood and I didn't really start to break out of it until late into high school. I had trouble understanding how other people saw me, so it was easier to just retreat into an imagined identity and step outside of it as little as possible. It's really not that unusual among kids who are a little awkward and are imaginative enough to overthink their problems.

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Well I do apologize then, I... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 2:06 AM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Well I do apologize then, I thought you referred to yourself as a psychologist at one point, and considering how you are so engrossed in PDs, their origins and therapy about them, that seemed quite consistent.

If you are actually a MD and stated this originally ... mah' apologies.

I'm not really a skeptic or a believer but by default I must be a skeptic since I am ambivalent about pretty much everything and interested and that combination usually adds up to skepticism. I argue positions but I am convinced by convincing information.

By sedatives, I was referring to the so called "major tranquilizers", which are appropriately named. There is nothing about an antipsychotic which is specific for the "disease" of schizophrenia or bipolar, all it does is shut down the brain like a computer on the fritz. It stops psychosis by turning off brain activity. Much like chemotherapy works by stopping/slowing growth in all rapidly growing cells (both healthy and cancerous cells), antipsychotics work in a similar way - they simply shut down the brain, stop brain activity, resulting in dulled cognition and flatness when maintained at a level to control psychosis. Unfortunately this is the best we can do at this point in time, but either way, they ARE tranquilizers. Similarly, chemotherapy IS poison. Unfortunately it is the best we can do for cancer at that stage.


And I would also mention that minor tranquilizers - benzodiazepines and similar substsances - are often helpful to schizophrenic and bipolar people, unless they are so manic/psychotic out of their minds that only the big guns will make a dent. The addition of low dose seroquel to take the edge off hypomania for outpatients; and PRN ativan is used for this purpose too. Perhaps that's not how you practice, but other psychiatrists do practice this way... benzos and low dose seroquel to take the agitation edge off. And this is in validly legitimately bipolar patients too, fyi.


I FLAT OUT disagree with your belief that trauma = PDs and biology = axis 1 stuff. This really doesn't hoild up to scrutiny. Studies have shown a disproportionately high rate of trauma and adversity in the backgrounds of people who later go on to develop serious mental illness - sz, bipolar I, psychotic depression and such.
There are also studies which show the rate of adverse experiences in the background of axis II disorders is overblown. One study stated that the high level of "trauma" in borderline patients is partly due to self report from borderlines themselves... when the objective experiences were actually estimated, there was not a higher rate of adverse experiences in the borderline patients than controls. Meaning to say, borderlines were more likely to perceive experiences as traumatizing and to report them as traumatizing... even though the actual experiences were not different from a control group.

That's sorta like saying schizophrenia is caused by the FBI monitoring people's thoughts. Part of this personality issue is that these people are hypersensitive and emotional... this sort of person is going to perceive experiences as extremely traumatizing, even though many people without this personality go through similar issues and would not feel the same way. It is ridiculous to say trauma causes borderline when people with borderline personality go through life traumatized by ordinary things because they are so emotional and unstable.

I definitely do think there is a LOT to that... I've met people online who were "borderline" who reported very adverse backgrounds... but when they actually talked about their experiences I thought ot myself "that's really not all that bad, not at all... this person is just hypersensitive".
I'm sure trauma does make borderline worse. Being raped, being beaten... but I think the tendency is ALWAYS there to be very emotional, "irrational", unstable, and life experience can only exacerbate that.

And I simply flat out REFUSE to believe that emotional neglect, emotional invalidation, is sufficient to cause a PD. It certainly could foster it and make it worse but this is not trauma, this is not abuse, this is an ordinary white trash upbringing and it's not sufficient to cause a major impairing mental illness.

50% of personality is entirely determined by genetics, some estimates say, the rest is environment... but environment is just as physically real as genetics.

I simply find it very, very hard to believe major pathologies in adjustment and relating can be so flippantly caused by less than perfect parenting. It defies common sense, and usually things that defy common sense are not true. Many ordinary people come from similar backgrounds where the family is not perfect (i.e. no major heinous abuse, just your ordinary neglectful dad and mom who are average crappy american parents)... and they don't end up "borderline" trying to slice their wrists every other week going into hospitals over and over for this attention seeking behavior.


Even if we agree that environment/parents/trauma plays a triggering role, we have to agree that there is a HUGE genetic vulnerability and it is likely these people would have had subsyndromal issues either way.


And yea... about axis I disorders and trauma/adverse experiences... like I said, studies show a relatively high rate of traumatic experience in the background. Given the effect cortisol has on brain health , growth, mania and psychosis, I really don't see why this is hard to believe as possible. (You don't really think that psychology is the reason people with personality disorders act the way they do, I hope you agree that something is physically wrong with their brains as a result of developmental traumas? )
I mean its shown giving cortisol for ordinary health problems can totally make a normal person go either psychotic depressed, depressed, or manic...often time these changes are permanent, the person remains bipolar even when the cortisol is withdrawn. So why would it be hard to believe that high levels of cortisol produced by the body in response to early life trauma/stress could set them up for nuttery later on? Cortisol rots your brain, dude. Totally. End up with brain diseases after it.

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What I'd like to know is wh... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 2:42 AM | Posted by Non-American: | Reply

What I'd like to know is why people in the US feel compelled to have children back to back (like 12-15 months difference.) Is it the severe religious upbringing? The sad lack of sex-ed?

Either way, I think they'd have less to moan about if they wouldn't squeeze out as many kids as they can, as fast as possible. (While trying to be super-heroes and working 10 full-time jobs.)

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@Anonymous who posted July ... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 3:03 AM | Posted by A.: | Reply

@Anonymous who posted July 12, 2010 9:24 PM

I totally agree with what you're saying. I didn't consider your comments to be a "sneer at parenting" - just very realistic.

Keep posting.

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Thanks David, I was more in... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 8:15 AM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

Thanks David, I was more interested in having a conversation really but I appreciate that this isn't perhaps the best place to do so. Good luck with your book, even if we have come to some differing conclusions regarding NPD. I suspect we disagree about some things related to gender and would have liked to discuss this with more with you. Partly because your idea seems to be one that I thought was valid at a certain point but ultimately no longer do.

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"Bad" is a moral judgment a... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 8:22 AM | Posted, in reply to davidmallenmd's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

"Bad" is a moral judgment about the person, the issue with people with NPD is their behavior. The point is that people with NPDs have a personality disorder that leads them to do things that are harmful to those around them to varying degrees. At its most extreme, it can be deadly for the person with the disorder and those close to them. At it's most benign, it can be annoying to those around the person with the NPD. But, still, people with NPDs can do large scale damage to large numbers of people since they do seek positions of power and see all of us as objects to be used for their own gain.

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Your column, a favorite of ... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 9:46 AM | Posted by brad: | Reply

Your column, a favorite of a friend, is a reminder that I am not the only one that is watching the ongoing parade of narcicists with wonder. I was happy before becoming a Dad, I am happy now. I encounter parents, courageiously starring in their own films, and their complaints are unceasing and bitter. They need better scriptwriters I guess. Keep puncturing the ego balloons............

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Thanks for responding. You... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 2:38 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by davidmallenmd: | Reply

Thanks for responding. You bring up a lot of interesting points, many of which I agree with. A large study did show that adverse childhood events are risk factors for a whole host of mental disorders on both Axis I and Axis II. Risk factors are neither necessary or sufficient to produce almost any psychiatric problem.

In over 30 years of practice, I have not found benzo's, or many other CNS depressants, to be of much use in psychotic people, regardless of diagnosis. They do not touch delusions or hallucinations.

I address a lot of your arguments about personality disorders in my book - far better, I like to think at least, than I can address them in a blog post. I and other investigators have found very specific themes to the behavior patterns in the families of origin of patients with borderline personality disorder, albeit with a lot of individual variation in the way the themes are played out. (This doesn't mean that stress does not alter the brain as you point out, by the way).

A lot of times patients do not tell the whole story about their family interactions, or they may on rare occasions completely lie about them, in order to protect the family by hiding the family's worst behavior and/or by making themselves look bad. Rosanne Barr saying she remembers being molested as a one year old is a good example of the latter. Who believes her about that?

I know everyone on this blog finds that extremely hard to believe anyone that troubled and toxic has hidden altruistic motives.

I know what I know because I interview the parents, listen to tapes that patients bring me of recorded phone interactions when parents don't know their adult children are recording them (illegal for them to do in some states, but not illegal for me to listen to them), and have had both adult child and their parent in psychotherapy separately.

Using a variety of techniques designed to lead to reconciliation, the parents of many of my patients admit to what they've done. Also, if you listen to a patient's judgments you may get a distorted view, but unlike schizophrenics, if you ask them questions about who said and did what to whom, they do not usually distort at all. It's all in how the questions are posed.

It's actually quite easy to get most patient with BPD to quit driving a therapist nuts, if the therapist knows the tricks. Getting them to stop driving everyone else nuts is a whole 'nother matter.

Another difference between BPD and schizophrenia is that I have seen all the BPD patients I've treated turn their symptoms off and like a faucet (unless their in a real rage. But who in a real rage feels much like controlling themselves? BPD's do often feign rage, however). Schizophrenics do not have this ability to control their symptoms.

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davidmallenmd -I agr... (Below threshold)

July 13, 2010 4:57 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

davidmallenmd -
I agree that benzodiazepines are not going to stop psychosis, but they will help a psychotic person since psychosis can go along with agitation, hyper energy, and distress. They take the edge off of all that stuff. If a person is hypomanic as opposed to manic then the issue is purely agitation or energy, no psychosis is even involved.

I do not believe a person can remember what happens to them at 1 years old. I can't comment further on this since I don't know the exact story, but I would wonder why her parents molested her at 1 yr old and then didn't molest her at any other time. Child molestors usually don't follow that pattern.
I also think a lot of "breakthrough memories" in therapy can be confabulated, the patient knows that the therapist expects "something" and so the patient comes up with half cocked untrue memories made up of a hodgepodge of real events, imagined events, events read in a book or seen in a movie, whatever. Either way, when therapists sit there with an expectation that the patient will "uncover" something, it sorta sets one up to think and believe shit that isn't true and never happened.

There were a few times in my life where I have been in that situation... not in therapy, as I have never been in therapy... but in a situation where I was expected to conform to a precedent and "realize" what everyone else already believed. You know what, after enough time, eventually I started agreeing with them. Later on I looked back and said, yea my "realization" was bullshit.

Power of suggestion, like hypnosis... can make you believe things that are not true at all.

I find it easy to believe a person can be both good and bad, that they can behave in a toxic destructive way but actually care about people and act this way out of a desire to be helpful and concerned for others. This describes the conflict I had as a teenager.

It would be way too long for me to go into my personal history, but suffice to say I had similar problems and have been able to resolve them (without therapy). I think any person should be able to look inside themselves and figure out what they need to do for themselves to find peace by the time they are in their adult years.

I notice a lot of people are diagnosed with "borderline" when they are still 19, 18... this is stupid. It's normal, albeit unfortunate, for people to have coping and personality problems when they are still young. You haven't had enough time to really learn about yourself, your emotional needs, and mature to a point where you can learn how to cope. When I was 18 I probably would have been dxed as borderline, but it would have been false because all I really needed was time to grow into an adult.


Either way. I really, really find it hard to believe ordinary, albeit adverse developmental experiences are sufficient to cause a serious personality flaw like borderline PD. I think a lot of the time 1) the person is misdiagnosed (they are young, they will get better with time and age and distance from their family) 2) they genuinely are suffering from a major personality disturbance and would have been this way to some degree regardless of their environment (and I think true borderlines - women, and men, in their late 20s and 30s and 40s who still act this way - they would have been like that no matter what).

And I do find it easy to believe a traumatic experience or a less than perfect family can make a borderline "more borderline" but I really do believe that genuine borderline patients would have been like that no matter what. How are we going to ignore the neurology, the research showing abnormalities in brain structures and neurotransmitter regulation? This is a brain disease, just as real as schizophrenia and bipolar, the only difference is that there are no medicines to fix it.

Just because borderline patients are not psychotic and can speak consistently and have lucid thoughts and can control their behavior when they want to doesn't mean their brain is fine. A tendency to manipulate (by feigning rage and distress) is not the same as genuine rage and distress - which borderlines fall into often. The borderline, who is powerless over their environment and themselves, does what htey can to feel the way they want and one effective way is to go on rages so people act the way they want them to. SOrta how a toddler learns to cry if they want their mother to pay attention to them, same deal.

But, the tendency these people have to get *so low* and *so intense* and *so quickly* for a reason you or I would easily be able to modulate... THAT is a brain disease. There is something wrong with how their brain perceives information, processes it, and responds, and it is not a psychological problem. It is a brain structure problem. There is no conscious decision or thinking behind our natural ability to not go into a meltdown and have an emotional breakdown under small stress. I mean, research shows the brain is not normal in borderline, it's set up in a way that they are emotionally hair trigger.

I'm not saying borderline is schizophrenia, I'm not saying borderline is psychosis... all I'm saying is that it is a type of brain disease, like schizophrenia, like psychosis. There are no medications for it, but that does not mean it is not a brain disease.

Sometimes medicine jumps to illogical conclusions. If medicines helps psychosis, if medicine does not help emotional dysregulation that much, this means emotional dysregulation is psychological. This is an irrational conclusion. Just becaused generalized tranquilizers make little effect in emotional dysregulation doesn't mean it's not a brain disease. There is no medication for failing to remember individual faces, but no one argues THAT is a brain disease. Why do people assume emotional dysregulation is any different? It's pretty clear the brain is responsible for controlling emotional responses and logical thinking, and it's pretty clear this isn't working right in borderline people (GENUINELY borderline people, not teenagers who have some conflicts that they will resolve in time).

And again, just because people with borderline can control themselves and "act right" if they want to doesn't mean their brain is okay. All it means is that they are not extremely psychotic and are in touch with reality, which was never in question to begin with.

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Folks, we are on to somethi... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 11:08 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Folks, we are on to something.

Here is a suggestion. Take a careful look at issues of Parenting magazine and Working Mother.

One of the shrinks who shares the suite with my therapist subscribes to those rags. They are out there in the waiting room.

IMO those magazines are, in their own way, as damaging or worse, than pornography.

Why? The magazines show gorgeous, well dressed mothers and happy well dressed children cooperating in backing up the image of Mom the OmiCompetant.

And the articles: No More Tantrums, Make Homework Fun, Make Chores Fun. Easy Meals. How to Lose the Baby Fat

Those fricking magazines make it seem that Momming should be fun and stylish.

It sets the reader up to feel like dogshit because her own life is not gonna look that way at all.

I scrawled some nasty comments in the margins until my own shrink (who dislikes the magazines) asked me to stop because he'd been getting complaints.

So...go do some independent research. Peek into issues of Parenting and Working Mother.

And if you really want to froth at the mouth, note that these rags have advertisements for stuff like Amblify and Cymbalta.

Parenting is not a movie where you get to be the star and where the kids are supposed to cooperate as understudies.

Note: my grandmother, who raised her kids in the 1920s and 1930s routinely told them to go play on the freeway (a nice of saying, get your butt out of the house) when they hung around underfoot if they knew she was making a dessert.

Todays kids are oversupervised and live like prison inmates.

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In the 1930s or 1940s, Will... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 11:13 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

In the 1930s or 1940s, Will and Ariel Durant, historians, summed up parenting in a manner that no one would dare say today:

'Turning animals into citizens'.

This was a useable job description and entailed acknowledging that ones kids were loveable and at the same time less than perfect and in need to learning certain skills.

A far cry from todays My Child is Perfect Even When Being a Pain in the Ass.

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A additional comments:... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 11:38 AM | Posted by AK: | Reply

A additional comments:

Regarding the picture of the mom with hair in a bun, trim body--

It takes money and time and possibly membership at a gym to be stylishly trim.

Two, pictures of mothers depicted in magazine articles rarely show them with hair out of order, or wrinkled clothing--unless its a news photo taken when someone has not had time to comb back her hair or dress up to face the public.

It takes time, money to 1) select the outfit and then 3) more time and 4) more money to take the clothes to and from the cleaner.

In those parenting porn magazines (Parenting Working Mother) you *never* see the moms and kids wearing realistically wrinkled or trashed out clothing.

Those magazines do not mirror lived reality and are a recipe for
depression unless the reader is highly alert.

So--one way to evaluate a mental health professional is to see whether she or he subscribes to waiting room magazines that are parenting porn.

(My shrink is not the one who subscribes to those rags and he admitted he agreed with the crabby comments I had scrawled on them. But he had to keep peace with the other therapist so that was why I had to be asked to refrain from scribbling subversive comments on what I considered particularly offensive pages.)

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Parenting (or really "mothe... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 11:53 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Parenting (or really "mothering" magazines since they're aimed at women) are a symptom and not the cause. Industrialization (or, more accurately the consumerism that resulted due to colonialist ideas of constant growth and expansion) and advertising (the driver and shaper of consumers and consumerism) are the causes - making more stuff and constant need to sell more stuff. And it's the rise of the middle class and advertising that has been creating these images since the 50s. Parenting magazines may be amplifying it and targeting mothers directly but they're really not the cause of any of this, rather there's a market for these magazines because advertising has already created the insecurity and void for them to fill.

All media are full of images of the "perfect mother", even some men's magazines with their "yummy mommy" and MILF features that make being a mother about being a sexual object to fill grown men's needs instead of a mother that cares for her child and fills its needs. (Which is not to say that mothers can't be sexual beings or have sexual desires but this isn't about the woman's desire.) Most sitcoms feature idealized mothers living unrealistic lives (even when they use signifiers of real motherhood instead of the fictive one they promote).

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And to add to my (anon) pos... (Below threshold)

July 14, 2010 12:05 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by brainchild: | Reply

And to add to my (anon) post above, the fine tradition of tranquilizing women to help make them into perfect moms/wives/housewives started back in the 50s and 60s as well.

However, as tempting as it is to blame the media and consumerism for everything we're not happy with about society or ourselves, there's a certain point where it becomes about personal responsibility instead of seeking victim status (including angry victim status). As a poster noted quite far back, the answer is to stop seeking and doling out pity (or contempt, for that matter, it's simply the other side of a similar coin). You want change, stop blaming everyone else for your own unhappiness and looking for quick fixes. Stop believing everything can be perfect and then you'll be happy, get used to the messy, warty, imperfect nature of life and yourself so you can really enjoy those rare moments when everything IS perfect (or learn how to enjoy perfect enough to be more accurate) and you ARE happy. Stop buying in and you'll discover that what you're seeking can't be bought anyway.

It's a bit like how so many people either adore or hate celebrities, both show just how much you care about celebrity. Those who don't care don't care, they neither love nor hate it but simply see it for what it is. Sometimes a side effect of being very talented or beautiful and in the right place at the right time and working hard but, more often than not, that hard work is driven by someone who is even more insecure about who they are and if they're lovable.

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"There's a word for all of ... (Below threshold)

July 19, 2010 3:48 PM | Posted by Pablo Botelho: | Reply

"There's a word for all of this, but everyone gets queasy when I use it."
I just want to say how I love the way you emphasize things :)

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That last paragraph sums it... (Below threshold)

July 29, 2010 1:15 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

That last paragraph sums it up nicely.

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I am in love with your writ... (Below threshold)

August 4, 2010 10:57 AM | Posted by Jonathan Warner: | Reply

I am in love with your writing, it is so good! Thank you!

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> Because, you know, no Sca... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 5:18 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

> Because, you know, no Scandinavian women ever kill themselves at double the rate of Americans.

And there are no other environmental factors? Wikipedia mentions that the former Soviet bloc countries have the highest suicide rates in the world; they're quite far north as well...

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As a parent, most of the st... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 5:23 AM | Posted by Mark: | Reply

As a parent, most of the stress comes from the dissociation between expectation and reality.

So Basically, the Mother who controls all her life, builds up a movie in her head about how she wants things to be. When her child, who like all children are free thinking human beings, chooses a different movie option is when the stress starts.

So basically, the problem is not being a parent or the children is the Parent, who sets expectations which are not realistic.

With my children, who are 3 and 2, I try to put myself in their perspective, try to read between the lines, as their ability to express themselves is still quite limited, such that I can realistically set some expectations about how i would like things to happen and how they will happen to match.

Yes is not always easy, when your mind is racing about preparing dinner, that annoying co-worker, or partner... then your child decides to paint on the walls... you tend to blame the children or being a parent.

Sex or the lack there of, is a problem that is not easily resolved with children, but can be worked through, with a little bit of effort from both partners, the children is usually an excuse, one easily chosen, because as a parent your so tired at the end of the day struggling to make the movie in your head match reality.

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Parenting is tough. Try not... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 5:35 AM | Posted by Gareth: | Reply

Parenting is tough. Try not sleeping for a week (teething 4 month old), working all day, then coming home to a toddler who screams and throws a fit because she doesn't want to go to sleep. After three hours of this screaming lets see how you feel about parenting.

Come talk to me when you have done it. Otherwise keep your ill formed and poorly researched opinions to yourself

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I wish this TLP blog would ... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 8:26 AM | Posted by OneTwoThree: | Reply

I wish this TLP blog would get as much of an airing in the mainstream press as the article it criticised. But it won't because it says something nobody wants to hear. There is no quick fix, no easy way out. You want kids? Have them, but all your whining about how they ruined your life, career, body, social life and relationship will create a new generation of responsibility-dodging whingers who will continue to blame you for all their troubles well into middle age. You want kids with a decent chance at being content human beings? Then become a content human being. How? Work at it every day for the rest of your life.

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I can't help but wonder whe... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 9:32 AM | Posted by Anonymous2: | Reply

I can't help but wonder where along the lines derisive sarcasm became the replacement for intelligent conversation. ??? I'm sorry folks, but mean spirited and critical sarcasm does not equate intelligence. In fact, it implies quite the opposite.

That said, I do see much truth in the statements presented by the blog writer but I also see a great deal of conjecture. (An assumption of the writers thinking process.) We just never know for sure what someone is thinking or going through, and it is dangerous to make assumptions.

I will add this though. I truly believe if someone were to stand in my shoes for a bit and get to see and experience what a lifetime of infertility feels like they may look upon the gift of their child (no matter how annoying they may be) a little differently.

Peace.

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As a single father of a thr... (Below threshold)

August 9, 2010 1:03 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

As a single father of a thriving 6.5 year old... I can say that it's not very rewarding to discuss parenting with other parents.

Go to a playground, watch the parent-child interactions... and it's clear that a lot of the difficulty surrounding the "parenting narrative" in our culture is fundamentally based on the unwillingness of adults to grow, change, understand.

I'm down with the poster's charge of narcissism. There is a significant lack of awareness among so many in this discussion it's not even worth getting worked up about.

What will change in this conversation?

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Why are parents less happy?... (Below threshold)

August 11, 2010 2:59 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Why are parents less happy? Its not brain surgery here. It can be demonstrated with a simple illustration.

My average weekday life pre-kids:

Wake 7-ish. Enjoy a coffee with the feet up and the paper. Sometime after 8:00 hop on the bus and read a bit in to work. No worries if the day runs a bit late if things need to get done. Head home. Spend the evening with the wife doing whatever together. Maybe head to the gym. Maybe meet up with a friend for a beer. A life with free time and options.

My average weekday life post-kids:

Up at 6, have coffee while packing lunches, school bags, double-check to ensure nothing special is needed for the kids. Drag their asses out of bed. ram some food into them, get them dressed, teeth brushed, and looking presentable. Precisely by 7:45 we gotta be out the door to make it to school in time. Drop 'em off and drive to work (jeepers there are a lot of idiots on the road). rush home, supervise homework or get kids to some activities. Try to prepare a meal that appeals to everybody (boy did menu options get more limited!). Referee at least 10 sibling fights. Bathtimes. Story times. Bedtimes. At about 9:30 they are both finally asleep. I now have the freedom to do whatever I want .... as long as what I want doesn't involve leaving the house (Two more years until my oldest can legally babysit my youngest). Spend a couple of hours with my wife. Rinse, lather, repeat.

I love my kids. Couldn't (and wouldn't want to) imagine a world without them in it, and they have been the center of some of the most magical moments of my life.

But yeah, the opportunity costs that children impose on you puts a huge dent in how you get to enjoy your time.

My life is happier being a parent when we're all snuggled in bed watching saturday morning cartoons. Saturday morning, however, is not the totality of my existence. I'm happier for having them in my life, but I'm not happier with my life.

But it doesn't really bother me because I never thought it would make my life better. So I'm not disappointed with this fact. I expected it.

It just wears me down - that's all.

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I really enjoyed your post ... (Below threshold)

August 13, 2010 5:18 PM | Posted by chess: | Reply

I really enjoyed your post and the way you got at some of the strange perspectives going on in this and similar articles.

I have an about-to-leave for college daughter and a doing-well-so-far-in-college stepson who I have lived with for 6 years.

To me parenting is an unbelievable privilege. Perhaps I feel this way because I know I am fundamentally unqualified to do more than love, clothe, shelter and cheer up my kids.

In return for a ton of manual labor, varying amounts of freedom and money I have gotten to watch them grow up. I know things about them and myself that I would have no other way of knowing.
I have seen things, heard things, tasted things and felt things - thousands of things - that I would have missed.

I have been hugged and praised and loved far more than I ever imagined.

And when I wasn't happy it was rarely because of them.

As far as I am concerned, JOY beats the heck out of happiness. My joy is always with me. I am happy only until someone at the mall takes my parking space.



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Not to whine, but to put... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2011 12:29 PM | Posted by philtrum: | Reply

Not to whine, but to put things into perspective, consider what gay men go through in order to raise children. We must endure frustrating and EXPENSIVE legal hurdles for adoption, or go through the even more expensive (and ridiculous) process of finding a womb and egg donor.

Okay fine, but here's the thing: you're not entitled to a baby. Nobody is. If you can't find a person with a functioning womb and eggs willing to bear a baby and give him or her to you, you don't get a baby. Adoption is supposed to serve the needs of children, not adults, so if there isn't a child available to you for the fee you want to pay, that's really just too bad. The rest of the world is not obliged to provide you with the baby you want, regardless of the reason for your infertility (no womb, womb doesn't work, whatever).

I'm not saying the roadblocks in front of gay would-be parents specifically are unfair, because I don't believe they are. But I have a really big problem with people who feel that the world owes them a family.

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That should say "I'm not sa... (Below threshold)

March 27, 2011 12:31 PM | Posted by philtrum: | Reply

That should say "I'm not saying the roadblocks in front of gay would-be parents specifically are FAIR." I don't believe adoption should be any harder for gay people than for straight people. But I also don't think it should be easy.

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The problem isn't that rais... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2011 11:54 AM | Posted by The Next-to-Last Man: | Reply

The problem isn't that raising kids is hard, which of course it is, or that raising kids can have plenty of frustration, fear, uncertainty, boredom, drudgery, and ennui, which of course it can. The problem is that anyone expects it to be in-and-of-itself competely fulfilling. Which it isn't, because nothing in life is.

Somehow we get it in our heads that life is supposed to be Deep and Meaningful at every moment and if we just get it Right it will all fall into place. We expect to go through life having Deep Meaning conversations with our Deep Meaningful friendships while we watch our Deep Meaningful children play Deeply and Meaningfully. Then one wipes a booger on another, it starts another fight, and in the process of refereeing that the chicken picatta burns and so we wind up having scrambled eggs again for dinner, and then we go have IBS.

Theroblem isn't life. Life is what it is. The problem is our expectations.

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Excellent. ... (Below threshold)

February 28, 2012 12:03 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Excellent.

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Goddamnit, everyone in the ... (Below threshold)

January 1, 2013 7:01 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Goddamnit, everyone in the comments sees what they want to see in the article.

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Which is EXACTLY what Alone... (Below threshold)

March 22, 2013 7:17 AM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Atarii: | Reply

Which is EXACTLY what Alone said, and EXACTLY what he said is the wrong perspective: "Why can this "together" lady do anything except raise her child without wanting to shoot herself in the face?" That is the wrong question.

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