Last night was terrible.

Until 2 am, I tried to talk to C about having gone to meet her boyfriend. I know for us this is not necessarily a big deal, and Country Xers have moved beyond stoning girls for this, but it’s not good.

Her parents never came to Y-town to see her. I know boys are this desperate thing she does to get some kind of warmth and affection. I made zero headway, and mostly she was angry and defensive.

She was telling me that it was essentially my fault, and I realized this is how she knows how to talk. It’s what she grew up with and what she learned at home, and literally this is all she knows. She feels angry. This is what she knows to do with anger.

I don’t know why that had never hit home for me before–maybe because the dynamic in my household growing up was just so confusing. I had never been able to see how it actually worked, because it was just so dysregulated–mostly my mom was dysregulated. All I saw were very frightening behaviours, a mind at the nether edge of reality. Just like I couldn’t see my mother’s intention to wound me, I didn’t realize you learn to establish boundaries by wounding when you hear that.

And probably the everyday snarkiness I must have heard, I don’t remember. I just remember the explosions.The ones that spiraled out of control into breaking all the dishes in the house, or a suicide attempt.

Anyway, it never connected that I have learned how to talk to people like we are human beings, but that has happened over 20 years of being an adult. What C knows is if you are angry, you blame and punish. You wound.

I know things, but reality can take a long time to sink in.

Between the video I was watching yesterday, and the way she responded to me trying to talk to her, I realized something about the imprint that having a narcissistic parent leaves on you in terms of your assumptions about what motivates people. Because of the narcissist’s envy–that they really seem to want to destroy everything about the child that doesn’t directly serve their needs–it can seem to the child growing up that basically people want control. They want to be attended to and they want control.

It’s not conscious. None of this has ever been articulated or discussed or named, so there is little connection between one’s unconscious beliefs and what your emotions and impulses are doing. It doesn’t even seem believable.

I read this dumb thing on the internet about crappy parenting, and one of the anecdotes shared was about a kid bouncing a little rubber ball. Just enjoying his little rubber ball. His mom snatched the ball and said, “If you don’t stop bouncing this ball, I’ll break your face.” Or something like that. Envy. It works out to manifest itself as total control. Of course, people who don’t feel safe use control to cope anyway. Works out to, “I can’t even bounce a ball.” There is absolutely no legitimate way for me to get my needs me.

So if you’re in a relationship and this is the pattern your parent has left in your mind of what people typically want and how they behave in close relationships, some part of you understands the cost you can expect to have closeness. You can either try to control people so they are forced to meet needs you are not legitimately allowed to have, or you can surrender control. In a lot of relationships, you can just lock yourself into struggle over this and fight for control.

I was trying to chat with C and thinking about this. Everything I say she assumes is intended to get some sort of reaction out of her or to manipulate her in some way to give me what I want. Nothing is assumed to be noncoercive–this is what I think or feel; make of it what you will. For her, it can only be a contest. I never thought about that before. I never understood that about her or about anyone else or presumably my past self in relationships.

I felt really sad. It’s terrible not to be able to trust and to not know that anything else is really possible.