Catching FLEAS from Narcissists and Abusers

I have caught my own FLEAS while dealing with Tracy.

Sometimes, we who have been targeted by the abuses of a narcissist, wonder if we, too, are now narcissists.  It can be catching, especially if we are raised by narcs.

But the recovery community uses the term “fleas” to describe our own harmful behaviors, picked up from the narcs, but which do not mean we ourselves are narcs.  The trick is to figure out whether you are a narc yourself, or just have “fleas” which you can kill off with a good flea bath.

As posted in FLEAS – Bad Behavior Patterns and Habits Picked Up from Living or Dealing with a Narcissist by Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers:

Now, you may not have NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Some children of Narcissists do, and some don’t. Let’s say you don’t, but you were raised by someone who did/does. Therefore you have some issues that can take the shape of NPD – like a shadow or a snow angel, or even an echo.

You’ll have some issues in the same sorts of areas that Narcissism occupies, because you picked up these fleas FROM a Narcissist.

…..But you don’t have NPD.

What you have is the shadow – “maladaptive behaviors”, as psychologists call them, the unhelpful patterns you have been taught, and which you have had to resort all your life.

And they are glued in, most often, by the shame you have been made to carry.

What you have is nicknamed “FLEAS.” They’re the bad behavior patterns and habits we picked up from living with a nutcase who had total and unhealthy control over us. They are the pain and guilt and crazy patterns we had to take on as children in order to just survive. And they’re completely un-learnable.  (Meaning, you can un-learn them!)

One of the most common issues that newbies demonstrate is a tremendous fear that they themselves have NPD.

It’s a perfectly understandable fear. All human beings do Narcissistic things, and when DoNM’s who don’t have NPD recognize and acknowledge their own self-centered behaviors, they sometimes worry that they have NPD.

They feel guilty about possibly having hurt someone’s feelings, been self-centered, etc., and they panic. It can really be upsetting, even terrifying. And they beat themselves up mercilessly for it – because that’s what they’ve been taught to do.

You’ll notice that I said, “Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers who don’t have NPD”…

In order for someone to recognize, acknowledge and feel guilty about their own Narcissistic behaviors, they first have to have a level of empathy and sense of emotional responsibility that Narcissists, by definition, do not possess.

On the DoNM forum, the usual response to such a person is, ‘If you’re that worried about the impact of your behavior on others, and you’re willing to publicly share your fear of being NPD, trust us — you don’t have NPD… you just have FLEAS.’”

Violet writes in Am I a Narcissist, Too?  All About Fleas:

We can pick up fleas anywhere. I have seen things on FaceBook, people saying really hurtful, mean things about LGBT people, about people of colour, about the poor and disadvantaged, about women, and they are absolutely shameless about it.

Some of these people are narcissists, but others have picked up fleas from narcissistic politicians, pastors, or other authority figures they either revere or fear. Taken out of that environment and shown how their words and attitudes actually hurt other living, breathing human beings, some of these people will feel shame for what they said and the hurt they caused.

Others will not, and they will rationalize and justify what they said, even blame their victims for their hurt (I have actually seen someone say that feeling hurt by the words of a bully is a choice, that you can choose not to be hurt and therefore what the bullies say and do is OK!) : these people are most likely narcissists.

I’ve seen versions of this as well.  For example, statements that we choose to be offended by others; that we can simply stop being offended.  Or, “I’m not responsible for your emotions.”

There are different ways people mean this, however.  The first was said in the context of, Yes, what they said is offensive, but you can choose your own reactions–thereby not giving the offender power over you.

The second, I’ve seen used as an excuse to do whatever you want, because it’s the other person’s fault if they’re offended.  It was said by Richard to me, after I told him he was doing some things that hurt me.  I forget what they were, just that it was close to the time we broke off the friendship, and that he basically took the responsibility for my being hurt off his shoulders, putting it on mine.  ???!!!

I’ve seen it in other places as well, the excuse that if we hurt somebody, it’s their fault for being hurt.  That’s very narcissistic, and goes against everything my husband and I were taught growing up.  It’s yet another sign that I’ve pegged Richard correctly as a narcissist.

If you’ve hurt and offended someone, the very least you can do is apologize for hurting them, even if you don’t feel your action was wrong in and of itself.  You can listen to how you can avoid hurting that person again.

Sure there are times when that person was offended by an innocent action which should not be offensive (ie, offended by a gay man kissing his partner in public, or offended by an introvert who means well but is quiet, or offended by a woman breastfeeding her baby at the mall).

But oftentimes, the offensive act could simply be avoided next time.

(Also see this post.)

Tracy, too, as I saw time and again, would justify whatever she did, even though it hurt others.  She hurt Todd, so she justified it as his fault.  She hurt me, so to this day she justifies her actions as “nothing wrong” and talks like my being hurt is somehow “childish.”

Even Richard told me back in February 2008, Good luck getting an apology out of her, because she rarely apologizes to anyone, thinking whatever she does is justified.  I don’t have the e-mail in front of me and don’t recall if I kept it, but I still remember it.

(I remember thinking when I got it, “I don’t want to deal with that woman anymore!”  This was the first time I seriously thought about breaking off the friendship.)

She used Richard’s past abuses of the children to justify her own abuses of the children (I have an e-mail proving this).  Which means she’s like this to everybody: me, Todd, even Richard.  And this is one of the signs of a narcissist, according to the above.

There is more good stuff in that blog post, explaining how we can tell if we’re narcissists or have just picked up some “fleas”–and how to eradicate those fleas.

From the website Out of the Fog (Fear, Obligation, Guilt):

Fleas – When a non-personality-disordered individual (Non-PD) begins imitating or emulating some of the disordered behavior of a loved one or family member with a personality disorder this is sometimes referred to as “getting fleas”….

Sometimes, when a person has been exposed to an abusive situation for a sustained period, they will look for ways to escape – and sometimes they will experiment or resort to behaviors which are not characteristic but serve as a mechanism to demonstrate their anger.

These behaviors are often destructive and counter-productive and rarely get the abuse victim what they want. These behaviors usually result in regret, shame and apologies from the abuse victim towards their perpetrator. Some perpetrators may seize on such incidents as justification for their own abusive behavior or as a diversion from it….

However, most Non-PD’s are more accustomed to “keeping the peace” than being aggressors and most of us are not comfortable or accomplished in winning arguments or fights.

We will often back down or feel remorse after lashing out. We may begin to compare our behavior to that of the person with the personality disorder and wonder if we are the ones who have “the” problem.

It is common for Non-PD’s to begin to question if they are the one who suffers from a personality disorder. It is also common for Non-PD’s to greatly fear retribution after an angry outburst and engage in a manipulative campaign, similar to hoovering to try to deflect consequences or payback.

That link also gives ways to avoid catching “fleas.”

When looking back over and writing about the situation with Richard and Tracy, I discovered my own “fleas” caught from dealing with Tracy’s abuses and Richard’s abusive enabling of her abuses–or, as a mutual friend once put it, coddling her BS, just as Richard complained people did for Tracy’s mentally ill mother.

I was angry with her abuses and bullying, and trying to fight and resist them.  Tracy would then pounce on these fleas or other mistakes and bring them up, whether to Richard and/or to me, again and again and again, as proof of my “bad” character.

I grew up with a narcissistic brother, but the rest of my family (except for an aunt by marriage) is not narcissistic.  I was bullied as a child, but this is common for anyone who is in any way different from the “norm,” and I was an imaginative, socially awkward child who struggled to fit in, who did not understand why everyone called me “weird.”

But ever since I left my childhood bullies behind and entered adulthood, moved away from my brother, and found a husband who is not a narcissist, who is willing to face his own flaws and improve on them–I was not used to being so relentlessly bullied by anyone.

I thought most adults were far too mature to do this, that most childhood bullies and “mean girls” grew up eventually.  (In fact, this belief allowed me to forgive my childhood bullies.)

The things Tracy said to and about me, cuts on my character, snarks at anything I did or said, cutting on the most innocuous of things (like my husband being the cook), even outright lies (like that I did not serve vegetables or that I manipulated my husband or that I never tried to befriend her or that I was never allowed all the privileges of Richard’s other friends), startled and appalled me: a definite smear campaign.

Even worse was that I occasionally did do things were wrong, “fleas” which I picked up in desperation to try to somehow deal with and fend off her many attacks.  And when I did, she grabbed onto them and would not let them go–the proverbial dog with a bone.

I’d apologize, and/or never do those things again, thinking that was enough–but they would be brought up again and again anyway, as if I did them continuously and never stopped.

There was a serious power imbalance, power struggle.  Friendships are not supposed to be one person in charge, making all the rules, which the other has to obey.  They’re supposed to be give and take.  And I was sick of trying and trying only to get more bullying and abuse all the time.

She also complained about things I did which were not wrong, such as when I told my husband in what I thought was a private conversation, how she was abusing and bullying me, Richard and the children.  I could stand up in righteous indignation and know that she was being unjust.

But when I did do something wrong, it became something she could use against me in perpetuity.  She did the same thing to Richard, from things he has told me.

There’s nothing you can do to make up for these things.  There’s no way you can get a narc to back off from your faults.  When you commit the mistake, she goes into orgasmic glee as she smears you on Facebook and says what a wonderful day she’s having.  When you apologize, she uses this chance to beat you over the head about what a worm you are for having done it.

Meanwhile, the many abuses she has committed against you and others are forgotten, never apologized for because you “deserved” them, and you better “grow up” and accept these abuses as your due because you’re so horrible, so it does you no good to point them out to her.  All you can do is escape and lick your wounds till they heal–far away from the narc.

For an example of how completely a narcissist can justify, excuse and forget her own many abuses, just see what Tracy wrote to me here.

If you can look with regret on your own mistakes and sins without justifying them, maybe understand why you did them but without excusing yourself, then no, you are no narcissist: You have just caught fleas.

 

Research Against Helicoptering Parents

 

Hover No More: Helicopter Parents May Breed Depression and Incompetence in Their Children

The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting

I grew up in a city of 100,000, large enough for crime, abductions, various such things, even in the 70s.

But most of us walked or biked to school.  Only the kids with disabilities, and the very few who got driven by their parents, got to school via vehicle, in my first elementary school.

My second was a special school for the gifted, so many of us had to be bussed.  In middle and high school, bussing was more common, but either you were bussed or you walked.

In fact, my parents tell me I started walking to school by myself at a mere five years old, having insisted on it just a few days after starting Kindergarten.

(I also got lost.  But I soon learned the way: turn right at the big decorative rock.  I was helped by a kindly old man, who nowadays supposedly I should have rejected as a dangerous stranger.)

Instead of helicoptering, I’ve been trying to carry on my mother’s more hands-off approach, the kind my generation grew up with.

However, it’s hard to do at times, because 30 years is a long stretch of time to remember everything your parents did, other parents act like you’re neglectful if your second-grader walks to school by himself, and there’s so much contradicting advice these days.

For example, Supernanny is great for learning how to discipline children without abuse (including screaming) or even light spanking, but even she seems to encourage a certain amount of hovering (why should I be responsible for keeping my kids entertained and “stimulated”?).

Why Americans Should Demand Socialized Medicine

It’s gotten so only the rich, those on Medicare and the insured can afford health care.  Must everyone else just suffer and die from poor health, because of the outrageous prices of American health care for the uninsured?

It’s not the cost of the services–it’s profiteering by the hospitals!  Meanwhile, Medicare is able to negotiate much lower, more reasonable prices for services, paying far less than the original bill, leaving the patient with a much smaller bill as well.

Simply making everyone buy insurance or be fined, is not going to solve the problem.  Going to a single-payer system, on the other hand, could be the only thing that would.

We saw some of the outrageous prices outlined in this article, in my husband’s medical bills after surgery.  Since we have insurance now, we got “discounts,” then insurance payments, helping make them still outrageous but not nearly as bad.  (They started at nearly $20,000!)  But we also have a high deductible to help us pay the insurance premiums.

What if my past issues come back and I need yet another surgery to prevent cervical cancer?  My husband needs to make regular visits to the doctor, several times a year, for one of those overinflated tests, to make sure he doesn’t get cancer–what if he does get it?  Do we just let the cancer take over because we’re not rich?

People who glibly say things like, “If you’re having problems with health/mental health/learning disorders, then obviously you should do the responsible thing and get it checked out and diagnosed,” obviously have good insurance.

Lots of us are forced to do our own diagnoses (for such things as irritable bowels, learning disorders, or PTSD) and our own treatments (diet changes, reading about it, writing about it, pushing our dislocated shoulder back in place and wearing a sling) because we just plain can’t afford doctors, even though we are suffering from lack of treatment.

And we’re treated like we’re just leeches, with terms like “entitlements” and “lazy” and “thieves” and “communists,” when we ask for more government help.  The current system benefits no one but the hospitals–and their CEOs.

See this article in TIME by Steven Brill, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation’s economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth.

In the U.S., people spend almost 20% of the gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.

According to one of a series of exhaustive studies done by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm, we spend more on health care than the next 10 biggest spenders combined: Japan, Germany, France, China, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia. We may be shocked at the $60 billion price tag for cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. We spent almost that much last week on health care.

We spend more every year on artificial knees and hips than what Hollywood collects at the box office. We spend two or three times that much on durable medical devices like canes and wheelchairs, in part because a heavily lobbied Congress forces Medicare to pay 25% to 75% more for this equipment than it would cost at Walmart.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 10 of the 20 occupations that will grow the fastest in the U.S. by 2020 are related to health care. America’s largest city may be commonly thought of as the world’s financial-services capital, but of New York’s 18 largest private employers, eight are hospitals and four are banks.

Employing all those people in the cause of curing the sick is, of course, not anything to be ashamed of. But the drag on our overall economy that comes with taxpayers, employers and consumers spending so much more than is spent in any other country for the same product is unsustainable. Health care is eating away at our economy and our treasury.

On pages 8 and 9, see how attempts to bring costs down were derailed by spurious criticisms of creating “death panels”:

Peter Bach, an epidemiologist at Sloan-Kettering who has also advised several health-policy organizations, reported in a 2009 New England Journal of Medicine article that Medicare’s spending on the category dominated by cancer drugs ballooned from $3 billion in 1997 to $11 billion in 2004. Bach says costs have continued to increase rapidly and must now be more than $20 billion.

With that escalating bill in mind, Bach was among the policy experts pushing for provisions in Obamacare to establish a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to expand comparative-effectiveness research efforts. Through painstaking research, doctors would try to determine the comparative effectiveness not only of drugs but also of procedures like CT scans.

However, after all the provisions spelling out elaborate research and review processes were embedded in the draft law, Congress jumped in and added eight provisions that restrict how the research can be used. The prime restriction: Findings shall “not be construed as mandates for practice guidelines, coverage recommendations, payment, or policy recommendations.”

With those 14 words, the work of Bach and his colleagues was undone. And costs remain unchecked.

“Medicare could see the research and say, Ah, this drug works better and costs the same or is even cheaper,” says Gunn, Sloan-Kettering’s chief operating officer. “But they are not allowed to do anything about it.”

Along with another doomed provision that would have allowed Medicare to pay a fee for doctors’ time spent counseling terminal patients on end-of-life care (but not on euthanasia), the Obama Administration’s push for comparative effectiveness is what brought opponents’ cries that the bill was creating “death panels.”

Washington bureaucrats would now be dictating which drugs were worth giving to which patients and even which patients deserved to live or die, the critics charged.

….If covered by Medicare, Janice S.’s $21,000 bill would have been deeply discounted and, as is standard, Medicare would have picked up 80% of the reduced cost. The bottom line is that Janice S. would probably have ended up paying $500 to $600 for her 20% share of her heart-attack scare. And she would have paid only a fraction of that — maybe $100 — if, like most Medicare beneficiaries, she had paid for supplemental insurance to cover most of that 20%.

In fact, those numbers would seem to argue for lowering the Medicare age, not raising it — and not just from Janice S.’s standpoint but also from the taxpayers’ side of the equation. That’s not a liberal argument for protecting entitlements while the deficit balloons. It’s just a matter of hardheaded arithmetic.

….The only way this would not work is if 64-year-olds started using health care services they didn’t need. They might be tempted to, because, as we saw with Alan A., Medicare’s protection is so broad and supplemental private insurance costs so little that it all but eliminates patients’ obligation to pay the 20% of outpatient-care costs that Medicare doesn’t cover.

To deal with that, a provision could be added requiring that 64-year-olds taking advantage of Medicare could not buy insurance freeing them from more than, say, 5% or 10% of their responsibility for the bills, with the percentage set according to their wealth. It would be a similar, though more stringent, provision of the kind I’ve already suggested for current Medicare beneficiaries as a way to cut the cost of people overusing benefits.

If that logic applies to 64-year-olds, then it would seem to apply even more readily to healthier 40-year-olds or 18-year-olds. This is the single-payer approach favored by liberals and used by most developed countries.

….The real issue isn’t whether we have a single payer or multiple payers. It’s whether whoever pays has a fair chance in a fair market. Congress has given Medicare that power when it comes to dealing with hospitals and doctors, and we have seen how that works to drive down the prices Medicare pays, just as we’ve seen what happens when Congress handcuffs Medicare when it comes to evaluating and buying drugs, medical devices and equipment.

Stripping away what is now the sellers’ overwhelming leverage in dealing with Medicare in those areas and with private payers in all aspects of the market would inject fairness into the market. We don’t have to scrap our system and aren’t likely to. But we can reduce the $750 billion that we overspend on health care in the U.S. in part by acknowledging what other countries have: because the health care market deals in a life-or-death product, it cannot be left to its own devices.

Put simply, the bills tell us that this is not about interfering in a free market. It’s about facing the reality that our largest consumer product by far — one-fifth of our economy — does not operate in a free market.

Brill’s ideas for fixing the problem are on page 11; he does not endorse a specific kind of system, single vs. multiple payer.  His criticisms are not just against Republicans, but against Democrats and Obamacare.  His ideas involve forcing costs down.

 

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