Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sweet Potatoes, Narcissism, and Parents Who Hoard

"Sweet Potatoes, Narcissism, and Parents Who Hoard." That sounds like the title of an academic paper, no?

In my previous post, I described a ritual that took place at almost all of my childhood family's holiday dinners: my mom would insist that I loved something that she had repeatedly been told (by me and others) that I had always disliked.

A friend of mine from ChildrenOfHoarders.com read my post, and she forwarded a quote to me from a page about parents with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) :
Narcissistic Parents must be in control. No matter what. A Narcissistic Parent controls his or her children by dictating how these children should feel, should act, and the decisions to be made. This can lead to adult children of Narcissistic Parents being unsure of what they, themselves, like and want out of life. These Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents never learn to be autonomous and make his or her own decisions.
I've heard other children of hoarders discussing the possibility of hoarding being intertwined with NPD, at least in some cases. I recognized that there might be some validity to their assertions, but I hadn't given it a lot of thought. Along comes the quote mentioned above, and I feel like I've been hit on the head with a Clue-by-Four!

While I am definitely autonomous (perhaps to a fault) and can make my own decisions, the rest of that paragraph is right on target, both in terms of how my mom behaved and the question of knowing what I want out of my own life. I used to think I knew what I liked and what I wanted, but I've come to realize how much of "me" has been about fulfilling other people's expectations of those things, rather than developing my own expectations.

Since realizing this (probably only around a year ago), discovering what I "like and want out of life" has been my greatest objective and my greatest challenge. I wish that I could say that I feel like I have been making progress. I think it would be more accurate to say that I have been, and continue to be, developmentally disabled in this area. I'm in my forties.

Anyway, the article that my friend sent to me, the somewhat awkwardly titled "Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents Resources", is well worth reading. I think that around 90% of it is directly applicable to the dynamics in my family.

Mom was a hoarder, and she almost certainly suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She wasn't the only one who suffered.

12 comments:

Princess Judy Palmer said...

Interesting info on narcissistic parents and their kids. Really interesting because I've been pondering my mother in law today, a true narcissist these days (and hoarder). Hubby insists she wasn't nearly as bad in his youth but she certainly is a pill these days. So mildly narcissistic mother = kid with mild autonomy issues.

Reagan said...

Hi! Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

Thanks and have a great day!

Joe Hoarder'sSon said...

@PJP - Thanks for the comment. Sorry that HMIL is the kind of pill that causes headaches, rather than cures them.

@Reagan - If your site is something that would be interesting to children of hoarders, feel free to post it in the comments. If it is something that would be "on topic," then I will be happy to link to it. If it's not on topic, then I won't.

Anonymous said...

Its comforting to find understanding and insight. It's my first time reading this website today.I understand the narcistic mother. Mine is couple with extreme religion. The art of ignoring everything when it's right in front of us still amazes me. My siblings are great at it. And if you don't agree then your out. Nobody talks about the hoarding , nor is it acceptable to discuss. It's hard to understand so I am so thankful for all of your posts and honesty, experiences and stories. The extreme hoarding is only the outward symbol of all the ills beneath in my family.

Anonymous said...

This is really interesting, because I only recently (I'm 30) came to the realization that the things that I was doing were all things that my mother would approve of in a way. It sounds so silly, because eventhough I was doing that, I always thought of myself of "my own person". I realize that I was somewhat wrong. So, I'll Dr.Phil myself on that for a while! (hehe) BUT I wanted to announce that I've been lurking for a while and have decided to "pull the skeltons" out of my mother's hoarding closet. Yesterday I cleaned her kitchen, attic, bedroom and started on the basement. So, we're making progress..more to come in the next two days. She got angry, screaming temper tantrums the whole bit, but we all stood strong and are doing something about it. It isn't the first time we've had to clean up, and it won't be the last. But all I can do is focus on "This time" and not try to think too far ahead into the next mania and spiral of hoarding depression. I want to thank you for being able to speak so open on honestly about your situation, because it really does help other people who are dealing with similiar issues. So, Thank you!

Jen said...

Thank you so much, I have some validation I am not crazy. The sweet potato thing was a perfect example of a narcissistic mother picking a very random belief and defending it like devout Muslim would defend the Koran (no offense intended). You grow up afraid to assert a preference or make a choice out of fear of triggering the "rage and indignance born of absolute moral superiority". And the tricky thing is, she can change the rules at anytime without warning just to keep you on your toes. Your mother is my mother, and also hoards. She cannot be reasoned with. It is not a "personality disorder", I think it is a form of brain damage. She has MS. It hurts me that she is not capable of loving me or even seeing who I am, but I am trying to accept that doesn't mean either of us are bad. It just means she has some brain damage that she cannot overcome. I am at an impass, but it really helped to read this post. Now I know, I am not the only person who was completely confused by their narcissistic, hoarding mother. "Did I like sweet potatoes? Am I a bad person if I don't like sweet potatoes? Am I trying to hurt her if I don't eat the sweet potatoes? Epic fail".

Anonymous said...

Joe,
Not sure if you've seen this yet, but this article also describes the paradoxical 'gifts' and offers of kindness from these types of mothers (although imo this could also describe fathers):
http://parrishmiller.com/narcissists.html

FWIW, I think it describes Psychopathic Mothers more than it does Narcissistic Mothers (it described my mother to a "T"), but since there is a lot of overlap, thought you might see some patterns here too.

Joe Hoarder'sSon said...

Very interesting link, anonymous! I can't say that every point matched my own mother, but several certainly did.

I've been struck by how many COH have referred to their hoarding parent as an "emotional vampire." I definitely relate to that term. Most people think of a mother-child relationship as a nurturing relationship. For mine, it was almost exclusively draining.

CrescentStar said...

Having watched a few episodes of hoarders with my wife. I would say hoarding is a Narcissistic personality disorder. All of the people are the same. The women are controlling types that have had some act of got type disaster that has taken away their feeling of control. The men were once very successful and were often told they were great and going to be big successes, which that doesn't materialize they start focusing on controlling stuff, literally

Anonymous said...

This is great. My husband doesn't really I understand why I am trying to maintain strict boundaries with my mother. I couldn't verbalize why either. But she keeps trying to change my mind and make my decisions for me. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This post really resonated with me. For many years I've known my mother was a compulsive hoarder, but only in the last six months (after much reading) have I come to understand that she fits the criteria for NPD as well. I tried googling a connection between hoarding and NPD and your post came up, so thank you for sharing it.

With my mother, I think the NPD has always been a thing (when I was young, and my older siblings were young, she was not only controlling and unrealistic but an extreme perfectionist) but the hoarding didn't show up until later. My dad went through a series of job losses, we ended up living in a friends basement, her parents died, there was a fire, after every event the hoarding got worse until now we don't speak and her (two!) houses look like the ones you see on A&E.

If you or anyone know of any other resources about NPD/Hoarders I'd appreciate it. Thanks again.

Graham Oakman said...

All this stuff seems to be so easy until the moment when you try to solve all the stuff.