This morning, I read an interesting article about the final years of Jim Jones. He was a notorious cult leader who led over 900 of his followers to commit suicide in 1978. Like all cult leaders, Jones was a narcissist. His final years were full of more bizarre & controlling behaviors, & the article I read discussed why he was this way.
For years, I’ve wondered why so many narcissists get meaner as they get older, while your average person becomes gentler & kinder. It began to make some sense to me as I applied what I read in the article to my own narcissistic mother.
As we age, we lose some qualities of youth, such as good looks, health & physical strength. While most people accept this, narcissists don’t. At the root of narcissism is an extreme insecurity. They count on such things to always be there for them, yet those things aren’t. When they aren’t, this makes the narcissist more insecure & they will lash out at those around them out. Anything that makes a narcissist feel more insecure or that threatens their illusion of their perfect, false self angers them, & the aging process is no different.
Also, losing such qualities can mean losing control over those the narcissist once controlled easily. A narcissist who was big, strong & healthy could physically intimidate another person when young, but once that person is older, not so strong or healthy, that ability is gone. The narcissist must change how she controls her victim. I have seen the changes with my mother. When I was a child, it didn’t take much effort for her to control me- the vicious looks & cruel words always scared me easily. In my late teens, I wasn’t so easily controlled, however. She began screaming at me, sometimes inches from my face, calling me terrible names & saying horribly cruel things. Once I moved out of my parents’ home at 19, my mother often said cruel things, but without screaming at me. She also did other nasty little things. For example, after she threw me into a wall & hurt my back when I was 19, she would constantly hand me something heavy or slap me on the back where it was injured when I saw her. Now that she is older & frailer than she once was, her method of attack has changed yet again. She loves to say cruel things to me quietly while we’re in a public place, such as a restaurant. That way, either I have to take it quietly, or if I speak up, I’ll draw attention to my “awful” behavior & look like the crazy one.
If they continue to feel they are losing control, narcissistic tactics will get more vicious, as I have shown with my mother’s behavior. I personally don’t believe this means you have to cater to the narcissist or tolerate the abuse. Instead, I believe there are 2 options- either sever ties with the narcissist, or if you can’t or are unwilling to do so, strengthen yourself to withstand the abuse. There are several ways to do this…
First, pray. A strong relationship with God is vital. You need to be secure in knowing He loves you, supports you & will show you ways to cope.
Second, you also will need to have strong boundaries. You need to know what you can & can’t tolerate. You’ll need to have good, effective ways to enforce those boundaries. If a topic comes up that you don’t want to discuss with your narcissistic mother, then change the subject, for example. Change it over & over as necessary- eventually she will get tired of this.
Third, keep your conversations superficial. Don’t divulge information about your personal life to your narcissistic mother. That information only becomes ammunition for her to use to hurt you later.
Fourth, remember- you do NOT have to be available 24/7. Don’t answer the phone every time she calls Don’t spend a lot of time with her. Keeping some distance will help you to preserve your mental health.
Lastly, don’t neglect yourself. Spend time with God & with empathic, caring people who understand what you are going through & won’t judge or criticize you when you get angry. Get good at being good to yourself. Get yourself little gifts periodically, treat yourself to bubble baths or manicures regularly, or whatever nourishes your soul. Taking good care of yourself will help to strengthen you when you have to deal with your narcissistic mother.
Below is a link to the article I read about Jim Jones that inspired this blog post.