I have done a lot of thinking and reflection on the history of narcissism in my family. Since I am too much a coward to broach this topic with my relatives, I can only rely on recollections, stories I heard, my own logical deduction, and certain amount of guessing to piece together the history of my narcissistic family. I somehow believe that we are not genetically narcissistic. Some psychologists or psychiatrists say that 10% of narcissists are genetic, but I feel that we fall into the 90% bracket. It’s the circumstances which made my family members narcissistic.
And it is all because of WWII, which had such a serious effect on so many people. And of course WWII’s aftermath lasted for at least a decade in Asia, with food shortage, social change, borders drawn and redrawn etc. So when I say WWII, I mean a long period, not just the six or seven years before 1945.
Let’s start with my my mother’s family since my mother is the more outgoing and aggressive narcissist, compared with my father, who’s very much a covert narcissist. On my mother’s side, my grandmother’s father not only lived in a fishing village with a lot of superstitious traditional customs, but he was also one of the very few who refused to change even though the world around him had changed. Every family sent their daughter to school by the time my grandmother was 10, but her father, my great grandfather, didn’t allow his two girls to go, to the point that he became a community laughingstock. Still he stuck to his old views and never budged until the day he died. He died of a very common illness, which could have been treated if it was not for the shortage of medical supply (including herbal medicine) after WWII. By the time he died, my grandmother was already 19, who was considered an old unmarried girl. My grandmother’s brother was in charge of the family finances, and he refused to give my grandmother any dowry. In this fishing village, the unwritten rule was that every girl wanted to marry the eldest son of a family, who would inherit the better part of the family estate, like house, fishing boat, and other amenities. However my grandmother, being an old girl, without education, without dowry, couldn’t be matched with an eldest son. So she finally married my grandfather, who’s a very good tempered second son in a family dominated by a bad tempered mother.
My grandmother was a very clever and very vivacious and very capable girl who was devastated by the turns of the event. She could have gone to school, but couldn’t due to her idiotic father; she could have better prospect in marriage, but couldn’t due to her uncooperative brother. In my opinion, it was these disasters that traumatized her teenage brain and forced her to adopt some imagined self aggrandizement to help her cope with her environment. She brought this trauma into her marriage–she withheld emotion from her children in order to push her children to try hard in school; she gave birth to nine children in order to improve her social status. Traditionally in this village, a mother’s status rose when she had more sons. However when my grandparents moved to a big city, that tradition no longer applied and having more children only made people poorer. Still, my grandmother stuck with what she believed when she was young and continued to have more kids. She worked like a savage to maintain a family she couldn’t afford, and she talked like a savage about her children who couldn’t become what she wanted them to become.
Her nine children became little narcissists themselves due to the fact that they thought narcissistic behaviors were normal. And my mother, the first born, was the biggest narcissist among them. She criticized everybody–nobody was good enough for her. She designed little goals that I could not possibly reach, and then she felt a sadistic delight in calling me a bitter disappointment. She would team up with my father to shame me, and then a day or two later, she would team up with me to shame my father. She would give my things away to others just to show me she had power over me.
Despite all her crazy behavior, I had to acknowledge she did cook and clean, which she resented very much. Despite all the bad things she did, I sympathized with her. I think she could have been a normal woman and a normal mother if she had not had a mother like my grandmother. And my grandmother could be a normal human being if she was not traumatized by the social and family change of WWII.
And now let’s go to the history on my father’s side, with a completely different family dynamic.
(To Be Continued Here)