Tag - Kanta Bosniak

Black Sheep: How Adult Kids of Malignant Narcissists are Helping Transform Our Culture

by Kanta Bosniak

By now, most of us are familiar with the term malignant narcissism, from news stories and articles by therapists, and simple observation. We realize that behind the mask of a fragile ego, lives a person of low self-esteem who must project his sense of shame and self-loathing on “the other.”

But what about when a person like that is a parent? How does the child respond to over-control, manipulation, gaslighting, criticism, and emotional and/or physical abuse? What happens when that child is singled out among other siblings to bear the brunt of the abuse, in effect being “orphaned?” And how might this emotional abandonment, as initially painful as it may be, serve the personal and spiritual development of “orphaned” children? How might it motivate them to grow from muted hostages to cultural activists and healers?

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Dr. Claudia Black is a recovery icon, author, and internationally known expert in the issues of dysfunctional family systems, such as addictions, co-dependency, relational problems, emotional trauma, PTSD, all of which can be symptoms of growing up with an abusive, narcissistic parent. She’s also the Clinical Architect of the Claudia Black Young Adult Center and Senior Fellow at The Meadows Treatment Center. Dr. Black provides us with a powerful statement.
“To free yourself from the past you must break the rules of silence and compliance.”

While no child emerges unscathed from such a family, the recipient of the most abuse may be the one to most fully and truly emerge. Ultimately, these designated scapegoats are more likely than their siblings to exhibit signs of the harm that is inflicted upon them, thus opening them up to being painted as problem children. This keeps the family dysfunction hidden and the child gets to carry it.

They are also the most likely, to “break the rules of silence and compliance.” They get into recovery, or therapy. They begin to live ever more authentic lives, refuse to continue playing the scapegoat role, find their voice, and create healthier alliances. They’re also more likely to break cultural taboos about having to maintain contact with the parental narcissist and become fully or at least partially estranged from abusive family members as adults. When they become able to walk away and create saner and healthier lives, they do.

But the process of healing begins in childhood, when they withdraw into a self-healing cocoon. With no reliable moral compass to draw on from the authority figures who fail to create safety for them or even recognize them as worthy to be called human, they begin the slow, arduous process of orienting themselves, establishing a sanctuary of the heart and mind to which they can always return, and discovering their gifts. And it is in childhood when they develop some of the qualities that later lead them to become participants in changing the cultural paradigm.

While others in the environment may seem to have it easier, they also have less motivation to make a clean enough break from the dysfunctional system to heal from gaslighting. To stay enmeshed in that level of dysfunction requires a level of attachment to the narcissistic parent and a buying into the scapegoating itself. So, it encourages the more highly favored children to adopt the parent’s lies as truth, rather than using their own observation of evident reality. In other words, from childhood on, scapegoats are less apt to believe “fake news” and they’re able to get enough distance to accurately see what is.

As Carolyn Myss, best-selling author, teacher, and Founder of CMED (Carolyn Myss Education) beautifully expresses it, “Because orphans are not allowed into the family circle, they have to develop independence early on. The absence of family influences, attitudes, and traditions inspires or compels the Orphan Child to construct an inner reality based on personal judgment and experience.”

So, they experience, reflect, and learn. They may have endured childhood wounds in the areas of boundaries, self-esteem, and attachment, but they are self-motivated healers. Over time, they learn healthier habits in these areas. Because they are highly empathetic and principled people, as they become stronger and find their voices, they will continue to speak out. Just as they spoke out about injustices done to them in their family of origin, so do they reach a tipping point at which they will speak out against social injustice that occurs in the human family.

They’re unimpressed by the arsenal of Misters Malicious, because for them, it’s been there; done that. They see through gaslighting and deflection when it occurs in group dynamics (such calculated lies and incendiary messages delivered to rile up or distract an audience). They’re unsusceptible to derisive language, because they learned along the way that it’s always about the bully. He’s projecting what he most fears about himself. Call them snowflakes, and they will remind you, in case you haven’t heard it quite enough times, that winter is coming.

But most of all, their superpower is that they are the opposite of malignant narcissists, who hate and are driven. They care because they love, genuinely wish the best for others, and because for them, there are no “others.” For them, it is not, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” It is, “There go I.”

They care, but their fierceness is balanced by compassion, which is a higher and more peaceful sort of love. They understand the difference between real love and enabling. They learned through trying to heal their parents and fix the wounded people that came into their lives that they cannot fix or force the healing process. That is something people decide to do for themselves. Most people don’t do that on our desired time frame, or even in a lifetime, especially if they are Misters Malicious.

As Clinical Psychologist, Harvard Medical School lecturer and author of Rethinking Narcissism, Dr. Craig Malkin said, “If the person seems to have zero empathy at all times, then you’re dealing with extreme psychopathy and likely malignant narcissism and the chances are very little of change.”

Unlike Drs. Malkin and Black, I’m not a psychologist. I’m a mind/body/spirit writer. Over a period of several years, I researched the phenomenon of a certain archetype I call “Mr. Malicious,” a character who roughly relates to the term some therapists use: “malignant narcissist.” As part of my research, I interviewed many women who once were abused by their significant others. For some of them, their first “Misters Malicious,” were their parents. And some of them were scapegoated. So, as you may have surmised, was I. I am communicating as a writer, researcher, and someone who shares what she has come to know in her own life experience.

Recovered black sheep know this. They have healed the anxious need for attachment that once tempted them to overlook red flags and override intuition in exchange for false promises of worthiness and redemption from the despair of abandonment. These maladies of the soul no longer own them, but remain close enough in memory to have inspired a commitment to do their part to protect the vulnerable. As well, their empathy even extends to recognizing the humanity with the Mr. Malicious who can neither feel his own humanity nor recognize it in others.

Former scapegoats know the hell of being called “pathetic” and “loser” and can hear the scream of pain behind the derision of the one who says these words. They understand that he who wishes to exile feels like an exile, he who is insatiably greedy feels hollow, and he who demeans does so out of a desperate need to make himself feel better.

However, they also understand that abuse of power must be stopped. They apply the same concept stated by Dr. Black to shape-shifting our culture. As it is in the microcosm, so it is in the macrocosm. “To free ourselves from the past we must break the rules of silence and compliance.” So, they take their part in the fellowship of those men and women working toward that end and toward the goal of building a culture which recognizes the inherent worth of all.

“Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”
-Michael Connelly

About the author:

Kanta Bosniak is an artist, writer, and minister. Her numerous mind/body/spirit publications include her most recent book, Bye, Bye, Mr. Malicious!: How to Get Your Happy Back and Be Done with Narcissists and Sociopaths. For more information, visit KantaBosniak.com.


Regarding Women’s Anger: The Shifting Paradigm in Relationships and Culture

by Kanta Bosniak

It didn’t start with the revelations about Weinstein. It just looked that way to people who weren’t paying attention. In January, 2017, over two and a half million people participated in the Women’s Marches in Washington, across the country, and in thirty-two other countries.
Women and men demonstrated that a deep shift is occurring not only in politics but in gender relations, both interpersonal and intrapersonal. Habitual thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and beliefs are shifting, along with behaviors.

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A large part of this has to do with the way we regard anger. The time has come when the old paradigm no longer works. Men being forced to suppress their natural inclinations toward empathy and personal integrity. Being encouraged to express aggression and to objectify and dominate women… or risk male-on-male rejection, shaming, or sexual and physical violence.
Women being compelled to politely put up with being demeaned, belittled, and dominated in dating, family, and work relationships with men or face firing, shaming, or sexual and physical violence.

There is no question that the old paradigm pressure to conform to the hyper-masculine model harmed men. While it gave them access to wealth and power, it invalidated their connections to intuition, creativity, and real human intimacy. In extreme instances of the pressure to conform and suppress the authentic self, boys may grow up creating a false persona, which conceals a twisted and distorted personality, separated from the heart, conscience, or spiritual self.

Over a period of several years, I researched the phenomenon of a certain archetype I call “Mr. Malicious.” I’m a mind/body/spirit writer, not a psychologist, but my archetypal character roughly relates to the term some therapists use, malignant narcissist. Think narcissist and sociopath in a blender. Someone without empathy, who enjoys exerting control over others, derives pleasure from causing others shame, sadness, and despair, and to whatever extent possible, destroying their lives.

Typically, this type of man likes to present himself as hyper-masculine. Whether or not he is actually interested in women, he will act as a Lothario, much sought after by women, whom in reality, he hates. Sex for him, is really about control, conquest, and domination. He has something to prove, and he can never prove it, because self-esteem cannot be acquired by harming others and the love he can neither give nor accept cannot be commandeered. Feeling empty inside, he projects his shame on others.

This is the type of man the old paradigm holds in high esteem and the old boy network protects. In business, politics, social situations, and at home, he abuses his power. He is the judge who gives a wife-beater or child abuser a slap on the hand or an acquittal. He is the semi-illiterate bully boy whose brother’s connection with an admissions officer and family wealth gets him into an Ivy League college.

Groups of Misters Malicious can look like a frat party where a girl gets raped while others cheer. Or ultra-conservative American Taliban-like “Christian” cults who sanctify misogyny and child abuse by grooming little girls to be married off as young teenagers to much older men. Or an administration that tries to remove reproductive rights and perpetuates unequal pay for women.

That most women have had an experience with a Mr. Malicious was evidenced by #metoo statements going viral. Women who have had to endure living with culturally enforced misogyny were pushed past the point of being willing to accept the unacceptable. To cope, enable, stuff their outrage, and manage to be “nice,” in all circumstances.

Women have been learning to stop reframing a relationship with an abusive man as being a strong woman supporting a wounded man in his (mythical) healing process, as if he is the victim and she is the better person for her tolerance of his bad behavior. And they’re also done with reframing cultural abuse of women in relativistic terms. They don’t want the “progress” of less bad. They want justice now.

Instead, what they got last year was worse. A lot worse. In the microcosm, an individual malicious man gets more controlling and meaner to his partner over time, if she stays with him. In the macrocosm, so does malignant patriarchy, if it is continued to be enthusiastically supported by men still stuck in rage against women and enabling women fearful to take a stand, ashamed to be heard, or in the soul deadening numbness of denial. The abuse of power is a progressive condition, like alcoholism. So is the self-abuse of polite martyrdom.

Last November, something had to give. For many women, first, there was shock, then a month or so of crying. Then came the anger that shook them loose from their ladylike coma. By the time the allegations about Weinstein, Ratner, Spacey, Moore et al came out, the shift had already occurred. It just became more obviously apparent.

The genie is out of the bottle, it isn’t going back, and its dynamic energy has whooshed us forward. We’re in a new time now and only the most unconscious among us don’t know it. Many in the lightworker community have been expecting a pole shift. Metaphorically speaking, it has occurred.

In the screenplay form, the emotional climax precedes the action climax. Most among us can see and feel in a very visceral way that the first has occurred and the second is unfolding. The shift in how we conduct ourselves in terms of what is deemed acceptable and what is not has already been set in motion. We need to begin thinking differently about women’s anger. The Dalai Lama once said, “The world will be saved by the Western woman” and women’s anger was the key to this shift.

This anger has an entirely different quality than the frozen, stuck rage of the Mr. Malicious archetype. It is righteous anger, like the anger of Jesus knocking over the money- changers’ tables. Like the anger of a mother when someone threatens to hurt her children. It’s healthy anger and it provided women release from reframing prison.

Women witnessed an admitted sexual assaulter, a man who bragged about sexual assault on Access Hollywood. Who extolled the pleasure of preying on troubled teenage girls on Howard Stern. Who regularly denigrated women in the crudest of terms…

…get elected President.

This shook them free of the constraints to play nice. They realized they didn’t have to play nice because they are nice and nice people can get angry. They gave themselves permission to get angry individually, in groups, and as a movement.

One surprising thing that characterizes this type of anger shared by women of courage and men of goodwill is that it is very different from the anger of the Mr. Malicious archetype. These woman and men have joy in their lives. They have the ability to call up the inner warrior when it’s appropriate and put him down when it isn’t. They use their anger productively, as it was meant to be used: as energy for positive change.

Erwin Schrödinger wrote, “There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.”

As I see it, we are healing the collective mind. And a major part of that healing has to do with a healthier regard for women’s anger and a de-stigmatization of men’s empathy. We need the full measure of our combined energy and talent to take good care of the planet that supports our lives and the lives of our children.

About the author:

Kanta Bosniak is an artist, writer, and minister. Her numerous mind/body/spirit publications include her most recent book, Bye, Bye, Mr. Malicious!: How to Get Your Happy Back and Be Done with Narcissists and Sociopaths. For more information, visit KantaBosniak.com.