Series: What trauma does to you

I’ve been in contact with many trauma survivors the past few years as I plumbed the depths of my mother’s sicknessNEXT BLOG POST. I’ve listened to their stories, told my own, given and received advice. There are things that arrive as healing progresses.

Growing up with a mother with Borderline Personality Disorder,  meant living with serious issues around attachment. My trauma therapist, Dr. Geoff White, would like BPD renamed to reflect that it’s an attachment disorder. My mother also had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Everything was about her. She came with Flying Monkeys, she engaged in gaslighting, the whole Wicked Witch of the West package. Coping with living in the same house with someone who was never safe and rarely loving did give me and others like me empathy, intuition and as the graphic says, the ability to anticipate moods to keep ourselves safe.

From my current writing project:


Gaslight (verb) Favored technique of the narcissist (see below) by which one, such as their child, is convinced they are not seeing what they see. To train a child to doubt their perceptions and experience of reality. A form of psychological abuse targeting mental well-being, self confidence and self esteem. Objectives: for the child to lose any sense of self, making the narcissist look good and, in the case of the malignant narcissist, amusement. Also used to divide and conquer, setting family members against each other. The narcissist cannot get away with their behavior if their victims have allies who believe them. Often reinforced by Flying Monkeys (see below)

Narcissist (noun) The person you are an extension of.  You have no recognized existence apart from them, as in, “I’m not hungry, why should you eat?” It is unusual for two narcissists to marry (as in the case of my parents as noted by at least one therapist).  It rarely works for two with the common traits of grandiosity, self-centeredness, need for attention – especially admiration – who also lack empathy. If my father was a narcissist, he was more benign, a garden variety N. My mother was the malignant narcissist with a penchant for sadism, talent for dehumanizing “loved ones,” bursts of aggression, and periods of being antisocial. There’s definitely only room for one of those in a couple. Common phrases used by the N.: “I never said that,” “You’re imagining things,” etc.

“The two hallmarks of the narcissist are: one, they never apologize and two, they do not look you in the eye with genuine appreciation.”  ~ Dr. Geoff White

Flying Monkeys (noun) assistants to your very own personal Wicked Witch of the West (see Narcissist above). If you are able to fend off the hurt intentionally inflicted on you via the Narcissist’s surrogate for a moment, you will glimpse the perverse pleasure the Flying Monkey derives from this dynamic. Flying Monkeys like to feel “above it all.” When the Narcissist dies, the Flying Monkeys disappear.

Example: The Wicked Witch sends one of her Flying Monkeys a card complaining about the way you treated her on Mother’s Day, a day on which she received her favorite flowers and favorite treat of big chocolate covered strawberries with various toppings, both from you. You drive down to have lunch with her and get caught in a traffic jam due to an accident on the 405 in the days before GPS. After spending 6 hours and not quite reaching Oceanside and definitely having missed lunch with another 1-2 hours (depending on traffic) to get to her place – you call and leave her a message on her machine and with the receptionist at her retirement community, then turn around for the 3.5 hour drive home. The Flying Monkey quotes from her card about how selfish you are. The Flying Monkey takes your side and expresses sympathy… to your face. They have already done the same to the Narcissist, albeit with more genuine feeling and they relay it all back to the Narcissist, nourishing them with your distress.

Create a website or blog at