This is a serious question.

So I understand physical and sexual abuse, no problem. When it comes to emotional abuse, where is the line?

I had a huge blowout today. I personally feel a 50+ year old woman needs to get a grip on reality about getting a haircut during a snowstorm when she was 15 years old. Mind you, I think the mom is a selfish a-hole for other reasons.

So can someone expain where does the line blur?

From personal experience with a Narc. sister:
They feel entitled. Not deserving- entitled. Because of that, they are ungrateful.
They are greedy. They love "things", stuff, especially the very best stuff. Only the best for them. Cars, clothing... only the best even if they can't afford it.
They want money. They feel entitled to it. They will ask you for it and expect it, with no qualms whatsoever. They will cheat people who do work for them, with any excuse they can find. They are takers. They hate to share. They will never offer to help.
They will find fault with everybody. Nobody is good enough for them. Everybody is flawed, except them.

They love drama. They live for reactions. If you don't react, especially in the way they think you should, they will likely get mad.
If they don't get their way, or the right reaction, they will try to hurt you in every way but physical. They will spread anonymous nasty rumors and lies. The things they say about you will shock you; they have NO boundaries. Any personal thing that they know about you will be spread. But lies are just as common. For instance, you're a drug addict or an alcoholic. Or, you're only being a caretaker to make yourself look good. Whatever they think will hurt you, they will say. They may write to your neighbors, or leave messages for your lawyer or your boss or your significant other. Sometimes they will write nasty notes and letters directly to you, unsigned of course. Sometimes they will leave nasty phone messages. They are essentially cowards and don't really want to give you a chance to talk or defend yourself. They often won't answer their phone or let anyone have their number.
They will try to make your life difficult. Several times, after a long arduous caretaking day, I would get frightening prank calls falsely shown from local numbers. No way to prove it. I speculated on the various resentments that it could be, depending on the situation - a locked door, the fact that I was executor... just to hurt me...

Your things are their things. They will take what they want. They will steal your 90 year old father's food when you dare to step out and leave him alone for a moment. They will rage at him over his "stuff" that they want and then you will find him in an anxious and dangerous state but they don't care. They are very good at showing up the minute you leave and leaving before you get back.

They bear grudges. Nothing is their fault. They are never sorry. They are never wrong. They will blame you for anything they can. Their memory of the past will be very different from yours. They keep a mental list of perceived slights that justify their resentments and vengeful behavior. They will spout this list at surprising times and you will be taken aback at their warped recollection of ancient history. Throwing you off guard pleases them.
They will accuse you of things that they themselves do. They will call you crazy.
They will try to create conflict between you and others close to you. They love to get you alone and in league with them against others. They will resent any friends you have. They will turn others against you if they can. See above - nasty rumors. They will try to sabotage your caretaking if they can, especially if others are praising you for it. They will try to take credit, but do nothing to earn it.

They may give you the silent treatment, sometimes for months at a time. My sister would visit my Dad in the nursing home with myself and other people present, put her nose in the air and turn her head to the side so as not to look at or acknowledge my existence. And then talk only to him or others. The silent treatment seems to be a way of saying you're dead to me. It is a definite form of abuse.
Just a few things that come to mind from personal experience.
My advice if you are unlucky enough to have one of these people in your life, is to not react. It may come to having no contact. You will be the better for it. I ended up in therapy.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to patooski

I had a close friend who was a narcissist. The last time I talked to him, he hinted at me to abandon my life here and move in with him (and he's a pain to spend the weekend with)in a different state. I refused to and he decided to call off the friendship, he also made accusations about me that were not true. I tried to contact him after that incident, but he refused to talk to me. (He runs away from talking about issues that affects his friendships. He has lost a good amount of friends by being that way.) I thought it was going to be awful because we weren't friends anymore but 15 years have passed and I don't miss him one bit (except for the good times we had together), but the bad times outweigh the good times (He has said stuff like "You can't have any other friends, I am your only friend." and has publicly humiliated me in front of others.) I am glad that's he gone, I may not have a lot of friends in my life, but at least, I am friends with people that like me, not drag me down like him. I realize now, since I am getting older, that I rather be friends with those who respect me and my feelings, instead of being friends with those with narcissism issues. I don't know if I helped you out much with what I have said but I hope it helps you feel like you aren't really alone and that you can make the decision to stay or leave.

Just to let you know, that any kind of abuse is wrong and people like you, me and the others on here don't deserve it.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Anonymous1256

Mud can take you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry...

I think we complicate life by insisting on the use of the word "abuse" and trying to apportion blame accurately. Our local social services website has "abuse is abuse even if it is unintentional" printed in bold at the bottom of its 'report concerns' page; and that is true; but in general currency the word abuse carries a connotation of blame. A person can't just be unthinkingly careless or unkind or neglectful of the distress a child/spouse/parent is feeling: we tend to regard abusers as though they must be wilfully cruel.

Yes, I would agree that at some point one needs to leave behind wrongs done to one by narcissistic/impatient?/hurried?/otherwise preoccupied? parents (what exactly was the issue with the haircut in the snowstorm thing? I missed it); but the hurt is no less real for being invisible, and worse than hurt emotional abuse tends to instil fear. You only have to think of animals gnawing their own legs off to escape traps to realise that fear can be more terrible than pain.

I also think the word narcissistic is dreadfully overused. It's when you bump into the real, jaw-dropping, past masters of the art that you realise that people you might previously have thought narcissistic weren't even close. It's the sheer *greed* of the text book narcissist that always strikes me: that need to have ALL the praise, ALL the attention, ALL the approval and to find it intolerable that anyone should be worthy of any share in them.

A few weeks ago I met a father being cared for by his adult son. The father was fine (I mean comfortable. He is terminally ill). The son was a wreck. Enjoying the interest shown by my supervisor, the father gave a brief account of his life and - with his exhausted son standing right by his chair - said "... but I'm the last of the family." I could have wept for the son. People will say "oh of course the father didn't mean it that way, he just meant he was the last of his generation." I don't care. His son-and-heir was standing there before his very eyes, and to him was literally nobody.

Narcissists use you all up.

There are, of course, lots of other ways in which people can be emotionally abusive, and even more reasons why.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Countrymouse
rovana Oct 15, 2019
I think "greed" is a good description. However, I think if I were the son I would be glad that Dad was the last of a very long line of abusers. I would think of myself as in a sense unrelated to him, and consider myself the First of a better new line!
Tacy I am sorry that anyone thinks that physical violence is ever acceptable or a solution and that they had the sick mind and spirit to say that to you.

I believe in karma and I would not want to be walking in their shoes when that comes home to roost.

No excuse for abuse-EVER.

I know that you have gone above and beyond to help and you deserve support not psycho nastiness from judgmental people that don't know what you are facing.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal

Tothill, I was not going to respond to your post because you lost me at "now you crossed the line." I received a few PMs about it so I will address it. Your answer, trying to place blame at my feet is nonsense, ignorant and completely asinine.

Abuse is a cycle that gets broken when people address their issues and take accountibility for their own actions. Sorry, her mommy didnt force coke up her nose, alcohol in her mouth or force her to drive drunk....she makes those choices on her own. Her daughter is a teen and in the psych unit because she cuts herself, slit the wrists too deep...all because the "victim" said she didnt need the depression meds the dr prescribed because she would "out grow" those feelings. Daughter was also not allowed to go to the psychiatrist again because mommy needed the sessions more to deal with "narcissistic abuse" as a child, wtf.

In my world, that doesnt fly. Someone had to tell her to grow the f*ck up and be accountable for her own actions. So no, I wouldnt do anything different and for you to suggest that I should is insulting. Without personal accountability, the cycle continues.

I am not a person here you get to play amateur shrink with to make me feel bad about myself or my actions like you do to others.

Boundries arent just for parents, they are for any toxic person in your life.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to tacy022
Tothill Oct 15, 2019
Tacy022, my reply was to your original post, where you asked where the line was for emotional abuse.

I see that you have now elaborated further that this person as an adult is using past abuse to not take responsibility for her actions. And is trying to get you to pay for her current mistakes.

I agree 100% that you do not owe her money for a lawyer to get her out of her current predicament.

I have an adult son who has not lived with me in 18 years. He seems to feel I am responsible for paying his rent, when he does not work, or spends money on drugs. For many years he has convinced his grandmothers to come to his rescue, me, I will not pay his bills. He is 100% responsible for finding solutions for himself. I will help to research options and agencies who may be able to help, but I have a cash limit of $500 per year per child and that includes birthdays and Christmas. He is too proud to apply for subsidized housing, or go to the food bank. Not my problem.
See 1 more reply
Not sure if this is narcissism but you are being taken advantage of. Sorry, hard to go back and pick out ur personal posts. Does this woman live with you?

Think its time to take ur home back. Call Social Services and see what resources are available for these two. Get the info together and give him/her a timeline to leave ur home. Not more than 30 days. If you have the money, set them up in a motel for a week and point them to the Social Service Office.

You know I grew up in an innocent time. We had no idea what was going on in other kids homes. I found out one girls father beat her Mom. A friends mother beat her for no reason. There r others and most of them turned out to marry, raise kids, hold down jobs and have pretty good lives. I am not saying there aren't scars but it didn't keep them from having lives. I even know some people that would be considered alcoholics that still hold down jobs. Then we had the "touchie feely" generation. "They were raised in bad environments". Even so, they should be held accountable for there actions. So now we have people that because of something their parents did or didn't do, someone else should be responsible for the decisions they make. You are not responsible. I believe in giving a hand up, but if you abuse that hand I am done.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to JoAnn29

Hello Tacy, you're a very longsuffering friend, imo:) Even in my younger days, I couldn't understand or tolerate such drama. Those folks you're dealing with sound completely dysfunctional. Even when I was nearly homeless (40 yrs ago), & living with families who took me in, I worked my arse off to clean their house, watch their kids, or anything to be useful & repay them. I cannot tolerate moochers. (I don't know if the brother is making himself useful while he stays with u). But obviously the one lady has a drinking prob, & cud hurt someone if d.u.i. It seems to me that they will take advantage of your help endlessly,... which makes me feel crazy just thinking about it. I'm hoping you can rid yourself of them all, in short order. I'm sorry that doesn't actually answer you question about narcissistic abuse. But those people are simply arsehol#s. I hope I understood the details properly, (& didn't offend u Tacy),...I like you very much. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to anonymous828521

That just shows how much of a narcissist she herself is.

I would be stressed out if I was behaving badly and risking my livelihood.

She obviously uses any excuse to live a poorly managed life and to justify risky behaviour.

I can't imagine having enough audacity to ask for vacation money in the same breath as asking for attorneys fees because I have committed 4 hit and run accidents.

Her momma is the least of her problems. I would have told her that she is fixing to find out what consequences for her actions look like. Would she like me to take her kid while she serves her prison sentence. Some people only learn the hard way and she sounds like she fits that demographic.

You are completely justified in telling her to grow up and take responsibility for her actions. You are smart to not give her any money.

(It sucks that people cross boundaries and we have to deal with things that make us feel bad.)
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal

Tacy: I just read your answer from an hour to Isthisrealyreal, "This conversation was can I lend her $30k for legal fees, to fix an overdrawn bank account and go on vacation due to stress." NO! is a complete sentence.

Such a request is beyond the pale, regardless if you can afford it or not. NONONONO!

And don't even feel guilty for saying so!
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to MountainMoose
Countrymouse Oct 15, 2019
Moose - Summarised as you put it, surely the correct response to that request is to laugh like a hyena and ask what she's been taking?
The person has a drinking problem. She thinks it is acceptable to go lunch, drink a bottle of wine or two then get in a company vehicle to resume work setting up people's meds in their home. She has got into several car accidents in the last few months after drinking and left the scene since they were only minor crashes. She is on camera leaving the scene but not the being intoxicated. She has lied to her boss stating it happened in parking lots but now has received a summons for court for the accidents.

The fight was over me lending money for a lawyer. I think the person needs to grow up and take responsibility for their own actions. She is blaming mom for her drinking problem and possibly losing her job. I have a hard time with my mom was mean to me as a defense to doing things you know are wrong but needing to justify the actions.

So, I guess at what point does blame go on oneself rather than mom?
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to tacy022
Isthisrealyreal Oct 9, 2019
At the point that you are making your own decisions.

For me that was when I was 16 years old.

Sorry, I think that you have the choice to build a bridge and get over it or perpetuate the problem by being the same or worse then the people or person that you are blaming for being so screwed up.

My brother pulls the same crap. I got high and drunk and crashed into the other car because my daddy didn't play catch with me growing up. Waaaaaaahhhh. Meanwhile his kids go to bed hungry because it was a choice between booze and drugs or food. I have no sympathy with or for these people that blame others for their bad behavior.

I wouldn't loan money to a drunk either, it wouldn't be a loan but a gift that was taken and not given. I don't do those either when I know that is what it is.
See 1 more reply
Edit: tothills answer clarified what you meant.

Has she learned boundaries with her mom yet? I would say no and that is why she obsesses about the history. She still can't say that she is in charge of herself when her mom is involved. Mom won't change, your friend needs to learn what her mom is and how to get out from under her narcissistic control.

Narcissistic abuse is when a person doesn't care what their wants cost another, it is when the narc is using someone for a specific purpose and putting the other person at some risk.

I think the line blurs when you have someone helping a narc and they don't believe that the narc is using them. Both think that something else is taking place. Narcs are almost always very nice when you are dancing to their tune and serving a purpose for them. You get into trouble when you stop being the little flunky that is so honored to be in the presence of the oh so great narc. It is hard to view someone that appears to be so nice as a threat. It takes some people many years to believe their experiences with a narc, the situation is usually so messed up it is hard to understand what the h3ll happened. Narcs always point fingers and pervert the facts so much that you can question your own recollection of the situation.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal

The abuse a child receives at the hands of narc parents is like the proverbial straw and camel story. What to you seems like a minor issue for her was a breaking point.

It is not for you to see your friend's line, and it is not for your friend to draw it for you. She knows were it is. Now you crossed it too.

By blowing up at your friend, you did not support her, you reinforced her mother's point of view. You took the mother's side and told your friend to get a grip? How does that benefit the situation?

What could you have done differently? Empathized with your friend, accepted that her pain is real and she relives it when triggered.

Oh, and the things that can trigger someone who suffered years of emotional abuse, may seem meaningless to others and completely catch one off guard. It can be a phrase, an object a song.

The event may have little meaning to those who hear about it later, but could very well be pivotal to the person telling the story. Narcs use gas lighting as well as other forms of manipulation and it can be incredibly hard, even 35 years later to process it.

My pivotal event was described by my parents as my being uncooperative and having a 12 year old tantrum. What happened? I refused to get out of the pool for a political photo shoot. Now you tell me how many 12 year olds feel confident to have a photo of them taken in a swim suit? Add onto that it was going to be used in newspaper campaigns and in a election brochure, thank god this was prior to the internet. I 'won' that battle, as I flat out refused to get out of the pool and was willing to make a huge scene.

Now some would say, I was a little brat, but it was the first time I set boundaries between me and my parents. I was in the right.

Am I over it? Yes, but I did win the battle. Did I win the war? I only interact with my parents 100% on my terms.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Tothill
MountainMoose Oct 9, 2019
Exceptionally profound post, Tothill!

(And good for you on so many levels!)
If you have someone discussing at any length a haircut in a snowstorm at age 15 with any expectations that others will see it as a discussion based on reality, and moreover taking seriously the repurcussions of same,
then you have someone either:
A) quite mentally ill
B) pulling your leg
C) having a really bad day.
Yes. Lines do indeed go fuzzy in life.
Good luck
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to AlvaDeer

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter