Friday, September 20, 2013

Money, Snobs and Narcissists

I've been pondering many things about life lately. Life in America now is all about status and appearances. It took me too long to learn how the real world worked, and in an attempt not to sound too cynical-- it has worsened. Life seems to have changed, where now there seems to be endless numbers of people kicked to the curb and unless you fit a certain criteria you are not wanted. It's like high school rewound again, with the snobs and mean girls taking over. How much human talent and potential is being wasted in a system like this?

 I made the decision years ago, though while I am very sick, often bedbound, that I will do things that mean something to me, and make use of my talents, even though they are not income producers. This isn't me but another lady that was in the news for being housebound. Even if I am stuck in this apartment or worse this body, I can still do a few things.

This includes various volunteer projects, making art work, writing and more. In other words while many disabled people become very isolated and shut off from the world, especially us housebound types, I made the decision that I would have a voice elsewhere and do something that impacted the world, even if so many doors were being shut in my face or in facing the limitations of the health problems.

One friend said to me direct and these were words, that were well taken and the kind of thing that you turn to during low moments and said to me regarding the family I went "no contact" with, "Fivehundredpoundpeep, your life is far richer then theirs in many, many ways!"

Young people are given very false expectations and not prepared for the world as it really is. No one is telling America's young about the collapse of the US economy unless they are the smart and independent sort who have the time and resources to find snippets of the "alternative" media that may tell them.

Oddly I have encountered some well-off Baby Boomers who seem to ignore how the world has changed and because they have the means where it simply has not touched them, they deny the reality of many others. One stat I read is that over 65 year old Baby Boomers are 47 times richer then their children and grandchildren. This doesn't mean every Baby Boomer has done well or has these attitudes, but that is an awe-inspiring statistic. Generation X and Y have done far less well.

Just today, I wrote to an acquaintance on a social website how I had been raised in an upper middle class home and fell down the ladder very badly and how the chasm grew so wide, between me and my family. I saw them living in another world clueless about how I even had to live and survive. She seemed angry at me for these words, and oddly during the same post, I thought she was speaking out AGAINST slum tourism but I suppose was more in favor of it. Poor people as pets and to be patronized? Is this the latest thing among some circles?

 I felt like I was on my own opposite tour when I would go visit them. There were times I would enter my family's 6 figure suburban enclaves, and one sunny Saturday morning, as the lawnmowers buzzed and the large brick homes with their clean windows and flowers shined, I wondered to myself "What would it be like to live in this world, to feel safe and like everything is okay?" Add to that inner musings, about what life as a "normal" person would have been about.

But hey since the 50s, we have heard about the suburban milieu that goes on behind the pretty scenery and green lawns and I have my own memories of family life where keeping up with the Joneses was top priority and happiness was not.

 When I think about the depth of rejection I encountered from my family from all levels and for so long, how did someone like me even manage to get out in the world? Those who had been given the job to protect, care and nurture me, seemed more involved in kicking me when I was down and enjoying my failures. Years ago after I was not helped, there was a little help but a pound of flesh accompanied all of it. My sister's attitude that the poor are to be avoided and rejected, relations or not, was taught! My brother told me being subservient to richer family members was the way of the world and I needed to get back in line, instead of daring to walk away! What does this do to someone to be told this stuff for years? I couldn't take it anymore so I walked.

If one does not have decent furniture--the decor is garage sale a la mode or the "right" clothes, or has to wear the same outfit over and over, one can suffer for this. These are pressures that go way beyond the weight. The looks of disgust from my family have intertwined with those who reject me in the world. Imagine how I felt inside to overhear gossip in my old town even, "I've been to her apartment, she doesn't own anything!" with various socio-economic related comments. This is why my sister with her clean new dark wood floors, a new car every other year, who pays the same I do in rent on property taxes decided long ago, on my lower status in her life. 

One thing I noticed about the most malignant narcissists in my family is they never faced any job lay-offs, never any failures or ones they let be known. Raised by people who believe in never showing any weakness or vulnerability how could one even deal with the hardships of life that come to most?  How did they acquire wealth or comfortable jobs so easily? The narcissism if anything seemed to guarantee them MORE success. Was this connections I did not know about behind the scenes or something else? The story of my life among my family includes not being invited to a wedding because a cousin happens to be marrying a multi-millionaire, and I guess they didn't want me "messing" up the pictures again just like with my sister's wedding! The day after this dis-invite, my aunt called to brag about the silver set my mother had purchased for the bride.

My own family rejected me because I became poor as an adult but that was just one thing among many others, and sadly the problems I faced in my own jobs mostly due to my physical health--I was a good classroom teacher even with the mild Aspergers [people ask me to volunteer teach today even] and husbands later job lay-offs, it was like the movie Groundhog day being told that I was unworthy by my family and then by the world. I've overcome this in some ways in that I am astonished by what I managed with so many health and other challenges. To be frank, a dirt poor but loving family would have been far better. Sigh.  The path of self forgiveness and happiness has been with getting free and clear of those with these evil messages.

I had this discussion with another friend online, that American society has skewed in a very abrupt way to a place where now everything is about selling yourself. This seems to be a system that rewards the narcissistic, where networking that is shallow, arrogance, hiding all mistakes, and showing no emotions and having no problems in throwing others under the bus in a King or Queen of the Mountain frenzy. In other words, it's the meanest sharks in the pool getting the biggest cut! Often times, I do wish I had been born into a more sane place and culture. There are worse certainly of course.

Children from elementary school are told to think of themselves as special and to compete to the extreme now, so what does that form but narcissism? It seems there are two choices one can make in this system, be left behind, and down and out, or be one of the arrogant alpha sharks. That is what we are seeing. The universities especially in a business school setting, they would be stressing all the criterias of success, that so few are questioning that are leading to the higher rates of sociopathy and narcissism among the most successful. The sociopath rate in Wall Street is 10%. What does this mean for a society as a whole?

I was raised with a dog eat dog ethos. How did I abandon it? Reading the Bible when I was 9? Kind nuns wearing habits who were my teachers? Even though I left the Catholic religion and became a born again Christian, many were sincere and preached a strong moral code. The books I read? Surely I am not saying I was the epitome of perfection, the bible says none are good and that includes me but lately I have examined how my values from an early age did not match that of my family. Any idealism was to be squashed and I still remember one conversation with my father when he sneered, "You are too much of an idealist!" Odd for some that would be a compliment but in my family it was an insult. Altruism was seen as the domain of dummies. In fact my propensity for volunteer work and desire to be an art teacher was mocked among family members.  

Money and materialism became the focus especially in the 1980s. Business "success" became all about the cash. Years ago there was this notion among the business community, they were to build up a community, they wanted a LEGACY in their town or community, but with the breaking up of our social connections and social contract---think about the book BOWLING ALONE. The idea of legacy and giving to one's community or philanthropy. Where are the Carnegie libraries of today?

Is their attachment to community anymore? I had people upset with me not understanding that in leaving my last small rural town, it brought me endless grief.
Why has the world become so cut throat? Too many people are disposable today. Sadly it seems narcissism in some circles equals social intelligence. Why are narcissists today seen as popular and more even if the connections and attachment are not the same. Narcissists can appear as the most socially intelligent. Many of these big cheeses don't rule by fear either, but with a smile on their face and by covert intimidation and gifts. They can make themselves in a business or company situation look like they are all giving and build an "image" of themselves that is just a fa├žade. With our educational and work system focusing on image so much and social success being defined as "getting over on others", it is advancing the narcissists like never before. 

I believe in earlier times, and years ago, narcissists were held somewhat in check by stronger social networks and life long communities. People knew who the betrayers were and who could not be trusted when push came to shove and who were focused on self advancement.  All the focus on certain types of achievement in our society has had this inverse affect of promoting the very narcissism they pretend to condemn on one hand. I know being who I am, this fat, this different, I am outside "the system" so to speak, while I have found a few niches, there is a reason I had "do it yourself' art shows. They didn't make big money but were satisfying and had many that appreciated my art work and it was fun to share it. I had to find my own way in a system that basically cast me out.

A major part of my narcissistic abuse centered around being called a "loser" especially as I entered adulthood and did not enter into a large amount of money or high paying job. What scares me is I had a bachelors degree in art education and was even studying to become a paralegal and was later married to a small town newspaper reporter and assistant editor though my husband later faced job-layoffs.  I still got this backlash, it's not like I was lying back and doing nothing with my life at that point. Why so many false judgments and pressures?

 For narcissists, a grown child is to be a source of narcissistic supply, a mirror reflecting back "their awesomeness" and I suppose that when an adult child does not become a source of this supply where a narcissist can brag of their achievements, and how beautiful they are, or of the grandchildren, then one becomes useless to them. They are shunted away as a "family embarrassments". It was scary to see the other "throwaways" in my family while the Eagle Scouts and straight A students and the THIN were elevated. Even there I saw the total lack of love and care for ALL parties concerned.

 I have or had this great hang-up with money, I often thought that if I had come into money or somehow "made it" such as when I was attempting to publish a book in the last 90s, that maybe one day I would be deemed acceptable and loved. Today I know that was a futile pursuit among narcissists, and even if I had won the Lotto or hit the big times in some venture, that it wouldn't be enough. Of course there one wonders why do people have to "prove" themselves this way now? Isn't that sick. Why can't we just be people? Well that is the better world and one I chose to join as a Christian, let the others be entranced with the dollar signs and worldly success where everyone is over-awed with the baubles of this world that do not last.

There were times my mother would even have parties for family and sometimes would invite her friends too, and some years ago, she would keep these parties secret from me especially ones where both friends and family were invited. Can you imagine? Yes it hurt.

There was one time I showed up at one of her parties, I found out about it by accident, she ignored me the whole time I was there, but I walked around saying hello to various relatives and others. Strangely there was this fat woman there, she was a coworker of my mother, maybe in the mid 300s and I got into a conversation with her and she told me she was diagnosed with Cushings and I told her about my then new pseudo-Cushings diagnosis.  One thing I figured out about my mother fat people were okay to have around as friends and coworkers and even husbands, but not as daughters.
My mother due to her money, [upper middle class] deemed herself totally superior to me. There was no notion of the family being in it together to help one another. Any help of years ago came with a price and behind the scenes any relative in need of help or facing failure and illness was vilified and condemned as lacking in every possible way. Maybe I will tell you the story of how one aunt was left in poverty even worse then my own, and how she was treated too, but this idea that dollars make some people "better" then others, really is disturbing.

This was a code that if I had not chosen to abandon it via religious and other moral means, that would have led to my destruction. Who was I in a system where money and worldly success meant everything? I was nothing and that is exactly how they treated me!

 My adult life has fluctuated between destitution and years of a stable working class position via my husbands efforts. Years ago, even the working class was respected as salt of the earth, but today  they aren't seen on our TVs. I even think about how in the days of Laverne and Shirley, two women were shown with normal working class jobs, though they had a far bigger apt then many would have ended up with. The community they were surrounded by was working class too and everyone was treated like a human being. Add in celebrity culture where everything is about gathering attention and selling yourself it is turning more people into narcissists from an early age.

  One thing too with the narcissism and the college set and more in the professional class, they are training people to express LESS emotions. While I can understand people not wanting their pilots or surgeon boo-hooing at the controls or at the surgery table, I could write a whole essay on that and why it is happening. SOFT emotions are seen as weakness. This is how narcissists view emotion, many are cold, and emotions are SHOWTIME if shown at all. I even have noticed in the movies of the 50s they show men, strong men crying. Today that does not happen in our media. I was taught not to express emotions and while some have said this was another generation's outlook, I think it went far deeper then that. Is that related to the growing narcissism in society? 

I've discussed already the obsession with appearances what about with suppression of emotion? There is more cruelty growing out there, such as throwing people out of the job running for not having the right credit rating, how do you improve it if you can't get a job? Cutting the presently unemployed out of the job running. The system seems to be getting harder and crueler, and I haven't even mention our lists of insane laws.  While news pundits will go on about the haves and have nots, there is something far more insidious going on in American culture then the just going without the money, there is the destruction of relationships, of family, of connections of community happening among all the false messages. I see some who subscribe to this whole system, saying "Ah you losers, go whine!, I'm a winner!" and you see the impact on the fat and weight loss world. Fat people as I have written elsewhere have greater numbers among the poor. There is a class marker of thinness and wealth being developed. There too how much human talent and potential is being wasted?

The other day I said to my husband, "why are all these authors on the backs of books now thin and beautiful"? I don't think that was the criteria years ago! Ever notice how appearance based rules count for everything now while character does not? The same code that renders fat people silent, in a system also renders many other groups silent. Money is the biggest taboo topic in American society.

Thank God I've met many nice people along the way, who see me as a person first and where humanity and other things count for far more then the shallow snobs who see people as a numbers game. I do think there is definite growing narcissism out there and more rewards for narcissism, that concerns me. Let them have their money, there are more important things in life.


  1. You are absolutely right. Even in the "I'm, like, proud to be shallow" eighties, people weren't as downright mean as they are these days. Oh sure, if you weren't conventionally attractive it might have been hard to become popular, but I didn't see quite as many people going out of their way to be as absolutely vile as I do these days. Even the media is more vicious. It's pretty sad.

  2. Thanks Tempest, yeah the "proud to be shallow" PREPPY etc, 1980s where they worshipped wealth, we couldn't even imagine how bad things would get. I agree more people have gotten vile, and with some of them they are so shallow, they treat fellow family members like dirt. I think of my two Heathers like cousins--totally thin, popular types, I never had one ill word with them in my life but they refused to befriend me as a family member on a social website. I mean when everyone is put through the are "you pretty, rich and thin enough filter" even a cousin whose 20 years older, something has gone really wrong. There is a meanness out there that is growing worse. They are tossing people overboard who do not fit the criteria. I wrote a friend last night, "What is going to happen in a society where you have to "fit in" and conform on so many accounts just to be able to make a viable living?" The media helps to run the show poisoning plenty of minds.

  3. Hi FHPP, I've read a few of your entries this morning, and you are an excellent writer. This post above has many interesting aspects to it. I think your sentence phrase "the obsession with appearance and the suppression of emotion" deserves its own post, because they are correlated, clearly. The cartoon with the chick thinking about herself is PRICELESS.

    A huge class divide, within a FOO, is an atrocity, IMO. When primary FOO, siblings, mother, live well on 6 figures and you are struggling to get by, not to mention they're basic disavowing of you as a person, you can only start looking at them as you have done here: as an object lesson in twisted, cruel narcissism. Your mother, and her robbing you of siblings (and their responsibility for that too) are not unusual in narc families. But they are unusually callous. You are at a double disadvantage with them--being a truthteller with a heart and not fitting their "perfect picture" of what someone's life should "look" like. All you can do is work to keep your own heart and soul intact, and know that you are not alone out there. I took comfort in knowing how many ACoNs are out there, not because I'm glad to share the misery but because my mother couldn't brand me as the "crazy" one anymore, in my own head at least. CS

  4. Thanks Calibrans sister, I appreciate it. Yes I was thinking about many issues at once writing this article, even about the societal influence that has entered into class, and how narcissism is equated to success. I saw this article the other day , and thought well being narcissistic actually helps with success in a corrupt society.

    You are right the obsession with appearance does go with suppression of emotion. That is something else I have seen growing over the years, among the powerful narcissists who influence our society, any "soft emotions" are now seen as "weak" or "bad". What happens to a society that tells people to suppress them at any cost for acceptance?

    The huge class divide made it horrible Calibran's sister. I think about how my father left my mother almost three quarters of a million dollars, more if you add in assets, and at the time I was living in a mouse-infested slum apartment with no car, no phone, no working stove, in a dangerous neighborhood. He guaranteed her a life long comfortable upper middle class life, while leaving me disabled and ill in the dregs of poverty. I think things may have been more okay for me emotionally later if my husband's newspaper jobs hadn't gone kaput, when I was working class due to his efforts and stable, I could deal with things a bit better later. A few crumbs were thrown me years ago, I think for the sake of appearances, and so I would not end up on their doorsteps, but they left me frankly to die for years before where there was no help, and I even went without food and groceries to eat--which I know makes the weight stuff even more ironic.



  5. I could take the differences in money even, some of my friends are far better off but the stigmas, the put-downs, the looks of disgust took their toll over the years. My sister looked down on me and refused to bring her children to visit me, because my 800 square foot apt--this is a decent one, was not good enough. They cut me out more and more because I was poor. Ironically I am more educated then both my mother and sister who never graduated from 4 year college. My mother got her good government job she once had via nepotism via my father and my sister married into the 6 figure life.

    It was told to me I was probably cut out of the will already and she was keeping it secret, but I had to walk away from even the potential of any future money to keep my sanity. One's soul is worth more then selling out.

    With money, these narcissists can abuse far more, in fact it gives them far more power then when someone may have equal income but dealing with toxic people. They would basically tell others they were better then me, and there were times I was mocked openly to my face for being poor both by my brother--who wasn't as rich as them though better off then me, and by my father who once after he got a legal settlement ran around spending money on shopping and vacations while I lived in severe poverty. I found out about the settlement recently from another relative, and well, the puzzle pieces came together. They did disavow me as a person and treat me like dirt for being poor, one thing about my family whenever something "bad" happened to a person, in my case disability--I used to be an art teacher and residential counselor and was studying to be a paralegal before I was disabled, and my husband's job lay offs, people were to be blamed and shamed. They are an object lesson in twisted narcissism. To my shock, I found many others treated the same way by wicked people like this. They are callous. They are cold, they treat other human beings like scum on the bottom of their shoes. Yes being a truthteller put me at a double disadvantage, they literally hated who I was, and what I stood for. Even my N father told me when I was young, that I needed to shut up and conform. I am glad they never "won" my soul and heart or "took over" me like they did so many others. I take comfort in the other ACONs too, them sharing their stories helped me so much including you doing so. I read your blog from the time it started including some others. We need to speak out as much against these type of people because of the harm they are doing others, and other ACONs can know they "aren't crazy" or "the problem" as they have been labeled by their families and can be set free. I plan to speak out as much as I can.

    Thanks so much. :)

  6. Glad you're out there and writing. The more we share, the less hopeless we feel about humanity, I think. I studied dysfunctional foos for decades but couldn't make emotional progress until I started reading other blogs about two years ago, and began writing my own experiences down in my blog. It helped me exponentially, to connect what I 'knew' intellectually with how I was able to feel (detach).

  7. Thanks, I agree that the writing and sharing helps a lot. I have studied dysfunctional families for years, and read Toxic Parents and People of the Lie, by the age of 18. Both books probably "saved" me in a way, as I was able to admit something was very wrong with my upbringing and my family. I found out about narcissism about three years ago, I stumbled across this link by accident and have read over that much time. It was like ripping a veil off of all of it.

    I too had to connect what I knew with what I felt too.

  8. this is a common type of family among the upper middle class; and they always have a "scapegoat" member, who gets abuse or is different and does not f8t in.i know about this cause i saw a lot of members of families who were severely mentally ill. who picked on that one member.the member is thhee"ill member"or the "loser member."O ften they cann't do the social and manipulative tricks the family employs,so this "losser" becomes the "outcast." also the middle class does this.i hate to say this,you're seeing a sociological pattern indicattive to how humans in families function.what does this mean? study many animal species,they also have a "hierarchy" simpler in form.Baboons do, for the group,just liike human tribes.lions figher kill over who owns the pride.but since man is so smart,, our behavior pattern to survive, has gotten far more complex.BUT no less cold blooded than animals jockeying for supremecy in a group,family, whatever you calll it. this is ANIMAL INSTINCT.not higher mankind.all the kings,chilldren,all in British history, fought over the crown,,killed each other over it.I think this is part of man's animal instinctt in family structure--another reason it may be so cold blooded.and theee are not ADVANCED FAMILIES,or people,they are a complex twisted animal family structure. i don't think our basic animal instinct in man,goes away;it changes does not LEAVE the species.Only individual,higher humans are different,smarter,or genius, and offen they don't fit in.sometimes they succeed(Bill Gates) but often they get lost.human beings are still a vwry imperfect, animal species.we are not Vulcans, ha ha. :)

  9. --forgot to say, we saw conformity and middle class snobism begin;in the fifties, ours was called"keeping up with the Jones, you did one-up-manship wiith neighbors, social groups,to have the same family or person had better"'stuff" than you.and, yeah, conformity was the thing. it was awful.

  10. Yes sadly among the upper middle class I would not doubt this happens often though narcissism can occur all along the socioeconomic sphere.
    Anyone who is different is to be shunted away or ostracized especially if they do not fit the norm. They pick one they nitpick and criticize and to unload all their garbage on. Bonding is around putting people down, a common enemy as it were. I would have taken a poor family in Appalachia rather then this challenge. Yes I wonder about the biological stuff here too, the alphas seek to destroy the betas and down, so if you are born into a group of alphas, with poor health or do not "fit in" {aspergers, obesity, etc} you are a "throw away". Of course on the surface some will subscribe to religious and philosophical that decries such social Darwinism but the behavior and actions speak to something else. Even if in some of these families, they may help the down and outer a few times earlier in life, they don't make a place for them in their rarified world. They do so with resentment and a disgust that is papable. You are trained that from the start, once you show a different that they "you are not one of them.".

    Jockeying for status and king and queen of the mountain comes first, worsening in an ever growing narcissistic society.

    Yes you are right history of the royals all doing each other in for power, says something here too. The wickedness of man. Even the Bible warns about family disputes and the outcasting of members--like Joseph.

    Yes the fifties did have a lot of this conformity. Even with counter-culture, things really did not change with that. The 80s brought the desire for status and putting careers and "getting ahead" on the pedestal. My relatives bought that hook line and sinker. It's was frightening even watching them all brag to each other. I've been around old farm and church families where while there was some conformity expected, there seemed to be some loyalty expected for all family members that just didn't exist in my family network. Things were so insane, both parents were angry I became an art teacher, and considered me a wash-up even when I made 14 dollars an hour at one job in 1990. I was expected to have the lavish suburban house and high earning corporate husband by age 20. Funny how my sister managed this and so quick too.

    I definitely was given the message I had to conform or else. In fact both parents would get angry at me for sharing any independent thought. One told me I needed to fake it then to fit in. Not exactly the best advice for an Aspie, it just made things worse.

    I feel for anyone born into family systems like this where they do not "fit in" or acquire the required cash to be considered "worthy". It can be very painful over a life time. For some of us, who wants to be a worm life long?
    The one thing I have noticed is many are so focused on appearances, who you are as a person never ever mattered.