Tag Archives: dear aunt alex

Dear Aunt Alex – 4/17/13


Dear Aunt Alex,

In my head, I know that my narcissist ex will never love me. Why can I still not get him out of my head?  I just don’t know how to move on. Knowing he hurts me isn’t enough. any ideas please? I haven’t been out in two months and am suffering.



despair signs

Dear Missy,

Oh, Sweetie.  ::hugs::  This is the whole reason The Army has a base camp on the Internet: The devaluation hurts so bad.  It’s confusing and devastating and dismissive, and feels like you’re being abandoned and thrown away.  There is nothing festive about that.

despair 2

The psychiatrists in cheesy movies say, “Tell me about your parents,” and it’s funny because it’s cliche’ and feels useless.  But it turns out the parents are a superb place to start.  The first cut is the deepest, and the kids of narcissists have a primal, very early punch to their boundaries that most other people don’t.  When a child is ignored and gaslighted by a screwed-up toad parent, it feels confusing and devastating and dismissive, and feels like abandonment.


The boundaries get distorted by the tiny, tender psyche so that the poor kid can survive, and the longing for healthy care and bonding is never forgotten.

Let’s be perfectly clear:  These adult children do not, do NOT, deliberately seek out narcissists so that they can replay the childhood abuse and “fix” it.  That victim-blaming, offensive theory can’t die soon enough for Aunt Alex.  The adult children are more vulnerable to these buttholes because the boundaries are pretzel-twistied.  The narcissist parent punched a hole in the boundaries and that hole remains, and the future toads in her life smell that vulnerability from a mile away.  And those future narcissists stomp, waddle and slither through that hole in her boundaries and munch away freely on her heart and soul.

Now Missy, before Auntie Alex gets quicksanded by her own metaphors, let’s talk about your moving on, and let’s start here: Either you had a narcissist for a parent, or you didn’t.  But the process of moving on and getting him out of your head is essentially the same.

It’s going to take time.  Your heart doesn’t have an on/off switch.  Your affection doesn’t have an “uninstall” feature.  Just like a broken ankle or a case of mono needs time to heal, so does the damage caused by the narcissist.  It runs deep, and it takes more than two months to heal because it’s not superficial and trivial, it’s about betrayal and love and being told you’re a loser and it’s all your fault.  This stuff is A Big Deal.  So, step one: Forgive yourself for being a normal, healthy human being who’s been through a trauma.


Forgive yourself for being kind and vulnerable and emotionally generous and loving.  What happened isn’t your fault.  It’s his.

Step two: Get mad.  He killed your hope.  He lied.  He manipulated.  He tried to stomp down your self-worth so he could feel better about himself.  He did all of this on purpose, and he doesn’t care that you’re hurt.  He’s hurt others before you, and he’ll hurt others after you.  He’s like an opportunistic mosquito: If he’s shooed off of one host, he moves to another.  And then maybe goes back to suck off the first host again.  He doesn’t care who he’s sucking at the moment.  He just wants blood.  And he’ll suck off of hosts for as long as he lives.  Those damaged boundaries make you feel at least partially responsible for the failed bonding in the relationship, but you’re not.  He is.  He fucked the whole thing up.  He wasted your time and your effort, he devalued your love and your appeal, and he insulted and used you and continues to take up real estate in your head.  Ask yourself: Why aren’t you furious?  If someone treated your child or your sister like this, would you be sad, or murderous?  YOU GOTTA GET MAD BEFORE YOU CAN GET OVER IT.

mad baby

Step three: Clear your head (Man, those yoga mindfulness meditation people have got this down pat),  and replace the gross, useless thoughts of the narcissist with MUCH more pleasant things (which is pretty much anything).  No one can just “stop” thinking about something that’s been grinding at them for years.  It leaves a void in your head, and the old, familiar thoughts rush in to fill the space.  What do you love?


Your familyfriends, hobbies, work?

friends on beach

Do you love animalsreadingmovieswriting?  Drawing on your fingers?

friends fingers

If you say, “I tried to go out, to do things, to pick up a paintbrush or write a card to someone, and I just can’t,” that’s your mild, understandable depression lying to you.  You can; the mild depression just doesn’t want to because it wants to be, well, depressed.  It wants you to be uncomfortable so that you’ll try harder to bond with the narcissist, because depression isn’t very smart.  It’s primal and only knows how to “feel”.  You most certainly can start folding real, sweet, enriching things into your day, and getting over that feeling of weakness, getting over that “failure barrier”, is going to take practice.  You have to force yourself to do it the first couple of times, and once you see how doable it is and how much better you feel, it’ll get easier and easier.  For those first couple of times, you have to force yourself to get up, clean up, get out, and DO.  GIVE your brain other things to think about.  Those fresh thoughts and feelings aren’t going to plant themselves in there all by themselves.


You’re doing just fine, Sweetie.  This is how it’s done, with doubt and discomfort and reaching out; it feels futile, but you’re doing beautifully.  Keep up the good work, stay away from the toads, and you’ll have a bright, fulfilling future.







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Dear Aunt Alex — 1/21/13

::Because Aunt Alex gets mail.

 Inarguably,bat-house crazy.


Dear Aunt Alex,

You call them narcissists, but they also sound just like psychopaths, or sociopaths, or antisocials.  They do the exact same things.  Does calling them narcissists let them off the hook, when, really, they are social predators?  Do you think there’s a difference between narcissists and sociopaths?




Dear Gracie,

This is a great question.  The short answer: There are differences between all of those, but those differences aren’t meaningful for the troops.  All toads are toxic, and useless in relationships, and will ruin your life.  Neither arsenic nor gasoline are good in a pie, and neither narcissists nor sociopaths are good in any part of your life.

So, having said that, here’s a primer on toads:

Narcissists, psychopaths, antisocial types, and sociopaths all are “defined” by the way they are seen by mental health professionals.

Also bat-house crazy, no?

Unfortunately for those who seek understanding, this mental health perspective of things is always changing.  However, most doctors, scientists and therapists agree that there is a lot of overlap among them all.  The general issues clumping them together are empathy and disordered thinking.  They’re bat-house crazy, and don’t care about other people.  The subtle differences between them tend to involve whether they’ve been arrested yet or not, minor differences in their ability to control themselves or cover their butts, how grandiose they are, and whether or not they’ve tortured anyone physically.  Those differences are important for scientists who are working on figuring things out, but they’re not important for the rest of humanity.


The point?  They’re all the same.  So, the next time a narcissist sends you a text, assure yourself: I want to gush to my friends about how thrilled I am that the psychopath is still in my life.  I want to invite the criminal over for dinner.  It’s really not so hard for others to see how adorable a sociopath can be.  It’ll ruin your life, but it’ll keep him away from the rest of us.

I like your question a lot, Gracie, because the words we use are critical to how we make our decisions and sort out our feelings.  Toads are nasty business, and if calling a toad a ‘psychopath’ or a ‘criminal’ instead of a ‘narcissist’ helps put their true nature into focus, by all means, do it.


It’s absolutely true that he is all of those things.  Whether he comes in “has a police record” or “physically abusive” varieties, doesn’t matter.  Call it poison, or toxin, or contaminant, or bad-bad-icky-stuff, I want that arsenic kept out of my pie.

what he is


Aunt Alex is finishing up work on a manuscript, the research for which has taken the Army’s understanding of toads (and the hopelessness of trying to get along with them) to a whole new level.  Stay tuned.


aunt alex



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Dear Aunt Alex – 10/13/12

:: Because Aunt Alex gets mail.

Dear Aunt Alex,

This is unbearable. I’ve failed at trying to make this relationship work, and I know he’s a narcissist, but I see something in him, something boyish and lovable. And he keeps coming back. Surely that means something? It’s great that women have Aunt Alex’s Army if they want it, but I don’t need army life, I just need a hug from him.

Signed, Kristin

Dear Kristin,

I know you want a hug from him, but would it help to get a big one from Aunt Alex? And some army cadets?

There are a lot of feelings going on in your letter, but the answer to it all is nestled right in there.

“I know he’s a narcissist…”

STOP! That, right there.

“But –”

There isn’t a ‘but’ in the world that negates that part about his being a narcissist.

“Right, OK, but –”

Not one single thing. He’s a narcissist. That little fact changes everything. You didn’t fail at making anything work; he did. You don’t see boyishness in him, you see immaturity. You don’t see lovability in him, you see manipulation. And he keeps coming back because he wants to get things from you and use you. And, surely, what he does doesn’t mean anything.

Now, this hurts. Your heart is broken. And you definitely, positively need a hug. But looking for a hug from a narcissist, a warm, meaningful hug that isn’t coming with strings attached, is an exercise in futility and emotional disaster. A disaster which you, Kristin, are living right now. But look for that hug from people who genuinely care about you, and you’ll get the hug, the respect, the care, and the dignity and emotional reciprocity you deserve.

The photo of the double rainbow was taken near Army Headquarters, a narcissist-free zone. We get them here pretty frequently. Coincidence? I think not.


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Dear Aunt Alex – 8/28/12




:: Because Aunt Alex gets mail.


Dear Aunt Alex:

I’ve heard that there are therapies, like Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, and Schema Therapy, that work on people with personality disorders.  This gives me a lot of hope. Should I go ahead and make the narcissist an appointment?

    Signed, Beth


Dear Beth:

Yes, I admit it — of course you should!  The sooner the better!  Hang in there, Beth, and best of luck!

OK, now, Beth is going to keep that nincompoop busy for a good while longer, so we needn’t worry about him bothering us any time real soon.  So, for the rest of us, here’s the thing about psychotherapy and narcissists:

1. They probably won’t go to real therapy, ever, unless it’s for some stupid fake reason like, “I want to figure out why I keep settling for such unworthy women.”  Narcissists very rarely acknowledge that there’s anything wrong with them, much less anything as rigid, assclownish and difficult to help as NPD.  Even if they say they’ll go to therapy, that’s still a far cry from their actually going and sticking with it.

2. If they do go to a therapist, it’ll be about three weeks (out of a two-year intensive treatment plan) before they’ll be calling themselves cured and quit therapy.  “I got all I need out of it.  I can self-manage from here.”  They’ll fake all the psychobabble stuff, just like they fake everything else, and be exactly the same as they were before — except a little more smug and a lot more annoying.  (“Look, I went to therapy for you, and the therapist said I didn’t even need it.  Now, what have you done for me lately?”)

3. If the therapist is new, or kinda soft, the narcissist will snow her with little effort and manipulate the therapist into telling him everything he wants to hear — he’s amazing, it’s all your fault, and maybe they should go and discuss this more over drinks.  (OK, therapists don’t say that last part, but the narcissist will think she (or he) did.)

I’m sorry, I really am, but narcissism does not respond meaningfully to psychotherapy, drugs, inpatient care, or anything else psychiatry or behavioral health have to offer.  You can’t treat it with vitamins, an exercise regimen, antidepressants, or herbs.  Meditation?  Great for you, useless against NPD.  Family counseling, an intervention, rational-emotive behavioral therapy, gestalt therapy, an ice bath, a colonic cleanse?  I’m sorry, Cadet.  When Mister Turtle is dead, he’s dead, and needs to be buried.  When Mister Toad is a narcissist, well, you need to let go of him, too, and cut your losses, because therapy bounces right off, drugs can’t sustain, and a girl has gotta get real, and move on.


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Dear Aunt Alex



:: Because Aunt Alex gets mail.

Dear Aunt Alex:

The flaming narcissist ex has a new girlfriend, and she seems (from a distance) to be a nice person.  I feel like I should warn her.  How should I do this? Write her a letter, give her a call?  And when is the right time?
    Signed, Alice

Dear Alice:

Well, aren’t you an altruistic dear.  Aunt Alex loves that about you.

However, come on over here and sit in this chair, Dear, and let the Army cadets wrap this rope around you until these helpful feelings of yours pass.

Nothing about this is a good idea, and here’s the worst part of this not-good idea: You’re staying engaged.  You’re staying involved, and I do daresay that your wanting to stay involved in his life is the main reason you want to warn this poor woman about the mess in which she’s finding herself.

But, we needn’t rank your motives in any order, or even look at them more closely than that.  How should you do this?  You shouldn’t.  When is the right time?  Never.  She won’t listen and has to find out for herself.  You need to detach, mourn the loss of your hopes, and put all of this love and concern into your own life and future.  

Now, you let me know if those ropes are too tight, and I’ll go get you some nice rice pudding with cardamom. 



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