A reader's question:
I read your post about labels and I'm not sure I agree. My son has told people that I'm "toxic" so I know how much it hurts to be labelled unfairly. I have honestly looked for ways that maybe I am toxic. It made me feel really bad about myself. I would never be toxic for my kids. I did the best I could. Guess that's why it hurts so much.
The thing is, my son is a narcissist. He only cares about himself and doesn't care at all about how he has hurt people. He thinks he's superior and manipulates and lies. So I know it's true. It makes me feel better. To me labelling him as a narcissist helps a lot.
So are labels still bad if they help?
Labels of "toxic" and "narcissistic" are all over the place these days.
It's not clear to me if your son has actually been diagnosed or not. It sounds like you are labelling him on your own. Either way, being a "narcissist" is something that is a very subjective interpretation. Just like his calling you "toxic," it's more of an opinion than a fact.
Your opinion could be explored further, but for now, let's focus on your idea that labelling him is helpful to you.
I hear this quite a lot. But I'll question it every time. Does it really make you feel good to think that your son is a narcissist? That your son has a personality disorder that is very difficult, maybe even impossible, to treat and recover from?
As moms, we want to help our kids. We want to see the best in them. Estrangement and their behavior forces us to see some ugly things. And that's part of what and why we grieve, that we have to see some of darkness in our offspring. Reminding ourselves, even consoling ourselves, with that darkness may help in the moment. It can be a release of anger and hurt. But it goes against our nature as moms, and so it's not a winning plan for long-term healing.
The human brain loves to judge and categorize. I'd suggest that we look at our judgements with openness, curiosity, and as much objectivity and compassion as possible. Judging others doesn't feel great. It's easy for us to get attached to our judgements, to feel convinced that we're right and justified. By taking a step back we can try to see if they really are helpful, or if they're hurting us on a level that might initially be hard to see. It's something to think about.
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