Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Narcissistic Abuse is Soul Murder

"You will be hollow. We will squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves."  

I’ve long suspected that some of my favourite writers, artists and filmmakers are survivors of parental narcissistic abuse. I made these assumptions based on themes running through their work that I could identify with as a survivor of ‘soul murder.’ For example, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson touches on childhood abandonment, family estrangement, neglect, abuse and narcissism in such films as Magnolias, There Will Be Blood, and Boogie Nights – yes Boogie Nights. Dirk Diggler’s mother is malignant narcissist El Supremo screaming at him that he is NOTHING! It’s one short scene but it’s powerful.
I could rattle off a list of other artists that I think are survivors of narcissistic abuse but I would only be making an educated guess so I think I will save that for another time.  For now, I will say that Charles Dickens is one of the writers that I thought experienced soul murder – maybe that’s common knowledge, I don’t know. I’ve read many of his books but I know little of the man.
Anyway, a few months ago - while I was surfing the net on ‘soul murder’ – I discovered that there is a book entitled Soul Murder by Leonard Shengold: that examines the ravages of soul murder in the adult lives of his patients as well as in the lives and works of such seminal writers as George Orwell, Dickens, Chekhov, and Kipling.  I had to get my hands on that book, so I marched down to the research library and put in my request to the Librarian to retrieve it from the stacks – “Soul Murder please.”
Learning about George Orwell’s heinous upbringing with a very evil malignant narcissist father made it abundantly clear how 1984 was conceived, and was in some ways helpful in extrapolating ideas on creativity and narcissistic abuse.  But, other than that, I did not get much out of Shengold's book; mainly because I couldn’t stomach it. Shengold is a psychiatrist and a Freudian and he uses Freudian theory to pathologize the patient – the quacks like to call it psycho-anal-yze.   
I found Soul Murder, to be just another ‘interpretation’ of the effects of extreme childhood deprivation and abuse written from the perspective of the victim as 'specimen' to study. Shengold likely has never had direct experience with a malignant narcissist and instead relies on dissecting the victim when the light of scrutiny should be instead shone on the narcissist. After skimming a few pages, I thought to myself, based on what this quack is writing about the so-called effects of soul murder, I should be hugging my knees, rocking back and forth and involuntarily drooling. Talk about degrading the victims of soul murder further - they are treated as less than human by 'parents' who are less than human, and then treated as less than human and specimens for study by an inhumane, psychiatric pseudo-science.  
Anyway, I must say the term 'soul murder' is a very good descriptive for narcissistic abuse and I lifted a blurb from the book that also sums it up nicely:

A consummated soul murder is a crime most often committed by psychotic or psychopathic parents (also known as narcissists) who treat the child as an extension of themselves, or as an object with which to satisfy their desires. Lesser effects ensue from intermittent parental cruelty and indifference. To abuse or neglect a child, to deprive the child of his or her own identity and ability to experience joy in life, is to commit soul murder.

And, to grow-up in a home with two full-blown narcissists is to experience an Orwellian Nightmare of monstrous proportions. Here’s a peek at the narcissistic family system seen through the genius of 1984  by George Orwell (survivor of soul murder) – look familiar?
Big Brother: Dictator of a totalitarian state – the children of narcissists has no rights in the oppressive ‘family’ system. It's completely under narcissistic rule - pathological control freakism.
Room 101: A torture chamber in the ministry of love – abuse, cruelty and punishment from the people – narcissistic parents - who are supposed to love and protect you.
ThoughtCrime: An illegal type of thought the scapegoat/target of abuse in a narcissistic family is not a weak or mentally unhealthy individual. Quite the opposite: harassment/abuse is often set in motion when a target refuses to give in to the abusive authority. She or he is targeted because of his or her capacity to resist authority, even under pressure.

Thought Police: Authority that uncover and punish thoughtcrime(s) using psychology and omnipresent surveillance to eliminate members of society who are capable of the mere thought of challenging ruling - Narcissist Parents and N sibling(s) who squeal on the intended target/scapegoat. Punishment ensues by isolating the 'free thinker' and wearing down his or her 'strength of mind' by extreme boundary violation, mental cruelty, mind control, and manipulation.   
Unperson: A person who has been “vaporized”; who has been not only killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence. Such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs, and articles so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record. The idea is that such a person would, according to the principles of doublethink, be forgotten completely, even by close friends and family members. Mentioning his or her name, or even speaking of their past existence is a thought crime.
Wow – as the truth teller in my family of origin, I was completely obliterated from existence: including photographs, keepsakes, year books and mementos. All of my belongings were sold at a garage sale, and what wasn’t sold was given away to the malignant narcissist mother’s friends, and what wasn’t given away was claimed by the greedy hoarder, malignant narcissist sister. According to my grandmother, “No one talks of you.” And, I wouldn't have it any other way. They’ve been out of my life longer than they were in my life and I've safely avoided being shackled by the chains of "Thought Police".
Memory Hole: Any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts or other records – how to hide the inconvenient TRUTH, the secrets and lies of the narcissistic family, post abuse cover-up, victim character assassination, destroy the truth teller, silence the victims, scapegoating and projection, and history revisionism.

The lesson of 1984 is one that can also be learned from the lives of those who have grown-up under the totalitarian rule of crazy, cruel, and capricious narcissist parents, in a 'soul destroying system' that is in a state of perpetual war, pervasive surveillance and incessant mind control and manipulation and that Randall Jarrell calls, “One of God’s concentration camps.”
A more hopeful note, in the saga of pain called soul murder, is that a lousy childhood, if survived, can be life-enhancing and a great source of strength; as in the cases of Dickens and Orwell.

And, isn’t that what creativity is all about?


  1. I've always wondered why I could so closely relate to 1984 - I read and re-read it as a child and loved it!

    I also recently learned from Upsi that Kafka also had a narcissistic father - I love The Process and The Castle as well.

    Other people didn't seem as smitten with these books, but I devoured them and thought there was something cosmically true about them. As it turns out, not really cosmically true. Only something running in families.

  2. An anonymous reader brought to my attention that Orwell was severely abused by pathologicals who ran the boarding school he went to. Unfortunately, I lost this comment along with another one from another post (something is up with blogger). The commentor provide a link to a story Orwell wrote before 1984 that directly relates to his abouse at the school.

    Kipling, who was alo discussed in the book "Soul Murder" was also subjected to cruelty and brutality by the faculty of the boy's school he attended.

    In light of this information, my post will need to be adjusted slightly. I was convinced it was Orwell's father who had a systematic strategy of abuse including tying his son to a chair, making him lay on a plank of wood for hours
    etc. etc. - there were diagrams of the torture and code names for every cruel act of violence against the boy. Perhaps, it was Chekhov? Like I said I skimmed the book.

    In any case, the abuse committed by pathological in a closed environment such as a school system is no different than what goes on in a 'family system' run by pathologicals. In that regard, I see 1984 as an excellent example of 'soul murder' (the systematic destruction of a child at the hands of an adult).

  3. Lise -- thanks for salvaging this. Here is the link to Orwell's essay, *Such, Such Were the Joys*, which was written not long before *1984*:

    Some versions of the essay online have been shortened. This is the long version with more of the telling details. (If this link doesn't work, look for a version that includes the half-happy memory of hunting for butterflies.)

    Yes, I think you can tell *1984* is partly about a personal experience of close-range abuse because of the amount of energy the authorities in the story devote to one not especially important dissident.

    Maybe you've seen Christopher Small's book, *The Road to Miniluv: George Orwell, the State and God*, which tries to explain this disproportionate level of abusive energy by claiming it's all about Orwell's theological views of a supreme being he viewed as punitive. Think there's also a guy who claims this about Kafka in *The Castle* -- that it's all about the speaker's interior relationship with an angry God. The writers of these things seem pretty clueless. Orwell and Kafka were not religious people but they did survive vengeful household gods. And they did both famously develop complexes about the experience of degradation.

    Cheers to Pronoia about discovering Orwell and Kafka as early allies. Me, too.

    - GKA

  4. Gka, thanks for sending this - it's really interesting. 'Vengeful household gods' that the perfect name for N parents.

  5. Kipling, huh? It figures.

    Not that suffering necessarily ennobles. He was kind of a narcissist himself, wasn't he?

    Come to think of it, hm, no direct parental figures in the Jungle Books but lots of wise favorite uncles and aunts on the special boy's side, and lots of human and simian villains for him to fight against.


  6. GKA, I don't think the two are mutually exclusive - our early experiences color our perceptions of the spiritual world and the way the entire cosmos functions, and it is possible to hate God as a vengeful tyrant even when you don't believe in him.

    "Take religion, for instance. You were supposed to love God, and I did not question this. Till the age of about fourteen I believed in God, and believed that the accounts given of him were true. But I was well aware that I did not love him. (...) how could you love someone whom you feared? With your private affections it was the same. What you ought to feel was usually clear enough but the appropriate emotion could not be commanded.(...) one ought to love one's father, but I knew very well that I merely disliked my own father(...) The good and the possible never seemed to coincide."

  7. Pronoia -- thanks, yes, fair enough re Orwell/Kafka, I'm sure early personal experience found its way into their respective theologies.

    And there is the fact that, while not religious, Orwell did ask to be buried in a churchyard, and was.


  8. I'd like to know that about James Joyce. I've always found him oddly disturbing and couldn't quite put my finger on it, but now I realize it was my own narcissistic tendencies ("fleas") that I found exemplified in Joyce's work. Interesting topic, Lise, I'd love to read more about it.

    GKA, I was just speaking from personal experience, and I only recently made the connection - I thought I was a Gnostic or agnostic or atheist, all the while angry at a false, jealous, vengeful god - and my earthly father was the one my emotions were really directed at. But god was a safer target.

    I'm so happy to have found kindred spirits here!

  9. True...having lived through narcissistic abuse you can spot bullshit from a mile away. George Orwell is one example.
    George Carlin, probably one of the most rebellious comedians ( was ) out there is another good example..." my mother was...very controlling, wanted to control my life... "

  10. This phrase "Soul Murder" was originated by a female psychologist about 50years ago...I suspect the current proponents have given her credit in their bibliography...when I recall the name I will give it to email: