A reader contacted us regarding a problem they were having with a neighbour. As so often is the case a simple request to remedy a simple problem – ask the neighbours kids to not wreck the readers garden by playing in it - turned into a major breakdown between two neighbouring families who had previously had no problems. Now one of the families has taken it upon themselves to be the aggressor and to demonstrate at any available opportunity how they have been “wronged” and the other family live in fear and anxiety about what has happened and what will happen next.
The person that contacted me was quite clearly not making an unreasonable request of the neighbour and the neighbour who is now acting so aggressively and with such hostility towards them has completely missed the point when it comes to their responsibility in the matter. So what has gone wrong, how has this happened that one person’s reasonable request is another person’s (apparently) mortal insult?
We are not pretending to have an expert opinion here but some things about this case lead to an unmistakable suspicion that one of the people involved in this situation – the aggrieved hostile neighbour – is suffering from a personality disorder, probably either narcissistic or borderline (NPD or BPD) and I will offer my reasoning here.
As I have said this problem stemmed from a simple, reasonable request, when that request was made the person who it was made to apparently felt embarrassed and angered, (there was no real reason for them to feel embarrassed or angry but personality disordered people are notoriously unreasonable, that is part of the condition). The person that felt embarrassed and angry was from this moment on a mission and that mission was to make sure that everybody was aware that they had had their feelings hurt. The main focus of their attention became the person that they saw as responsible for the transgression and this person apparently needs to be shown how upset they are, they need to be taught a lesson. This happens because the BPD/NPD individual – for various reasons - has very weak self-esteem, and a very reactive emotional makeup, they tend to believe that their happiness can be dictated by other people i.e. if somebody doesn’t like them they are not willing to accept that as just a part of life or somebody else’s choice and be happy to get on with their lives, no they feel the overwhelming desire to ‘teach that person a lesson for not liking them’ – the technical term for this is “external locus of control” in other word these people believe that if something is not right about their lives that it is somebody else’s fault not theirs, somebody else is to blame for their failure, unhappiness, embarrassment etc.
In this instance the personality disordered individual concerned has – and this is quite typical – enlisted the support of family and friends and they do this in a very manipulative way. There is a high probability that this individual has spent a lifetime manipulating those around them, carefully choosing and filtering the company they keep according to their ability to be manipulated and compliant. NPD/BPD people are typically the school-yard bully, the trouble maker that manages to get others into trouble and avoid blame themselves by using lies and deception to blame others. Friends and family are trained, through fear of the consequences, lies and manipulation to not transgress the unwritten law and this usually means that friends and family have their own personality shortcomings to be able to behave this way. Friends and family are deceived, manipulated and emotionally blackmailed by the narcissist/borderline so that he or she gets what they want.
This brings me to my purpose in writing this piece, deceiving and manipulating adults is one thing, they have the ability to make their own choices and decisions but when the NPD/BPD starts conscripting the help of their children with their own particular brand of sick propaganda they cross a boundary into the world of child abuse (it might be physiological but it is still abuse), they begin to mess with their children’s minds in a way that will almost certainly assure that their children will grow into adults with seriously flawed emotional development. The term 'covert incest' (also known as emotional incest or psychic incest) is used to describe some aspects of this type of 'brain washing'. (more about covert incest here)
The situation that was described by the reader i.e. parents sitting and watching while the children provoke the neighbours and other instances of the children taking it upon themselves to enlist their friends to provoke and harass the neighbours can leave no doubt that these young children have been fed propaganda by their parents, propaganda that apparently authorises and encourages them to behave in an antisocial way and when the parent witness the behaviour they do nothing to stop it – harassing the neighbours for the BPD/NPD individual, is a family business. This illustrates the true self centeredness of the narcissist; they see no problem in contaminating a young child’s mind with un-reasoned and un-justified hatred to achieve their own unreasonable and irrational ends. This inevitably will come back to bite them later in life because the children grow up to be adolescents and eventually adults and because of the way they have been raised they are almost certainly destined to get into all manner of problems from drugs and alcohol to crime and violence and this is of course going to make the NPD/BPD parent very, very unhappy.
The moral (morality) of this story is LEAVE THE CHILDREN OUT OF IT let the children be children and teach them to respect themselves, other people, and other people’s property. Don’t involve your children in problems that they don’t and can’t understand and defiantly don’t condone or encourage antisocial behaviour. If it is the children’s behaviour that is the problem (yours or theirs) it is up to you as an adult and a parent to be reasonable and responsible and to negotiate a settlement that everybody can live with – to set an example to your children and the neighbour’s children that will help not hinder their development.
Your children may be just lovely to you, but behaviour that you may tolerate might be causing a neighbour a problem. If they play in a fashion that is a problem for your neighbours and your neighbour ask you to do something about it, listen to them, don’t dismiss somebody else’s feelings as irrelevant i.e. If the old lady over the back fence asks the kids or you to stop hitting the ball over in to her yard don’t dismiss the old lady as being a cranky old woman and then allow the kids to carry on tormenting her and if the ball does go into the old ladies backyard teach them not to trample all over her flower bed to get it back, teach them respect for themselves and other people and they may have a chance of growing into healthy happy adults with good self-esteem and well balanced outlooks.
Note: If there are any trained psychological professionals that have anything to say about this article by way of corrections or additions please contact us. As we stated we are not experts and are not professing to be.