“My stepdaughter, Shannon, is arrogant, self-centered and spoiled rotten. I find myself hating her,” Hilary grouses. “I don’t think I’d shed a tear for Shannon if she died tomorrow. She’s made my life hell.”
Shannon feels that Hilary picks on her. “My stepmom wants to come off as the perfect person — she does nothing wrong — and prove that I’m a horrible, awful person,” she complains.
Hilary gives examples of her stepdaughter’s shortcomings. “Attention is Shannon’s drug of choice. She’s very self-centered. She would play with friends [as a child], and if she didn’t win, she’d come in the house and just throw a tantrum and be in tears,” she says. “The psychologist diagnosed Shannon with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
Shannon says that claim is untrue. “My stepmom put that in the person’s head. There’s nothing wrong with me,” she declares. “Hilary likes to stir the pot to prove to my dad that I’m the problem and she isn’t.”
Shannon lost her biological mother to cancer six years ago. When Hilary moved in, she removed Shannon’s mom’s personal effects — much to Shannon’s chagrin. “I tried talking to her, and her attitude was, ‘It’s more my house now than your mom’s.’ I felt that she didn’t care,” Shannon complains. “I have no respect for Hilary as a person or as a mother.”
Fed up with Shannon’s behavior, Hilary and Shannon’s father, Robert, decided to take extreme measures to handle her. “We looked for behavioral schools, and we finally found one in Mexico. We told her that we were going on vacation, and when we got there, Robert told Shannon that this was her new school and her new home,” Hilary discloses.
Shannon was 16 when she was sent to the reform school, and four years later, the memory still haunts her. “The fact that your parents are going to take you to Mexico and drop you off at a boarding school, and leave you there, and lie to you, I was really pissed off and hurt,” she confesses. “If my mom was still alive, there was no way my dad would do it.”
“The staff said she was the toughest case they had ever had,” Hilary remembers. “When Shannon came home, we believed that she had changed. She’s an excellent manipulator.”
Shannon feels like the family scapegoat. “When Hilary’s not around, my dad acts different, my sister acts different. As soon as she comes back, there are fights,” she reveals.
At her wits’ end, Hilary turns to Dr. Phil. “Shannon’s narcissistic behavior is destroying this family. Is there any way you can help us fix this?”
Dr. Phil addresses the “narcissist” label that Hilary has ascribed to Shannon. “That’s a really big word. It’s a diagnostic category and classification that I find wholly inappropriate for somebody at the age [of 15] that it was supposedly assigned,” he tells Hilary sternly. “When I asked for the medical records to see where that diagnosis had been assigned, I couldn’t find it anywhere.”
Hilary explains that she wasn’t given the medical records by Shannon’s therapist. “He said normally he would not [assign a label] with that age group, but in this case, he would,” she maintains.
When Dr. Phil asks Hilary to define Narcissistic Personality Disorder, she says, “Totally involved with yourself, just selfish. Uses people and then sort of throws them away.”
Dr. Phil interrupts her. “That isn’t at all what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. I find that wholly irresponsible to be talking about someone like that, particularly ascribed at her age,” he says. Turning to Shannon, Dr. Phil admits that he has not diagnosed her. “But from everything I know … it’s not even close to what’s going on here,” he says.
Dr. Phil wants to know the extent of the conflict in the family. Turning to Hilary, he says, “Do you really mean what you said when you say if she died tomorrow, you wouldn’t shed a tear?” he asks. “That just seems shocking to me.”
“We’ve had to disassociate emotionally from her,” she answers. “We had to just turn off our emotions, period.”
Robert agrees. “I’ve felt that way many times, but I haven’t said it,” he admits.
Dr. Phil takes him to task. “Are you telling me if your daughter died tomorrow, you wouldn’t shed a tear?” he asks incredulously.
Robert reflects on his answer. “There are two different Shannons living in the same body,” he explains. “I would shed a tear for the good Shannon. I’m not sure I would have the same feeling for the bad Shannon. I would love to see the bad Shannon die, to be perfectly honest. Not physically die, just that aspect of her die.”