Monday, October 02, 2006

Catch-22

IF I had rhymes both rough and stridulous,
As were appropriate to the dismal hole
Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,

I would press out the juice of my conception
More fully; but because I have them not,
Not without fear I bring myself to speak;

For 'tis no enterprise to take in jest,
To sketch the bottom of all the universe.

-- Dante Alighieri, The Inferno

Imagine that just yesterday, the malignant narcissist in your life abused you. He or she flew into a rage at you. Maybe they beat you. Maybe they spread vicious lies about you. Maybe they deeply wounded one of the children. Whatever. They attacked you, or a loved one, and treated the victim like dirt.

Now today the narcissist walks into the room acting as though it didn’t happen.

What are you to do?

Are you to act as though it didn’t happen, too?

Ah, “forgiveness,” right? Wrong.

What if the person who had attacked you was a stranger on the street? If you come upon him again today, are you going to act as though it didn’t happen? Are you going to treat him like you trust him? Like you have nothing against him? Like he is a good person?

Of course not! He attacked you, so you are going to relate to him as a known enemy. You are going to keep your distance from him. You know he is a predator, so you have a hostile attitude toward him. You must, for there is no such thing as a friendly attitude toward an enemy out to do you harm.

And isn’t a predator in your own home even more dangerous? Why do you have to trust him with access to you, when he has proved that he will use that access to attack you? That’s as absurd as thinking you must open your front door to anyone who demands admittance.

And if you behave today as though nothing happened yesterday, aren’t you acting out a lie? Aren’t you falsifying the relationship that exists between you and the narcissist? It’s a predatory, parasitic one, but you are acting as though it’s a friendly and mutually beneficial one.

And aren’t you ENABLING the narcissist to erase what he did yesterday? To annihilate it?

He will even talk as though it didn’t happen. He will say things that contradict the facts of the past. Are you going to let these lies pass?

If you don’t – if you contradict them – he will throw a fit, a narcissistic temper tantrum – until you shut up and let him have the last word. Which will be to deny that it ever happened.

And you don’t like fighting all the time, do you? You want peace. You hate the temper tantrums, because they’re as obnoxious as any spoiled brat’s temper tantrums. Like a three-year-old, he is deliberately as obnoxious as possible with them to make you prefer to let him have his way than to put up with that obnoxious, irrational, fit he throws to herd you the direction he wants.

But if you let his lies pass and act like it didn’t happen, you are committing treason against yourself and your children. For, you have just absolved him of his sin. You have “washed it away.” It didn’t happen.

Which means that he didn’t do anything wrong when he did it, so he has a carte blanche to do it again tomorrow.

And tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.
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11 Comments:

At 5:27 AM, Blogger puglette said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous GH said...

Thank you for the (unbeknownst to you) well-timed reminder.

Slowly and steadily repeating to myself (while preparing to "talk" to him) "He can't pretend it didn't happen, he can't pretend it didn't happen..."

Don't we know from history that "peace at any cost" is too damned expensive!

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Wayness said...

In my experience he can and will pretend it didn't happen. And then the next act in the play is that you are a bad person for persecuting him with these crazy notions about what did happen, that you keep bringing up. I don't want to be a bummer gh, but I don't like to think of you doing what I did - steeling myself, resolving to be strong and calm and collected and logical and go in and have a discussion where we resolve something for once. None of that steeling yourself and being calm and strong matters because a calm discussion with a nice resolution is not a possibility (unless by calm discussion I really am meaning - abject groveling combined with flattery and lots of sympathy for his difficult life), because instead he will be threatened and bring the fight to you, and the fight will be dirty and vicious and hateful. But maybe your N isn't so extreme as my dad.

 
At 12:09 PM, Anonymous GH said...

Wayness--Thanks. Yes, been done that road of resolving to be strong, etc. And, yep, it was dirty and vicious and hateful. As "no contact" is not an option, I'm trying to learn how to manage unavoidable interactions without getting sucked into the delusion that a productive exchange is, in fact, possible. Still, hard to balance managing the N (through flattery, groveling, whataever) with the basic instinct to integrity and sincerity. I can keep him in line by sucking up -- but I don't feel so great about that...

I'm finding that there is more than one N in my life to cope with, and the book I note in the other post really has opened my eyes to the ways my narcissistic upbringing has made me vulnerable to the type. Such a learning curve! I think they're all extreme in their own special ways...

 
At 7:34 AM, Blogger gior said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger gior said...

It's a catch 22 alright....if you bring up any misdeed, they just deny and go into a rage. They put up a wall that is absolutely impenetrable. They do the foghorn. I think that not confronting them does not ENABLE them since there is no DISABLING them! It doesn't matter if you try and defend yourself because they will let nothing through....they will NOT hear. And in any case, as far as they're concerned...YOU are the aggressor....never them. One of the major problems with narcissists is that there is no retribution.

So I don't think it's treason against yourself if you don't confront them ...because if you do....you're just asking for more abuse. I actually think it's self-protection because confronting them is equivalent to waving a red flag in front of a raging bull.

Furthermore, confronting narcissists about their misdeeds just let's them know where your weak spots are and encourages them to get you where it hurts over and over. The thing they actually hate the most is being ignored.

It's a Catch 22 alright.

With these people there is NO WINNING....no way out.
The only way out is to have nothing to do with them or as little as possible when necessary..

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger Wayness said...

exactly gior - couldn't agree more. I've got the scars from all the rounds I've gone with my N. And what has been the constant refrain? Here's a variation, 'wayness, you are a terrible, vicious person for calling for an explanation and an apology about how I had your pet cat put down because I shouldn't have to be burdened with it while you are at college. You are so selfish.' Endless variations and confronting them, in my experience, means they redouble their storyline about how you are the aggressor and they are the innocent victim. It's really sickening.

And as I mentioned previously, and no doubt will mention again since I'm really hung up & stuck on this issue right now, it blows my mind how perfectly okay the N is with you beliving you are a terribly, bad person whose every action is probably springing from selfish motives. He's okay with that, because that's his story and he's sticking to it no matter what the cost.

It just blows my mind that they would promote this psychological torture for their own use and convenience and it blows my mind how much effort, over how long, I've put into trying to prove I'm not a bad person. Effort that was used by the N, was for the benefit of the N, that was never recognized by the N. So far beyond frustrating as to be in a whole new universe of frustration. The only healthy thing to do is to disengage and get away from the vortex. So again - I agree with you very much gior.

gh! thank you for the book recommendation. I just purchased it and plan to start it soon.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger Wayness said...

exactly gior - couldn't agree more. I've got the scars from all the rounds I've gone with my N. And what has been the constant refrain? Here's a variation, 'wayness, you are a terrible, vicious person for calling for an explanation and an apology about how I had your pet cat put down because I shouldn't have to be burdened with it while you are at college. You are so selfish.' Endless variations and confronting them, in my experience, means they redouble their storyline about how you are the aggressor and they are the innocent victim. It's really sickening.

And as I mentioned previously, and no doubt will mention again since I'm really hung up & stuck on this issue right now, it blows my mind how perfectly okay the N is with you beliving you are a terribly, bad person whose every action is probably springing from selfish motives. He's okay with that, because that's his story and he's sticking to it no matter what the cost.

It just blows my mind that they would promote this psychological torture for their own use and convenience and it blows my mind how much effort, over how long, I've put into trying to prove I'm not a bad person. Effort that was used by the N, was for the benefit of the N, that was never recognized by the N. So far beyond frustrating as to be in a whole new universe of frustration. The only healthy thing to do is to disengage and get away from the vortex. So again - I agree with you very much gior.

gh! thank you for the book recommendation. I just purchased it and plan to start it soon.

 
At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,

You know it took 50 years to figure out what my parents did to me and why. They have never accounted for the things they did to me as a child and everytime I've tried to confront those things, I get the old you need to forgive. They don't even know what I remember! Well, I tried again 1 1/2 years ago after hitting bottom while trying to care for them in their old age and now my sister is saying that I have to 'repent' from my sin of remembering what happened to me in my childhood and that I've caused them unnecessary pain by not doing so and having it come up again. In your opinion, am I wrong?

 
At 10:21 AM, Blogger Kathy K said...

You feel what you feel. I know that there are people who cannot get it through their heads that feelings are reactions to stimuli, not voluntary behavior and that the very idea that a feeling can be a sin is ludicrous. You can't change feelings.

In fact, his or her abnormal feelings are what the N is innocent of, too!

You can't change your feelings. You can only repress and deny them, which is unhealthy.

You are responsible for your conduct. Yes I know there are people who can't distinguish between feelings and conduct, but such sloppy thinking is their problem, not ours.

Just don't let your feelings rule your conduct. Temper it with good judgement and moderation.

Have your parents acknowledged their offense? Have they said they're sorry? Have they ever stopped offending? In other words, have they repented in any way? If not, how CAN you really forgive them?

Yes, I know there are people who think forgiveness is nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling, but their sloppy thinking is their problem, not ours.

Have you ever thought of just getting away and staying away from them? I am no professional to be giving professional advice, but I can say this: I think most people who have suffered at the hands of parents and divorced themselves from from their birth family will say that seperation made a huge difference, that they soon began to feel much better about themselves and began healing. That's healing your relationship with yourself. The injury narcissisti's inflict on it cannot heal while they are continuing to re-injure in subtle ways every day.

They are like a disease. Most will say you get well and everything in life seems to go better when you get away from them.

Ask a professional for advice on this, too.

You might be interested in two articles on the main site:

On Your Feelings & On Forgiveness.

They are under "The Important Stuff."

 
At 8:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Kathy,

They have said they were sorry for their drinking, what they did to themselves and which was only an outward symptom of the real sickness in our family. When I was younger, I would try to talk to them about the things that hurt and traumatized me and it was always they didn't remember and that I needed to forgive. I asked them to go through counseling with me when I was in my twenties and that was denied as well. My dad did something to my five year old son that I could never get out of him and I didn't talk to them for five years. Then I let them back into my life and convinced myself that I was spiritually strong enough to give them a place to live on my property. It was the biggest mistake I've ever made. They never hurt me the way they did when I was a child simply because they didn't have the power to but it all came to a head about two years ago when things I had repressed emerged full force in my life and I understood events as an adult and the were no longer locked away under my shame. I had to find out what I was doing that invited people to abuse me and the key was that hidden bottomless lake of shame that abusers could easily dip into and that lake was excavated in my childhood. Everything flipped in me and I confronted them and it opened a can of worms and they can't be put back in. My family is desperately trying to reinforce that old guilt so that the family can be reunited. I have been the family sin eater since I can remember but I have vomited the contents and I won't return to my vomit. I have made offers to meet my family members half way but I will go no further. I doubt I will ever hear from them again. It is a painful time but also a freeing time. I have become an orphan in one fell swoop but in reality, I have always been an orphan. I am a very compassionate and loving person and they don't deserve me. I am so thankful that I didn't emerge from this as a narcissist myself. I have had a life full of emotional pain because of the naricissism of my parents and subsequent naricissistic abusers that I was primed for but I wouldn't trade being able to genuinely love and feel compassion for others for what those who have victimized me have. No matter how they have tried to keep me at the bottom, I am emerging on top.

Thanks for this websight,Kathy.

 

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